Day 2 AirVenture began with “rain that went sideways,” according to one vendor. After a late night cranking out a report, I was grateful for an excuse to get another hour’s sleep. The overnight rain gave way to another beautiful, if hot, day in Oshkosh. Tuesday, I hiked up to the north side, where the main displays are located. Most of the higher end Light-Sport Aircraft are located in this high-traffic area. Several LSA companies have jockeyed for years to find what they consider to be the optimal location for their exhibit. Being near the main foot-traffic road is very alluring to vendors. In almost two decades of Light-Sport Aircraft (the then-new rule was announced at AirVenture 2004), LSA have integrated themselves into mainstream aircraft manufacturing …and not simply because of the aircraft offered. As late-night TV ads once said, “There’s more!” LAMA board of directors member Phil Solomon — active in the flight school business and a former importer of Tecnam — expressed that the sales of LSA and the growth and development of the industry is only one of its successes.
Fun Fly Zone Where Affordable Aviation LivesShort story first… My Canadian videographer Dave Loveman was denied entry at the border (long story) so I'm flying solo this year. I will concentrate in areas as the show is simply too big to cover top to bottom unless you have wheels — and they are reserved for a gilt-edged few. Most of us hoof it (or tram it), and did I mention the space stretches well over a mile plus miles more back and forth between exhibit spaces and aircraft. Aviation shows need lots of room and Oshkosh is the biggest of the big. When Dave can attend he uses a scooter (that can go literally anywhere …it's a golden ride). He's fitted his deluxe scooter with a tiny wheeled trailer, which I mount and then hang on for dear life as we wheel all over the grounds in minutes. Man, do I miss that speedy, if overly attention-getting, ride.
What follows will be key photos of the day plus a short paragraph. Each of these is worthy of its own story and when the show is over I will organize the best of these for a deeper dive. All of them, every one, are quite affordable.
Fixed Wing – Gyroplane – Powered Paraglider – Biplane – Trike – New LSABADLAND AIRCRAFT / F-SERIES — Chris Duell made a big change since I last ran into him (article here) and his new Badland F-series of legit Part 103 fixed wing aircraft. He moved from his longtime home in Las Vegas, Nevada to southern Minnesota. He was able to expand to more spacious quarters and beamed with pleasure at having enough room in a completely different surrounding. He recently bought this original Badland (nearby image) from a customer who had equipped it with tundra tires that looked great but might push it over Part 103 limits. Smaller tires as seen in the background make the numbers, Chris proved. He's got airplanes flying, kits in progress, and orders to build. Here's an affordable fixed wing aircraft many can like. F-series uses the Polini Thor engine with an E-Props propeller. Chris is pleased with both. DRAGON QUAD PPG — A newcomer in the space is this simple but effective looking "quad" from Dragon PPG. These carriages are the next step for foot-launched powered paragliders. Purists will still prefer that method but those who aren't confident in running launches and landings may elect an undercarriage. These need to be much leaner than the construction of a two-place, Rotax 912-equipped powered parachute; they're pretty different aircraft. Yet these are highly affordable, offer splendid visibility, and are light enough to make transport easier. Developer Dan Feldman put Dragon PPG together in just six months but has tested it and had experts put it through its paces …with flying colors. Dragon is powered by a 50-horsepower Rotax 503 giving the Part 103 light aircraft a very spirited climb (most PPGs used 35-horsepower engines or smaller, though they carry less weight.) Dan said an ample supply of zero-time rebuilt 503s is available. FUSION NANO (GYRO) — Gyroplanes have been a hot spot in light aviation for several years. The models have become increasingly deluxe with several top competitors in the space volleying back and forth for more sophisticated aircraft. They have indeed become beautiful flying machines. However, while most are still affordable compared to many top fixed wing LSA, they have priced themselves higher with each improvement. Single seat gyroplanes — like the Bensens and others when the category was founded — are very rare …until now. Fusion Copter makes a very affordable gyroplane that looks to deliver fun flying in that rotary way. In an earlier article I described the aircraft in more detail and I will have fresh news about this aircraft in the weeks ahead. HIPERLIGHT — Ron Jones has been selling a kit version of the Sorrell Brothers' Hiperlight series since he took over in 2004. The design dates to the early 1980s. For all that time, this longtime model has only been available as an Experimental Amateur Built but that is now changing. Ron reported (a video will follow with more details) that he has been working diligently for many months to go through the ASTM standards used by FAA to "accept" (not "certify") a new Special LSA. He expects to complete the project by the end of 2021 and then enthusiasts can buy a factory-built Hiperlight. After checking out several engines, Ron settled on the Jabiru 2200 four-cylinder, 80-horsepower engine. As Hiperlight is, well… light, this provides exhilarating performance, he said. AEROS ANT (TRIKE) — Years ago I visited Aeros in the Ukraine. They were developing into a major supplier of hang gliders but were also contract building the Sky Ranger for a French company. It was a primitive working environment for many ex-Antonov workers (when Communism collapsed, many experienced workers and engineers were thrown out of work) but those people turned out some very nice products despite the challenges. Now, years later, their hang gliding background still lives and the Ant is a product aimed at that market …or anyone else looking for a very affordable price tag (below $20,000 ready to fly). Not only is the aircraft a bargain but it can literally pack down into three bags you could carry on and in most vehicles. Plus, Ant can retract its main gear in flight and packs down quickly for compact hangar storage as well. CARLSON SPARROW — Welcome back to Ernie Carlson Sparrow! I knew this project was in the works (as reported earlier), but David Cooper and his helpers have been head-down learning the product and supplying some information that went missing through two previous owner changes since Ernie passed away. David acquired design rights, tooling, and inventory for Carlson's single place Part 103 Sparrow and the two place Sparrow XTC. He had an example of the latter at the show; it's the one they used to remeasure and confirm certain aspects of the design. After sorting out many details, David is now ready to start work on production. He will continue, of course, with the MiniMax line. The latter is nearly all wood, while Sparrow uses welded steel and aluminum construction. It's great to see David keeping these two long-lived models alive and well. OK, it's late and Tuesday is already here. So, that's a wrap for today. Let's see what I can find tomorrow!
WOW! It’s great to be back at a major airshow. I imagine every single person on that immense stretch of show grounds (way past a mile north to south!) felt largely the same way I did. Airshow buddies. Cool aircraft to check out. All manner of compelling gear to make your bird better. Forums on a wide variety of topics. Terrific aerobatic acts and a constant, joyful racket of airplane noise. Oshkosh is literal aviation sensory overload and every person present is splashing around in it like a kid in a backyard pool. Whee! Fun Fly Zone Where Affordable Aviation Lives Short story first… My Canadian videographer Dave Loveman was denied entry at the border (long story) so I’m flying solo this year. I will concentrate in areas as the show is simply too big to cover top to bottom unless you have wheels — and they are reserved for a gilt-edged few.
End of an Era?As a company news release issued just before Oshkosh shows, we have also arrived at the end of an era. Rotax announced that the Austrian engine manufacturer will cease production of their last two-stroke powerplant, the twin-cylinder, 65-horsepower 582.
Indeed, as light aviation enthusiasts prepare for the coming Mosaic regulation that will dramatically alter the landscape, a clearer dividing line is revealing itself. Many light aircraft have embraced Rotax's four stroke engines, overwhelmingly their 9-series models including carbureted 912 ULS, fuel-injected 912iS, turbocharged 914, and the newest 915iS.Aircraft models on the lighter end — which I often group under the banner of “alternative aircraft” — work well with smaller, lighter engines that are almost always two-stroke. Such aircraft include trikes, some powered parachutes, nearly all powered paragliders, and, of course, virtually the entire fleet of Part 103 ultralights. On July 22nd, as AirVenture 2021 begins, BRP-Rotax announced that it would be stopping production of “the legendary two-stroke Rotax 582 UL aircraft engine by end of 2021.” The European engine builder explained, “This decision has been taken considering the nearly full transition of the light and ultralight aircraft market towards four-stroke aircraft engines.” I will observe that when Rotax uses the term “ultralight,” they refer primarily to European flying machines that are closer to LSA than American Part 103 models. The latter have very rarely employed four-stroke engines though they once used two-stroke Rotax models widely.
Rotax HistoryWhen I first discovered the Rotax brand, I used the single cylinder, 22-horsepower 277 engine. In those days, the Rotax 277 was everywhere. It was the first two-stroke powerplant Rotax discontinued. Following the R-277 came twin-cylinder models 377, 447, 503, and 532, which finally became the 582. All of these except the 377 enjoyed huge popularity. Another, the 618, saw limited use. While some experimenters repurposed snow mobile engines for aircraft use Rotax never sold these as aircraft engines. Before Rotax entered and subsequently dominated the light aircraft space, other engines, such as Cuyuna, were widely used but Rotax’s professionalism swiftly moved the company to the head of the parade. In those early days, light aircraft engines were almost never supplied by large companies due to concerns about liability for what was then a new aircraft sector. “The Rotax 582 UL engine is the last two-stoke aircraft engine in series production and was definitely part of our company success in the past,” said Peter Oelsinger, General Manager of BRP-Rotax. “The decision however reflects the market reality. Almost 100% of the customers select four-stroke engines; a demand that we can definitely fulfill with our range of innovative and high-quality four-stroke aircraft engines,” he added.
Not Gone Yet, But Act SoonRotax advised the 582 UL will still be available via the Rotax authorized distribution network worldwide for long as existing inventory lasts at distributors. If you want to purchase a new 582, you should act soon before supplies run out. Is it a gamble to install an engine the manufacturer is discontinuing? No, not really. Rotax has built a highly-regarded global service network. The company and its representatives and distributors will continue to provide technical service for all existing Rotax 582 UL customers and aims to provide Rotax genuine spare parts availability up to 10 years after stopping production. Also, as many designers or builders have found, the used market can provide these engines for years and many of them are available with relatively few logged hours. With good maintenance, Rotax's 582 is likely to be flying for many more years.
As AirVenture Oshkosh 2021 starts, we have arrived at a long-awaited beginning to the world’s biggest airshow. AirVenture Oshkosh 2021 opens Monday July 26th and I am on-site to capture all the best news I can find for light aircraft. Regretfully, my Canada-based YouTube partner, Videoman Dave, was denied entry by Homeland Security — his occupation was “deemed not essential” — so I’ll be flying solo to write daily articles and record video. End of an Era? As a company news release issued just before Oshkosh shows, we have also arrived at the end of an era. Rotax announced that the Austrian engine manufacturer will cease production of their last two-stroke powerplant, the twin-cylinder, 65-horsepower 582. Indeed, as light aviation enthusiasts prepare for the coming Mosaic regulation that will dramatically alter the landscape, a clearer dividing line is revealing itself. Many light aircraft have embraced Rotax’s four stroke engines, overwhelmingly their 9-series models including carbureted 912 ULS, fuel-injected 912iS, turbocharged 914, and the newest 915iS.
