“Now, wait a minute,” I hear some object! “You can’t do aerobatics in a Light-Sport Aircraft. It’s not allowed.” Are you sure about that? True, most LSA are not recommended for aerobatic flying or training. However, one of the main reasons for that is that Rotax does not want their LSA 9-series engines used for aerobatics. If the engine manufacturer does not permit that, we’re done talking. It cannot be used that way. The airframe maker can also stipulate no such operations. However, neither FAA regulations nor ASTM standards expressly prohibit aerobatics. We’ve already seen one entry that is capable of aerobatics — the FK-12 Comet biplane — but when that model uses a Rotax powerplant, going upside down on purpose is not permitted. Has Magnus got a valid reason for pursuing aerobatics? Are they trying to invite owners to fly this way? A better rationale: With a capable aircraft, a qualified instructor can offer what some call “Upset Recovery Training.” Others may say “unusual attitude training,” but the purpose is to prepare pilots who may find themselves in unfamiliar — “upset” … “unusual” — situations, so they know how to exit that condition.
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So, What's the Word?I'll make this quick. You can get much more detail on the hour-long video to follow quite soon. Here I'll hit some high points that seemed to generate the most interest from the live audience. In FAA's slide you can glean quite a bit of their thinking at this time. PLEASE NOTE — Information on this slide comes under the title "Concepts." These words are not part of a formal proposal and should not be considered binding or permanent. Yet reading the words is illuminating: "Improve aircraft performance … with increased useful load, non-reciprocating engines (meaning electric, certainly, but possibly other types), constant-speed props, retractable landing gear." Much of the slide transmits a willingness to extend extra privilege, to let industry do more, including deciding what "docile to fly" means. The red-circled item gives a clue as to the size or weight of future LSA. Exemptions have been given to Icon for their A5 seaplane, Terra Fugia for the Transition, and to Vickers for their Wave amphibian. The latter got an 1,850 pound exemption, so if that weight gets put into the FAR codes ("codifying"), that suggests future LSA could weigh 1,850 pounds and still be flown by a Sport Pilot. I repeat, no guarantees here, but this shines a light on their thinking. Since to my similar talk a year ago — when I introduced the then-recently-devised term of Light Personal Aircraft …which is now gone! — lots and lots of pilots have written wondering if this or that general aviation airplane could be included as a LSA. Here's my response. First, they won't ever be a "LSA." All Standard (not Special) Airworthiness Category aircraft will retain their original certification. A Cessna 150 won't become a LSA. However, yes, it is possible that a Sport Pilot — or some higher rated pilot using Sport Pilot privileges — could fly a Cessna 150, Aeronca Champ, Piper Cherokee, or even a Cessna 172. The latter with four seats might have to be flown with only one passenger. As before, none of this is official or certain. Accept it as an indication of FAA's current thinking. We won't know for sure until we see the NPRM and I predict we'll see that at Oshkosh 2022. So, how could a Sport Pilot be allowed to fly a larger aircraft, or possibly one with four seats, or one with retractable gear? All that is up to Flight Standards, the group that makes decisions about pilot privileges and flight operations. Unlike the aircraft certification department that is giving more work to industry (who might then chose methods they prefer), Flight Standards is unlikely to hand over any work to the industry. They may, however, use endorsements. The endorsement method is a proven system within FAA and it has worked exceedingly well for Sport Pilots flying Light-Sport Aircraft. If you are a student earning your Sport Pilot certificate, you might fly in a simple aircraft like a Quicksilver, so you'll emerge with an 87-knot limit. To fly a faster LSA, go get a checkout from an instructor in a faster aircraft. When he or she thinks you've got it, they'll endorse your logbook, sign their name and number, and off you go. That's it. No test or check ride. Indeed, this shows even Flight Standards is letting industry (instructors) make judgement calls. Endorsements also work for flying into complex airspace. Get trained and endorsed and go enter the nearby Class D or C airspace. The same is true if a Sport Pilot wants to fly a retractable gear LSA seaplane. Train. Endorse. Repeat. The method works. Could FAA use this method to graduate Sport Pilots into larger, faster, more capable Light-Sport Aircraft? I don't see why not; it already works. But, as with all the above, we'll see what FAA's final decisions are. When? My bet remains on Oshkosh 2022. Stay tuned!
