Over many years as an affordable aviation journalist I have learned two things. First, stick to airplanes. That’s what moves the needle for most pilots; nearly always such articles are the best-read on this website. Second, pilots love more powerful engines, especially when they display new technologies. Speedy LSA maker, JMB Aircraft has tapped into this rich vein of interest. For some years, they have worked to make their elegant and shapely VL3 go faster than before (earlier evaluation article). A year ago at Sun ‘n Fun, the Belgium-headquartered company showed Americans their 141-horsepower Rotax 915iS model. The machine looked quick merely sitting in their display. That wasn’t enough. Even though JMB can max out at 230 mph now, leaders and engineers at JMB thought, “Why not try a turboprop?” JMB Turbine Not even a month ago, this leading builder of LSA speedsters took their turbine-powered VL3 into the air for the first time, in France on Monday April 4th, 2022.
JMB Aircraft s.r.o.
Phone: +420 725 182 459Chocen, 56501 - Czech Republic
Rotax Power 141 Horses …andSometimes the changes are big (iOS 15.0). Sometimes the changes are incremental (iOS 15.2). Significant changes often arrive through small steps forward. News from Rotax Aircraft Engines represents one of those smaller yet valuable updates: more electrical power. Why is this needed? Because, in case you somehow missed this change, cockpits are increasingly electronic. We like keeping our devices charged. Older engines may not supply enough juice for everything.
Features of the Rotax 915iS C24 (and the certified 915 ISc C24):
- No added weight
- New extra light 24V converter (max. 150g)
- Enables 24V aircraft board systems
- Supports digital displays and glass cockpit
- Adds reserves for auxiliary instruments, tablets, and gadgets
- Supplies powerbuses with 24 voltages
- 24V power supply delivering up to 800W
- Ample power for most installations
Wave Engine Start; First Flight ScheduledSpeaking of 915iS engines, Vickers Aircraft happily told us that the Wave amphibian first engine start proceeded without issue. If that doesn't seem like much, well… it is. Getting an airframe right for first flight importantly means getting the engine elements right, such as mounting, cooling, plumbing, electric, and more. Team Vickers succeeded (nearby image). This was even more meaningful as Vickers installed RS Flight Systems’ single-lever control equipment (approval of which is expected in the coming FAA Mosaic regulation) regulating an MT prop. Learn more about single-lever control. Getting the engine start behind them means they can push forward for first flight. Like many such projects, the devil is in the details. A global lockdown plus growing delays in shipping goods around the world complicated normal development challenges. Vickers thought they'd get in the air earlier in 2021 but as company leader Paul Vickers stressed, "We have always been driven by safety and quality, not dates; we will always take the time that is required." Aircraft design work is commonly followed by construction of a proof-of-concept aircraft in which to do first flights. Almost always, the aircraft subsequently goes through significant changes. Seeking a more efficient way, Paul used technology to eliminate duplicative steps. His goal was to get the Wave project so close to a finished aircraft that he and his team would face far fewer clean-up tasks than usually follow a P-o-C first flight. Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so we'll find out how well his careful planning went after first flight. When is that estimated to happen now? "We hit a large milestone yesterday (December 23rd) with our first engine run. It went beautifully!" He now projects, "First flight around January 15, after the break." More info: Vickers Aircraft
Inflation Hikes Prices …but If You Act Soon
We all know a wide range of goods have become more expensive in the last two years. Beyond business changes and closures, inflation has leaped into the forefront of news around the globe. The U.S. has broken 30-year records. Economists report 7 to 10% of currency inflation. Will that affect the prices of aircraft we know and love. Of course, it will.Try as they might to contain increases with various techniques, JMB representatives at Alion Aircraft said "Even for us the costs of inputs are rising significantly." “For that reason we will have to increase the price of the JMB Aircraft VL3 by about 6% very soon,” they said. Given inflation is running higher than that, according to several sources, a 6% bump is only keeping up. "That is the bad news…" wrote Adam Coubal. "The good news is I can reserve this year's price for you if you act right now. "Here is a deal," he observed. "If you book a demo flight as soon as possible and if we shake hands before the end of January 2022, the good old price is yours." A 6% savings while inflation is jacking up many prices qualifies as a valid offer for those who act soon enough. For pilots who don't want to wait until JMB builds and ships a custom order, "We have one 912-powered VL3 in stock and ready for sale," said Adam. More info: Alion Aviation
Dynon in a Bonanza? …and Why that's Good for You
Tie-Down Securely with SafeTAnchorThe humble yet important tie-down anchor. If we had a perfect system, so many variations would not be offered. But if you had to leave your airplane out as a storm rolled in, you'd want a secure connection to old Mother Earth! "We have invented and patented a safetanchor for planes and other uses. Easy to install yourselves and patented in the USA," wrote the company. Design of the anchor’s top allows it to pivot from hook-up to becoming completely flat. This makes the entire surface of anchors flush to ground level without removing them and so you can drive vehicles over it, cut the grass, prevents tripping of personnel, and being a hazard to cleaning machines or snow removal equipment. More info: SafeTAnchor
HAPPY NEW YEAR ‼️
Now that 2021 is historical and following two years of Covid uncertainty and business interruptions, many readers can breathe a sigh of relief for an better 2022. We have two full years remaining before FAA’s Mosaic regulation becomes active. During that time you’ll need to respond to the proposal I predict we will see at Oshkosh 2022 (only seven months away). Until then, what might happen in the world of light aviation? I don’t know any better than you. The future is as unknowable as ever. So many things can happen …who expected Covid-19? With my eye to the sky I’m pleased to start the new year out with some fresh news. Here are five stories to kick off 2022. Rotax Power 141 Horses …and Sometimes the changes are big (iOS 15.0). Sometimes the changes are incremental (iOS 15.2). Significant changes often arrive through small steps forward. News from Rotax Aircraft Engines represents one of those smaller yet valuable updates: more electrical power.
