Tecnam had a strong year last year with reasonable sales of Light-Sport Aircraft plus larger, certified airplanes into the U.S. market. Around the world, according to the report released by GAMA and confirmed personally by Managing Director Paolo Pascale, Tecnam shipped nearly 200 airplanes in 2014. While ByDanJohnson.com readers are focused on recreational aircraft primarily from LSA and light kit manufacturers, more of these companies are joining Tecnam by preparing to offer what my journalist friend Marino Boric has dubbed “LSA 4.0,” meaning four seat LSA-type aircraft. I am keenly aware that regulars to this website are focused on Light-Sport, light kit aircraft, ultralights — generally, aircraft flown primarily for fun. However, an entire new legacy is being written as producers of those aircraft types are charging ahead into LSA 4.0 aircraft. Since these new aircraft are from brand names well known to me, I intend to cover what I will call “Light GA” as well.
Tecnam US Inc.
Phone: (863) 655-2400Sebring, FL 33870 - USA
Yesterday, filling my role as President of the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, I joined Tecnam and Van’s Aircraft as a group of about 100 collegiate educators met in their annual NTAS or National Training Aircraft Symposium. This annual gathering assembled an impressive group of academics who manage flight training for their university students. It was a day of presentations with a special focus on the ADS-B Out mandate from FAA. For university flight programs operating dozens to hundreds of airplanes each, equipping their certified airplanes represents a major cost. Additionally, maintenance shops qualified to handle this cannot handle a large number of installations if owners wait until the deadline is near. It is estimated that an average of 34 hours of labor is needed per airplane. AEA estimates 105-166,000 U.S. aircraft still need to be equipped in the next five years. It can be done, they said, but not if many owners wait to the last minute to start.
Italian company Tecnam has been a leading producer of Light-Sport Aircraft since the beginning of this newest aviation sector. Early distribution arrangements proved less than optimal so, like any progressive company, Tecnam retooled … and retooled again. In 2014 it appears they finally dialed in the correct lock combination. While keeping their friends at former distributor Heart of Virginia Aviation, they installed a factory presence at the top of the pyramid. A new factory-operated facility at the Sebring airport was announced at Sun ‘n Fun 2014. At the same time Shannon Yeager was hired to run the Florida center. As the year comes to a close, I called Shannon and asked for a summary of how things are going for Tecnam U.S. Inc. In particular I wanted to know how their 10% down program was working. When I first reported this, I found it a compelling answer to the concerns many American buyers have regarding the common need to send many tens of thousands of dollars overseas for an extended period of time.
Much of what we hear and know about airplane populations is centered on America. Yet in the world of sport and recreational aviation, the rest of the world equates to at least a 1:1 relationship, that is, for every American aircraft flying, many experts agree another flies internationally. It may be more significant than that … consider Germany. In mid-August, our friends at Aerokurier, Germany’s leading aviation magazine, assembled an article about the top 10 ultralights in that country. A European ultralight, as you may know, is not the same as an American ultralight that is today limited to a single seat and no more than 254 pounds of empty weight. In Germany and elsewhere around the European Union, “ultralight” refers to an airplane much like a U.S. Light-Sport but limited in weight to 472.5 kilograms or 1,041 pounds. Originally the weight limit had been 450 kilograms or 992 pounds but because emergency airframe parachutes are mandatory in Germany the weight was increased a few years ago to cover this component.
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.
Something of a stealth invasion is beginning. I refer to an emerging flock of four seat Light-Sport Aircraft. Of course, most readers are aware that no such birds exist as LSA (in the FAA’s code, anyway). By U.S. regulation Light-Sport are two seat aircraft. Other nations have some different ideas. For now, suffice it to say the “LSA 4s” — as I choose to call them for this article — are on final. In the past I’ve written about Evektor’s Cobra, one of the first in this group, arriving so early that you probably would not call it a “LSA-like” airplane. The southern Czech company enjoyed success with their SportStar and Harmony, smaller siblings to a four seater they flew several years ago. After Evektor (coincidentally also the very first LSA to be approved), we began to hear about Flight Design’s C4 modeled on their LSA market-leading CT series.