It's ON!! EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2021 has begun. Watch for daily coverage of Light-Sport, Sport Pilot kit aircraft, and Part 103 Ultralights.Welcome to the largest resource for information about light, recreational, affordable aviation — thousands of articles and videos and much more. Check our growing library of short videos on the ByDanJohnson Affordable Aviation YouTube channel. In addition, you can find nearly 1,000 LSA and Sport Pilot kit videos featuring Dan on Videoman Dave's "Light Sport and Ultralight Flyer" YouTube channel + view hundreds of our best videos archived here in a searchable format. Have you tried our Market Share resource, called Tableau Public? Tap or click the big blue button or hit this link to get a graphical help file on how to use it. Or, get the full description of how this list is assembled. Thanks for your visit. We genuinely appreciate those of you who have become members!
It’s ON!! EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2021 has begun. Watch for daily coverage of Light-Sport, Sport Pilot kit aircraft, and Part 103 Ultralights. Welcome to the largest resource for information about light, recreational, affordable aviation — thousands of articles and videos and much more. Check our growing library of short videos on the ByDanJohnson Affordable Aviation YouTube channel. In addition, you can find nearly 1,000 LSA and Sport Pilot kit videos featuring Dan on Videoman Dave’s “Light Sport and Ultralight Flyer” YouTube channel + view hundreds of our best videos archived here in a searchable format. Have you tried our Market Share resource, called Tableau Public? Tap or click the big blue button or hit this link to get a graphical help file on how to use it. Or, get the full description of how this list is assembled.
Let’s get this show underway…
Jabiru USAOne of the earliest Light-Sport Aircraft to be approved was the Australian Jabiru brand. Not only was Jabiru one of the first approved SLSA (#22) but also one of the most prolific with SLSA #22 J250-SP, #23 J170-SP, #40 Calypso SP, #67 J230-SP (redesignated as J230-D in 2013), and #142 J170-D. The "SP models came from an earlier U.S.-based manufacturing arrangement. The "D" denotes the manufacturing now conducted in Australia. When you are an early entrant you have time to get the details right and flesh out the operation. Now in the capable hands of Scott Severen, who runs US Sport Planes and took over from Jabiru USA founder Pete Krotje, Jabiru has matured to one of the leading LSA suppliers. It is the only Australian fixed wing aircraft brand to successfully enter the U.S. market. The company remains a member of a very select club that manufactures both airframe and engine. All Jabiru models appear compact but actually have spacious interiors; especially the latest J230-D has a cavernous aft area (where people sit when the same base airframe is used to make a four seater). A third door for this purpose serves U.S. pilots by making the loading of luggage (or your pet) easier. With its 4th Generation six-cylinder engine producing 120 horsepower, Jabiru J230-D will satisfy a lot of pilots. Stop by their space at AirVenture and perhaps you'll meet some of their owners that will attend another annual Jabiru Owners Group (JOG) gathering.
BeringerKnown far and wide for their distinctive orange-ish wheels, Beringer has built a premium brand serving aircraft from the lightest LSA to Cirrus' SR-series. The France-based company with a permanent U.S. operation has numerous products in support of airframes including the unique locking tailwheel and their wheel shocks. Now, they have something new. Beringer’s SensAIR™ system is connected to a mobile app on your smartphone (image) thanks to pressure and temperature sensors fitted to your Beringer rim. Sensors are normally switched off to save the battery (2 to 3 years lifetime) and are activated when the smartphone is detected within a 30-foot radius (10 m).
Low pressure and temperature levels are set by the user on his smartphone so he or she can receive a notification.
No need to crawl under your plane to check pressure anymore, thanks to SensAIR you can check your pressure before and during each flight! SensAir is available now for 4-, 5-, 6-, and 8-inch wheels.
SeamaxWith fabrication in Brazil, Seamax has been in the U.S. market for many years, earning FAA acceptance as #63 in our SLSA List. In the last few years Seamax has substantially upgraded their U.S. representation with full-time facilities adjacent to the prestigious campus of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. From this ideal location they can cover the Eastern U.S. Now, Seamax is pleased to announce a new dealer based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The seaplane maker now offers support, training, and sales for several Midwestern states. The new business is called Central Seaplanes and they become the official sales agent and brand representative for Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas. Central Seaplanes will provide mechanical and maintenance service to Seamax aircraft in association with Johnson Aviation of Tulsa and plans to provide flight training in association with Destinations Executive Flight Club of Tulsa. The Oklahoma dealer recently acquired two fully-equipped Seamax M-22 aircraft to their fleet and. One M-22 is equipped with IFR gear, which allows a pilot in training to log instrument hours at competitive rates. Central Seaplanes, LLC is a father-daughter, veteran-owned business represented by Kira and Todd Lang. Todd is a former fighter pilot with 40 years of aviation experience and 11,000 logged hours with CFI, CFII, and MEI instructor credentials. Currently, he is an international Boeing 767 Captain for a major U.S. airline. Todd also holds a Master's degree in Business Administration from Embry Riddle. Kira has an Associate degree in aircrew safety systems technology, a Bachelor's degree in aviation management and a Master's degree in aviation and space science. She is currently finishing her doctorate. Kira received her Private Pilot certificate when she was 18 years old. Kira said she has always dreamed of starting her own business with her dad. She has a passion for aviation and has thrived in the industry. She intends to dedicate her time to the success of Central Seaplanes and their association with Seamax aircraft.
Dragon PPGWelcome to Dragon PPG (powered paraglider). This quad — a term describing the four wheeled carriage some powered paraglider enthusiasts prefer — “is a new concept,” said Erin Thorson about designer Dan Feldman's work. Dragon will make its official debut at AirVenture 2021. Thorson is a 30+ year A&P and former Air Force aviator. "Considerable research and thought have been put into producing a high quality seated powered paraglider that meets all FAR 103 requirements," wrote Erin. Dragon PPG is aimed at taller and heavier PPG pilots. The design features a roll cage for protection. Such a configuration is common in powered parachutes (different aircraft, if you aren't familiar) but quads have previously been very light weight construction that mainly aimed to provide some structure to accommodate wheels, and not much more. Based on Rotax 503 power, Erin described thrust of the engine as "incredible!" Dragon was weight tested at 4Gs assuming a 220-pound pilot. Commonly, powered paragliders prefer the lightweight, higher-revving Polini engine (see next news item). "Last week, Eric Dufour, a world-renowned paragliding pioneer and well respected paramotor instructor, personally flew the Dragon PPG and loved everything about it," wrote Erin. "I have witnessed the Dragon fly; it is a rocket!" Dragon PPG is made in the USA. "The challenge (and frustration) for many quad PPG pilots is a lack of power and thrust and overall structural integrity," continued Erin. "Dan set out to design a wheeled powered paraglider [carriage] using heavy-wall aluminum for the main structural components with aluminum clamp devices and U-channels clamps to secure the tubing. The reason is primarily to add strength to the tubing without drilling of holes which can weaken the structural integrity of the frame." He reported the Dragon frame and engine have been designed to meet FAR 103 requirements. The Dragon frame itself can also be purchased as a stand alone frame without engine if the customer desires.
E-Props and Polini EnginesIn early July 2021 flying enthusiasts participated in the second edition of a STOL competition for ultralights (with engines limited to 100 horsepower) in the south of France. The contest was organized by the French Federation, FFPLUM. “The propeller is a very important equipment to succeed in this kind of competition,” the company wrote. “E-Props is proud to have won the first three places.” Earlier, on the weekend of June 17, 18, and 19, the French Open Training Slalom 2021 at Sevins Le Lac, “the podium was monopolized by pilots using Polini Thor engines,” boasted the Italian engine maker. Champion Alexandre Mateos, an ace of this sport, dominated results winning in his debut with the new Thor 303. Commonly, E-Props have been paired successfully with Polini. In second position was Jeremy Penone using the super-tested Thor 250. In third, winning the bronze medal, was Marie Mateos also using the new Thor 303. Marie reached a new goal with Thor Polini engines. After previously winning the female category, in this recent competition she was the first woman to be on the winner's podium ranked equally with male pilots. In a similarly timed event called "Slalomania," in Bornos in the south of Spain, the Slalom Open Spanish Championship took place. “Once again the pilots powered by Thor 303 engines confirmed this engine is superior for powered Paragliders,” reported Polini. Of the 21 pilots that took part to the competitions, 16 chose Polini Thor engines.
…but, of course, all the above is merely the tip of a large iceberg. I hope to achieve sensory overload at Oshkosh '21 and I will do my best to transmit that excitement to you. Watch for the bright orange logo denoting coverage from the big show.
Off we go!
Well, FINALLY, AirVenture Oshkosh is barely a week away. It seems like forever, doesn’t it? It has been two years but feels like a decade. I hope you can attend, but if not, I plan to be on-site all week gathering the latest about Light-Sport Aircraft, Sport Pilot kits, and ultralights. In this edition of “LSA Update,” I’ll cover an update about… 1️⃣ Jabiru and their AirVenture activities; 2️⃣ Beringer’s new SensAir system that works with your smartphone; 3️⃣ an impressive father-and-daughter partnership forming a new dealer for Seamax; 4️⃣ a preview of the new Dragon powered paraglider single-place quad; and, 5️⃣ competition successes for E-Props and Polini engines. Let’s get this show underway… Jabiru USA One of the earliest Light-Sport Aircraft to be approved was the Australian Jabiru brand. Not only was Jabiru one of the first approved SLSA (#22) but also one of the most prolific with SLSA #22 J250-SP, #23 J170-SP, #40 Calypso SP, #67 J230-SP (redesignated as J230-D in 2013), and #142 J170-D.
Orange Lightning in the SkyMaybe it doesn't look familiar but VL3 has already been seen by Yankee pilots under the brand name Gobosh and with the model designation 800XP. Gobosh emerged in the early days of LSA. Today you know this aircraft as VL3 and it doesn't seem the same. The fellows importing 800XP from then-producer Aveko rebadged the aircraft for the American market. It featured fixed gear and a fixed prop to meet the LSA regulations of the day. They also added wing area and for good marketing measure, they added sexy upward-curved winglets. Irony: The older model is essentially the LSA version that JMB plans for the U.S. market. So, yep, while the model in this report is the speediest version, a simpler — and LSA compatible today, even before the 2023 regulations — model is already waiting for American pilots that many need or prefer an LSA. No question though… what gets most pilot hearts beating harder is the speed VL3 has been able to achieve with a Rotax engine. VL3 was already known as a very fast flyer …and then Rotax introduced their 141-horsepower 915iS. Engineers at JMB eagerly accepted the challenge of adding the potent new powerplant to their sleek airframe and the results are strong. In the present time — before big changes coming with the so-called Mosaic regulation — everyone knows LSA are limited to 120 knots indicated at maximum cruise at sea level. Note that most of the speed references in this article are true airspeed, and FAA does not dispute that this figure can be significantly higher than at sea level. When American builders go the Czech and work on building their kit to qualify, as presently needed, as an Experimental Amateur Built aircraft, they can take full advantage of the speed potential of this airplane. Of course, that procedure may change after 2023 when LSA are allowed to fly faster or when VL3 can become a Light Personal Aircraft with even more capability. You should note that JMB, along with most Euro designers, likes to quote max speeds in not only true airspeed but in kilometers per hour. I don't blame them. It makes the number higher and if you don't think this has any meaning then you probably don't understand a product priced at $29.95, either. People are affected by a number and 370 kilometers per hour certainly does sound fast. VL3 is able to achieve these speeds thanks to a very clean all-carbon-fiber airframe. The model also has a relatively short span (under 28 feet). The company lists climb rate at 2,000 feet per minute, a 2,000-kilometer (1,250 statute mile) range and a fairly modest 600-foot takeoff roll. Those are certainly very strong bragging rights, and on my recent flight, I found these numbers believable.