Flying the Fusion Chasing the FoxAfter concentrating on FAA rule making for the morning it was a great pleasure to go flying in the afternoon. Another beautiful day served up by Mt. Vernon. The green fields and forests surrounding MVN Outland Airport looked lush and verdant against a deep blue sky, picturesque stuff that. I flew Magnus Fusion four years earlier. I liked it then and I like it even better now. This is one of the solidest airplanes I've ever flown. It simply feels tight and robust, quite comforting. Doma Andreka did a fine job flying the airplane showing me a standard demo routine as I requested. Having accumulated 400 hours in less than a year, it is clear he is at one with Fusion. My theory is that since I'm the lucky one getting to go up in these planes I should be asking the same questions you might ask if you were the one aboard. Fair enough? We shot a video with a couple cameras inside recording the conversation. Those Video Pilot Reports are more complex to edit but I hope you'll see the Magnus SLSA the way I did today. Chasing the Fox? — Yeah, that. Making my first landing in Fusion, a big bird, approaching from the left, appeared to land in the middle of the runway. "That's odd," I thought, "but he'll fly off as we approach." I was seated on the right and couldn't see the animal as well. I continued. Doma could see better and said, "No! Go around! That's an animal on the runway." It was a fox, I saw, as it scrambled to the north. Doma had promptly announced it over the radio to advise others in the pattern. Chris Collins and his orange shirted volunteers, always manning the radio, immediately went on "wildlife duty," chasing the critter off the runway. What service! We went around and my subsequent landing went quite well… but more about that in the video to come. One more day of the Midwest LSA Expo tomorrow, Saturday 9/11. Winds are expected to rise but otherwise another continuation of the good weather we've enjoyed here in Mt. Vernon, Illinois.
Midwest LSA Expo‘s forum organizers called it a “record crowd” that turned out to hear my talk about coming changes in FAA’s latest regulation. Some 95 pilots entered their email on an FAA Wings credit sign-in sheet and that didn’t include everyone present. This topic always generates lots of interest. A number of vendors told me they wanted to attend but couldn’t because they didn’t feel they could leave their exhibit. It was that busy today. That’s a great problem: plenty of people who want to talk to you. Plus I told them I was recording my presentation and they could catch it later… soon, in fact. I’ve already uploaded the video to Videoman Dave, who remains stuck in Canada, unable to get across the border. I hope you can see it in a few days. Day 2, Friday the 10th, was a strong day, even better than Thursday’s good early start.
Built for Aerobatics Fusion 212The handsome Fusion 212 you see in the nearby pictures was not initially conceived as a Light-Sport Aircraft. It was first built to perform in a Red Bull flight demonstrations series for two years. When that Red Bull pilot retired from performing, the Magnus team wanted to create an aerobatic trainer, and, as they said, "Fusion 212 was born." Magnus Aircraft in Hungary developed Fusion 212 as a training aircraft because while having a very strong wing, it also exhibits predictable flight qualities. When I flew it I found the controls brisk but not overly sensitive, a good combination. I also clearly recall, when maneuvering in Fusion, that it felt extremely solid. Later I learned that this aircraft uses a single-piece wing (as does the Cirrus SR series). This no doubt aided the tight feel I experienced. At that time the man in charge of Magnus in the USA was not stressing the aerobatic capability. In a 2018 article announcing the Fusion as the newest SLSA in the U.S. market, this appeared: “This low-wing monoplane [has a] symmetrical wing profile that provides it with superb aerobatic capabilities,” said Magnus Aircraft. However, the company advised, “While the aircraft has aerobatic capabilities … as a Normal Category SLSA aircraft, Fusion 212 is presently limited to a maximum of 60 degrees of bank and a maximum pitch up or down of 30 degrees when operating in the United States.” Now, younger representative Doma Andreka