Aero 2014 is history now but sorting through all the discoveries and reviewing hundreds of photos I shot will consume more time. Just to give a flavor of the diversity in the halls, I present some images below with photo captions. As time allows I will provide several articles about aircraft and concepts contained in the great halls of Aero. One topic I will not cover is the large number of radio control or other model airplanes I saw. In some years, such can take an entire gymnasium-sized hall by themselves … fascinating! Yet the image you see nearby is a shot taken by a small quad copter (photo inset) with its wide angle lens. Such tiny flying machines are surely part of our future and seeing things below is part of their mission (for better or worse). My LAMA Europe associate and friend, Jan Fridrich, asked a vendor to shoot the image you see, which would not have been possible by any means other than a hydraulic lift.
By their reported numbers Tecnam lays claim to be the largest producer of very light aircraft. I use that term versus Light-Sport Aircraft as the Italian manufacturer is not the leading LSA seller yet their sales figures support the company being the world’s largest for LSA-type aircraft. For at least the last couple years, Tecnam has reported sales numbers in the 200 per year range. I have no way to independently verify that volume but it’s clear they are a success story. Tecnam’s website states, “With over 3,500 Tecnam airplanes operating around the world today, Tecnam customers and operators are supported by a global network of over 60 dealers and 100 Tecnam Service Centers.” They boast a wide range models, including Eaglet, P2008, the aerobatic Snap, the newly introduced (to Americans) Astore, and their Twin. In addition to the Astore unveiling Tecnam announced a major news development and several noteworthy initiatives for the U.S.
Super Petrel LS from Edra Aeronautica — As described in our earlier article, Edra Aeronautica was nearly done with their acceptance by FAA to be able to sell their handsome biwing Super Petrel LS in the U.S. as a Special (fully manufactured) Light-Sport Aircraft. The “almost” is gone now and Daytona Beach, Florida-based importer Brian Boucher of Florida Light Sport Aviation has the pink Special Airworthiness card in his LSA to prove it (photo). Brian’s business also represents the Flight Design CTLSi, so he has two distinctive Light-Sport models he can demonstrate. Florida Light Sport Aviation is based at the Spruce Creek Fly-in (just like ByDanJohnson.com!); he and wife Jean will be at Sun ‘n Fun in space LP-38 past the LSA Mall in Paradise City. Another Super Petrel LS will be available for examination in the LSA Mall as will his CTLSi. Brian is an airline pilot but enjoys Light-Sport Aircraft when he isn’t jetting around the globe.
Snap! Crackle! Pop! It’s not just for breakfast anymore. Among the vast array of light aircraft I am only aware of a few other single seat models … Here’s a U.S. example (video) and here’s some European single seaters. None of these has yet gone through the process to become Special LSA but that might be changing now that Italian giant Tecnam acquired a, well … snappy little bird with a catchy name. Tecnam already has the broadest number of models in the LSA space but just to be sure of keeping this title, the company recently announced their new low wing Astore and now they follow with Snap. Americans have seen Snap before, but Tecnam gives it much more market presence. Snap is a single seat, low wing, fixed landing gear aircraft with a high power-to-weight ratio and the capability to perform aerobatics with low operating costs.
I just wrote about Van’s Aircraft, a 41-year-old company that just came out with their first ready-to-fly airplane. Now I want to talk about a 65-year-old company and a 65-year old airplane design, Astore. First came a 1948 Astore. Recently the 2013 Astore — just unveiled to the public last month at the Aero show — took to the air on its first flight. The Italian company showed again that they can take one of Professor Luigi’s new designs and achieve it in a remarkably short time. Head of Aircraft Design for Tecnam through the decades, Luigi Pascale will celebrate his 90th birthday later this year. As a young man he designed the first Astore and many more aircraft since. Yet this senior engineer seemingly doesn’t need a rest. Company Managing Director Paolo Pascale said of his uncle, “He is enjoying the design work … it keeps him alive!” Watch our video interview with Paolo to hear more about the new model.