Safety Figures High, TooSafety is important to JMB engineers as well. I flew in a VL3 with an airframe ballistic parachute. That's one feature but hardly all. In fact, it's for last-resort use. JMB reports that VL3's airframe has been subjected to a rather amazing +15 Gs of positive load and –8 Gs of negative load. That occurred in a test to failure; normal operational limits are +5 –2.5 Gs. VL3 is not intended for aerobatics but can stand up to the rigor of higher speed flight. Pilots have tested VL3 up to 248 knots indicated airspeed (459 kph or 285 mph) to determine if flutter appears. It did not. An Angle of Attack (AoA) indicator appeared on the Garmin G3X to help the pilot stay within safe speeds. As do many LSA producers, JMB includes an ELT, promotes on-screen traffic advisories, plus stall strips have been fitted near the wing/fuselage junction to improve controllability at slower speeds. Given JMB salesman talk about speed all the time, you may start to wonder as I did. OK, fine, it blazes, I thought, but what are its slow speed characteristics? Some previous fast-glass designs have so focused on speed that a short off-field landing could be threatening because landing speeds remain high. Not on VL3. As Kyle approached to land, he lowered flaps to 15 degrees; this setting is used for takeoff as well. Using 33 degrees substantially steepened approach and the full-down 55 degrees of split flaps are needed only for the shortest field. As he lowered flaps and worked to slow down this race horse, I was pleased to see how well behaved VL3 remained. I had a clue because we did a series of stalls and VL3 had already shown great slow speed stability and control but also remarkably slow speeds. Stall happens modestly in the low 40 knot range. From 42 knots or so stall to 165 indicated top cruise, we see the 4:1 slow-to-max ratio that is the holy grail of airplane design.
Now in the US of AWith import operations based on the West Coast, Alion Aviation engaged dealers in the Midwest and the east to help promote and service the aircraft. One of these is a father and son team, Dirk and Kyle Schluter, located in Ohio. They will provide sales and service to many eastern states from Maine to Florida. Another dealer group, David Pauly and Aaron Young, is based in Wichita, Kansas serving the central states while Alion Aviation importer and company CEO Adam Coubal is based in California and serves the West Coast. More to Come… On the flight I took with Kyle, we shot video for a Video Pilot Report to follow in which you will learn more about speeds, power settings, engine temperatures, flight controls, stall characteristics, slow flight, maneuvering, takeoff and landing and more. Watch for that video after AirVenture 2021. No question about it — VL3 is one of those aircraft that will catch your attention.
Good luck catching one in the sky.
TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS configured to ASTM 600-kilogram parameters or to U.S. EAB per factory published information specifications were enhanced on the factory's advice (* 7/17/21)
- Wing Span — 27.7 feet (8,44 m)
- Wing Area — 105 square feet (9,77 sq m)
- Length — 20.5 feet (6,24 m)
- Height — 8.2 feet (2,05 m)
- Cabin Width — 45 inches (115 cm)
- Fuel Capacity — 31.7 gallons (120 l)
- Gross Weight (ASTM version) — 1,320 pounds (600 kg)
- Gross Weight (EAB version) — 1,500 pounds (680 kg) *
- Empty Weight (ASTM version) depending on optional equipment — 750 pounds (340 kg)
- Empty Weight (EAB version) before options — 798 pounds (362 kg) *
- Useful Load (ASTM version) — 573 pounds (260 kg)
- Payload with full fuel (ASTM version) — 383 pounds (174 kg)
- Useful Load (EAB version) — 702 pounds (318 kg) *
- Payload with full fuel (EAB version) — 512 pounds (232 kg) *
PERFORMANCE with Rotax 914 or 915iS (912 also available)
- Takeoff & Landing either model — 757 feet (175 m)
- Best Rate of Climb with 914 — 1,560 feet per minute *
- Best rate of climb with 915iS — 2,280 feet per minute *
- Max Cruise Speed with 914 in true airspeed — 190 miles per hour or 165 knots (306 kph)
- Max Cruise Speed with 915iS in true airspeed — 230 miles per hour or 200 knots (370 kph)
- Stall Speed either model in indicated airspeed — 48 miles per hour or 42 knots (78 kph)
- Never-Exceed Speed (914) in indicated airspeed — 190 miles per hour or 165 knots (306 kph) * **
- Never-Exceed Speed (915iS) in indicated airspeed — 253 miles per hour or 220 knots (407 kph) *
** Vne limited by maximum parachute deployment speed
The age of Light Personal Aircraft is not far off in the future but is that where “fast-glass” LSA are headed? Certainly, some LSA producers have ambitions for four seat cruisers or tougher bush aircraft or larger load-carrying aircraft to satisfy pilots that want more capability from their aircraft. Those goals are fine, of course, but they are not what stimulates leaders and engineers at JMB Aircraft, a restless bunch that loves flying their screaming machine as fast as they can. How fast is it? I went aloft with dealer Kyle Schluter to find out. I also learned about the fuller product line and what Sport Pilot certificate holders can do to own and fly one of these impressive aircraft. (Article updated 7/17/21) Orange Lightning in the Sky Maybe it doesn’t look familiar but VL3 has already been seen by Yankee pilots under the brand name Gobosh and with the model designation 800XP.
Welcome to the New F2"Wait," you exclaim! "F2 isn't new." Excellent, you've been keeping up. What you don't know is that Flight Design's latest and greatest just earned FAA acceptance, winning a Special Airworthiness certificate as the latest Special LSA to enter the market. Announcing Number 156 on our SLSA List. Flight Design put years into this thorough evolution of their market-leading model and it has so many new qualities, we present two videos below trying to tell you about all of them.
Now Available as a Ready-to-Fly Special LSA"On July 8th, 2021 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the first production Flight Design F2-LSA to reach the USA was inspected by an FAA representative and issued a certificate of airworthiness as a Special Light Sport Aircraft," beamed Flight Design USA leader Tom Peghiny. "The aircraft is owned by a gentleman from the Milwaukee area and will be delivered this month at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2021," he added. “We were very happy to take part in this review. We’ve been waiting for nearly two years”, said Tom Gutmann Jr. of Airtime Aviation, identifying some of the challenges the globe experience over the last year and a half. “We are excited to receive the first F2-LSA in the USA and we are very impressed by the improvements made by Flight Design.” "The Special LSA version of F2 is the new high-end edition of the existing line of Flight Design aircraft, complementing the popular CTLS and CT-Super Sport models also sold in the USA," reported Peghiny. The very popular CTLSi and more affordable SuperSport remain in production and are actively being delivered. “This is an important day for our company, our customers and our dealers,” said Peghiny. "While F Series is a big step up for Flight Design, this just the first of many F-series airplanes that will come to the USA.” He clarified that the Flight Design F-series of aircraft include the F2-LSA; the F2-UL, which is a German Ultralight; the F2 CS-23, a certified version that is currently being reviewed by EASA in Europe; and soon, the F4 which is the four-place version of F-series. An electric model, F2e, is also in development. "The First Article Inspection by the FAA is a review of the documentation provided by a manufacturer to show compliance to the applicable FARs and the ASTM standards used for a particular Light-Sport model," Tom finished. FAA has the option perform a full audit or other inspections such as they first-article inspection. Since the German manufacturer has approved so many models and has a long track record with the FAA (and other government agencies), the American regulator deemed a first-article inspection was satisfactory to accept the new model. (Note that new Special LSA are not technically "certified." FAA prefers to call the process "acceptance.") With Flight Design's F-series family of models, it appears the German designer and producer is taking square aim at the Light Personal Aircraft category FAA has proposed in its new regulation. One piece of evidence: check out the carvernous aft cabin of F2.
Here are two videos further explaining the F-series from Flight Design, focused on the new F2 SLSA: https://youtu.be/dxpFU7UfsQo https://youtu.be/DAs_ocUd77E
Taking a welcome break from FAA news, let’s check out our favorite topic: cool new airplanes. Welcome to the New F2 “Wait,” you exclaim! “F2 isn’t new.” Excellent, you’ve been keeping up. What you don’t know is that Flight Design’s latest and greatest just earned FAA acceptance, winning a Special Airworthiness certificate as the latest Special LSA to enter the market. Announcing Number 156 on our SLSA List. Flight Design put years into this thorough evolution of their market-leading model and it has so many new qualities, we present two videos below trying to tell you about all of them. Now Available as a Ready-to-Fly Special LSA “On July 8th, 2021 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the first production Flight Design F2-LSA to reach the USA was inspected by an FAA representative and issued a certificate of airworthiness as a Special Light Sport Aircraft,” beamed Flight Design USA leader Tom Peghiny.
UPDATE 7/8/21 — BREAKING NEWS:EAA issued a report today saying FAA took some steps to resolve this matter, but it is far from an elegant solution and does not fully address the problem. You can get a lot from Pelton's concluding remark but I urge reading the whole article. ••• This thing is far from over, I suspect. Here's what Jack wrote, "This entire episode is a scary example of how new interpretations of the regulations can upend the entire community. While this short-term fix allows operations to continue, it never should have come to this point. Creating more than 30,000 new LODAs and exemptions is a paperwork exercise that does nothing to advance safety."