You've Got Video!For a few airshows now, I've had to do my job and Videoman Dave's job. Maybe I should clarify: I mean the on-site camera work plus the keeping track of what we're doing next, handling a load of gear, planning the next day's video stories, downloading huge video files each evening and placing them somewhere to be used later, and charging up everything you own as you sleep. While we're shooting a video, Dave takes a director's view of where we're going and guides us along. He's also very aircraft-savvy so if we lack a piece of information, he can often provide it. The show must go on, you know. Despite the challenges of working at a great distance, I've been sending loads of raw video up to Dave in Canada and he has been editing away hour upon hour. In this article, I want to introduce you to four recently released videos I think you will enjoy. Merlin New-Age Electric / Innovative — One of the most innovative creations I saw at Oshkosh was Merlin Lite with DEP-OD. Huh? The military-like abbreviation means Distributed Electric Propulsion – On Demand. "Yeah, what does that mean," you ask? While this electric-aided aircraft was a demonstrator — not the Merlin Lite Part 103 aircraft Aeromarine-LSA is about to start delivering — it could become a Part 103, possibly. That isn't important because the two Merlin versions are for different needs. A Part 103 Merlin Lite already needs so little room to take off and land that shortening it is hardly necessary for regular use. Merlin Lite will come with the new Polini 303 that is sweeping championships and, in a surprise outcome, bolting on the new engine resulted in more legroom. My first introductory article about Merlin Lite was our most-read story for all of 2020. In this video learn the latest changes to this flying machine that attracted so much interest. https://youtu.be/Gaah_1WBViU
Oh-So-Fast JMB VL3 / Speedster — Shooting like lightning across the sky, JMB is now beginning to install and deliver their sleek speed machine with Rotax's potent 915iS. How fast can you go on 6-7 gph? Pretty darn fast. In the video below, we saw some of VL3's impressive speed capability while being propelled by Rotax's turbo 914. No question remains in my mind that this is one of the genuine speedsters in the LSA space …in fact, it will give a good run to most kit-built aircraft. At Oshkosh, as at Sun 'n Fun, importer Alion Aviation — joined at AirVenture by JMB Aircraft boss, Jean-Marie Guisset — displayed their VL3 with Rotax's most powerful 915iS turbocharged, intercooled, 141-horsepower engine. This seems to fulfill the prophecy that "if something is good, then more is better, and too much is just enough." I'd say you should keep your eye on VL3 except you might need to look quickly to catch this one. Like many airplane exhibitors, Jean-Marie lead his team to protect their smooth birds when hail threatened one night at Oshkosh. No damage was reported but the team got a bit less sleep moving their aircraft to protect them. https://youtu.be/xdWaP_DWkT4
Roomy and Well-Behaved Montaer MC01 / Touring — One of the most common questions I get involves payload. How much stuff can you carry and how do big fellows fit? I get it. We enjoy eating our hamburgers and we want to carry our gear with us. Some LSA are rather limited but others, well… how about this roomy choice? One of the newest entries, Montaer found a good home (and representation) by linking up with Alex Rolinski and his Aero Adventure team at the DeLand airport. They recently moved into new quarters not far from their former location. Once all the inventory and tooling are fully relocated, the Montaer USA crew will sell and service the Montaer in an interesting cooperation with the group at nearby Seamax USA. Aero Adventures already does service work for Seamax LSA in addition to supporting their Aventura line. Now they will have this all-metal, high wing, big-capacity Light-Sport Aircraft, the MC01. With its cavernous interior, three-door access, and finely-finished wing (just try to find the rivets on this beauty!), Montaer's new flying machine will start its U.S. distribution. Alex reported they sold the first models at AirVenture 2021. https://youtu.be/z7lx43BIOZQ
Affordable and Handsome Ultralights / Affordable — Tri-State is one of those companies that's been around a long time yet you may still not know of it. Well, that won't do. You should know about Smithsilvers or Quicksmiths (casual, not official references). Tri-State Kite Sales, which did not exhibit at AirVenture, remains one of America's best-kept secrets about highly affordable aircraft. A strong local community has built up around the Mark Smith-created enterprise …a loyal bunch of customers any manufacturer would love to serve. While the model closely resembles the Quicksilver line (represented today by Air-Tech, Inc.) and while Tri-State does make many after-market components for the popular brand, Tri-State has their own whole aircraft as seen in the video below. The company fabricates all parts in house including the artful job of sewing the Dacron wings used on this line of aircraft. In fact, they do lots of replacement and original equipment part making, enough so that they stay very busy and going to every airshow — even big ones like Oshkosh — have not been a priority. Hopefully, they'll make a return visit to the Midwest LSA Expo coming up in just a couple weeks. Come check it out; I hope to see you in Mt. Vernon, Illinois September 9, 10, and 11, 2021. https://youtu.be/-bzi2HN2hd4
For 18 months, the world has been under assault from a bug so small you can’t see it without a big microscope. Plenty of us are hungry to return to what we once quaintly called “normal.” Hundreds of thousands of people at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2021 started back on that path! Let’s review: Lots of people. Lots of exhibitors. Perhaps a record number of aircraft flown to the show by visitors. Airplanes were selling, according to many vendors. Weather was good; it only rained at night. No serious accidents. No subsequent reports of any “superspreading.” I’d say it’s all good, except… I was able to gather lots of material and put up daily posts. That made for very long days and short nights of sleep but it’s what many readers have asked for and I’m happy to oblige. What I did not do was shoot enough video. In the five days I attended, my Apple Watch said I walked almost 75 miles, nearly 15 miles a day on average.
Let’s get this show underway…
Jabiru USAOne of the earliest Light-Sport Aircraft to be approved was the Australian Jabiru brand. Not only was Jabiru one of the first approved SLSA (#22) but also one of the most prolific with SLSA #22 J250-SP, #23 J170-SP, #40 Calypso SP, #67 J230-SP (redesignated as J230-D in 2013), and #142 J170-D. The "SP models came from an earlier U.S.-based manufacturing arrangement. The "D" denotes the manufacturing now conducted in Australia. When you are an early entrant you have time to get the details right and flesh out the operation. Now in the capable hands of Scott Severen, who runs US Sport Planes and took over from Jabiru USA founder Pete Krotje, Jabiru has matured to one of the leading LSA suppliers. It is the only Australian fixed wing aircraft brand to successfully enter the U.S. market. The company remains a member of a very select club that manufactures both airframe and engine. All Jabiru models appear compact but actually have spacious interiors; especially the latest J230-D has a cavernous aft area (where people sit when the same base airframe is used to make a four seater). A third door for this purpose serves U.S. pilots by making the loading of luggage (or your pet) easier. With its 4th Generation six-cylinder engine producing 120 horsepower, Jabiru J230-D will satisfy a lot of pilots. Stop by their space at AirVenture and perhaps you'll meet some of their owners that will attend another annual Jabiru Owners Group (JOG) gathering.
BeringerKnown far and wide for their distinctive orange-ish wheels, Beringer has built a premium brand serving aircraft from the lightest LSA to Cirrus' SR-series. The France-based company with a permanent U.S. operation has numerous products in support of airframes including the unique locking tailwheel and their wheel shocks. Now, they have something new. Beringer’s SensAIR™ system is connected to a mobile app on your smartphone (image) thanks to pressure and temperature sensors fitted to your Beringer rim. Sensors are normally switched off to save the battery (2 to 3 years lifetime) and are activated when the smartphone is detected within a 30-foot radius (10 m).
Low pressure and temperature levels are set by the user on his smartphone so he or she can receive a notification.
No need to crawl under your plane to check pressure anymore, thanks to SensAIR you can check your pressure before and during each flight! SensAir is available now for 4-, 5-, 6-, and 8-inch wheels.
SeamaxWith fabrication in Brazil, Seamax has been in the U.S. market for many years, earning FAA acceptance as #63 in our SLSA List. In the last few years Seamax has substantially upgraded their U.S. representation with full-time facilities adjacent to the prestigious campus of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. From this ideal location they can cover the Eastern U.S. Now, Seamax is pleased to announce a new dealer based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The seaplane maker now offers support, training, and sales for several Midwestern states. The new business is called Central Seaplanes and they become the official sales agent and brand representative for Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas. Central Seaplanes will provide mechanical and maintenance service to Seamax aircraft in association with Johnson Aviation of Tulsa and plans to provide flight training in association with Destinations Executive Flight Club of Tulsa. The Oklahoma dealer recently acquired two fully-equipped Seamax M-22 aircraft to their fleet and. One M-22 is equipped with IFR gear, which allows a pilot in training to log instrument hours at competitive rates. Central Seaplanes, LLC is a father-daughter, veteran-owned business represented by Kira and Todd Lang. Todd is a former fighter pilot with 40 years of aviation experience and 11,000 logged hours with CFI, CFII, and MEI instructor credentials. Currently, he is an international Boeing 767 Captain for a major U.S. airline. Todd also holds a Master's degree in Business Administration from Embry Riddle. Kira has an Associate degree in aircrew safety systems technology, a Bachelor's degree in aviation management and a Master's degree in aviation and space science. She is currently finishing her doctorate. Kira received her Private Pilot certificate when she was 18 years old. Kira said she has always dreamed of starting her own business with her dad. She has a passion for aviation and has thrived in the industry. She intends to dedicate her time to the success of Central Seaplanes and their association with Seamax aircraft.
