Pilots heading to Sun ‘n Fun 2021 had no real idea what to expect. As evening approached on Sunday set-up day, a big black storm cloud rolled over Sun ‘n Fun’s Lakeland Airport campus, blowing guard shacks and plastic bathrooms around like pieces of paper. An omen? Hardly! The next morning… The good news is I saw no damage other than a couple cracked-up guard shacks. No airplane damage was obvious to me. The great news is final setup day was gloriously sunny and exhibit airplanes arrived steadily. By nightfall on Monday as exhibitors finished their preparations, Sun ‘n Fun was looking good and ready for pilots to descend on the Showgrounds. Several hands pitched in — thanks loudly to a great group from DeLand Showcase — to turn the LAMA LSA Mall into the regular attraction its become over the last 15 years. A fewer number of airplanes will be shown in the LSA Mall but at least one is a machine you’ve never seen before and others are head turners.
Phone: 352-253-0108Tavares, FL 32778 - USA
Single Lever Control In-Flight Adjustable PropThis phrase, Single Lever Control, communicates two things: (1) that the system on the airplane seen in the video adjusts the prop to optimal pitch for the phase of flight, and (2) that the system does so based on the pilot's movement of the throttle combined with its own information about parameters of the aircraft at that time. In short, call it an "auto prop." The idea of an "auto prop" (my term) is that when you are taking off, the propeller should pitch for climb. Once aloft at altitude and when the pilot has retarded the throttle but the aircraft knows its height, the prop should automatically go to cruise pitch. Importantly to FAA and its desire for "safe, simple, easy to fly" LSA, the pilot workload is minimal. Move the throttle where you want and the airplane knows how to pitch the prop. While others will also enter this development field, RS Aerotech is the pioneer and has been accumulating test results for several years. However, Cirrus has used a SLC system for many years. A subtle difference is that Cirrus still requires a lever for mixture where a Rotax iS-series engine handles that function for the pilot… a true Single Lever Control setup. Those interested in more technical details and plans than presented in this brief post can review RS Aerotech's slide presentation (most devices should show this easily; if not use the company link above and click or tap on the "Downloads" tab).
Safety ArgumentWhen LAMA personnel went to Washington DC to advocate on behalf of pilots and producers in the light aircraft sector, we knew the argument could not be that we wanted an in-flight adjustable prop to go faster. The truth is that many LSA can already hit the speed limit enforced by the current regulation. "It's not about speed; it's about being able to safely get in or out of a shorter field yet still cruise at whatever speed the airframe was designed to reach," we told FAA. A personal experience departing the Sun 'n Fun Paradise City airstrip brought home the safety point. The 1,400-foot grass strip should be more than adequate for a LSA but the particular model (Glasair's now discontinued Merlin LSA) had been fitted with a cruise prop for the long flight from Washington State to Florida. Since this was a typically heavy prototype, this left the design with insufficient thrust on a shorter turf runway. To their credit, the FAA executives hearing the argument rather quickly agreed; after all, single lever control does not increase pilot workload therefore maintaining the "safe, simple, easy to fly" baseline.
- Single lever control of engine power and thrust; 100% fail-safe behavior through mechanical limitations
- Real time adjustment of engine and propeller parameters:
- Maximum thrust during take-off and climb and
- Maximum efficiency and endurance during cruise flight
- Up to 30% more thrust compared to fixed-pitch propeller
- Fuel savings in cruise flight (environmentally friendly, spend even more time in the air!)
- Improved situational awareness through his Power Margin Indicator instrument
- Simple installation, seamless integration into the Rotax 912iS engine system
In mid-October, FAA provided another update to the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association. It speaks to bigger — and faster — flying machines ahead for Light-Sport Aircraft. Let’s look at one aspect of the regulation-in-progress. First, a caveat: While FAA is communicating some of the ideas they are planning for LSA this is an effort of rule writing likely to see more changes. What LAMA reports to its members and what we provide here is not certain …although it remains well supported at the top of FAA. Even higher in the federal hierarchy, the Department of Transportation recently gave a go-ahead to continue their work. Not all currently planned ideas may survive either the internal debate nor the public comment period. Single Lever Control In-Flight Adjustable Prop This phrase, Single Lever Control, communicates two things: (1) that the system on the airplane seen in the video adjusts the prop to optimal pitch for the phase of flight, and (2) that the system does so based on the pilot’s movement of the throttle combined with its own information about parameters of the aircraft at that time.