A most worrisome thing happened recently and it definitely fired up journalists in cyberspace. FAA's Orlando Flight Standards District Office took an organization called Warbirds Adventures to court over them charging students they were instructing in a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk. "That doesn't affect me," you might say. Don't be too sure. FAA's regulatory enforcement action "has left CFIs confused and at risk from the greater future liability of 'flying for hire,' along with potential regulatory and medical consequences," reported SAFE, a flight instructor group. "Needless to say, this case has cause a firestorm in the aviation media." Flying magazine reported, "[According to a] 1995 Fretwell FAA Legal Interpretation, the trainee is compensating the instructor not for piloting the aircraft, but for the instruction they are providing." However, Flying continued, "FAA is now essentially arguing that, for regulatory purposes, 'paying-passenger' carriage is exactly what flight instructors are doing every time they take a student into the air for a lesson." The magazine concluded (correctly, in my opinion), "If paid flight instruction is now considered 'carriage of persons for compensation or hire,' an entire sector of flight instructor licensure — the sport pilot flight instructor — has now been rendered null and void." … "The recent decision in [the legal case of] Warbird Adventures has the potential to drastically change the foundation of aviation knowledge and safety — flight instruction — as we know it." "This departs from the long-standing premise that the compensation a flight instructor receives for instruction is not compensation for piloting the aircraft, but rather is compensation for the instruction,” concurred Justine Harrison, AOPA’s general counsel. EAA also senses danger, writing, "[An] overly broadly worded ruling by the court could interfere with the right of Limited Category and Experimental Category owners to receive training in their own aircraft. While hiring such aircraft for training has usually been conducted via exemption or LODA, owners and operators have always been able to pay instructors to fly in their own aircraft." That may now change, and here's something none of the other articles touched upon: insurance. When the insurance industry gets wind of this (as they already have according to one account), they may refuse to provide insurance for compensated training by a CFI-S in a LSA. Beyond FAA's action, a lack of insurance could close down many flight instruction operations. My FAA advocacy partner Roy Beisswenger (Powered Sport Flying magazine publisher and EasyFlight YouTube channel personality) wrote a spot-on editorial on the subject. I urge you to read his words carefully. —DJ
Training Really Is for HireAn interesting thing happened on the way to federal court. The FAA wanted to make sure that a warbird training operation went through some special hoops in order to train in warbirds. The training operation refused. The FAA took the company to court arguing that under 14 C.F.R § 91.315, “[n]o person may operate a limited category civil aircraft carrying persons or property for compensation or hire.” And since the aircraft in question is a limited category aircraft, it could not be operated for training. The Court of Appeals agreed and stated that, “the aircraft is not certified for paid flight instruction and substantial evidence supports the order.” And then they said “Instead, Warbird argues that § 91.315 does not prohibit paid flight training. We disagree. A flight student is a “person.” Id. § 91.315; see also id. § 1.1. When a student is learning to fly in an airplane, the student is “carr[ied].” Id. § 91.315. And when the student is paying for the instruction, the student is being carried “for compensation.” Id. Hmmm… Gotta hate it when judges use logic and stuff. But, here’s the problem. You see, for years, the FAA has kind of wanted things both ways. On the pilot side, the FAA has said that flight instruction isn’t a compensation or for hire activity. The reason for this is that they know in order for a pilot to receive compensation, they have to have a Commercial Pilot Certificate and a current 2nd Class Medical. The way the regulations work, all GA flight instructors need a Commercial Pilot Certificate in order to qualify initially for a Flight Instructor Certificate, but many didn’t want or weren’t able to maintain a 2nd Class Medical to just instruct. Yet on the aircraft side, the FAA says that certain aircraft can’t be flown for flight instruction for compensation or hire… well at least not without special permission from the FAA in the form of a Letter of Deviation Authority or LODA. This ruling creates all kinds of problems for flight instructors wanting to provide training to students who own their own experimental, limited category, and primary category aircraft. The big aircraft organizations are pointing this out to the FAA and are beginning the fight to correct this. But what about Sport Pilot Flight Instructors (CFI-S)? Sport Pilot Flight Instructors are often simply Sport Pilots with the additional Sport CFI certificate. No Commercial Pilot Certificate. No 1st, 2nd, or 3rd Class Medical at all. And the FAA is very strict about whether Sport Pilots can fly for “compensation or hire.” They can’t. The FAA makes that abundantly clear in the regulations. How’s this for making things painfully obvious? §61.315 What are the privileges and limits of my Sport Pilot certificate? (c) You may not act as pilot in command of a Light-Sport Aircraft: (1) That is carrying a passenger or property for compensation or hire. (2) For compensation or hire. (3) In furtherance of a business.
It seems to get worse, too. Does this ruling mean that the best of the GA flight instructors, those seasoned instructors who don’t have 2nd Class Medicals anymore are out of business, too? It seems to me that the FAA discharged its weapon at its own foot. Give those attorneys a bonus. Now there is a solution. At least for the FAA’s Sport Pilot problem. LAMA and USUA have written the FAA and proposed additional language to both the GA flight instructor regulations and the Sport Pilot flight instructor regulations. It’s really pretty simple. We just want the FAA to include language saying that flight instructors have the privilege of providing flight instruction “for compensation or hire.” Pretty simple, huh? Maybe it’s too simple. Of course, there was a little more to the letter, but not that much more. In the meantime, should Sport Pilot flight instructors stop instructing? I don’t see any evidence that the FAA is going to shut down flight instruction immediately. I look at this as a legal stitch that needs correcting and that the FAA will be motivated to correct. So for now, I personally intend to continue to flight instruct for compensation or hire. At least until the FAA says I can’t anymore. Enjoy the summer and get your flight instruction while you can!
Did the FAA expect to win a ruling that said that flight instruction is “carrying a passenger for compensation or hire” and thereby shut down the entire Sport Pilot flight instruction industry? I don’t think so, but it sure looks like that is exactly what might have happened.
Do you prefer video over reading? No sweat. Roy has you covered again. Check this fresh video from his YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/DW_LeEw4Aug
UPDATE 7/8/21 — BREAKING NEWS: EAA issued a report today saying FAA took some steps to resolve this matter, but it is far from an elegant solution and does not fully address the problem. You can get a lot from Pelton’s concluding remark but I urge reading the whole article. ••• This thing is far from over, I suspect. Here’s what Jack wrote, “This entire episode is a scary example of how new interpretations of the regulations can upend the entire community. While this short-term fix allows operations to continue, it never should have come to this point. Creating more than 30,000 new LODAs and exemptions is a paperwork exercise that does nothing to advance safety.” A most worrisome thing happened recently and it definitely fired up journalists in cyberspace. FAA’s Orlando Flight Standards District Office took an organization called Warbirds Adventures to court over them charging students they were instructing in a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk.
It was a hot day (80 degrees Fahrenheit) at Lake Tahoe Airport (6,268 feet MSL). The airplane was loaded with a big guy (who reported 250 pounds) and nearly full fuel. We had a light tailwind because the airport has rising terrain to the south and we needed to take off to the north over flat terrain towards the lake. Applying full throttle, we began moving down the runway …rolling, rolling, rolling. It felt like eternity to accelerate and finally lift off and we were going way faster over the ground while climbing sluggishly over the marshland to the lake. Three of the basic performance problems which have led many General Aviation aircraft accidents were present here:
- High density altitude
- Max gross weight
- “Pressure altitude corrected for temperature and humidity."
- Common sense definition – “less air” (density) resulting in reduced engine power plus faster takeoff, stall and landing speeds — because true air speed goes up.
At 8,000 feet density altitude, it takes about twice as long to lift off as it does from sea level.This is derived from various performance parameters, and it could be 7,000 foot density altitude but 8,000 feet is a good round number for this rule of thumb. Why is this? First, for every 1,000 feet increase in density altitude, the engine loses about 3% power or thrust. So at 8,000 feet density the 100 horse engine is only producing 76% of the thrust, a 24% loss of thrust. Second, if you rotate at 60 knots indicated airspeed at sea level, then at 8,000 foot density altitude your true airspeed (ground speed in calm air), rotation speed would be 68 knots. Keep in mind your visual reference to the ground speed for takeoff and landing is going to go up 13%. This is why people tend to stall during takeoff and landing, because they feel they are going faster than they normally do. Indicated airspeed, not true airspeed, is what counts in stall. Therefore, at 8,000 foot density altitude you have 24% less thrust and must get going 13% faster to rotate. All that weight and mass has to gain that much more momentum with significantly less engine power. Loose/loose or bad/bad situation. Now look at climb rate, your ability to get away from the earth. A 1,000 foot density altitude decreases climb rate by 8%. An 8,000 foot density altitude reduces climb rate by over 60%. The Koch Chart is the classic many use to determine performance and a well known standard. General aviation aircraft typically have great performance tables and graphs, but LSA and even more so, ultralights, may come with rather basic performance guidance so this Koch Chart is a great tool. Let’s go back to my original example and use the rule of thumb with the density altitude of 9,500 feet MSL, plus that tail wind of 10%. Takeoff speed will increase takeoff roll by 20% to the density altitude factor. Now you have just under three times the takeoff roll as you would at sea lever standard conditions. In such conditions, you will eat up a lot of runway to get off the ground.
Light-Sport Aircraft typically have good performance at high density altitudes because with the typical 100 horsepower and max gross weight or 1,320 pounds the power-to-weight ratio is better than larger, heavier aircraft.
Paul's Experience with LSAMy 1,000 pound weight-shift control trike and Sling 2 at 1,320 pounds, both with the 100 horsepower Rotax 912iS fuel-injected engine are getting 300 FPM climb at 12,000 foot density altitude, which I typically fly in the mountains. No problem taking off at South Lake Tahoe airport but the increase in takeoff roll is noticeable. The carbureted engine performs almost as good with automatic mixture control. I have had a number of people who are thinking about buying a LSA with a 100 horsepower engine who are worried about LSA and density altitude. We go flying and they are really impressed with the performance as we cross the mountains at 10,000 feet (12,000 foot density altitude) and land/takeoff at South Lake Tahoe airport (TVL). The high-drag Quicksilver with a Rotax 582 (65 horsepower at sea level) barely climbs at Carson Airport 4,700 pressure altitude with 7,000 foot density altitude; it has only 100 FPM climb, not enough to climb out depending on other conditions such as convective lift. Ultralights typically do not have that much power to begin with so they also do not climb the best at high density altitudes. You can look at performance at sea level for a guide to how an aircraft will perform at high density altitudes Overall, you need to take the performance at sea level standard conditions, which the manufacturer typically provides optimum pilot and light weight conditions, and look at the density altitude or Koch chart to determine the performance of your LSA or Ultralight. The recipe to disaster is the airplane that flies up from sea level to South Lake Tahoe in the cooler morning. Headed home by afternoon, they load family, luggage and fuel. In the heat of the afternoon the airplane easily stalls on takeoff or climbout. Remember, they were facing — high density altitude (high elevation plus heat), were likely near max gross weight, and had a tailwind. Don't be that pilot. Density Altitude is a condition to be considered seriously.
Normally, this website focuses tightly on airplanes and the equipment and services needed to keep them flying. However, on regular occasions, I receive questions about density altitude and light aircraft. A surprising number believe LSA perform less well than legacy airplanes in these conditions. (They’re wrong.) Since I also hear questions regarding techniques to fly in mountains, why not combine these two challenges? This information can be useful to anyone who flies any kind of aircraft anywhere in the world. To provide the best information, I went to an expert. I know a thing or two about airplanes but Paul Hamilton, founder of the Sport Aviation Center, is an expert trainer, not only writing and making videos on the subject for years but regularly providing flight instruction. Further demonstrating his versatility he does so in three-axis and weight shift. I asked Paul to compose a short lesson about density altitude and he quickly complied.
