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
The Changing Face of Light-Sport Aircraft — Speed and Safety Behind Single Lever Control
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.
Sun ‘n Fun Day 3 — Lightning Fast Kit Aircraft, LSA Regulation Questions, and a Tribute
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.
2018 Light Aircraft Market Share Numbers — Now Optimized for Smartphones
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.
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