Lightning FastNow, ultralight pilots (me, for instance) will go on enthusiastically about the beauty of flying slowly, of drifting leisurely over the landscape at a "human speed" that allows enough time to enjoy the expanse of an aerial view of your surroundings. Open cockpit flying adds to the joy facilitated by low airspeeds. Yet the allure of going fast is great, zipping over the countryside. I get that and when contemplating a cross country trip of any real distance, fast cannot be too fast. In addition to a higher TAS, we all yearn for a tailwind that will raise our speed by another 20 mph. Arion Aircraft boss Nick Otterback also feels that desire to fly fast. Along with his since-retired but longtime business partner Pete Krotje, Nick created the dashing, sleek and smooth Lightning, first offered as a kit and a compliant Light-Sport Aircraft. Lightning has enjoyed and continues to execute a good run but like many designers, Nick felt the design could handle more speed. He set out to bump the numbers by installing a Titan X340 with 180 horsepower. This triggered other changes such as a new cowl to accommodate the powerplant. "Our Lightning XS kit has a redesigned forward fuselage structure that gives the builder the option to choose engines up to 180 horsepower," said Nick. "Taller landing gear for bigger props, bigger brakes, and 20 gallon fuel tanks are among some of the features of this new kit." How fast does Lightning XS go? Testing is not complete yet; it recently took to the air. However, Arion is calculating 165 knots (190 mph) TAS at 8,500 feet density altitude at full gross. Climb is a stunning 2,000 fpm. Of course Lightning XS is not a Light-Sport Aircraft and will require a Private or better certificate plus a medical.
Stronger Climb–Efficient Cruise–Greater SafetyRotax, Searey builder Progressive Aerodyne, and RS Technology continue work to acquire knowledge and data about what's called Single Lever Control (SLC). They've been at it a couple years or more and RS Tech is pleased with initial results. Since I first interviewed Michael Stock about this on video, the team has changed to Rotax's newest 915iS engine that supplies 135 horsepower. Combined with the adjustable prop, this becomes an enthusiastic performer. The beauty of the system, in my mind, is that it is so simple. A literal single lever makes the pilot workload no more difficult than a conventional throttle on a fixed pitch prop yet it can deliver increased performance to shorten takeoff runs without sacrificing cruise at altitude. This is a win-win safety argument that FAA recognizes. In our discussions with top executives with the agency they proved surprisingly and pleasantly receptive to considering SLC as they rework the SP/LSA regulation. That's not a guarantee but the odds seem promising. Nonetheless, that regulation is still years away — how many years is an unanswerable question at this point but the wheels of progress are in motion (see an earlier article on this subject). In talking about regulation change, lots of folks are still asking about a speculated weight increase. Yes, one is definitely coming but not to a specific number. A formula will develop gross weight, and no, the final version of that formula is not yet established.
Lightning Bug 2 Encore AppearanceIn the LSA–Sport Pilot kit aircraft–ultralight space, we had a rising star, an emerging talent, and one of the nicest people I've met. His name was Brian Austein. Sadly, this bright young man succumbed to cancer and died since last Sun 'n Fun …a terrible loss. However, his unique legacy lives on in Paradise City in 2019. Brian's last full-sized project, the Lightning Bug 2 (the version number is mine not his), was quite remarkable. LB2 was a 150-pound empty weight aircraft — ponder that weight for a minute — powered by two model aircraft engines. It cost Brian a mere $3,000 out-of-pocket and he produced a man-carrying flying machine. I still find that story rather magical and his one-of-a-kind aircraft design to be utterly a fresh creation. I've never seen anything like LB2 and I'm not sure I ever will again. Catch this video interview with Brian about Lightning Bug. Given his prodigious design ability and inventiveness I found it fun to see some of Brian's other ideas (photo) that he worked on until he died. He bubbled over with ideas as I interviewed him and he wrote from the hospital of another new project in this same ultra-affordable aircraft space. R.I.P. Brian…
You wanna go fast? Of course you do. What pilot doesn’t want to go fast? Lightning Fast Now, ultralight pilots (me, for instance) will go on enthusiastically about the beauty of flying slowly, of drifting leisurely over the landscape at a “human speed” that allows enough time to enjoy the expanse of an aerial view of your surroundings. Open cockpit flying adds to the joy facilitated by low airspeeds. Yet the allure of going fast is great, zipping over the countryside. I get that and when contemplating a cross country trip of any real distance, fast cannot be too fast. In addition to a higher TAS, we all yearn for a tailwind that will raise our speed by another 20 mph. Arion Aircraft boss Nick Otterback also feels that desire to fly fast. Along with his since-retired but longtime business partner Pete Krotje, Nick created the dashing, sleek and smooth Lightning, first offered as a kit and a compliant Light-Sport Aircraft.
Smartphone PresentationBecause a large number of you visit this website via your smartphone, you can now see images that fit your screen better (nearby image). Given a wide variety of phone sizes, screen resolutions, and browsers, not every phone will look like these images but the data is much more accessible via smartphone than it was when we launched late last fall. Of course, iPads and desktops or laptops with their larger screen real estate can see the data more comprehensively, but even on those larger devices or computers, the data now make more sense thanks to Steve's continuing effort to improve the look. The "This-Yr Ranking" screen may be one of the most viewed elements of the page because it reveals sales interest for the present year …when pilots might be preparing to hand over a deposit. Steve noted, "The current-year rank tables now show three years instead of just one. This will be important when the first 2019 data is presented. The rankings may then appeared skewed because they will display only one quarter of a year. Showing the extra years will give useful context." Hint: Turning your smartphone or tablet horizontally may reveal more information, depending on your device.