Dragon PPGWelcome to Dragon PPG (powered paraglider). This quad — a term describing the four wheeled carriage some powered paraglider enthusiasts prefer — “is a new concept,” said Erin Thorson about designer Dan Feldman's work. Dragon will make its official debut at AirVenture 2021. Thorson is a 30+ year A&P and former Air Force aviator. "Considerable research and thought have been put into producing a high quality seated powered paraglider that meets all FAR 103 requirements," wrote Erin. Dragon PPG is aimed at taller and heavier PPG pilots. The design features a roll cage for protection. Such a configuration is common in powered parachutes (different aircraft, if you aren't familiar) but quads have previously been very light weight construction that mainly aimed to provide some structure to accommodate wheels, and not much more. Based on Rotax 503 power, Erin described thrust of the engine as "incredible!" Dragon was weight tested at 4Gs assuming a 220-pound pilot. Commonly, powered paragliders prefer the lightweight, higher-revving Polini engine (see next news item). "Last week, Eric Dufour, a world-renowned paragliding pioneer and well respected paramotor instructor, personally flew the Dragon PPG and loved everything about it," wrote Erin. "I have witnessed the Dragon fly; it is a rocket!" Dragon PPG is made in the USA. "The challenge (and frustration) for many quad PPG pilots is a lack of power and thrust and overall structural integrity," continued Erin. "Dan set out to design a wheeled powered paraglider [carriage] using heavy-wall aluminum for the main structural components with aluminum clamp devices and U-channels clamps to secure the tubing. The reason is primarily to add strength to the tubing without drilling of holes which can weaken the structural integrity of the frame." He reported the Dragon frame and engine have been designed to meet FAR 103 requirements. The Dragon frame itself can also be purchased as a stand alone frame without engine if the customer desires.
E-Props and Polini EnginesIn early July 2021 flying enthusiasts participated in the second edition of a STOL competition for ultralights (with engines limited to 100 horsepower) in the south of France. The contest was organized by the French Federation, FFPLUM. “The propeller is a very important equipment to succeed in this kind of competition,” the company wrote. “E-Props is proud to have won the first three places.” Earlier, on the weekend of June 17, 18, and 19, the French Open Training Slalom 2021 at Sevins Le Lac, “the podium was monopolized by pilots using Polini Thor engines,” boasted the Italian engine maker. Champion Alexandre Mateos, an ace of this sport, dominated results winning in his debut with the new Thor 303. Commonly, E-Props have been paired successfully with Polini. In second position was Jeremy Penone using the super-tested Thor 250. In third, winning the bronze medal, was Marie Mateos also using the new Thor 303. Marie reached a new goal with Thor Polini engines. After previously winning the female category, in this recent competition she was the first woman to be on the winner's podium ranked equally with male pilots. In a similarly timed event called "Slalomania," in Bornos in the south of Spain, the Slalom Open Spanish Championship took place. “Once again the pilots powered by Thor 303 engines confirmed this engine is superior for powered Paragliders,” reported Polini. Of the 21 pilots that took part to the competitions, 16 chose Polini Thor engines.
…but, of course, all the above is merely the tip of a large iceberg. I hope to achieve sensory overload at Oshkosh '21 and I will do my best to transmit that excitement to you. Watch for the bright orange logo denoting coverage from the big show.
Off we go!
Well, FINALLY, AirVenture Oshkosh is barely a week away. It seems like forever, doesn’t it? It has been two years but feels like a decade. I hope you can attend, but if not, I plan to be on-site all week gathering the latest about Light-Sport Aircraft, Sport Pilot kits, and ultralights. In this edition of “LSA Update,” I’ll cover an update about… 1️⃣ Jabiru and their AirVenture activities; 2️⃣ Beringer’s new SensAir system that works with your smartphone; 3️⃣ an impressive father-and-daughter partnership forming a new dealer for Seamax; 4️⃣ a preview of the new Dragon powered paraglider single-place quad; and, 5️⃣ competition successes for E-Props and Polini engines. Let’s get this show underway… Jabiru USA One of the earliest Light-Sport Aircraft to be approved was the Australian Jabiru brand. Not only was Jabiru one of the first approved SLSA (#22) but also one of the most prolific with SLSA #22 J250-SP, #23 J170-SP, #40 Calypso SP, #67 J230-SP (redesignated as J230-D in 2013), and #142 J170-D.
Orange Lightning in the SkyMaybe it doesn't look familiar but VL3 has already been seen by Yankee pilots under the brand name Gobosh and with the model designation 800XP. Gobosh emerged in the early days of LSA. Today you know this aircraft as VL3 and it doesn't seem the same. The fellows importing 800XP from then-producer Aveko rebadged the aircraft for the American market. It featured fixed gear and a fixed prop to meet the LSA regulations of the day. They also added wing area and for good marketing measure, they added sexy upward-curved winglets. Irony: The older model is essentially the LSA version that JMB plans for the U.S. market. So, yep, while the model in this report is the speediest version, a simpler — and LSA compatible today, even before the 2023 regulations — model is already waiting for American pilots that many need or prefer an LSA. No question though… what gets most pilot hearts beating harder is the speed VL3 has been able to achieve with a Rotax engine. VL3 was already known as a very fast flyer …and then Rotax introduced their 141-horsepower 915iS. Engineers at JMB eagerly accepted the challenge of adding the potent new powerplant to their sleek airframe and the results are strong. In the present time — before big changes coming with the so-called Mosaic regulation — everyone knows LSA are limited to 120 knots indicated at maximum cruise at sea level. Note that most of the speed references in this article are true airspeed, and FAA does not dispute that this figure can be significantly higher than at sea level. When American builders go the Czech and work on building their kit to qualify, as presently needed, as an Experimental Amateur Built aircraft, they can take full advantage of the speed potential of this airplane. Of course, that procedure may change after 2023 when LSA are allowed to fly faster or when VL3 can become a Light Personal Aircraft with even more capability. You should note that JMB, along with most Euro designers, likes to quote max speeds in not only true airspeed but in kilometers per hour. I don't blame them. It makes the number higher and if you don't think this has any meaning then you probably don't understand a product priced at $29.95, either. People are affected by a number and 370 kilometers per hour certainly does sound fast. VL3 is able to achieve these speeds thanks to a very clean all-carbon-fiber airframe. The model also has a relatively short span (under 28 feet). The company lists climb rate at 2,000 feet per minute, a 2,000-kilometer (1,250 statute mile) range and a fairly modest 600-foot takeoff roll. Those are certainly very strong bragging rights, and on my recent flight, I found these numbers believable.