Here are two aircraft from sources thousands of miles apart. Likewise, the aircraft could hardly be more different yet each has something special about it. You’ll want to catch both videos. We’ll start with the one we flew: Just Aircraft’s brilliant Highlander SuperSTOL. The company has delivered more than 300 Highlander kits making the side-by-side two seater a hit on its own. However, the design truly arrived with the SuperSTOL edition. You’ll want to watch this fascinating video as lead designer Troy Woodland takes us all around this remarkable machine. Then go aloft with us as we feature cameras mounted on the wing, inside looking at a landing, and even on the tailwheel for a most unusual viewpoint. You’ll get to see why people watched with rapt attention every time Troy landed the SuperSTOL at the Paradise City runway at Sun ‘n Fun 2013. Talk about a fun airplane to fly … you literally land with the joystick full aft from downwind in the pattern until those big-boy tires meet terra firma.
We were busy at Aero Friedrichshafen 2013, knocking out more than 30 videos for your viewing information and entertainment. That’s more than seven videos per day and a sum of more than five hours total running time (more than three Hollywood movies in minutes of viewing time). With these and all the videos shot at Sun ‘n Fun the week before Aero started, we expect to offer more than 300 videos on our LSA Video page. I’d like for you to understand how much effort that represents. I’d also like to thank BRS Parachutes, ICP North America, and Renegade Light Sport Aircraft for providing financial assistance to Lightsport and Ultralight Flyer. Without their support, these videos would not likely have been made. Today, I uploaded more than a dozen new videos to ByDanJohnson.com. We have many more coming. The newest ones include • Introduction to Aero and what you’ll see • Tecnam’s aerobatic Snap • FlyEco’s Diesel engine • FK 51 replica Mustang • Yuneec’s electric-powered eSpyder • lightweight electric aircraft • Zlin’s customizable Bobber • ICP’s Savannah taildragger and new engine • BOT SpeedCruiser with D-Motor • BRM Aero’s Bristell taildragger • Phoenix Air’s electric-powered ePhoenix • Nando Groppo tri-gear and, • one from AirVenture 2012 on the Zenith CH-650.
Tecnam announced that it will reveal their “Astore” next generation Light Sport Aircraft at Aero Friedrichshafen 2013 in Germany on April 24th. “Astore is an all-new, two-seat, low-wing airplane that offers superlative performance,” wrote company officials. The Italian company celebrates its 65th year in 2013 and saw fit to name the new model accordingly. “What could be more fitting in this special anniversary year than for Professor Luigi Pascale, Tecnam’s legendary head of aircraft design, to name his new creation in honor of his first production aircraft, the P48 Astore.” Tecnam has a tradition of naming models for the year the design was introduced. Tecnam said their new Astore “affords the pilot the smoothest and most pleasurable flight with innovations such as an Apple iPad® mini supplied with each aircraft as standard.” They’ll use a Levil G mini WiFi connection to supply information for the smaller Apple tablet so it can act as the Astore’s Primary Flight Display.
Preparing for Sebring, four days of the show, and a LSA flight over the ocean can fill your days to the brim … and all of that is truly excellent. January used to be a month of flying doldrums but since Sebring started nine years ago, the month has turned into one of the most active for light plane enthusiasts. ByDanJohnson.com reflects this with increased and growing traffic. January 2013 looks to set a new all-time record and that comes on the heels of a record 2012. Thanks for your loyal visits; we’re happy to be providing the news and videos you want. Speaking of coverage, thanks a billion to James Lawrence, who provided daily updates along with his superb photos from Sebring while I was running around with other duties. The good news is we’ve already posted four videos and several more will follow, thanks to the excellent work by my partner-in-video, creator of the popular Ultralight News YouTube channel.