Kit-Built or SLSA?One last point: If your interest is limited to kit-built or fully-built Special LSA, you can adjust Tableau Public to show only those types by clicking in the "Cert Group" blue box (image). By default the lists show numbers for both types; click or tap to see only the ones you want. Note that this is somewhat different than "Certification," which offers more detailed ways to narrow the field solely to aircraft types that interest you. The effort Steve and I have made together (well, mostly him; I primarily gave feedback or specific knowledge of aircraft) attempts to give pilots, businessmen, and government more data about the sector of aviation we enjoy most. Any comments about how we can make this even more useful will receive careful attention.
At the recently concluded Sebring Sport Aviation Expo, I heard from a number of pilots and vendors about this website publishing fresh market share data. This clearly has value to anyone in the business but it also brings rewards for pilots trying carefully to choose a new aircraft. Having roamed widely around the Internet to check multiple references, I can confidently state that this information is available from no other source. Even though our information comes from FAA’s registration database, as our earlier articles about this renewed effort explained (here and here), the computer records needed some serious massaging to properly interpret a large number of make and model variations. Even a recently retired FAA official told me his former office has already begun using our Tableau Public presentation because the data is more user-friendly. Yet again, I am motivated to give Steve Beste an enormous “Thank you!” for his dedicated effort to take FAA’s data, make complete sense of it (no small task), and to then work with the folks at Tableau to make this information available to you.
Droolworthy CollectionNot unlike Sun ‘n Fun or Aero, the waterbird gathering extended the candy store experience. I wanted to buy them all, but like the kid, my wallet is not big enough for that. Therefore, the chance to compare them side-by-side was very useful. As you can see in the photos, Joe’s effort paid off with a nice crowd examining the selection. For someone in the airplane selling business, Spruce Creek is what some would call a target-rich environment. That means lots of pilots, pilots with cash, and pilots with places to keep or build a light seaplane. So despite the challenges of making an appearance immediately after a major week long air show like Sun ‘n Fun five companies were lined up and ready. Spruce Creek Fly-In — an airport community I call home — quarters an estimated 700 airplanes, more than nearly any other airport I’ve ever visited in a career that has taken me to more aerodromes than I care to count. The chance of a sale or two or more is what prompted so many vendors to show up immediately on the heels of an air show that wore them out for seven long days. Of course, not all resident airplane owners were present; some are focused on other airplane types. Yet in a warm climate with bodies of water all over the place, and a generally supportive atmosphere for recreational aviation… well, no wonder all seven invited vendors have bases in Florida. Searey — The most established of the collection is this veteran design from Progressive Aerodyne in nearby Tavares, Florida (about 45 minutes north west of Orlando). However, despite its long history and nearly 700 satisfied customers — mostly kit-built until more recently — Searey has benefited from many changes and upgrades. It has the distinction of being one of the FAA’s success stories regarding how well they prepared for their audit to become a fully built LSA. Searey was also one of the first LSA to become to win Type Design Approval in China. AirCam — The lone floatplane of the group is also the only twin engine of the group yet this larger-than-life airplane still qualifies as a light aircraft, easily so. Given its modest weight, the presence of two Rotax 9-series engines on this kit makes it a formidable performer but one that can use that capability at slow speeds, making the airplane an absolute delight for the kind of low-elevation flying that many others aircraft should not attempt. Around 200 are flying. Kit builder Lockwood Aircraft is based in Sebring, Florida. Aero Adventure — The Aventura model, seen here in its new S-17 configuration, dates back as far as the Searay but because of ownership changes the design also evolved uniquely. Originally known as the Buccaneer, it became of the Aventura when Carlos Pereyra added his exceptional fiberglass skills to the hull. Current owner, Alex Rolinski, has taken the design into the CAD age and beefed up its performance. The S-17 model boasts a 117-horsepower AeroMomentum Suzuki-based engine and attractive options; the package has been attracting strong interest for Aero Adventure of Deland, Florida. Super Petrel — One of the most unique entries is the bi-wing Super Petrel LS from Scoda Aeronautica in Brazil. Another well-established model with a history involving Canada, the South American company has now opened a facility at the Ormond Beach airport to support U.S. customers. Powered by Rotax as are all these LSA seaplanes, except for Aventura S-17, Super Petrel uses side-by-side seating in an aircraft with excellent manners in the water. Icon A5 — Thanks to sophisticated, California-style marketing, Icon Aircraft A5 is one of the best known models in the Light-Sport Aircraft space. Their prowess proved itself as the model drew steady interest during the hours on display. This particular aircraft crossed the state so Spruce Creek residents could check it out. Based in the Tampa, Florida area where Icon Aircraft operates a training and demonstration base, A5 flew in from beautiful bayside Peter O. Knight airport. Thanks to Joe Friend for arranging and to all the vendors for attending.