Safety Figures High, TooSafety is important to JMB engineers as well. I flew in a VL3 with an airframe ballistic parachute. That's one feature but hardly all. In fact, it's for last-resort use. JMB reports that VL3's airframe has been subjected to a rather amazing +15 Gs of positive load and –8 Gs of negative load. That occurred in a test to failure; normal operational limits are +5 –2.5 Gs. VL3 is not intended for aerobatics but can stand up to the rigor of higher speed flight. Pilots have tested VL3 up to 248 knots indicated airspeed (459 kph or 285 mph) to determine if flutter appears. It did not. An Angle of Attack (AoA) indicator appeared on the Garmin G3X to help the pilot stay within safe speeds. As do many LSA producers, JMB includes an ELT, promotes on-screen traffic advisories, plus stall strips have been fitted near the wing/fuselage junction to improve controllability at slower speeds. Given JMB salesman talk about speed all the time, you may start to wonder as I did. OK, fine, it blazes, I thought, but what are its slow speed characteristics? Some previous fast-glass designs have so focused on speed that a short off-field landing could be threatening because landing speeds remain high. Not on VL3. As Kyle approached to land, he lowered flaps to 15 degrees; this setting is used for takeoff as well. Using 33 degrees substantially steepened approach and the full-down 55 degrees of split flaps are needed only for the shortest field. As he lowered flaps and worked to slow down this race horse, I was pleased to see how well behaved VL3 remained. I had a clue because we did a series of stalls and VL3 had already shown great slow speed stability and control but also remarkably slow speeds. Stall happens modestly in the low 40 knot range. From 42 knots or so stall to 165 indicated top cruise, we see the 4:1 slow-to-max ratio that is the holy grail of airplane design.
Now in the US of AWith import operations based on the West Coast, Alion Aviation engaged dealers in the Midwest and the east to help promote and service the aircraft. One of these is a father and son team, Dirk and Kyle Schluter, located in Ohio. They will provide sales and service to many eastern states from Maine to Florida. Another dealer group, David Pauly and Aaron Young, is based in Wichita, Kansas serving the central states while Alion Aviation importer and company CEO Adam Coubal is based in California and serves the West Coast. More to Come… On the flight I took with Kyle, we shot video for a Video Pilot Report to follow in which you will learn more about speeds, power settings, engine temperatures, flight controls, stall characteristics, slow flight, maneuvering, takeoff and landing and more. Watch for that video after AirVenture 2021. No question about it — VL3 is one of those aircraft that will catch your attention.
Good luck catching one in the sky.
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS configured to ASTM 600-kilogram parameters or to U.S. EAB per factory published information specifications were enhanced on the factory's advice (* 7/17/21)
- Wing Span — 27.7 feet (8,44 m)
- Wing Area — 105 square feet (9,77 sq m)
- Length — 20.5 feet (6,24 m)
- Height — 8.2 feet (2,05 m)
- Cabin Width — 45 inches (115 cm)
- Fuel Capacity — 31.7 gallons (120 l)
- Gross Weight (ASTM version) — 1,320 pounds (600 kg)
- Gross Weight (EAB version) — 1,500 pounds (680 kg) *
- Empty Weight (ASTM version) depending on optional equipment — 750 pounds (340 kg)
- Empty Weight (EAB version) before options — 798 pounds (362 kg) *
- Useful Load (ASTM version) — 573 pounds (260 kg)
- Payload with full fuel (ASTM version) — 383 pounds (174 kg)
- Useful Load (EAB version) — 702 pounds (318 kg) *
- Payload with full fuel (EAB version) — 512 pounds (232 kg) *
PERFORMANCE with Rotax 914 or 915iS (912 also available)
- Takeoff & Landing either model — 757 feet (175 m)
- Best Rate of Climb with 914 — 1,560 feet per minute *
- Best rate of climb with 915iS — 2,280 feet per minute *
- Max Cruise Speed with 914 in true airspeed — 190 miles per hour or 165 knots (306 kph)
- Max Cruise Speed with 915iS in true airspeed — 230 miles per hour or 200 knots (370 kph)
- Stall Speed either model in indicated airspeed — 48 miles per hour or 42 knots (78 kph)
- Never-Exceed Speed (914) in indicated airspeed — 190 miles per hour or 165 knots (306 kph) * **
- Never-Exceed Speed (915iS) in indicated airspeed — 253 miles per hour or 220 knots (407 kph) *
** Vne limited by maximum parachute deployment speed
The age of Light Personal Aircraft is not far off in the future but is that where “fast-glass” LSA are headed? Certainly, some LSA producers have ambitions for four seat cruisers or tougher bush aircraft or larger load-carrying aircraft to satisfy pilots that want more capability from their aircraft. Those goals are fine, of course, but they are not what stimulates leaders and engineers at JMB Aircraft, a restless bunch that loves flying their screaming machine as fast as they can. How fast is it? I went aloft with dealer Kyle Schluter to find out. I also learned about the fuller product line and what Sport Pilot certificate holders can do to own and fly one of these impressive aircraft. (Article updated 7/17/21) Orange Lightning in the Sky Maybe it doesn’t look familiar but VL3 has already been seen by Yankee pilots under the brand name Gobosh and with the model designation 800XP.
European High-SpeedersFrom 2004 until the last few years, European aircraft composed the majority of LSA offerings. In the second decade of this millennia, American brands have caught up. I presume we'll see this again but not right away. The subjects of today's post from Lakeland, Florida, VL3 from JMB Aircraft plus Tarragon Aircraft — along with a handful of other designs (see this earlier article on Euro Speed Machines) — are pushing the envelope of thrilling cruise velocities. Regulations in Europe don't put caps on how fast these aircraft can fly, so the best designers are working hard to outdo one another. VL3 looks LSA-sized. Indeed, Americans once knew this same airplane as the Gobosh LSA, albeit with fixed gear and prop. Although it lost the sexy winglets, this is a very similar airplane. Contrarily, Tarragon looks surprisingly large yet reports empty weight of 700-750 pounds. Carbon fiber expands the size-for-weight calculation but some questioned this light a weight from such a large-appearing aircraft. In sharp contrast, all Cub-type LSA weigh considerably more.
JMB's Ripping-Fast VL3At Sun 'n Fun 2021, this Belgium-headquartered company offered their latest, greatest …and fastest model. After installing Rotax's potent 915iS and fitted with retract and an adjustable prop, producer JMB Aircraft boasts almost shocking numbers. JMB Aircraft makes several impressive claims, most significant among them, top speed: 370 kilometers per hour (200 knots!) true air speed at 18,000 feet. This competes well with a Cirrus selling for more than twice as much money (although it lacks the back seats of a SR-series aircraft). The company also states climb rate at 2,000 feet per minute, a 2,000-kilometer (1,250 statute mile) range and a fairly modest 600-foot takeoff roll. Those are certainly very strong bragging rights, although I am quoting the factory and have not done my own evaluation of these numbers. All that speed and the larger engine plus a substantial fuel capacity conspire to limit what you can carry. VL3 with the 915iS lists useful load at 529 pounds. Given gross weight at 1,320 pounds and empty weight of 794 pounds with full fuel at 37 gallons, payload calculates to 304 pounds. JMB has established a strong presence across Europe and they have many loyal customers. In the USA, JMB is represented by Alion Aviation. Their website shows a U.S. price for the 915-powered VL3 at $230,000. In dollars per knot, that price may be a good value but it is clearly at the upper end of LSA-type aircraft. Naturally, since it has retractable gear and an adjustable prop it is only available as a kit-built airplane until FAA's new regulation may permit it to be a LSA or LPA (Light Personal Aircraft, a new term tossed on the table just before they went into quiet mode — we don't know much about what LPA means yet). JMB reports more than 400 aircraft flying globally.
