Knocking around the ‘Net looking for signs that Light Sport is alive and well… *** Michael Combs is nearing the end of his 19,000 mile odyssey — what a vision. Latest word from PR dude Dave Gustafson is that the Flight for the Human Spirit in a Remos GX has made it to my old west coast stompin’ grounds. Five jewels of the left coast — San Diego, Burbank, San Luis Obispo, Monterey and San Jose — were on the itinerary for one magical flight day over one of the most beautiful stretches of coastal landscape in the world. God speed Michael, 18,000 miles and 45 states and you’re nearly done. • Imagine the human experience he’s having, flying all summer, meeting all the great people he’s met. I’m jealous, I admit it. • BTW, pilots are encouraged to fly along for any portion of Michael’s Flight.
Remos Aircraft GmbH
Phone: (888) 838-9879Pasewalk, -- 17309 - Germany
Once upon a time, there was a purveyor of flying machines and a trainer of pilots in the great kingdom of Texas that wondered why more people hadn’t come to fly the Planes of Sport. *** “I have an idea,” said the Duke of U.S. Aviation Group. “Let us sally forth to the local market mall at the waxing of the moon, and offer Flights of Discovery for one full moon cycle. Only then, if we still have unsatisfactory student numbers, shall we moaneth our dire and hopeless fate.” *** And so his loyal band of sky serfs and flight vassals transported a Remos GX to a busy mallway, manned the booth with eager promoters night and day, and lo and behold, one moonth later, the Duke was happy to report that 170 Flights of Discovery had been sold, along with 130 leads on partnerships as well as several potential solo purchasers.
Along with others in the LSA world, my email inbox has been overflowing with questions and comments about Remos filing a “notice of insolvency” back on November 30th, just three weeks after AOPA chose the company’s GX as the 2010 Sweepstakes airplane. *** Today, the company issued a press release on the subject. Management reported, “Remos Aircraft has received an additional significant investment. With this new capital injection, Remos Aircraft goes strengthened into the year 2010.” The news release did not address the notice of insolvency, but earlier comments indicated it would be “withdrawn” once matters were settled among investors. According to sources, the filing was necessary under German business law because of a “temporary liquidity problem.” *** In the press statements, Remos managers reported they are “dominating the LSA segment, and with significant progress in building our marketing and sales organization, we have reached the goals we had set ourselves for the year 2009.” To further identify the sources of capital investment, Remos elaborated, “The steps initiated by the two main shareholders, the Faerber Group of Munich, Germany, and the London investment house Pall Mall Partners… secure the future of Remos Aircraft and enable the introduction of new programs through which the company will be able to address new customer segments.” *** VP of marketing Ken Weaver added, “We are now ready to launch the next phase of our program.” Ken is presently traveling home from Germany and I may have more to report here in a few days.
In its first year as the AOPA “Summit” (versus “Expo”), the 70-year-old, 415,000-member organization made lots of changes large and small. Among the most notable under capable new president Craig Fuller was much greater attention to LSA. Here’s the fast-read update… *** AOPA announced their 2010 Sweepstakes airplane is a Remos GX; the company had multiple displays and aircraft. Cessna brought a Skycatcher for selected reporters to fly. Craig Fuller had Icon A5 developer Kirk Hawkins on the center-hall stage. EAA’s Earl Lawrence led a LSA panel of FAA and industry experts (including yours truly). LAMA operated an LSA Mall area and had fruitful discussions with AOPA to advance goals of the LSA industry. SeaMax USA showed off their simulator seaplane running on MS Flight Sim. Tecnam North America, with several aircraft on display, announced new service centers for the popular Italian line of aircraft they now represent.
We’ve arrived at the end of the main float-flying season, but two of our largest Light-Sport Aircraft manufacturers just announced floatplane models. Welcome to the American Legend FloatCub and the Remos GX on floats. Each company contracted with float experts (a big difference from SeaMax or SeaRey). *** The most successful American LSA producer, American Legend won approval on October 2 for their Amphibious Legend FloatCub after declaring they met ASTM standards. FloatCub was put on sale for $159,000 and the first customer aircraft is being assembled. Legend went to long-established float company, Baumann Floats of New Richmond, Wisconsin. The new model flew in July, 2009 and made an appearance at Oshkosh. Unlike original Piper Cubs that were often put on floats, the Legend Cub has doors on both sides, a big benefit when docking. If purchased with the 120-hp Jabiru 3300, Legend FloatCub should prove quite energetic even at high elevations.