More than Distance"Along the way, the team has also broken other world records for electric aircraft," Coates reported, "including longest over-water flight (30.8 kilometers); furthest distance in a 24-hour period (330 kilometers); and fastest speed between waypoints (177 kilometers per hour ground speed)." Barrie reported he and his team battled strong winds and rain as well as below zero morning temperatures to achieve the record. (Australian's seasons are roughly reversed from America's; this is not summer in Australia.) “It’s been a mammoth effort by everyone involved to achieve this incredible feat," Barrie said. "The weather hasn’t exactly been on our side. We had ice on the wings one morning and were grounded in Port Lincoln due to an intense low pressure system.” One of the criticisms leveled at battery power is a loss of energy in cold conditions so the Eyre to There has been doing additional proving of the propulsion concept. “On the plus side, the aircraft and the recharging systems have held up incredibly well, said Barrie. "It has gone a long way to proving the endurance and reliability of the Pipistrel Alpha Electro plane." “Because we can only fly about 125 kilometers (78 miles) before having to recharge, we’ve been landing in some pretty remote locations." As reported earlier, Barrie said Pipistrel Alpha Electro is the first and only serially-produced electric aircraft currently approved in Australia for flight training by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (Australia's FAA counterpart). “This record attempt will further demonstrate the overall viability of this aircraft," Barrie added. “Electric aircraft are cheaper to buy, cheaper to run, significantly quieter and don’t rely on fossil fuels. They are ideally suited for short range flight training activities." Eyre to There Aviation anticipates one day setting up an assembly line of Alpha Electros in Adelaide producing up to 40 aircraft per year, Barrie said. The team will continue but from here forward, with one record claim in its logbook, Electro will be adding to its achievements. You can follow the flight on Eyre to There Aviation's Facebook page.
“WE DID IT!” boasted the team from down under! “We are thrilled to announce that this afternoon we achieved a World Endurance Record for an electric aircraft, breaking the previous mark set in Germany last year.” (Note: Official recognition always takes more time.) Pipistrel distributor Michael Coates, wrote, “South Australian-based Eyre to There Aviation … Flying a Pipistrel Alpha Electro plane, arrived in Port Augusta late yesterday (Friday June 25) after breaking the previous mark of 750 kilometers on the leg between Shoalwater Point Station and Whyalla.” Lead by Eyre to There Aviation Managing Director, Barrie Rogers, the team will continue to Adelaide aiming to fly 1,350 kilometers by the end of the journey. More than Distance “Along the way, the team has also broken other world records for electric aircraft,” Coates reported, “including longest over-water flight (30.8 kilometers); furthest distance in a 24-hour period (330 kilometers); and fastest speed between waypoints (177 kilometers per hour ground speed).” Barrie reported he and his team battled strong winds and rain as well as below zero morning temperatures to achieve the record.
Can LSA Fly So Fast?The speed olympics are going on in Europe where authorities do not restrict the velocity of what they call "ultralights" or "microlights." In the USA, very similar models are called Light-Sport Aircraft, except LSA are trapped by that darn 120 knot speed limit. It's worth noting several countries that accept ASTM standards do not limit speed. That's why ASTM created standards for retracts, adjustable props, and other developments that are not presently permitted in America. (The organization is now called ASTM International for that precise reason.) Are U.S.-based LSA genuinely limited to 120 knots? Yes, and no. While this may change in the regulation to come at the end of 2023, present-day American LSA are limited to a maximum of 120 knots in level flight at sea level. Most pilots are aware that indicated speeds translate to higher numbers at, say, 10,000 feet above sea level. Some LSA are advertised as capable of reaching 150 knots at high altitude …and that is perfectly okay. So, if you make the airplane as clean and slick as possible with a speed wing design and if you use retractable gear and in-flight adjustable prop plus install the highest horsepower engine in the Rotax line, you might fly well beyond 140 knots at altitude (150 knots is 278 kph). Creator Alberto Porto went up high with the original Risen fitted with a turbocharged Rotax 914 and was able to reach 400.45 kilometers per hour or 216 knots. Most of us would be pleased to hit such a number. Most of us might rest on our laurels but Alberto is not most of us.
Re-Inventing RisenTake that same speed demon Risen and clip its wings and tail slightly while fitting a 141-horsepower Rotax 915iS turbocharged, intercooled engine. What to expect? "Risen powered with the Rotax 914 turbo for the first time passed the barrier of 400 kph (249 mph) on a 15 kilometer straight course and 379 kph (235 mph) on a 50-kilometer triangle. Truly spectacular especially with a 115 horsepower engine. Just imagine what would happen with a 915iS?" asked Commercial Director, Stéphan D’haene in the fall of 2020. "As Porto Aviation, we don’t believe you can just install a 40% more powerful engine in the same airframe," continued Stéphan. "Either your 100 horsepower version is underpowered, or [an airframe with a] 141 horsepower 915iS will be overpowered. This is just physics. Exceptions are, of course, STOL or other draggy designs that will see only a relative small increase of cruise speed due to drag. Risen has the lowest drag ratio in the industry, so adding 40% more power is a lot for an already-fast aircraft." Stéphan also commented on changes in European regulations that permit a higher stall speed. As FAA also appears headed toward higher stall, Alberto looks like a visionary in clipping Risen's wings a bit. "As the LTF-UL2019 certification standard for 600 kilogram Ultralights no longer limits the stall speed to 65 kilometers per hour, but a significantly higher 80 kilometers per hour, Alberto decided to leverage the real potential of the magnificent Rotax 915iS," wrote Stéphan. "The airframe received a set of shorter wings and as a consequence, also the oversized Risen V-tail was reduced for perfect balance. This version of the Risen deserves its own type name: Risen 915iS SuperVeloce." Then he hinted, "We believe it’s the perfect name for a 450 kilometer per hour (243 knot) max cruise two-seater!"
First Impressions"I got the opportunity to fly with Alberto in this amazing new version of Risen," reported Stéphan. Without any hesitation I can confirm that the aircraft flies as easy and straight forward as the original Risen, which remains in production in combination with the 912iS 100 horsepower engine." He noted the 100 horsepower model offers excellent economy and is a range champion. "We performed stalls and saw a 10 kilometer per hour or 6 knot increase compared to the normal Risen," observed Stéphan. "This is great news as it confirms the computer simulations and allows us to stay within European Microlight regulations, too." Going fast pays benefits, at least for buyers that have somewhat thicker wallets. "Let’s not forget Risen has one of the largest cabins on the market with ultimate comfort for those long trips," added the commercial director. "Our first 12 months of production are already sold out, even though few outside the factory have seen the aircraft." Serial production reportedly commenced three months ago. SuperVeloce #2 will soon take its maiden flight. Stéphan expressed, "Many U.S. pilots want this aircraft. There are going to be a lot of busy builders!" Care to be among them?
The following information is provided by the manufacturer and is subject to change.
Most of us would be mighty pleased to sit comfortably and gaze upon our pace-setting aircraft. As reported recently, Alberto Porto, head of Porto Aviation, flew to a higher altitude and managed to squeak past the 400 kilometer per hour (true airspeed) barrier in his supersleek Risen powered by the turbocharged Rotax 914 engine. Most of us, however, are not Alberto. Apparently, this man does not care to sit idly and admire his past achievements. When you’ve already designed what may be the fastest LSA-type aircraft in the world, what do you do next? Shorten Risen’s wing span, install a more powerful engine and go even faster. Duh! Original Risen wingspan: 29.5 feet — Risen SuperVeloce wingspan: 26.9 feet. How much difference results when span loses 31 inches and power increases 40%? Speed demons want to know. Can LSA Fly So Fast? The speed olympics are going on in Europe where authorities do not restrict the velocity of what they call “ultralights” or “microlights.” In the USA, very similar models are called Light-Sport Aircraft, except LSA are trapped by that darn 120 knot speed limit.
Does Alpha have the tiny little motor that could?
Article updated 6/22/21 —DJ
That sounds like an old childhood story ("The Little Engine that Could…") but here we are in the new millennia with electric cars, huge wind farms, vast solar collector projects, biofuels, and more. Subsidies are pouring in to electric projects around the globe. Hundreds of developers building "urban air transport" multicopters are raising millions of dollars.Will human-flown conventional aircraft join the electric parade? One company has pursued the electric dream further than most. This story is about a group in Australia that aimed to set a new world record, one of a rather different sort. In this case the team plans a "record attempt flying a Pipistrel Alpha Electro plane," Australia and USA Pipistrel dealer Michael Coates wrote. "[The flight] will start at Parafield Airport at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday June 19, 2021." Total distance, Michael added, will be 1,150 kilometers, which "will shatter the previous record of 750 kilometers flown in September 2020 in Germany." This project hopes to break the previous distance by more than 50 percent. Whatever the outcome, many will admire the effort to fly an electric airplane a lengthy distance. How will they handle the "range anxiety" about which we hear so much? FYI: The two distances — 1,150 and 750 kilometers — equate to 715 and 466 statute miles, respectively.
Team Alpha Goes the DistanceThe attempt to set a new record is being led by Eyre to There Aviation Managing Director, Barrie Rogers, who undertook the first ever electric flight in South Australia in 2020. Pipistrel Alpha Electro, which the down-under gang has dubbed the "Tesla of flying," currently has a flight time range of about one hour and cruising speed of 85 knots (98 mph or 157 kph). With this in mind, Barrie said, "We’ve had to very carefully plan each stop and build in contingencies for weather such as strong head winds.” Barrie clarified that the record attempt flight team and support crew "will include three pilots, five on-the-ground support crew, a second support (petrol-powered) plane, and two vehicles carrying recharging equipment for the aircraft." While a strong and notable effort, the attempt and the support it requires puts battery-electric propulsion in perspective. Several current, gasoline-powered Light-Sport Aircraft could fly the entire 1,150 kilometer distance on a single tank (or tanks) of fuel without any need to stop and with no support crew. Let's be fair: Electric airplanes are relatively new and they will only get better. It is not reasonable to expect them to perform equally with fossil-fuel-powered aircraft that have been developed over many decades and with billions of dollars invested to help them achieve the high state-of-the-art they possess today. Yet what this observes once again is that batteries are the weak link in the electric propulsion chain. Energy contained in batteries is a small fraction of that contained in a similar volume or weight of gasoline. That gap is narrowing but the pace seems glacial compared to forecasts of electric enthusiasts. Battery improvements of a few percentage points per year means decades before batteries match fossil fuel in energy per pound. Give batteries some magical breakthrough to equal fossil fuel energy and the betting will end. Electric propulsion will push out fossil engines quickly — but that day is not here now. It may be years in the future.