Sun ‘n Fun 2018 ended a great event on Sunday. After traveling home Monday, plans called for a very quick turnaround to jet across the Atlantic for Aero Friedrichshafen 2018, which started Wednesday. For an aviation buff, the month of April is something like being a kid in a candy store. So many fun airplanes. So few days to absorb the images, stories, people, and excitement. Sandwiched in the 24 hours between getting home from Sun ‘n Fun and blasting off to Europe, one more cool thing happened: a gathering of LSA or light-kit seaplanes. Seven brands were invited by Spruce Creek Fly-In airport manager Joe Friend but rather ironically, two that are quartered closest to Spruce Creek — American Legend‘s AmphibCub and Brazil’s SeaMax — were unable to make it. The five who did make the effort right after Sun ‘n Fun were rewarded with a beautiful day and good interest.
Yes, yes, I know — in-flight adjustable props are not permitted on U.S. Light-Sport Aircraft by regulation. They are allowed in many other countries, such as most of Europe, but not in America …well, yet at least. A new investigation with FAA regarding the safety possibilities — and very simple operation — of such equipment has the federal agency at least considering a way it could be introduced to Yankee pilots. That’s great news and we commend the FAA for listening. We referred the following video to agency executives so they can see how the idea works: a single throttle-like lever that not only affects engine speed but also prop pitch adjustment, without the pilot having to do anything more than specify what he or she desires by the position of that single lever control. Learn the details in this video.
Mark Your Calendar… Videos: November 1st — Show: 2nd-3rd-4thAccording to a local newspaper, "More than 6,000 people are expected on the DeLand Municipal Airport Thursday, November 2 through Saturday, the 4th, to inspect more than 100 aircraft." The reporter went on to say that DeLand expects to "top the 1,000 flight operations recorded last year." Hours all three days are 9 AM to 5 PM. General admission for adults costs $20 each day, or $40 for a three-day pass. Lower prices are available for youth aged 11-17 and kids under 10 get in free. The entrance and free parking for DeLand Showcase are off Industrial Way on the northwest side of the airport. Here's the posting schedule for the gusher of videos you can watch. All these aircraft are expected at DeLand.
- Nov. 1, 2017 5 a.m. Tecnam Astore — Tecnam's low wing update that celebrated the 65th anniversary of this leading Light-Sport Aircraft producer from Italy. Tecnam is likely the world's leading producer of these aircraft and Astore is one of their newest. https://youtu.be/oTaWXgnZHUs
- Nov. 1, 2017 6 a.m. Zenith Aircraft — The 25-year-old kit company's CH 750 Cruzer is the speedier version of their ever-popular CH-701 and CH-750 models sometimes referred to as the Sky Jeep. It may not be shapeliest light aircraft but it can get out of the shortest airstrips. https://youtu.be/ioPY_PnMbMw
- Nov. 1, 2017 7 a.m. Aeroprakt A22 — From Ukraine comes one of the great bargains in light aviation with prices well below $100,000. The aircraft is also obvious for its major use of clear panels that assure wonderful visibility. Take the yoke and see for yourself. https://youtu.be/3qhbxWFdCFA
- Nov. 1, 2017 8 a.m. Aerotrek A220 A240 — The steady-Eddie of the LSA segment may be Aerotrek run by the ever-affable Rob Rollison. Through up years and down, Rob sells Aerotrek tricycles or taildraggers on a sane, predictable schedule that buyers appear to prefer. https://youtu.be/7ISH7ZqM4-Y
- Nov. 1, 2017 9 a.m. AutoGyro USA — One class of aircraft buys more Rotax 9-series engine than any other and by a good margin. That class is gyroplanes and AutoGyro is the largest producer. Now, Andy Wall is bringing the brand to America with a fresh, new look. https://youtu.be/2EUgcO5e5jg
- Nov. 1, 2017 10 a.m. Beringer Wheels and Brakes — Everyone likes get up and go but at the end of a flight you have to get down and stop. Beringer has leading expertise in abundance and offers beautiful, versatile systems to help you roll and brake smoothly. https://youtu.be/E7nVrcl2kz8
- Nov. 1, 2017 11 a.m. Ekolot Topaz — If Topaz has not caught your eye yet, you are in for a visual treat. Ekolot's smooth composite Topaz is as nicely appointed as they come and flies pleasantly to boot. Here's one that deserves your attention. https://youtu.be/c5tzmyiUgDE