Large and Deluxe TarragonCheck this Day Zero Sun 'n Fun report where you see a clear image of Tarragon before all the exhibitors added their flags and other display items. You may not be able to tell in the photo but Pelegrin Tarragon's sleek tandem aircraft looms large. Positioned next door to JMB's VL3 at Sun 'n Fun, it seems to tower over it. Yet Tarragon is as light as VL3 thanks to extensive use of carbon fiber. Of course, such high-tech construction also pushes up the price. Neither of these airplanes are in the range of what I'd call "affordable" for readers of this website. In fact Tarragon is carving out a space near the very top of where LSA are priced. In their booth, I heard staff quote numbers north of $300,000. It's a breathtaking aircraft with a breathtaking price to match. In addition, as with VL3, Tarragon must be built and registered as an Experimental Amateur Built aircraft. As this requirement does not exist in Europe, I don't know how well configured they are to assist builders but the U.S. representatives are likely to handle that. If this aircraft interests you for purchase, you'll want to talk to the fellows repressenting it in Illinois. Email them or call 309-346-3348 (central U.S. time). In the USA, Tarragon is represented by Tarragon USA. They have no separate website, instead leading you to Tarragon in Latvia. To follow American activity on this aircraft, you can follow their Facebook page.
LSA Mall 2021From the super-speedy to the more sublime. LAMA's LSA Mall, now in its 15th year at Sun 'n Fun, has a fresh new exhibit and an equally fresh batch of Light-Sport Aircraft for visitors to admire. In 2019 and again now in 2021, the LAMA LSA Mall is supported by the DeLand Showcase, which readers should know is the organizer of a light aircraft show at the DeLand airport in November. Like all the others, they were forced to bow to Covid fears and cancelled all efforts to put on an event in 2020. Yet the show returns November 11-13 in 2021 and I hope you'll considering joining all of us who value this new show …all the more important after Sebring's LSA Expo closed down in 2019 after 15 years. On a beautiful evening, almost 200 light aircraft businesspeople attended the DeLand Showcase annual reception. Smiles were plentiful as these vendors enjoyed a return to normalcy and an airshow routine that fuels their enterprise so they can better serve their pilot customers. Hurray for Sun 'n Fun for going forward with this keystone event and all best wishes to DeLand Showcase as they gear up for their own event this fall. I'll be onsite and hope many of you can join us down here in sunny Florida.
Think about this: A Rotax-powered aircraft capable of high-speed cruising at 185 miles an hour? That’s pretty fast and some go quite a bit faster …although not in the USA, as Light-Sport Aircraft …not yet anyway. Most readers are aware that FAA will make big changes to the LSA regulation (info also in this video) probably at the end of 2023. The last time LSA regulations were introduced in September of 2004, one geographical region of the world seemed to be ahead of the game. That 15-year-old experience appears ready to repeat. As the new reg approaches — and with a giant assumption that it will remain approximately as we’ve been lead to expect — Europeans once again appear likely to seize an early lead. Today, I am writing about high-speed aircraft with retractable gear and in-flight adjustable props. At Sun ‘n Fun 2021, we saw two such companies exhibiting.
Rare and/or New AircraftMC-01 by Montaer — We almost didn't see it. Insurance has been getting harder to find and more costly. That's true for all aircraft but the situation is especially challenging for a new design (even if it significantly resembles an earlier design). However, Gregg Ellsworth and AIR (Aviation Insurance Resources) came to the rescue so now importer Ed Ricks of Montaer USA has a good chance to get this all-new design to Midwest 2020. When you look at the image of MC-01, some of us see the Paradise P1NG. No surprise, as the designer once worked with Paradise. While the new model bears a close resemblance to the earlier SLSA, that one has largely disappeared from the U.S. market, so Montaer is filling a void. Paradise, and now Montaer, have long offered a yoke control with a voluminous three-door cabin. It makes people think Cessna 150 but larger (and it performs substantially better). The first U.S. delivery will also have hand controls, a choice available to offer assistance to some pilots. Merlin Lite by Aeromarine LSA — If you know Merlin, you should be asking, "…Lite?" Wasn't it already light? Ah, that is Merlin PSA. This is Merlin Lite …and yes, it is lighter, if you can believe that. Proprietor Chip Erwin of Aeromarine LSA is one of those can't-sit-still people and he's taking his early success with Merlin PSA even further with a lighter-yet, lower-cost-yet model powered by the Polini Thor engine that tens of thousands of powered paragliders use. The good news is you don't have to run this one off the ground. I'll have more on this, possibly before Midwest 2020 because this model is literally hot off the factory floor. Put this in perspective. Merlin PSA, also a single seater, is an all-metal, fully enclosed, well-equipped aircraft that you can assemble for around $35,000. Options and choice of engine can increase the base but it is easily one of the great bargains in aviation. A 60-horsepower four-stroke V-Twin engine will make the "bigger" Merlin soar into the sky, but just for fun, come see Merlin Lite at Midwest 2020. SmithSilver by Tri-State Kite — Owner Mark Smith's enterprise is "the nation's leading source of quality aftermarket parts for the complete line of the Quicksilver ultralight aircraft, and has been in business more than 33 years" he expressed. Mark has become a guru of the Quicksilver type, has made numerous components for them, and will have something called SmithSilver at Midwest 2020. I'm as curious as you and look forward to checking it out. BTW, are you puzzled by Mark's business name …specifically "Kites?" When hang gliders were a lot simpler than today's sophisticated models, they were often called "kites," a term that followed even earlier boat-towed rigs that literally had to be tethered like a kite. Even the first hang gliders were more than a mere kite but the name was quick and easy, and it stuck. Mark's time in the business goes back far enough that his business name could reflect that …even if today it sounds a bit odd for an aircraft company. Read for yourself Mark Smith's history of design ideas for the Quicksilver aircraft. Sparrow by Carlson — This oldie but goodie has not been seen for some time but thanks to the people behind the MiniMax series of affordable aircraft, the Sparrow is returning to the market. Lots of readers remember this once-popular model. Following the death of Ernie Carlson a few years back, the brand fell out of sight for most buyers even though Ernie's wife, Mary, kept the business running. Now with help from David Cooper of Team MiniMax (and some partners), the single place Carlson Sparrow will be returning to the market, with plans for the two-place in their mind but still on a back burner. This project is still new but come to Midwest 2020 and ask questions. F2 by Flight Design — I have reported this impressive new top-end Special LSA before but for most Americans, this will be their first viewing. I saw it in Aero 2019 but it had not flown then. It's all wrung out and approved now and I look forward to a flight in the bigger, better model. After Midwest 2020, F2 will go home with Tom and Tom Gutmann of Airtime Aviation, the world's largest dealer/distributor for Flight Design aircraft. As winter follows in a few months, Airtime's base in Oklahoma makes sense versus Flight Design USA in Connecticut. This is the first F2 in America so they're sharing the treasure. Vashon Ranger — While it's not brand new, Ranger R7 is new enough that many LSA enthusiasts have yet to see one and Vashon Aircraft has never displayed at Midwest before. The brand has done respectably well as our industry reports, as seen on Tableau Public, demonstrate. After their first deliveries in 2017, Washington-based Vashon has grown rapidly, thanks to a familiar construction at a good price (starts just below $100,000 fully built and reasonably well equipped). Through the first half of 2020, the company had already almost matched all of 2019, so despite the virus, more Rangers are taking to the sky. You should check this one out in person, but I'll be angling for a flight in the new design so we expect to report more and capture video. SD-1 (kit) By SD Planes —Readers of this website like affordable aircraft and the SD Planes single place kit is surely a great value in light aircraft. Construction is significantly wood. If you don't already know, building from wood is achievable by most, much less challenging that kits that involve welding or composite work. Check this video for more about building the airplane and for a look at the two seat model from the same designer. SD-1 is a modest project, not only from the build effort but you can keep the base price below $20,000, an amount the importer said includes the engine. If you simply can't see yourself building a single seater — no matter how much fun it might be — U.S. rep John Vining has the SD-2 Sportmaster. Both share the same ease of construction. VL3 by JMB Aircraft — This spring, we had a contest going on between three speedy European aircraft: Sweden's striking Blackwing, Switzerland's super-sleek Risen, and JMB Aircraft's VL3. Of these, only one will be at Midwest 2020: VL3. You already know this airplane under the marketing name Gobosh. It was sold as a fixed gear, fixed pitch prop Special LSA. In Europe, where no speed limit applies to what they then and still call "microlights" or European ultralights, companies like those mentioned above seek the highest speed they can achieve. All use the Rotax engine, so it becomes about airframe smoothness, wing efficiency, and getting as lean as possible, hence retractable gear. For now in the U.S., such aircraft must be built as kits but in 2023, such models will become LSA (or maybe Light Personal Aircraft, depending on what FAA eventually decides about a possible new category). Fusion 212 by Magnus — Did you wonder if this handsome aircraft disappeared? That's understandable because we haven't seen it for a short time (and, of course, not this unusual year). I did a flight in Fusion and you can check it out in this video. What could be better? You could attend Midwest 2020 and fly it yourself. At minimum, you can talk to the representatives, ask questions, and closely examine the all-composite aircraft built in Hungary but represented by Magnus USA. This list is not inclusive of all players but you can check the Midwest 2020 program to see all expected exhibitors.