FAQs About Alpha ElectroPipistrel Alpha Electro started development in 2014; it was released to the public in 2017. "Electro was an immediate success with more than two-dozen orders after its initial 2017 release," boasted Slovenia-based Pipistrel. "Electro has been designed as an entry level circuit training aircraft perfect for flight schools," How long will the aircraft fly at cruise/cross-country? — Answer: "45 minutes at 18kW (reduced power) and 75 knots indicated airspeed" How long does it typically take to charge the batteries with different chargers? — Answer: "Six hours with a 3kW charger; an hour forty with 10 kW charger; an hour and five minutes with a 14 kW; or 45 minutes with the 20 kW charger." How heavy are the batteries and can I swap them myself? — Answer: "Each battery pack is 53 kg (117 pounds). Yes, you can remove the pack with no extra help." What is the luggage capacity the aircraft? Answer: "There is no luggage compartment. Convenience luggage can be stored in the side pockets on the instrument panel."
Technical Specifications Pipistrel Electro
- Powerplant — 50+ kilowatt (≈67 hp) electric motor running 2100-2400 rpm
- Maximum Takeoff Weight — 1212 pounds (550 kg)
- Basic Empty Weight with Batteries — 811 pounds (368 kg)
- Typical Empty Weight without Batteries — 563 pounds (256 kg)
- Baggage Allowance — None
- Payload — 401 pounds (182 kg)
- Battery Capacity — 21 kilowatt hours
- Wing Span — 34 feet 6 inches (10.5 m)
- Wing Area — 102.4 square feet (9.51 sq. m)
- Stall with Flaps — 38 knots, calibrated
- Stall without Flaps — 45 knots, calibrated
- Cruise Speed at 75% power — 85 knots, indicated
- Never Exceed Speed — 135 knots, indicated
- Max Climb Rate — 1,220 fpm
- Glide Ratio — 15:1
- Roll Rate — 45°-45° in 2.6 sec
- Cruise Endurance — up to 60 minutes (plus reserve)
- Endurance in Airport Traffic Patterns — 60 minutes (plus reserve)
- Cruise Range at 80 knots — 70 nautical miles (130 km)
- Takeoff / Ground Roll at Gross Weight — 492 feet (149 m)
Here are two videos about Pipistrel Alpha Electro. The first is from a reporter in Australia focused entirely on the electric-powered Alpha. The second is my review with U.S. representative, Rand Vollmer, covering the broader Pipistrel line. https://youtu.be/uMrLHeKJA80 https://youtu.be/ZmnlSaXHGWQ
Does Alpha have the tiny little motor that could? Article updated 6/22/21 —DJ That sounds like an old childhood story (“The Little Engine that Could…”) but here we are in the new millennia with electric cars, huge wind farms, vast solar collector projects, biofuels, and more. Subsidies are pouring in to electric projects around the globe. Hundreds of developers building “urban air transport” multicopters are raising millions of dollars. Will human-flown conventional aircraft join the electric parade? One company has pursued the electric dream further than most. This story is about a group in Australia that aimed to set a new world record, one of a rather different sort. In this case the team plans a “record attempt flying a Pipistrel Alpha Electro plane,” Australia and USA Pipistrel dealer Michael Coates wrote. “[The flight] will start at Parafield Airport at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday June 19, 2021.” Total distance, Michael added, will be 1,150 kilometers, which “will shatter the previous record of 750 kilometers flown in September 2020 in Germany.” This project hopes to break the previous distance by more than 50 percent.
The Rotax "9-Series" 912—914—912iS—915iSOn June 16, 2021, BRP-Rotax announced "The Rotax 915 iS aircraft engine was awarded best powertrain by the readers of Aerokurier, a leading German aviation magazine." "To be elected by the readers of the magazine proves that we have developed truly the best engine for this market in terms of performance, reliability and ease-of-use,” said Peter Oelsinger, General Manager BRP-Rotax. “Many thanks to the readers for their votes and commitment to our aircraft engines.” Rotax aircraft engines now number almost 200,000 including both two- and four-stroke powerplants and a global four-stroke 9-series fleet of more than 50,000 engines. Its worldwide network consists of 16 authorized distributors and more than 220 points of sales and service supporting 270 airframe producers that build more than 400 Rotax-powered models worldwide.
The division assembling Rotax aircraft engines is part of BRP-Rotax GmbH & Co KG, itself a subsidiary of BRP Inc., which develops and manufactures engines for Ski-Doo and Lynx snowmobiles, Sea-Doo watercraft, Can-Am all-terrain, side-by-side vehicles and Can-Am Spyder and Ryker lineup as well for motorcycles, karts, ultra-light and light aircraft.In the last 50 years, the company has developed more than 350 engine models for recreational vehicles and produced over nine million engines. BRP also builds propulsion systems for brands such as Alumacraft, Manitou, and Quintrex boats. The company supplies dedicated parts, accessories and apparel. Annual sales total $6 billion (Canadian or U.S. $4.9 billion) generated in more than 130 countries by a global workforce of more than 14,500 people.
SNEAK PREVIEW — In less than 10 days, I will have an announcement regarding how one aircraft may zoom faster than any other LSA. Could it one day eclipse the 500 kilometers per hour barrier (271 knots)? That sounds impossible but so did other records before they were broken. Click or tap back soon!
How does modern-day Rotax relate to the Wright Brothers? Here’s a trivia test for light aviation enthusiasts. Answer: Both started out in the bicycle business. A little over a year ago, the engine builder from Gunskirchen, Austria celebrated their 100th anniversary. Check this article that contains a link to a beautifully-presented history of the company. It also describes how the company got its name. In production for more than 30 years, Rotax’s 9-series engine design was a significant departure from earlier aircraft engines. The 9-series is physically smaller, uses liquid cooling, an electronic control unit, and a gearbox to change engine revolutions from 5,000 rpm to slower speeds that work for props. The 912 enjoys a much better power-to-weight ratio than familiar models such as Lycoming’s O-233. That veteran engine produces 100 horsepower (at 2300 rpm; higher power is available at increased revolutions) using 233 cubic inches of cylinder displacement.
Numbering 300 AirCams (…that's 600 Rotax engines!)Many of you know the story by now. AirCam was first developed to fly National Geographic photographers trying to document nature in Namibia. From what I can tell the entire country appears to be one enormous, dense jungle. Where ya gonna land? Phil to the rescue. After building Drifters for years, Phil had a plan to accomplish what the photographers needed for the beautiful but rather primitive African nation. He designed a potent twin engined airplane that could take off from a tiny field and could position a photographer six feet out in front of the leading edge with an enormous field of unobstructed view. The plan worked perfectly but then a funny thing happened. Pilots kept saying they wanted one for themselves. Phil and his staff accommodated them and have steadily improved the machine until today, 300 of them fly around the USA and the world. You'll rarely see a bigger smile than from a pilot who just landed an AirCam. While some AirCam pilots chose to avoid the bumps at Jekyll on arrival day — flying just a few minutes north to St. Simons airport (SSI) with a runway facing into the wind — all the AirCams were back at Jekyll the next day. Even on that first evening, some of us watched as landing lights switched on when Ian and Robert flew a pair of them back from St. Simons after dark. Since it was late May… since we were in the warm South… and since it's almost summer, several of the AirCams were mounted atop amphibious floats. Well, why not? With Twin Rotax 912s (even 915s have been fitted), AirCam can lift off water even with amphibs after a very short, brief water run. Considering an AirCam is capable of taking off from land on one engine (not advised, of course!), jumping off the water with both engines fully spun up is exhilarating.
Leading His FlockLeading a gaggle of AirCams from Florida, Phil managed the navigation and communications from the middle seat, while son Ian flew up front and wife Tisha spotted traffic from the aft seat. How they decided that seating must be something of a State secret since all three are pilots. The Lockwoods flew in tandem seating — one behind the other — in a Generation Three or "Gen 3" AirCam with the clamshell enclosure (photo). Occupying the aft seat, Tisha reported an abundance of room. AirCam may not look it, but the aircraft is surprisingly spacious.
Using the Whole RunwayBack to Phil's "sporty" air. His forecast was no understatement. My flight from Spruce Creek near Daytona Beach, Florida to Jekyll took only about an hour. We flew over the ocean (within an easy glide distance from shore) where it was was smooth and effortless. Yet once we arrived near Jekyll and dropped down to pattern altitude the mechanical turbulence from air spilling over the tree-filled island added lots of bumps to the air. "It's doesn't feel that bad," I told Randee. "I think a landing is doable." Once we descended below 300 feet, that gusty air made final approach feel like a roller coaster ride. Woo-hoo! I decided to keep my speed up and leave the flaps retracted to facilitate an abort if it proved too rough. I was prepared to use the majority of the long, paved runway… and I did. Yet we got down. We flew in a Van's RV-12 to which I have access and, like all RVs, the handling is superb. I was sure I would not run out of control authority. With quite a few hours logged in AirCam, I think it could have handled the winds, but such a decision is about pilot skill and experience, not the aircraft or its controls. Phil made a prudent decision to lead his formation four more miles to St. Simons. Not only was the runway better wind-oriented but the airport area is more open with few nearby obstructions. As the weekend unfolded, the winds died down and Jekyll proved as fetching a place as ever. I tell you what: these AirCam people know where to take their powerful birds for a good time. Learn lots more about AirCam — maybe you can join the next outing.
In this video, LSA expert John Hurst describes his experience flying an AirCam with two 912iS fuel-injected engines from Sebring, Florida to Oshkosh, Wisconsin. https://youtu.be/TTQ4psahui4
“Winds are going to be rather sporty,” observed AirCam developer, Phil Lockwood, as he and Robert Meyer and the AirCam team finalized arrangements for another fly-out, this one to Jekyll Island (09J). The single runway near the resort island had a crosswind forecast for arrival day. When it comes from the east, air tumbles down over a tree line to disturb a smooth approach. The air was indeed “sporty.” I’m an AirCam enthusiast even though I don’t own one. I earned my multi-engine rating in an AirCam some years ago and I’ll take any opportunity to fly one. Numbering 300 AirCams (…that’s 600 Rotax engines!) Many of you know the story by now. AirCam was first developed to fly National Geographic photographers trying to document nature in Namibia. From what I can tell the entire country appears to be one enormous, dense jungle. Where ya gonna land? Phil to the rescue.
- Learn about the return of Finland's wood-and-composite LSA seaplane, now rebadged as Avion from new supplier Scandinavian Seaplanes (updated 6/15/21)
- Check out another award for Ekolot's handsome and deluxe Topaz
- See a very fresh video of the impressive ScaleWings SW-51 in flight
- Watch a video version of our recent FAA regulation update on Mosaic
Atol is Back …with AvionAccording to main man Anssi Rekula, "Finland is a true [paradise] of seaplane flying with 188,000 lakes, 45,000 miles of river and 4,000 miles of seafront." That is surprisingly similar to the United States even though America is 29 times larger by area.
