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.
Progressive Aerodyne SeaRey LSA
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s summertime and the flying is easy … especially when it’s on the water. That’s fine for everybody who is already qualified. What if you’re new to seaplanes (or LSA in general)? How could you obtain instruction if you want to buy a new Searey? Training is optimal when done in a very similar airplane if not the same exact model you have in mind. Insurance companies may require aircraft-specific preparation. “With the addition of a [factory-built] Searey to its fleet, Chesapeake Sport Pilot flight school has become the first flight school in the world to offer flight training on the popular amphibious light sport seaplane,” said spokesperson Helen Woods of the Stevensville, Maryland company. Chesapeake also teaches in other LSA models. Chief Flight Instructor Woods reports 300 Seareys flying in the U.S. and over 500 flying world wide. “Until now, it was often difficult to obtain quality training to fly a Searey,” said Helen, “since a pilot had to own his own Searey before receiving training.” Chesapeake supplies a Searey as part of their training course.
The list of aviation companies involved in one way or another with China is getting so long I won’t try to show them all here. Big companies like Cirrus Design or Continental are included. So are LSA manufacturers of various brands. Some business are setting up dealerships (Quicksilver, others). Others have arranged Chinese partners to build planes in-country (Flight Design, Zenith, others). Several companies have been fully acquired by or have received substantial funding from Chinese enterprises (Icon, others) and I’m aware of more that we will hear more about in the weeks and months to follow. The U.S. government and many other nations have borrowed from the Chinese government so a nearly unfathomable amount of dollars or other currencies are parked in China. However, most of the aviation financial arrangements are private, showing that, like their government, Chinese business people have plenty of funds to invest.
Less than two weeks from now, the season of recreational flying is officially set in motion with the opening of Sun ‘n Fun … the 40th year of the nation’s first major airshow. It will also be year #2 for the new and much-improved Paradise City, formerly known as the Ultralight or Lightplane Area. Alongside the curvy new paved road that loops through Paradise City will sit the LSA Mall at Show Center powered by Aviators Hot Line and this is a place many will visit throughout the week to peruse LSA, light kit airplanes, and electric aircraft. Getting to the Paradise City will be much easier and faster thanks to a pair of six-seat golf carts that will rove the grounds of Sun ‘n Fun and pick up visitors who want to check out Paradise and all the action at this airshow-within-an-airshow. Demo flights for LSA shoppers will be readily available and can be conducted all day long even during the main airshow aerobatics (except for a 1-2 hour period when military teams demand “sterile airspace”).
One of the several reasons I like living in Florida (besides no snow this time of year) is the close proximity of all kinds of aviation businesses. The central Florida town of Tavares, about 45 minutes northwest of Orlando, is home to not one but two light seaplane factories. The city named itself “America’s Seaplane City.” Last Friday, we visited both manufacturers ending our tour at the SeaRey Open House (photo). Owner Adam Yang said they had 13 SeaRey aircraft fly in despite windy conditions. Their handsome facility was full of people including many owner/builders, potential customers, friends, and the media (me). The day turned out to be pleasant and we got to watch several SeaRey aircraft taxi down the launch ramp into the lake and take off not 50 yards away. One of these was the new 914 SeaRey SLSA; more on that below. A couple years ago Progressive Aerodyne took the plunge and elected to pursue Special Light-Sport Aircraft acceptance so they could address a part of the market they never could seek: fully built SeaRey aircraft.
Consider this an entry to the “They-said-it-couldn’t-be-done” department. As regular readers know, FAA has been conducting audits with LSA producers… tough, top-to-bottom reviews of every detail in the voluminous ASTM standard set. Last April another company had no less than six FAA personnel in their building for three full days, each armed with a laptop and literally hundreds of questions. Passing one of these grueling tests is a fairly major accomplishment. Then consider FAA amped up the task by saying any new model or first LSA from a new company would probably get one of these thorough inspections before they could enter the market. Progressive Aerodyne hosted such an FAA team to examine their first SLSA candidate and — surprise! — they came out with a certificate. No followup is needed. So the heartiest of congratulations go to Progressive Aerodyne and their SeaRey. Yesterday they were issued their airworthiness certificate after a visit from five FAA personnel from both Washington, DC and the local Orlando, Florida MIDO (Manufacturing Inspection District Office).