- Nov. 1, 2017 12 p.m. Evektor Harmony — Harmony follows Evektor's SportStar, which will always enjoy the distinction as the very first Light-Sport Aircraft to win FAA acceptance. Harmony takes the highly evolved SportStar to a whole new altitude as one of the sector's best engineered aircraft. https://youtu.be/WtptDzfjx5o
- Nov. 1, 2017 1 p.m. Flight Design CTLS — For nearly every year Light-Sport Aircraft have been for sale, Flight Design's CT-series has lead the sales rankings and for good reason. It's fast, roomy, clean and smooth, and superbly equipped. At DeLand 2017, come meet the new group managing this venerable brand. https://youtu.be/wPpd6nuZ7YE
- Nov. 1, 2017 2 p.m. Groppo Trail — A lot of handsome airplanes originate in Italy, known for its stylish invention. Groppo's Trail is more the rough-and-ready version able to take on less improved airstrips. Now it's available in tricycle gear or taildragger form. https://youtu.be/6qZKtIkF0vQ
- Nov. 1, 2017 3 p.m. Just Aircraft SuperSTOL — Just Aircraft was already well known for their popular Highlander but when designer Troy Woodland sharply upped the ante with SuperSTOL, eyes at airshows everywhere turned to watch this outstanding performer. Seeing is believing. https://youtu.be/bQFoznvOO_k
- Nov. 1, 2017 4 p.m. KitFox Light Sport Aircraft — One the industry's most familiar shapes is that of Kitfox, whose several models bear the original appearance even as the current company continues to refine and improve their models. Their airshow models are always superlatively finished. https://youtu.be/Gs2FUw0UsAg
- Nov. 1, 2017 5 p.m. SuperPetrel LS — This is one you tend not to forget as it is a very rare biplane seaplane. While it may have a unique look, it works as well on water as any light seaplane model I have flown. The Brazilian company has a base in Florida, not far from DeLand. https://youtu.be/Si2hkU_CwE8
- Nov. 1, 2017 6 p.m. Pipistrel Alpha — This Slovenian company is known for their smooth, slender (and long) winged models made entirely of composite structures. Alpha is their most affordable model and you should look it over carefully. https://youtu.be/litphoYQLOc
- Nov. 1, 2017 7 p.m. Powrachute Powered Parachute — Powered parachutes offer one of the best viewing platforms in all of light aviation. They are also easy to fly and have the lowest hourly requirement to get a Sport Pilot license. Powrachute is the biggest supplier and their models warrant careful examination. https://youtu.be/Rg42_i3EcEU
- Nov. 1, 2017 8 p.m. Progressive Aerodyne SeaRey — We enjoy several great LSA seaplanes but only one boasts a long track record with a large fleet and that is Searey. Made in kit form only for years, you can now buy one ready-to-fly. Searey is made near DeLand in Tavares, Florida ...right on a lake, of course. https://youtu.be/7O7t1nJGPxo
- Nov. 1, 2017 9 p.m. REV Part 103 Legal Ultralight Trike — Among trikes available, the most deluxe and finished model is Revo from Evolution Trikes. However, this Florida company also made the fabulous Part 103 Rev for those on a budget or just look for solo fun in a well-made trike. https://youtu.be/oMK8myarZ94
- Nov. 1, 2017 10 p.m. RV-12 light sport — From the world's largest producer of kit aircraft, Van's Aircraft can now offer a fully built Special LSA RV-12 version through a collaboration with longtime kit-building partner, Synergy Air. Most RV-12s have been sold as kits, at which Van's is deeply experienced. https://youtu.be/PwX8FbTWdNc
- Nov. 1, 2017 11 p.m. Sling Light Sport Aircraft — The Airplane Factory-USA represents the Sling models, including the two seat LSA model and a four seat Sling 4 model that is built as a kit. Both fly wonderfully and have proven themselves uniquely by flying around the world, multiple times. https://youtu.be/3W0xzh0F7yo
- Nov. 1, 2017 12 p.m. SportCruiser — Known to the general aviation crowd as the PiperSport (thanks to a brand they know well), SportCruiser was before and has been since Piper's involvement a good seller under its original name. https://youtu.be/QcjW_X2v9Y0
Live! Soon! Go!Catch all these videos anywhere you like, but even better, make plans now to attend DeLand Showcase 2017. The weather has cooled from summer heat but it should still be in the high '70s, low '80s so it should be a great time to look at airplanes and other gear. As you enjoy all these free videos, I encourage you to visit Videoman Dave's YouTube channel and click here to support the work. You can see most of these videos featuring Dan Johnson right here.