Topaz Wins Another AwardToday, many LSA have become quite deluxe with fancier interiors and better avionics. However, Ekolot was ahead in this upgrade game. The Polish company's top-of-the-line Topaz is a striking machine outside and inside with its automotive-styled, leather-trimmed interior and nicely-achieved features. Ekolot has experience with sailplanes and the composite finish shows a glider producer’s attention to an exceptionally smooth finish. Get factory tech specs (metric) but the U.S. translation is: wing span 35.3 feet; wing area 109 square feet; gross weight 1,232 pounds (the first weight FAA chose for LSA; later updated to 1,320); empty weight 639 pounds, meaning Topaz has a useful load of 593 pounds and a payload with full fuel of 485 pounds; fuel 18 gallons, cruise 123 mph (107 knots); climb 1,575 fpm; stall 34 mph. Standard power is supplied by Rotax 912 swinging a three-blade composite prop. It is sold standard with an whole-airframe emergency parachute. At Sun 'n Fun 2021, importer Krzysztof "Kris" Siuba collected another trophy for his office shelf as Topaz won the "Outstanding Factory-Built Fixed Wing Light-Sport Aircraft" category. Hopefully, Kris and Topaz are not "tired of winning" as a well-known politician once predicted.
Here's fresh video of the SW-51 conducting its first flight — lots of good images, courtesy of the factory: https://youtu.be/6ftYVP3sOZ8
A great many of you read our recent article updating FAA's latest work on the new LSA regulation. Some of you may prefer an audio version with a terrific slide show (featuring around 150 beautiful airplane pictures): https://youtu.be/faKL9kmtDPU
Summer is fast approaching and for much of the northern hemisphere, that means seaplane flying. For all pilots, covid fear is dissipating and summer skies beckon. In this LSA Update… Learn about the return of Finland’s wood-and-composite LSA seaplane, now rebadged as Avion from new supplier Scandinavian Seaplanes (updated 6/15/21) Check out another award for Ekolot’s handsome and deluxe Topaz See a very fresh video of the impressive ScaleWings SW-51 in flight Watch a video version of our recent FAA regulation update on Mosaic As the globe slowly emerges from the dark cloud that was Covid, the light aviation industry is doing admirably to move forward with developments and improvements. Come along for the read — check out these stories. Atol is Back …with Avion According to main man Anssi Rekula, “Finland is a true [paradise] of seaplane flying with 188,000 lakes, 45,000 miles of river and 4,000 miles of seafront.” That is surprisingly similar to the United States even though America is 29 times larger by area.
Welcome to CTLS GT 914T"Flight Design is pleased to announce the availability of the 914T option for the CTLS GT 2020," the German company announced today. "CTLS GT with the turbocharged Rotax 914 plus a large intercooler greatly improves the climb rate, cruise speed and high-altitude performance on Flight Design’s most popular model." CTLS has long been the leader in the American LSA fleet. While the company has also announced their F-series, CTLS remains a key model for the company. The CT-series already fits regulations in many countries. “We are very excited to finish development of this new variant of the CTLS GT," said Daniel Guenther, managing director of Flight Design general aviation. "The design team did a beautiful job integrating the Rotax 914 with the turbocharger and intercooler into the new longer cowling of the CTLS GT 2020. From the large NACA inlet (photo) and the custom welded aluminum piping, the engine compartment is just a thing of beauty,” said Daniel. CTLS GT Turbo incorporates all the new features of the GT 2020 model including the longer, more attractive cowling with improved cooling and cabin heating, new prop spinner, and new low drag wheel pants for improved performance. Equipped with a full Garmin avionics suite including dual G3X screens, the CTLS GT is a thoroughly modern aircraft that can reach 140 knots (TAS at altitude) and can climb at better than 2,000 feet per minute. “I was very impressed with the performance of the CTLS GT with the Rotax 914 Turbo," said Flight Design test pilot Nico Stambula. "CTLS GT Turbo climbs like a rocket and easily reaches 140 knots at altitude." Stambula added that the 914 intercooled engine maintains consistent temperatures. In addition, this is a very smooth flying package." The first CTLS GT will be shipped to an owner in South Africa, which has both high temperatures and high elevations. Flight Design believes the new model "should be just great for operating in those more challenging conditions." With the addition of the Rotax 914T option, the long-running CTLS extends its range again. Various models are available as a European 600 kilogram (European) Ultralight, an ASTM-compliant Special LSA, or as an EASA-certified aircraft. Models are available with the Rotax 912, the 912iS and now as a turbocharged performer as the CTLS GT 914T.
"What? No Rotax 915?"Someone was bound to ask why engineers didn't use the newest 141-horsepower Rotax 915 iS, so I queried the company on this question. Since the start of Light-Sport Aircraft, Flight Design has been represented in America by Tom Peghiny, proprietor of Flight Design USA. He's everyone's go-to guy for all things CT. "Flight Design chose the Rotax 914 Turbo for the CTLS 2020 GT airframe for several reasons:
- “Engine weight and size were perfect for the CTLS airframe with no structural modifications required to the existing airframe.
- “Top speed at altitude was also within the existing CTLS limits, so no long test flight program was required to make the 2020 GT turbocharged variant.
- “Because the 914 has a similar configuration to the often-installed 912ULS and 912iS, no major firewall-forward changes were needed to fit a 915.”
Here's a review of the CTLSi with the 912iS engine. Most of the video regards the airframe that remains the same on the CTLS GT 914T. https://youtu.be/se2Wm6U_MN0
Recently I interacted with a reader, someone considering a light aircraft for purchase. He inquired about the ability of ultralights or Light-Sport Aircraft to cope with high density altitude. He raised valid and worthy points but showed a certain lack of knowledge about the capabilities of light aircraft. (We are working on a more detailed article on this subject.) Here’s the simple response: light aircraft with modern (read: powerful and efficient) engines tend to perform admirably well in high elevations, higher heat, and high humidity. If you fly almost any of these aircraft in high density conditions you already know they perform sprightly. In contrast, I logged hundreds of Cessna 150 hours from my days as a flight instructor, and — with a similar amount of power as most LSA but also quite a few more pounds — that aircraft definitely does not perform as energetically. So, a higher power-to-weight ratio is good, but do limits exist?
SW-51 Finally Flies!On May 20th, 2021, SW-51 Mustang successfully performed its first flight at Mlada Boleslav airport (LKMB) in the Czech Republic. ScaleWings reported, "Aircraft serial number #001 took off at 11:37 am into a light cloudy sky." The all-important first flight went without problems. "Chief Test Pilot Jirko 'Jiri' Hybler praised the balanced and highly maneuverable handling of the aircraft, managing crosswinds of more than 10 knots with superior control," continued ScaleWings. "Within the first flight hours all systems were checked to prove their functionality." The company reported test flights included cycling up and down of the all-electrically-driven landing gear. First flight went exactly to plan and 35 minutes later, the aircraft landed safely. "This first flight of the serial aircraft configuration of the SW-51 Mustang is an important milestone for our team," ScaleWings said. The SW-51 aircraft program was launched in 2013, followed by a successful first flight of a “proof of concept” prototype just one year later in 2014. Since then ScaleWings has been working on both production processes for the aircraft and preparing the company's production site in Krosno, Poland. The ScaleWings SW-51 Mustang is a true-to-scale high performance replica modeled precisely upon the original North American P-51 Mustang aircraft dimension but fully built from carbon fiber. No question, SW-51 deserves the closest possible examination. This is an amazing construction. SW-51 is an intricate eye-catcher featuring more than 100,000 details such as simulated rivets, screws, fabric and more that were meticulously handcrafted into the manufacturing molds. Even when you physically touch them, rivets and screw heads feel real. They're not; it's a marvelous illusion. Schoeller's unique treatment combines with a high quality chrome-like finish, allowing SW-51 to almost-identically mirror the original's aluminum appeal. Without a doubt, this is an unprecedented execution beyond anything I've ever seen. The aircraft is designed for up to 750 kilograms (1,653 pounds) gross weight, while it is currently being flown in a category limited to 600 kilograms (1,320 pounds) in accordance with prevailing European standards. The numbers show SW-51 could fit nicely into FAA's proposed Light Personal Aircraft but it could also stay a Light-Sport Aircraft. A fixed gear, fixed pitch prop version has been in discussion for some time. With first flight in its logbook, ScaleWings said, "We will produce and deliver 5 aircraft in 2021 and 12 aircraft in 2022." SW-51's configuration features a Garmin G3X glass cockpit, electrically driven retractable landing gear (main gear and tail-wheel), ballistic emergency airframe parachute by Galaxy GRS and a brand new Rotax 915iS Turbo engine, catapulting the sleek design to a climb rate of more than 2,200 feet per minute. The airframe's flight envelope is designed for a Vne of not less than 400 kilometers per hour (216 knots). The good news is noise is far less than on an original P-51 with its huge Roll Royce engine, but a clever “sound system” preserves the imagery and a '51's historic ramp appeal. Updated Info — Some readers were intrigued enough to ask about price. SW-51 is not cheap but at this level of complexity to manufacture, I doubt many readers expected anything different. Here's what Christian wrote in response to my request, "Depending on the configuration, expect something starting in the range of €240,000 in Europe (about $292,000 at today's exchange rates). While ScaleWings is not ready to start U.S. deliveries yet, Christian did state that an N-number-registered Experimental Amateur Built version will be offered. —DJ
Here's my video interview and review of Scalewings SW-51 from Aero 2018. Learn many additional facts from my conversation with Marketing and Sales leader Christian von Kessel and designer Hans Schoeller: https://youtu.be/XarW4wNLDN8
This flying dream has been years in the making. Admittedly, it’s a big project, but so authentic is this 70%-scale P-51 Mustang lookalike that I think I see you already starting to drool. Don’t feel too conspicuous. It’s happening to me, too, along with nearly everyone else. [Article updated on 6/4/21 regarding price information; see below. —DJ] Of the many thousands of airplane designs created since Orville and Wilbur made their first flight 118 years ago, North American’s muscular Mustang consistently ranks as the most-admired flying machine. You probably can’t afford an original (or even the maintenance it takes to keep one flying) but you might be tempted by this fantastic carbon fiber vision from Euro developer, ScaleWings AeroGroup and its ultra-energetic designer, Hans Schoeller. SW-51 Finally Flies! On May 20th, 2021, SW-51 Mustang successfully performed its first flight at Mlada Boleslav airport (LKMB) in the Czech Republic. ScaleWings reported, “Aircraft serial number #001 took off at 11:37 am into a light cloudy sky.” The all-important first flight went without problems.