Who Won't Be Present?I understand a few cannot be present and while I certainly respect their decision not to take chances, well… darn it! I'll miss these folks. Rob Rollison the proprietor of the very successful Aerotrek line has elected not to go. He cited concerns about the virus and how that can affect a show that is already modestly attended. Such things matter to vendors swayed by high traffic at shows like Sun 'n Fun or Oshkosh, but an individual pilot actually benefits from a smaller number of attendees. Although the company appears on the site layout, apparently Rans has elected not to attend after many years of doing so. This is just that kind of year, I guess. Two other aircraft are not quite ready yet. These include two entries from Deon Lombard's Aeropilot USA distributorship. He is expecting the first M-8 Eagle, rebadged as L600 Eagle to provide continuity for the earlier Aeropilot Legend/L600 Deon formerly represented (he still owns the dealership for several more months but will then switch to the L600 Eagle; I will report more on that later). In addition, Deon is bringing in from South Africa the sleek composite RV-like Whisper kit-built aircraft. Perhaps at DeLand in January or certainly by Sun 'n Fun 2021, both aircraft should be available for your inspection. Deon will have the InnovAviation FX1 we saw at Midwest 2019 (here's our video on that model). He'll also have a very special opportunity for one buyer of the same aircraft I flew. Come and see for yourself. However, while we regret missing a couple regulars, I'm pleased those who show should (fingers crossed) have plenty to look at and I expect to make several reports from the event — the last of the year since DeLand Showcase has pushed into 2021 (January 28-29-30). Travel safely and I hope to see you in Mt. Vernon!
To help you psych' up for Midwest 2020, here's a few videos assembled by Videoman Dave. He's putting up lots before this event — go to his YouTube channel to see many more. https://youtu.be/oSpq6vZ4skQ https://youtu.be/mMV824eEbRk https://youtu.be/eq0FfmDvNtE https://youtu.be/P25dFK_RCY8
I hope you can attend 2020’s Midwest LSA Expo — the last airshow in 2020. If you cannot attend, rest assured your trusty reporter will be onsite and gathering all the info on the coolest aircraft I can find. What will be available? Well, if I am honest, we will have to see when we arrive to be certain. In these virus-impacted times, things have a lousy way of changing at the last minute, however… Those who attend should see a few aircraft that few Americans have seen before. Here’s a quick take, not forgetting the statement about how arrivals can be altered beyond the wishes of any particular vendor. Rare and/or New Aircraft MC-01 by Montaer — We almost didn’t see it. Insurance has been getting harder to find and more costly. That’s true for all aircraft but the situation is especially challenging for a new design (even if it significantly resembles an earlier design).
— In His Own Words —"On April 15th, a personal dream of mine came true," wrote Niklas earlier today. "We pushed the turbocharged Blackwing aircraft to a new speed record in FAI's Microlight RAL2T Category." "A few weeks earlier," he continued, "we started high-speed taxi tests. We noticed immediately that this aircraft is something special. The turbo-charged engine (Rotax's new 915iS, a 141-horsepower turbocharged and intercooled entry) in combination with a single power lever [controlling] the hydraulic MT propeller, accelerated like nothing I have tried before. Already on the second test flight, we were reaching 195 knots at 3,000 feet. We were very excited and increased the envelope every day. At 5,000 feet we were reading 200 knots on the airspeed indicator, at full power [in] level flight. With fuel consumption of 10 liters/hour [2.64 gallons per hour] we were reading 130 knots TAS. Can this really be true airspeed? On the next flights, we carried a [FAI-required] logger and confirmed the Garmin speeds. "Due to the pandemic, unique possibilities opened up. We could fly at any altitude we would like, with the support from Sweden control [ATC]. On Saturday, we practiced the world record course three times. It was challenging to fly over 200 knots (400 kilometers per hour), bank three G, and still keeping a precise altitude. We also started to fly at heights, FL90-110, and at speeds higher than we ever have flown before. It felt good to have a parachute. "On Tuesday the weather conditions were perfect. We decided to fly at 10,000 feet. The [FAI] criteria that the course could only be flown once made it even more intense. At the first turn, I climbed some 300 feet, and returning to altitude she accelerated to 219 knots (405 km/h). I felt extremely tense and had a hard time keeping the ball in the center. Overall I am happy that I managed to fly a pretty good course. On the straight course, we got 212 knots average speed. It was great to celebrate the success with my co-pilot Fredrik Lanz, and the rest of the Blackwing team. "The flight testing will continue in spring and summer. After 50 hours of flight testing, we can start taking passengers. "The aircraft used for the record is a standard BW600RG with the Rotax 915iS engine. In order to optimize the drag, we only had one outside antenna and sealed some of the gaps." Once again, my heartiest congratutions to Niklas, Fredrik, and Team Blackwing, for a job well done!
This Ain't Over YetMeanwhile, in nearby Belgium, the folks from JMB Aircraft are promoting their own speedy Light-Sport Aircraft-like equipped with the Rotax 915iS. "JMB Aircraft is proud to announce some achievements from the past few months," the company wrote recently. "After more than 100 hours of flight test with two planes, we manage with success to perform a V-dive test reaching an indicated 381 kilometers per hour and 425 km/h (229 knots) true air speed. This enable us to safely increase our VNE up to an indicated 340 kilometers per hour (184 knots)." On April 25th JMB added, "With all nominal operating parameters, we climbed to FL180 in 13 minutes with one short level off due to a too-fast climb reported by ATC. The conditions were ISO +7 degrees Celsius (45°F) and 600 kilogram MTOW. Our test pilots performed a level flight of several minutes at maximum continuous power and reached 380 km/h (205 knots) true airspeed, breaking the mythical 200 knot barrier." I suspect the LSA-like airspeed race isn't over yet, especially given the previous record holder — Risen, from a formerly Swiss, now Italian company renamed as Porto Aviation Group — is another speedy design. All these aircraft, plus others such as BRM Aero's retractable model of their Bristell line, can fly faster than what FAA may be planning for LSA 2023 but these attempts might influence rule writers to consider faster-yet speeds. As the world slowly begins to emerge from the global lockdown, who know what speed feats we'll see next.