My video partner must be working around the clock as he prepared a blizzard of videos for release starting November 1st. As you see in the list below, 20 videos will soon be available. I hope you’ll enjoy them. Besides giving you info on various aircraft to see at the event, we hope to encourage you to attend DeLand #2. Videos are great and in them we try to ask the questions you would ask and to show you things you’d look for if you attended. Good as videos are, nothing substitutes for you being present to ask and look yourself. I hope you can. Videoman Dave and I will be on-site all three days of the event. We will likely be a blur in motion dashing from one fetching aircraft vendor to another to gather more article material and video interviews. We also hope to record more Video Pilot Reports, as we did last year.
Adam Yang, the CEO of Progressive Aerodyne, resigned from the CEO position on May 18, 2017 and is handing the position to his successor, Geoff Nicholson. Progressive Aerodyne developed and manufactures Searey, which is a very well-recognized amphibious Light-Sport Aircraft. Adam has been chairman of the board and CEO for the past six years. Adam led the company as it evolved from a kit airplane manufacturer of more than 500 aircraft to a factory-built LSA company. In 2013, under Adam’s leadership, the company achieved Special LSA status following an audit that some FAA officials regarded as one of the most successful in the industry. “[Searey] passed FAA’s inspection with no major findings,” noted Adam. The company continues to offer kit versions as well as fully-built LSA in a variety of configurations. Searey achieved another distinction with Adam at the helm. The LSA seaplane claims to be the first LSA to obtained Type Design Approval and a Production Certificate from the Chinese aviation authority, CAAC, in 2015.
Could Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit aircraft, and even ultralights benefit from in-flight adjustable propellers? After more testing and data collection answering that question should be easier. Prominently displayed in front of the Rotax Aircraft Engines exhibit at Sun ‘n Fun — right at the main entrance to the large spring show — was a strikingly-painted Searey kit-built aircraft (photo). Why? The mission was to showcase how a Rotax-powered amphibian aircraft can get more push… without complexity. Named Searey ATD, Advanced Technology Demonstrator, the collaborators include Progressive Aerodyne, producer of the Searey, Rotax Aircraft Engines, and MT Propeller, all coordinated by key developer, RS Aerotech of Nassau, Bahamas. A joint news release said, “For the first time in the Light-Sport Aircraft category*, Searey ATD offers a single-lever operated constant speed propeller, which significantly improves performance and dramatically reduces power management complexity for the pilot.” Searey ATD “will be used for long-time testing of new engines, propellers, and electronic systems.” To serve this goal, Searey ATD has been equipped with a state-of-the-art flight data acquisition and reporting system, which combines engine data with aircraft and navigation data.” Called a “first time” accomplishment, Searey ATD can “automatically transmit its engine and aircraft data via LTE networks worldwide.” The data “will be used by Rotax to perform engine health monitoring” similar to what airlines do globally.
Of course, I don't mean to demean the hard work it takes. Look at the images in this article and you can see that just to set up a wing for testing can involve literally days if not weeks of work. A fixture, sometimes called a "strongbox," must be built or obtained. An actual wing must be affixed to the structure. Weights in some form — and a lot of them — must be secured to the wing to assure loads are applied in a real simulation; air loads are not uniform across the wing's span. Loading the wing is a precise task if engineers are to replicate the forces air loads will place on a wing in flight.
No one takes this casually. Lives can depend on it. A company's long-term survival may depend on doing the testing correctly and documenting the results thoroughly. The process is typically captured in photos and video and a detailed written technical report must be available to authorities or insurance companies that care deeply that the testing meets standards such as ASTM or FAA certification.No matter how seriously this effort is taken or how much is spent (in time and money) to achieve it, the testing of an aircraft wing is a largely static event.
Naturally, should a wing fails under heavy loads — just look at the immense amount of weight placed on the C4 wing — the test can become very exciting. Things can pop (loudly) and parts may go flying if the wing collapses. No one should stand nearby during an ultimate load test. However, if no failure is witnessed, the wing structure may groan and tremble but nothing much happens. As I said, the test is important, but visually dull.
Yet this is not the case with hang glider wing testing. The difference is captioned in the terms commonly used to describe the tests. An airplane wing is statically load tested where the flex wing hang glider is dynamically tested. The latter method is used because it is a proven real-environment way to simulate the loads on a flex wing.
The dynamic process was developed many years ago by HGMA, the Hang Gliding Manufacturers Association. Some very smart people worked out the techniques and equipment and, to their credit, hang glider wings can bear an immense load and not fail, even when upside down.An airplane manufacturer — let's say of a 2,500-pound aircraft — cannot imitate the dynamic test used by a hang glider or trike wing manufacturer. Testing a metal or composite wing for a larger, faster airplane would take an extraordinarily powerful vehicle, and it would have to go very fast. However, the slower speed and lower mass of hang gliders makes dynamic testing achievable. To perform the required tests on its creations, North Wing has fitted a vehicle with a very sturdy steel structure. Cameras and recording gear are mounted.