speaks for the Hungarian company in revealing that they are pushing flight school sales when upset recovery training is offered. Fusion certainly looks the part. Perhaps it was a different (and striking) paint job on the 2021 model I examined at Midwest LSA Expo but I was immediately caught by the flatness of the upper wing surface. On looking at the also-flat underside I recalled that Fusion 212 uses a symmetrical airfoil, not uncommon on high performance aerobatic aircraft. Fusion's span is also tight at just 27.3 feet plus it employs a dual-taper planform. Fusion's cruciform tail is placed higher to be in clear air all the time. In 2021, Magnus in America is employing a different approach and it appears to be working. As head of Magnus Aircraft's U.S. operation, Doma is an ideal candidate. He has worked in the factory in Hungary for some years, as head of communications and marketing. As the Hungarian company sought to pursue business in America, the leadership sent Doma to Texas to help Fusion 212 earn its SLSA Special Airworthiness Certificate. In 2021 alone Doma reported selling seven aircraft and expects to log a couple more before the year ends. That's a solid start to the refreshed Magnus America enterprise in the USA. Although this sturdy aircraft may be optimized for aerobatics the images nearby show this is a comfortable traveling machine as well. Going gross country knowing an aircraft can handle turbulence is reassuring. As Doma next plans to promote Fusion 212 in the uberactive aviation state of Florida, I'm sure we'll be seeing more Fusions and if some of them appear to be upside down… perhaps they are! Watch for our 2021 video interview to learn even more. Until the new one is done this after-flight review contains a lot of information about Fusion. (Video shot at Sebring in 2018.)
One area of light aircraft flight — LSA, kits, or ultralights — that gets less attention is aerobatics. “Oh, we can’t encourage that from Sport Pilots,” some lament, but those who say that are not considering one aspect of flight training that also gets less attention than it deserves: upset recovery training. Some call it unusual attitude recovery but the purpose is to prepare pilots for potentially threatening positions where the pilot should promptly execute practiced control actions to restore normal flight. When I did conventional flight instruction many years ago, we always included spin recovery training, even for the Private Pilot certificate. In those days, before any student was signed off for a checkride, he or she had likely done full spins to recovery. We thought it made good sense for pilots to at least know how to perform when they find themselves in unusual attitudes. Built for Aerobatics Fusion 212 The handsome Fusion 212 you see in the nearby pictures was not initially conceived as a Light-Sport Aircraft.
Specifications for Magnus Fusion 21
- Gross Weight — 1,320 pounds (600 kilograms)
- Fuel Capacity — 23.7 gallons (90 liters)
- Cockpit Width — 46 inches (1.17 meters)
- Cruise Speed — 116 knots
- Never Exceed Speed — 151 knots
- Stall Speed (no flaps) — 48 knots
- Stall Speed (best flaps) — 45 knots
- Takeoff Distance — 400 feet (120 meters)
- Landing Distance — 500-600 feet (150-200 meters)
- Range — 500-600 miles (800-1,000 kilometers)
All specifications provided by Magnus Aircraft
A new-to-Americans Light-Sport Aircraft made its debut showing at AirVenture 2018. Here is the Magnus Aircraft Fusion 212. It appears another SLSA snuck by my penetrating radar for such achievements. U.S. chief pilot Charlie Snyder told me that the first Fusion earned its Special Airworthinews certificate back in September 2017 thereby joining our SLSA List at number 146. Magnus hails from Hungary, home to more aircraft manufacturers than you may be aware, including such as ApolloFox fixed wing and Apollo weight shift trikes. American representation for Magnus Aircraft USA is handled by Snyder and Magnus president Istvan Foldesi. We recorded a video interview with both men at AirVenture 2018. Both live in the USA while the company CEO Laszlo Boros runs the Hungary operation in a new manufacturing plant near Pecs-Pogany Airport. Snyder and Foldesi exhibited their brightly painted low wing that uses mostly carbon fiber construction and a dual taper wing.