Not to leave Americans behind, consider Arion Aircraft's Yankee speedster, the Lightning XS (currently Experimental, but who knows in 2023?). https://youtu.be/gqOL9oZNzAw
* Paul Harvey was a very popular radio commentator who donated a substantial sum to EAA for the organization to establish a video studio. Each of his broadcasts began with, "You know what the news is; in a minute you're going to hear the rest of the story."
Our most-read story of 2020 was this breaking report on Blackwing’s assault on the world speed record for the Microlight category. Since we published that article, Blackwing Sweden CEO Niklas Anderberg offered more details and — because this was a popular read for many visitors — it is worthwhile to tell you, as famous radio broadcaster (and aviation enthusiast *), Paul Harvey, used to say “…the rest of the story.” — In His Own Words — “On April 15th, a personal dream of mine came true,” wrote Niklas earlier today. “We pushed the turbocharged Blackwing aircraft to a new speed record in FAI‘s Microlight RAL2T Category.” “A few weeks earlier,” he continued, “we started high-speed taxi tests. We noticed immediately that this aircraft is something special. The turbo-charged engine (Rotax‘s new 915iS, a 141-horsepower turbocharged and intercooled entry) in combination with a single power lever [controlling] the hydraulic MT propeller, accelerated like nothing I have tried before.
So Many Airplanes, Not Enough Hours…ScaleWings SW51 — When I reported this aircraft in 2018, the "Walter Mitty story" went on to become one of the most popular articles of the year on this website. On social media promotions it also attracted more attention than any other aircraft that year. A year later enthusiasm is still hot. Throngs around the aircraft at Aero reinforced that view. North American's P-51 and its distinctive shape has perhaps inspired more pilots than any other aircraft in history. Therefore, ScaleWings' intricately-detailed execution of a 70% scale replica of the iconic airplane draws admiring looks that few others can hope to match. However, can they really manufacture this artistic work? Last year, I admit I wondered if the company would actually pull off the move to production. Originally known as the FK-51 because it was to be produced by FK Lightplanes' Poland facility, production ran into trouble. The Poland FK factory had various problems unrelated to this one design. Last year that older relationship was causing doubts about their sustained operation. The two went their separate ways. In the last year, ScaleWings has made many changes, upgraded its staff, added test equipment, and brought in a top production man with a background in general aviation, according to front man, Christian von Kessel. Testing has continued using an impressive "strong back," a steel cage-type apparatus built to exert loads on an airframe to prove components and construction methods. The ScaleWings version of this is the most sophisticated I've seen. Work remains but this company is looking solid. Given the keen response to the airplane, if ScaleWings can enter steady production, they might sell all they can make. To learn more, as I imagine many readers may wish to do, look at their brochure (PDF file). Blackwing 600RG — Sweden's success story in light aviation could be summed up in one company's name: Blackwing. Since it first debuted at Aero 2015 the sleek design from the Scandinavian company has drawn many admiring looks. Blackwing exhibits their retractable gear model (600RG) because regulations in most European countries have no speed limit and no ban on retractable gear when operating as European-type ultralights. Therefore many companies in the LSA-like space push speed as a primary selling tool and retractable models are part of this. Displaying his aircraft with gear retracted (photo) Blackwing Sweden Founder and CEO Niklas Anderberg presents his slippery aircraft in its best go-fast look. Current FAA regulations forbid retractable gear except on seaplanes as part of the overall goal to keep these aircraft easier to operate. The original mantra was "simple aircraft in simple airspace." FAA could not know that the new LSA sector would become a worldwide phenomenon that would circle back to help simplify Part 23 (CS-23) certification methods. As reported here several times LAMA has informed industry that significant changes are coming. Beside key regulation changes proposed by LAMA, champions like EAA have fought to expand the professional build-assist center concept. FAA has adjusted its oversight of this effort to support the idea and more accommodating rules are coming. Updated regulations can help companies like Blackwing sell aircraft that exceed the LSA speed limit until we see if FAA will expand the Light-Sport Aircraft category to permit higher speeds. Until then, as interest may express itself, Blackwing also offers a fixed gear version that could enter the U.S. market sooner. JMB Aircraft Update — "JMB Aircraft is run by two Belgium brothers," stated the company. "JMB Aircraft is the production company of the VL3, a plane designed by Vanessa Air and produced in the past by Aveko." Americans may already know this airplane although not from JMB and not called VL3. This is the Gobosh model once rebadged and sold in the USA with fixed gear and winglets. Back in 2007, Jean Marie and his brother represented Aveko models and became responsible for 85% of the producer's sales (outside the U.S). In 2012 they acquired Aveko and by 2015 had taken over production. In recent years, JMB has done well. At their company party at Aero on Friday, Jean Marie gave a short talk where he provided some company data. "We bought the company seven years ago and we now employ 100 people in the Czech Republic. With dealers and other staff, JMB now is served by 150 people. Together they have built, sold, and delivered 320 VL3 aircraft, primarily in Europe with a few in other countries (two are in the USA registered under the Aveko brand). In 2018, JMB built 50 aircraft and Jean Marie said they were planning on 5.5 per month for 2019, or 66 aircraft. By any reasonable measure this is a good performance. JMB does offer a fixed gear model but their website specifies, "Only for flight schools." As with Blackwing, since this Belgium-based company sells primarily in Europe where fast retractable are allowed, why would company leaders like Jean Marie want to show a slower model? JMB said VL3 Evolution can hit 160 knots with the Rotax 914 engine. They are seeking the right partner for America. Find our more about JMB Aircraft here. Fly Synthesis Synchro & Catalina — Fly Synthesis catches my eye every year at Aero. Causing that response is always their sharply raked Synchro that makes an art of looking fast while sitting still. Joining the speedy-looking aircraft was an entry fresh to my eyes. The Catalina NG presents a different view of amphibious LSA-style seaplanes. Despite having a flock of airplanes the brand is unknown in the USA, which reveals another way to show the size of the LSA-like market around the world. Fly Synthesis reports delivering more than 2,000 aircraft, none of which are in the USA. The company stated, "The vast experience accumulated on composite materials in years of activity [in aviation] has allowed us to explore other fields, such as renewable energy (wind power), automotive, and nautical." They also do "research and development, design and prototyping in collaboration with other companies in fields not strictly related to aviation." Despite their diversification, the Italian company offers quite a full line of aircraft beside the Synchro that always catches my eye. Indeed, Fly Synthesis offers: a high wing, Synchro; low wing, Texan; European ultralight-style, Storch; an open cockpit Rotax 582-powered ultralight, Wallaby; and a rather unique approach to seaplanes, Catalina. All these are in production now. Discontinued is the single seat ultralight, Kangaroo.