It's worth noting that North Wing is not required to do this by FAA or other regulatory bodies in the USA. Part 103 vehicles do not have to meet government standards. These manufacturers spend the effort because other entities require it and because they want their products to find ready customers who will not buy a glider they doubt can withstand real use. Besides satisfying their customers, insurance companies, media reporters, trial lawyers and others may demand test documentation in case an accident occurs.
The hang glider community has long policed itself and done so in such a professional fashion that FAA almost ignores them. Indeed, when is the last time you heard about a hang glider or trike wing folding up in flight? It almost never happens anymore. Good for HGMA and the hang gliding and flex wing industry.
The test shows a positive load applied (wing in normal orientation) and the very demanding "negative 150" test. This simulates a wing that may be disturbed by violent air. The wing is mounted backwards at the appropriate angle and the heavy truck forces the wing through the air backwards in this tortuous test. As you can see, it bowed deeply but survived.
The video below shows dynamic testing North Wing did to prove their new carbon fiber structure Freedom X wing. This is North Wing's newest product. Besides hang gliders, North Wing makes a line of weight-shift trikes and is a leading supplier of wings to other trike carriage producers.
Freedom X 160 (the wing square footage) uses carbon fiber leading edges and struts and other design parameters to stretch the performance of their Freedom model series. Despite using exotic materials, Freedom X is an exposed-crossbar design, sought after because it has lighter, more responsive handling compared to full double-surface designs. "It's also quieter than the cable-braced version; you can actually hear it pass through air more smoothly," said designer and North Wing boss, Kamron Blevins. The structure also contributes to Freedom X's safety in unusual attitudes, as proven in this testing.
When a pilot takes off at the end of the clip, you almost breathe a sigh of relief at what is obviously far less load than North Wing subjected their newest creation to atop the big truck. Good job, Kamron and team!
Most pilots never probably have witnessed the testing a wing endures before designers and regulators will sign off on it, signaling that it has been adequately stressed so that pilots can depend on it. I’ve had the chance to see several such tests and will state that it is two things: demanding and, well …boring (unless something breaks). Of course, I don’t mean to demean the hard work it takes. Look at the images in this article and you can see that just to set up a wing for testing can involve literally days if not weeks of work. A fixture, sometimes called a “strongbox,” must be built or obtained. An actual wing must be affixed to the structure. Weights in some form — and a lot of them — must be secured to the wing to assure loads are applied in a real simulation; air loads are not uniform across the wing’s span.
We've known the SeaRey for more than 20 years (the design began in 1991) but now it is available as a fully manufactured SLSA. More than 500 are flying but all were built as kits; now those who don't relish that task can buy and fly. We speak with CEO Adam Yang and designer Kerry Richter at the Sebring LSA Expo to hear more of the details.
We’ve known the SeaRey for more than 20 years (the design began in 1991) but now it is available as a fully manufactured SLSA. More than 500 are flying but all were built as kits; now those who don’t relish that task can buy and fly. We speak with CEO Adam Yang and designer Kerry Richter at the Sebring LSA Expo to hear more of the details.
We spoke with SportairUSA founder, Bill Canino, who represents a broad and varied line of Light-Sport Aircraft... all of which just happen to begin with the letter "S." We wanted to inform you about all these quality airplanes but we also wanted to ask Bill about all SportUSA's activities including their Arkansas FBO and a flock of interesting accessories items, some of which are available for other brands.
We spoke with SportairUSA founder, Bill Canino, who represents a broad and varied line of Light-Sport Aircraft… all of which just happen to begin with the letter “S.” We wanted to inform you about all these quality airplanes but we also wanted to ask Bill about all SportUSA’s activities including their Arkansas FBO and a flock of interesting accessories items, some of which are available for other brands.
SeaRey from Progressive Aerodyne is an all-American amphibian in the Light-Sport Aircraft segment. The U.S.-manufactured entry may follow several foreign designs, but is no newcomer. More than 400 flying aircraft worldwide have been created by home builders in a tight-knit community. SeaRey will be available as a fully-built SLSA soon.
SeaRey from Progressive Aerodyne is an all-American amphibian in the Light-Sport Aircraft segment. The U.S.-manufactured entry may follow several foreign designs, but is no newcomer. More than 400 flying aircraft worldwide have been created by home builders in a tight-knit community. SeaRey will be available as a fully-built SLSA soon.
Among the critiques some old school pilots employ when trying to marginalize Light-Sport Aircraft is that these aircraft are not suited to flying long distances. I’ve reported several around the world flights (check this article and here’s another) but that’s hardly all the long flights. The invitation started out, “Join all of us at Progressive Aerodyne and the City of Tavares on Friday, September 11 for a presentation by Michael Smith about his epic Searey flight from Melbourne, Australia to Central Florida. Michael will give a presentation at the beautiful Tavares Pavilion on the Lake about his incredible journey.” Unfortunately, I can’t attend as I’ll be working the Midwest LSA Expo in Mt. Vernon, Illinois that weekend. However, many readers probably cannot attend either so here’s a bit of Michael’s story. In the not-too-distant past, documenting a trip like his probably meant appealing to a magazine or publishing a book.