Major Italian producer Tecnam today announced the launch of the P92 Classic Light microlight. This is the seventh-generation model in Tecnam P92 range of airplanes, which this year celebrated 20 years of production. The company reports that over two decades of service, “P92’s worldwide fleet now stands at nearly 2,000 aircraft with 200,000 flown hours. The P92 Classic Light is the 13th variant and follows on from the launch earlier this year of both the P92 Tail Dragger (video) and P92 SeaSky Hydroplane. In concert with the international announcement, Tecnam North America confirmed it will launch the new P92 Echo Classic Light priced at $74,999 through to the end of 2012. For those that recall the original promise — of a fully-built LSA for about $60,000 — this price meets that expectation if you only factor in the time value of money, that is, $60,000 in 2003 (the year before SP/LSA) is $75,459 in 2012 dollars.
My European associate and friend, Jan Fridrich, coined a phrase a few years ago: “Global LSA,” he said, meaning the ASTM standards set could be used in any country and thereby create a worldwide market for recreational aircraft. Already a few accept the standards and many are considering or are already using some variant. So, in this post, let’s review some international successes for LSA. Tecnam is one of the most prolific of all LSA producers and not just because they have multiple approved models. Recently, they sold a pair of P2008s to New Zealand. Waikato Aero Club CEO Richard Small said, “The new planes have a number of advantages over traditional aircraft. Manufactured from modern materials [Tecnam] planes are more fuel efficient and quieter. They also have full electronic flight display screens. Our pilots are thoroughly enjoying the upgrade.” Pipistrel has logged sales globally as well and booked four orders for their new Alpha Trainer into Russia.
With five models currently meeting ASTM standards for SLSA, Tecnam has established itself as the leader in prolific design of Light-Sport Aircraft (they also have a Twin and are working on a four seater plus an eleven seater). Much of this design prowess owes to family patriarch Professor Luigi Pascale, known for his incredible output of designs over the years under the company names Partenavia and Tecnam. Even into his 80s, Luigi Pascale continues his energetic engineering. *** Recently the U.S. importer for Tecnam got their chance to fly the new Tail Dragger. Tecnam North America CEO Phil Solomon wrote, “We flew the Tail Dragger a couple of weeks ago and it climbed like a rocket at over 1,600 feet per minute with the Lycoming engine and performed flawlessly.” He promised to send some in-flight footage, which we’ll add to this article when edited and ready. *** Phil also sent some photos of the latest flights in Italy.
In the article just before this one, writer Jim Lawrence told you about Tecnam’s new Sea-Sky Hydroplane option of straight or four-wheel composite amphibious floats for the Echo Classic or Eaglet models. For the Echo, also known as the P92 (referencing 1992), this represents the sixth generation of that model. The all in-house-designed Sea-Sky Hydroplanes will not be at Sebring but should be present for Sun ‘n Fun, according to importer Tecnam North America. *** As late-night TV ads shout, “But there’s more…!” *** Tecnam will also introduce their brand-new taildragger version of the venerable Echo, done in what Phil Solomon calls a “retro style,” with a wood panel and other touches. Along with thicker gear legs, larger tires and wheels, chrome joystick and chrome rudder pedals plus the sexy slant of a taildragger — Tecnam’s first — the new Echo Taildragger does appear a throwback to an earlier, enjoyable age of aviation.
Update 9/24/14 — Added to the models below, South Africa’s The Airplane Factory is also offering their four seat Sling 4. This model is flying but a decision about certifying it has not been made at this time. It is presently available as a kit-built airplane. Some of the more successful Light-Sport Aircraft producers have their eye on the market for larger aircraft, those able to seat four… or more. While continuing to manufacture their LSA models, three companies showed bigger aircraft or mockups at Aero 2011 and one other company has already done extensive test flying. Look out Cessna, Piper, Diamond, and Cirrus! Those familiar GA brands are about to get new competition. *** The first of this emerging segment was the Evektor Cobra, dating back more than four years. Previously marketed at shows like Oshkosh, Cobra was promoted with alternate powerplants of 200 and 315 horsepower. Joining Cobra in the roughly 2,500-pound gross weight category (approximately the weight of a Cessna 172) are three newcomers: Tecnam’s P2010, Flight Design’s C4, and Pipistrel’s Panthera (photos).