We all discuss declining numbers of pilots in FAA’s database. Despite widespread concerns, efforts to bring more people into aviation have fallen short. *** Several worthy projects have attempted to reverse the drop in the pilot population. Over the years, EAA’s Young Eagles program has put nearly a million and a half kids into airplanes. That’s a wonderful achievement, thanks to EAA’s leadership and many thousands of willing volunteer pilots. One LSA provider, Remos, has worked with the organization to provide flights to a large flock of kids attending EAA summer flying camps (photo). *** Yet we must do more to interest people in flying. Along those lines, I’m at once amazed and appreciative that AOPA and EAA have chosen to combine efforts (finally!). AOPA is also completely refashioning its former Expo into the new AOPA Aviation Summit. “For the first time, AOPA will be reaching outside the aviation community to welcome the public into all general aviation has to offer.” AOPA’s new initiative, combined with a new collaboration with EAA, joined to entry-level Light-Sport Aircraft looks like a winner to me.
Viewed from the LSA Mall, AirVenture 2009 was much more than the summer’s big celebration of flight. Several important events tell a story of growing acceptance of LSA. Here’s a short list: LAMA hosted a meeting of G10 (the 10 largest LSA producers) and another of G5, while paying visits to every LAMA member in attendance. *** At the G10 meeting and again at LAMA’s press conference, Avemco president Jim Lauerman detailed his company’s support (in writing) for LAMA’s audit activities. His expressions were corroborated by Falcon Insurance VP Bob Mackey. *** Earl Lawrence, VP of government relations for EAA, brought brand new FAA administrator Randy Babbitt to the LSA Mall, where he met with presidents of LSA companies: Flight Design, Tecnam, Remos, and IndUS. *** At AOPA’s invitation, LAMA arranged a meeting for several LSA industry leaders with new AOPA president Craig Fuller.
We continue to see the effects of the last year of economic turmoil in Light-Sport Aircraft market shares. The chart accompanying this SPLOG tells the numbers as always presented, with total market share since the first deliveries in 2005 based on carefully-reviewed FAA registration data. The top twenty (of 70 total) producers still represent almost 90% of total SLSA registrations. For the record… registrations on FAA’s database are not the same as sales. Aircraft can be registered and not sold. Aircraft can be identified as sold yet no longer registered, for example, if removed from service due to a non-repairable crash. To get some idea of the work my associate Jan Fridrich does to collect this information, go look for yourself at FAA’s database. *** Remos continues its solid 2008 performance despite the troubled economy. In the 16-month period since January 1, 2008 the German brand is the leader with 73 units registered, followed by familiar names, in order: Flight Design 62; Tecnam 49; Czech Aircraft Works (see below) 44; Jabiru 32; American Legend 27; AMD 23; CubCrafters 22; Aeropro 14, plus Evektor and TL Ultralight at 12 each.
With one month to go (and it’s hard to imagine a big December), we have figures to report for this most extraordinary year. We’re all (painfully) aware of the economic predicament, but how has this impacted light-sport aviation? Here’s my observations. *** In 11 months, the industry has increased fleet size by 35% to 1,510 fixed wing airplanes from 1,118 on January 1st. Annualizing the numbers, all airplane LSA should register 427 airplanes, which equates to about 35 aircraft per month, which means sales were about 20% off the monthly pace recorded since early 2006. *** Flight Design held its top spot and again delivered the most, but just barely. Remos has been the rising star of 2008 with a 147% increase over their total on January 1st. Tecnam became only the third company to pass 100 units registered. Other solid gains were logged by Czech Aircraft Works (up 69% in the year); Jabiru (up 53%); FPNA (up 55%, though from a lower number, which makes larger percentage gains easier); Aeropro (up 52%).
At EAA’s Gathering of Eagles fund raiser at AirVenure 2008, movie stars Harrison Ford, John Travolta, and Cliff Robertson plus golf legend Arnold Palmer took the stage. With their encouragement, EAA raised a ton of dough that night. Young Eagles is a great program, having flown more than 1.4 million kids. But it isn’t the organization’s only youth-in-aviation initiative *** Some 260 kids aged 12 to 18 attended summer sessions in Oshkosh this year. Programs varied, said EAA, but every student got to fly a Remos G-3 for 20 to 30 minutes. “The Remos is fun to fly and easy to control,” said Bob Campbell, Director of the Air Academy. “Students held the controls until it was time to land and were able to log the time. It’s our hope that it will be the beginning of a Sport Pilot [certificate] for each one.” *** Remos Aircraft benefits from having a dealership based right on Wittman Field, the airport that plays host to AirVenture each summer.