Updated 8/21/15 — This article has been updated with a reader comment seen at the bottom. When the SP/LSA regulation was announced 11 years ago nearly all registered Light-Sport Aircraft originated in Europe. Indeed, the first two accepted as SLSA were the Evektor SportStar and Flight Design’s CT series. For several early years, Europe accounted for more than two-thirds of all LSA brands in the USA. However, in a decade, a lot has changed. Now, American companies have had time to shift from kit making (a very different business model) or have developed brand-new aircraft or offer a revised version of an existing model to meet the ASTM standards so they could gain FAA acceptance. American companies are also starting to make inroads into other countries that accept ASTM standards. Some countries simply copy FAA regs while others accept the ASTM standards set and then layer on some of their own regulations.
Icon recently won FAA acceptance as the California company demonstrated meeting ASTM standards for their A5 seaplane and made a big show out of delivering the first airplane to EAA Young Eagles … the same move, by the way, as Cessna did with their Skycatcher. We expect Icon’s future to work out better as they begin to fulfill more than 1,300 orders. However, another LSA seaplane is demonstrably ahead in the government approval race. “Led by consultants from SilverLight Aviation, Progressive Aerodyne of Tavares, Florida recently received Production Certificate approval from China’s CAAC.” According to SilverLight spokesman Abid Farooqui, “This makes Searey the first U.S.-made LSA to achieve this distinction and have both Type Design Approval as well as a Production Certificate for its Searey LSA airplane.” Searey’s earlier Type Design approval and recent Production Certificate were gained under the supervision and guidance of SilverLight, which is based in Zephyrhills.
The “Big Show” is just days away, so of course, journalists and readers are asking what will be present? The question is worthwhile, but often the most interesting discoveries are not foretold either to maintain secrecy or due to the last minute scramble to make a new project showable. Here are four products attendees may want to investigate. Watch for more previews. “What a journey so far, wrote Jordan Denitz, spokesman for The Airplane Factory USA! Globetrotters Mike Blyth with Patrick Huang of The Airplane Factory Asia have completed their first three legs on their way around the world in a Sling powered by the Rotax 912iS. Starting in Johannesburg, South Africa, they traveled to Namibia, Ghana, and Cape Verde. On Monday they were taking a well deserved rest after 37 hours and more than 4,000 nautical miles logged so far. “They are gearing up for the biggest hop yet, crossing the Atlantic,” added Jordan.
While some beautiful looking LSA seaplanes have captured lots of attention — here I am thinking of Icon’s vigorously promoted A5, the unusually capable MVP, the highly innovative Wave, and Finland’s ATOL … all of which have some fascinating features — all but one of these share one feature: you can’t get one yet. ATOL is preparing to deliver but A5, MVP, and Wave are all still works in progress. It takes time to develop a new aircraft but today if you want a ready-to-fly seaplane in the USA, you have basically three choices: SeaMax, Super Petrel LS, and Searey. Of those, Super Petrel has airplanes in stock in the USA and ready for delivery. Searey stands along in my view as an LSA seaplane you can buy today and receive in a reasonable timeframe.
Wait! “…Exports?” I realize that might look like a typo. Did I intend to write LSA imports? Nope, exports is the correct word. Back in the early days of Light-Sport Aircraft, circa 2005-6-7, the source countries manufacturing the LSA people were buying were of a high percentage European with the Czech Republic leading the charge. Their penetration of the market was approximately two-thirds of all LSA. Then came the global economic recession, which happened as the industry began to mature. All were affected: domestic and international companies and pilot consumers. Some handsome imported aircraft never found a market. In any downturn, some managers adapt quicker to the changing economy. They find a way to offer new aircraft to keep the momentum. Neither were American companies sitting on their thumbs. European builders had a head start because the European-style ultralights they had been manufacturing were close to what FAA allowed as LSA, so many models could be rapidly adapted to meet the Yankee marketplace.
At the big show EAA likes to call the Summer Celebration of Flight, we rove the grounds seeking new airplanes, new engines or propulsion systems, new panel gear, updated models and more. In this very fast tour, we’ll zoom around AirVenture for a glance at some airplanes and components that caught our attention. In subsequent posts we’ll delve a bit more deeply into certain ideas we thought were novel. All photos accompanying this article are courtesy of Light Sport and Ultralight Flyer, producer of the 300+ videos you can find on this website. Rans showed off their new S-20 Raven. Those who thought designer and company boss Randy Schlitter got stuck on S-19 were wrong (it’s never wise to think he’s done designing). His new Raven combines elements of the S-6 and S-7, namely the side-by-side seating of the S-6, with the welded spaceframe and superwide door of the S-7.