The stories from Aero — and more from Sun 'n Fun — will continue for a while longer. Selected aircraft may be featured in additional articles with more specific info to that airplane. As soon I return home and as the travel schedule settles, I'll work on a few short (≈ 2 min.) videos to follow. Thanks for following our Sun 'n Fun and Aero Friedrichshafen show coverage! —DJ
Aero Friedrichshafen is over. At the beginning, show organizers said it was their biggest yet, measured by the number of exhibitors. Aero trails AirVenture Oshkosh in this measurement but only slightly. In other words, it’s big …big enough that it’s hard to see everything of interest. In the past days, I’ve covered 16 aircraft that I found interesting and I had to skip many others. I simply did not have the hours needed to visit every exhibitor to hear their story, even if it might be a great one. The show is that rich a target environment for a journalist covering Light-Sport Aircraft, Sport Pilot kits, and ultralights. So Many Airplanes, Not Enough Hours… ScaleWings SW51 — When I reported this aircraft in 2018, the “Walter Mitty story” went on to become one of the most popular articles of the year on this website. On social media promotions it also attracted more attention than any other aircraft that year.
At every airshow I've attended vendors seem hard to satisfy about foot traffic. By afternoon each of the three days, visitors seemed to thin, nonetheless most airplane vendors reported good qualified visitors. Several companies reported "solid leads" developed at the event and apparently a few sales occurred
Attendees also seemed to enjoy themselves in the abundant sunshine and 80-degree temperatures of early November. The event ran 3-4-5 this year and has already set dates for next year with an expectation of similar weather. One thing many attendees liked was the easy access to go take a demo flight in an aircraft they might be considering to buy.
Smaller events like DeLand offer a compelling case for visitors for precisely this reason. Among such focused shows, DeLand joins a group including Sebring (coming up January 25-28, 2017), Midwest LSA Expo, and Copperstate with another in planning.I judge DeLand 2016 a solid success that clearly benefitted from long experience and hard work by director Jana Filip, her husband Gary Filip, and airport manager John Eiff. Aided by a small army of volunteers the first-ever event functioned very smoothly. Most expect traffic to grow for subsequent events given how well everything worked over three straight days of pleasant weather. DeLand is near Daytona Beach and Orlando, Florida in an easily-accessed location. The airport and the new event is strongly supported by the City of DeLand with the mayor and other officials attending. DeLand is also a particularly active sky diving airport yet even with many disparate users, things ran safely and efficiently.
One smart decision was to pick dates near the gigantic National Business Aircraft Association (NBAA) show that occurred November 1-2-3 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. The two events could hardly be more different, but NBAA attracts all the main aviation publications. DeLand hoped to draw some of these journalists since they were in the area anyway. With visits from AOPA Pilot, General Aviation News, AVweb, Aero-News Net, Plane & Pilot, Flying magazine plus a number of free lance writers and photographers, I'd say this date decision was a resounding, over-the-top success. Look for the work of those journalists as uploaded or printed.
Even though it was a tail-end-of-the-season show, DeLand attracted some products Americans had not seen before this year. These include JMB Aircraft's VL3 and Russia's SP30 STOL that first debuted in the U.S. at Oshkosh 2016 plus the Sky Tractor and a novel new avionics device called WingBug.
In addition, we saw the first installation anywhere of Dynon's new HDX. Installed in the panel of a new CTLS now produced by AeroJones Aviation, we shot a video with Kirk Kleinholz, airshow tech guru for the west coast supplier of the most popular glass screens in Light-Sport Aircraft. The new unit builds on the wonderful success of SkyView with more easily operated physical controls plus a slicker-than-ever touchscreen operation. Watch for the new video.JMB Aircraft attracted attention with their retractable LSA-like aircraft. I've seen this company in Europe at the Aero Friedrichshafen show. They are impressive marketers and they wish to use those skills to promote their faster model that smokes along at 145 knots propelled by the 100 horsepower Rotax 912 engine.
If the VL3 looks vaguely familiar to you, congratulations on your sharp eye. JMB Aircraft is the new production company of the VL3, a plane designed by Vanessa Air and produced in the past by Aveko. Truly keen readers will recognize Aveko was the builder behind the Gobosh 800XP of the earliest years of Light-Sport Aircraft. The 31.5-foot-span Aveko/Gobosh version is a fixed gear LSA model where the 27.7-foot-span retractable VL3 is allowed to perform better when registered as an Experimental Amateur Built or other experimental category. The LSA model maxes at 119 knots in max cruise where the high cruise of VL3 is 145 knots.
Russia-built SP30 STOL is clearly based on Zenith's 701/750 series although closer examination reveals a number of changes and such attributes as fully-bucked or solid rivets. A very sturdy looking machine, the example at DeLand had fat tires with chubby wheelpants that looked like they could handle fairly rough terrain yet still look at home on an airport ramp. This is a simply equipped airplane but it had a very modest price point for an all-metal aircraft.
Get more specs and descriptions on their English language page on the website of Canada-based Sky Tex Alliance.Sky Tractor by Green Eagle was tucked in a corner of the indoor exhibit tent; I almost missed it. This single place Part 103-capable powered parachute entry boasts a 36-horsepower four stroke Kohler engine. It looks lighter than most powered parachute because it's closer to a four-wheeled powered paraglider. Cleverly designed to allow reasonably easy fitting of a jump seat, Sky Tractor would then have to be approved as an Experimental Amateur Built aircraft. Sy Tractor is very modestly price barely north of $10,000 depending on options chosen.
Last but by no means least was an pre-release appearance by WingBug as this new device prepares for market in 2017. Because the product is undergoing final configuration changes leading to a design freeze, I don't want to be premature. I will have more information to follow in an article as the new season arrives and Wing Bug is ready to hit the market.
WingBug is being developed by Alex Rolinski, known to light aircraft enthusiasts for his role in a different company, Aero Adventures, maker of the reasonable priced Aventura seaplane kit.
Wing Bug is a stand-alone device that can clamp securely to any Go-Pro mount. You'll probably stick it out on a wing, away from influence by prop blast. It wirelessly (not via BlueTooth) sends air data, attitude, and heading info (ADAHRS) to the WingBug app on an iPhone or iPad. This is not simply a GPS gizmo or flight navigation app. For example, to provide airspeed, WingBug has its own pitot tube. It looks slick, can be used on certified aircraft, and may prove to be game changer. I'll have more early next year.
The video below takes you on a quick tour of most of the outdoor displays at the DeLand Showcase 2016. The first year event earned rave reviews from vendors and plenty were on hand as all 100 or so spaces were sold out. Based on this first year, the DeLand Showcase seems likely to enjoy ongoing success. Dates for the 2017 event are set: November 2-3-4. (Regrets to any company not shown; this is not a complete vendor review.)
The first-ever DeLand Sport Aviation Showcase finished on a high note with a sold-out flock of vendors giving kudos to event director Jana Filip and her team. I spoke to most exhibitors and heard zero complaints. By itself that’s rather unusual. Perhaps they were cutting the new show some slack but more likely their enthusiasm was because the show had indeed been well executed. At every airshow I’ve attended vendors seem hard to satisfy about foot traffic. By afternoon each of the three days, visitors seemed to thin, nonetheless most airplane vendors reported good qualified visitors. Several companies reported “solid leads” developed at the event and apparently a few sales occurred Attendees also seemed to enjoy themselves in the abundant sunshine and 80-degree temperatures of early November. The event ran 3-4-5 this year and has already set dates for next year with an expectation of similar weather.