Among many new aircraft shown at Oshkosh, one long-anticipated model was the updated Remos GX. The German company has moved steadily up the market share ranking of Special Light-Sport Aircraft using the earlier G-3 model designed in the 1990s. Following a major engineering effort, GX was shown to American buyers at the Wisconsin event. I was fortunate to fly the new model and found it has light and pleasant handling with several new features. *** Most notably, the wing has changed from the fabric covered version to a composite exterior that will likely be appreciated by customers including flight schools. The outer span is now tapered and the wing section is thinner, helping GX run close to the maximum speed allowed under LSA rules. GX, which is 100% built in Germany, retained the wing folding that attracts many buyers. Directional stability was enhanced by a longer “strake” or dorsal fin leading to the vertical stabilizer.
Through the first six months of 2008, Light-Sport Aircraft deliveries have reflected the same challenges afflicting the rest of general or sport aviation…and for that matter, the overall U.S. economy. In fact, LSA registrations aren’t off as badly as are GA deliveries, perhaps due to significantly better fuel economy in an LSA. These FAA registrations can be analyzed to show trends. *** In the first half of 2008, the LSA industry registered 248 aircraft, which is 22% of all registrations from April 2005 through December 2007 (1,118). Many find it interesting to observe how market leaders compare. If a supplier registered less than 22% of their fleet in 2008, they slipped in market share (even if they registered more total airplanes). If they exceeded that figure, they gained market share. In the first half of 2008 gainers included: Remos up 62%; Czech Aircraft Works 47%; FPNA 45%; Gobosh 38%; Tecnam 35%; Aeropro 32%; and AMD 28%.
I can identify four factors in the economy presently affecting airplane sales: Potential customers (often with plenty of assets or creditworthiness) see the value of their stock portfolio going up and down like a roller coaster; worry over their once-soaring real estate, now down markedly in some areas; witness the continuing rise of the euro-dollar exchange rate, bringing much higher prices for many LSA; and, fret over a climate of political uncertainty during another election cycle. *** Perhaps due to these factors GA single engine piston sales are off 28% compared to the same period last year, according to GAMA. LSA sales are off 30% compared to trends six months to a year ago. *** Jet and turbine aircraft sales are up, but 2008 deliveries of those aircraft stem from orders taken 2-3 years ago. Contrarily, personal and sport aircraft sales react quickly to the slightest perception of economic shakiness. *** Despite that we have some bright spots.
Sun ‘n Fun 2008 is history, but planning is already underway for the 2009 event. Event boss John Burton confirmed we will again have the LAMA-hosted LSA Mall right at the front gate next April 21-26. A major success at this year’s Lakeland, Florida airshow, the industry Mall presentation featured 17 Special Light-Sport Aircraft. Weather prevented Fantasy Air’s Allegro from attending. Two days before the event, a tornado crushed a Sting S3 planned for display. And work at Quicksilver Manufacturing postponed the exhibit of the GT500 (they’re finishing SLSA approval, reports national sales manager, Todd Ellefson). *** The 17 who were in the ’08 LSA Mall enjoyed significant traffic all week and virtually every visitor to Sun ‘n Fun was at least exposed to Light-Sport Aircraft in a wide variety (although we were not able to enlist any trike or powered parachute companies).
Lots of folks are wondering about, or complaining about, the seemingly high prices of Light-Sport Aircraft. Recently a prior editor-in-chief of EAA publications, Scott Spangler, wrote a blog on JetWhine. Scott focused on expensive avionics as one reason LSA cost so much. While a factual observation, I believe the price increase is more complex. *** First, LSA suppliers install equipment like autopilots because buyers ask for them. A large chunk of all LSA are sold to “retiring” GA pilots used to such equipment in their Cessna or Bonanza. Simpler LSA are available; most suppliers have one. But customers are buying the loaded-panel jobs. *** Let’s look closer at those rising prices. Five years ago, in the pre-dawn of SP/LSA, a CT was selling for $60,000. Today it’s $125,000. By far the largest piece of that doubling is the euro’s soaring value compared to the dollar. Were the currencies at parity, that $125,000 would be $80,000.
Most pilots know AOPA, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, has been fighting the user fee battle…and they’ve been doing well resisting the might of the U.S. government. But they must also have a connection with Mother Nature as warm, beautiful weather shined on opening day at Connecticut’s Brainard airport. *** On display: StingSport, Skylark, the new Breezer II, Allegro 2000, SportCruiser, Sigma, Thorpedo, Sport Cub, Bravo, Sierra, CTsw, Jabiru J-250, Gobosh G-700S, and Remos G-3. Contrary to earlier info, American Champion brought The Champ, Cessna displayed their Skycatcher mockup, and Cirrus flew their SRS. In all, I counted 17 LSA at Hartford. That amounts to a healthy 19% of all airplanes on display.
Now we count 32 new Special Light-Sport Aircraft that have won certification…all within less than one year! The newest arrivals come thanks to work by veteran light aircraft distributor Rollison Light Sport Aircraft and two manufacturers. The Indiana importer gained approval for the handsome German Remos G-3* and their Aeropro EuroFox (lower photo). The G-3 is an impressive design that forms the high end of LSA offerings. But if G-3 doesn’t fit your budget, you can consider RLSA’s economical model. EuroFox builder Aeropro has sold more than 180 aircraft. Priced in euros, RLSA lists a nicely equipped 80-hp Rotax 912 EuroFox for less than $60,000, which includes the cost of shipping from overseas. Quick-folding wings (“1 person, 8 min.”) may help you find space at the local airport. For more details, read my evaluation of EuroFox or G-3 right now. * [UPDATE: late 2006 — The Remos G-3 is now handled by Remos USA, Inc.]
Within 24 hours of getting home from Sun ‘n Fun, several industry leaders including Evektor America’s Jeff Conrad, Flight Design USA’s Tom Peghiny, Jabiru USA’s Ed Ricks, and BRS parachute’s Gregg Ellsworth packed up and headed off to California. What motivated these men to depart so soon after a long week in Florida? They all wanted to support proprietor Mike Fletcher as he and his staff celebrated the Grand Opening of Light Sport Airplanes West. I also flew out to join the party for America’s largest LSA showroom and a grand affair it was. Estimates put attendance at 300 (I suspect that didn’t include everyone present as some 100 aircraft flew in). Representing the Sportstar, CTsw, and J-250 plus the Remos G-3, TL Ultralight StingSport, and Tecnam, LSA West has an impressive line and a large inventory of LSA in stock.
Rob Rollison imports the gorgeous Remos G-3. [2007 UPDATE: The new importer is Remos USA. Call: Toll Free: 888-838-9879] He is working closely with German designer Lorenz Kreitmayr to certify G-3 as a Special Light-Sport Aircraft. Early sales will be to sophisticated buyers that see the sleek machine as a personal aircraft with impressive performance. But at the Sebring Expo 2006, I met a German instructor who sees it differently. Josef Sporer somewhat hesitantly bought a G-3 to see if it would work in his flight school. After an astounding 20,000 landings and 3,500 hours on one aircraft, he is so convinced of the aircraft’s sturdiness for instructional use that he’s added a second one. So while the Remos aircraft looks like a dream, and boasts good gliding and cruising performance, it qualifies quite well as a trainer, too. Built since 1997, more than 164 are flying around the world.
At Oshkosh I took the chance to speak with several general aviation leaders — CEOs of top general aviation companies and presidents of leading membership organizations. All have been kind to me with their time and generous with their support for the Sport Pilot concept, but I sensed they didn’t yet accept LSA deep down. Minor questions remained. Today that seems convincingly gone. The same not-100%-certain leaders now chorus, “LSA is here to stay.” *** Evidence of that is again marshaling for AOPA’s season-ending event for general aviation. The D.C.-based organization now counts more than 413,000 members, more than two-thirds of all pilots on the FAA register. The traveling Expo show typically draws well from a region’s pilot population. Action starts October 4-6, 2007 at the Hartford-Brainard Airport (HFD). *** For the third year running AOPA is providing a grouped location for Light-Sport Aircraft right where you enter the airplane display area (SLSA exhibitor list under photo).