First in AmericaAt the end of 2020, on December 10th Porto Aviation Group celebrated an accomplishment: "We got the first ‘November’ tail in the air." They refer to a a Risen with N-numbers on it as the first U.S.-registered model in America. Their launch customer is a long, tall medical doctor looking for a fast, efficient, and economical commuter and travel aircraft. "Troy Jones was exhausted with long car drives and hotel overnights," said Porto Aviation. "He preferred to fly his own aircraft so he could get home to his family by end of day." Jones stands 6 feet 9 inches so finding an aircraft that could accommodate his tall frame was not easy. After discovering Risen, Troy emailed with designer Alberto Porto subsequently booking a trip to Italy to see if he actually fit. According to Porto, Risen has "a fully modular cockpit that can be adjusted to any owner requirements." They believed the sleek aircraft could easily accommodate a pilot of Troy's height. It did and a purchase was arranged. In 2019 and early 2020, before Covid, Troy spent time in Italy building his Risen using Porto Aviation's building-assist program. His family joined him, enjoying the beautiful surroundings of Lake Como and the Italian Alps while Troy worked on his aircraft. Porto is located near the Swiss/Italian border. As summer 2020 arrived, the building was completed and Porto Aviation finished the task by painting the aircraft and packing it in a standard 20-foot container for shipment to the USA. After long delays related to Covid, Alberto Porto traveled in early December to Lander, Wyoming to be present during the aircraft inspection by a DAR. Giving his first U.S. bird a careful introduction, Alberto provided ground training with Troy and his flight instructor, John Larsen. Including his 40 hours of flying in a designated area as is common for all Experimental-Amateur Built aircraft, Troy has now logged about 50 hours in the 48-inch-wide speed machine. His Risen is powered by a turbocharged Rotax 914 as Lander airfield (KLND) has a 5,588 foot field elevation. With this engine, his Risen can handle the density altitude well and can hit 200 knots while boasting a typical cruise of 180 knots. Climb exceeds 1,500 feet per minute. Amplifying its speedy ways, Risen boasts a most impressive 23:1 glide ratio. A shorter wing version is also available. Troy's Risen is equipped with a Dynon HDX system combined with Garmin’s latest GPS navigator for IFR compliance. The Italian company also offers a full Garmin suite. If you are intrigued by Risen but not sure you want the cost, complexity, or maintenance of a retractable-gear aircraft, Porto Aviation offers a fixed-gear version called Siren. Besides stiff-legged gear, Siren uses a simpler split flap system.
400-Kilometer Barrier FallsPorto Aviation excitedly released this news: "Friday early morning, April 16th 2021, Alberto Porto and Yasemin Arslan van Deursen flew a Risen to 400.45 kilometers per hour (248.8 mph) on a 15-kilometer straight course, a first for any [European] ultralight. On the same day Porto and van Deursen flew another record: a new all-time high record 378.94 kilometers per hour on a 50-kilometer triangle track. Staying within European guidelines, the speedy Risen weighed a maximum of 472.5 kilograms (1,042 pounds) and demonstrated stall at less than 65 kilometers per hour or 35 knots). While the Europe-wide EASA now has a 600 kilogram (1,320 pound) class matching international LSA, individual European nations also have the "ultralight" class. In this classification, max weights are 450 kilograms without an emergency airframe parachute or 472.5 kilograms when so equipped; parachutes are mandatory in Germany and other nations accept this safety allowance. Powered by the same standard 115 horsepower Rotax 914UL engine, Risen was exactly the same ultralight (serial number) that set previous records on December 15th, 2019. The same sponsor stickers still appear on the fuselage. Some give-and-take between producers of speedy light aircraft — reported here — prompted Alberto Porto go show his design's prowess in a more similar comparison. FAI record attempts are done in multiple categories to accommodate aircraft of many types. Of course, rules exist for each of them but rules are sometimes changed or viewed differently by new judges. Rather than getting caught up in rule writing, Alberto vowed to recover his record. For technical people, Porto Aviation wrote, "The 2015 Risen 912ULS record (323.84 km/h or 175 knots) was beaten in 2019 by the Risen 914 (337.51 km/h or 182 knots). Both are MSL and ISA and you are comparing apples with apples. It’s a difference in speed that is in line with the increase of horsepower, laws of physics-compliant. Yet, we claim today with the same Risen 914 at FL100 a speed of 400.45 kilometers per hour or 216 knots." "Can anyone see us claiming that our Risen 914 is now 62.94 kilometers per hour (34 knots) faster than the same Risen 914," Porto Aviation asked? "Of course not. It’s still exactly the same aircraft, but at different flight conditions." This article explains the record-setting task in more detail. For now, suffice it to say that whatever the records body, FAI, says, Troy Jones' Risen is one of the fastest light planes in the USA. I'll bet it won't be the last.
The followings video, recorded at Aero 2015, has been viewed more than 600,000 times. The design was new then but it has continued to attract interest. Designer Alberto Porto shows us around his intense speed machine. The company website changed since the video was uploaded. Go here for more. https://youtu.be/sfy4UWv041o
A few readers asked if Risen uses flaperons. This image shows the answer and further reveals the air-flow efficiency of Fowler flaps plus the compound shape of the leading edge.
The appeal is obvious. What pilot doesn’t like the idea of flying faster? Even those of us who enjoy low-and-slow Part 103 ultralights remain intrigued by the idea of going fast, eating up the miles en route to a destination. [Article updated 5/31/21 with additional information. —DJ] Since I first saw this aircraft when it was unveiled to the world at Aero 2015, I have kept my eye on Risen. It was clear this design was going places… literally. I used a bit of English humor in the lead photo saying “Risen Shine,” meant to play off “Rise and shine,” a get-out-of-bed-and-get-to-work phrase common in the U.S. The truth is, you don’t pronounce it RYE-sen. Porto Aviation Group marketing man Stéphan D’haene clarified that they say REE-sen. However you may say the name, Risen is one ripping-fast aircraft. Below you’ll read about its latest speed record but Americans may be interested to hear the first example is now tearing up the skies over Montana.
Visual CluesWe can pick up a few clues from these "teaser photos." (Somebody appears to know a thing or two about taking intriguing photos.) In one image you notice the Rotax 915iS hiding inside its shapely engine nacelle. Over the years, Wave has evaluated different engines. At one time, they contemplated Continental's 180-horsepower Titan. That would have provided ample power but uses a heavier construction. Vickers finally settled on the latest 141-horsepower Rotax 915iS that is seeing growing use and enjoys worldwide technical support. With around 20% more weight than Icon A5 — assuming Vickers uses 100% of their FAA-granted weight exemption — but with 40% more power, Wave may turn out to be a lively performer although the real proof of this will be in the flying. Vickers projects Wave to have a cruise speed close to 120 knots and a climb rate of more than 1,400 feet per minute. In other images, we see that Vickers is working with MT propellers. This established, higher-end company has been involved with exploratory work on a Searey to implement and test Single Lever Control. As that feature is coming for LSA in 2024, Vickers may be getting ahead in another way by working with MT Props. Add the 915's higher power to the efficiency of an adjustable prop and Wave's performance advantage may stretch further. (Until the new reg emerges, 915 has been approved by Rotax to work with fixed pitch props.)
Good or Bad Timing?What about the coming LSA regulation and the likelihood of LSA being allowed more weight (see this article)? This question is answered because Wave, like Icon, won a weight increase. While other manufacturers wait to find out exactly what the design parameters will be, Vickers is ahead of the game, having already been granted extra weight. Afterward, Paul observed, “Some of our safety features [allowed by the weight bump] include water-maneuvering thrusters, CrossOver™ landing gear, increased horsepower, and the required fuel capacity to ensure the Wave is operated safely and can perform its mission.” With FAA's weight blessing, Vickers need not wait on the new FAA regulation as they prepare to launch their LSA seaplane. First flight is ahead — though this is one of those nailing-jello-to-a-wall stories. First flight is something a designer never wishes to rush. Yet after all the time spent working on this design, the desire to see Wave go aloft must be tremendous — not even considering what pressure those waiting for the design may be exerting. Paul and his Vickers team have worked hard, not only to make a dashing design but creating one that is easier to build. Vickers reports their total part count is a fraction of Icon's for the A5, which should translate into quicker, easier, surer building and that in turn may help the New Zealand company keep their prices well below A5's. Wave is composed of around 400 parts where Vickers said 1,800 or more parts is more common. Each part adds a material and labor cost. In another photo, you can see a door leaning up against the hangar wall. Reportedly, Wave will use an aft-sliding door to enter a rather spacious compartment. Wave also planned to use a novel arrangement of main gear — called "CrossOver" gear — such that it could handle the expected duties without needing to be retracted. Until the company gets first flight in their logbook, they're concentrating on the essentials so it's too early for confirmation of specific features. Despite the uncertainties, Paul Vickers planned the design so meticulously that the first flight aircraft looks highly finished and not the sort of roughed-out prototype that often flies as a "proof-of-concept." If Paul achieves what I think he might with this impressive aircraft, the POC first-flight example might end up being very similar to the production aircraft that will follow.
Here's a video I recorded with Paul Vickers as he visited my home airport in 2017 (although Paul has since changed from the Titan engine to the Rotax 915iS)… https://youtu.be/hFVTAEYybq8
Down under, heads are down and wrenches are wrenching. A team in New Zealand has been working for years on what might be the most sophisticated new aircraft to emerge …well, anywhere among Light-Sport Aircraft but certainly in LSA seaplanes. Look out, Icon A5! Here comes Wave and it should be quite exciting. Designer Paul Vickers (see video interview below) has a history in boat-hull design. This history forms a logical path to a LSA seaplane with its boat hull and water control features. Paul employed that experience but has widened his history to encompass a flying boat, the Wave. From the images that accompany this article, you may see a artist’s sense of style, an engineer’s focus on efficiency, and a creator’s close attention to detail. I think these fresh photos convey those qualities quite well. Visual Clues We can pick up a few clues from these “teaser photos.” (Somebody appears to know a thing or two about taking intriguing photos.) In one image you notice the Rotax 915iS hiding inside its shapely engine nacelle.
LPA and Sport Pilot CertificateThe first time anyone outside FAA heard about Light Personal Aircraft was one year ago, in May 2020. In this time of great society-wide distraction many became aware of new term later in the year. LPA represent the full range of aircraft the FAA will likely propose as suitable for issuance of a Special Airworthiness Certificate using a manufacturer’s statement of compliance to FAA-accepted, industry consensus standards. LSA would be those LPA that meet an expanded definition of LSA as described in previous articles, that is, in the new reg, LSA would become a subset of LPA. LSA may continue to be operated by Sport Pilots and maintained by LSRM. LPA that exceed the LSA definition would require higher certificates for pilots and repairman. Another way to say this is: all LSA will be LPA, but not all LPA will be eligible for LSA. Rulemaking is a machine with a lot of moving parts. Many people are involved but close to the heart of this proposal are two divisions or departments in FAA. One is dedicated to aircraft certification. A different one is dedicated to pilot certification and flight operations. A Sport Pilot does not receive the same training as a Private or better and may not have the same experience as a higher rated pilot. Therefore, it is reasonable to give greater privilege to the higher certificate levels. When I write "Sport Pilot," I mean those who hold an actual Sport Pilot certificate and those who have a higher certificate but wish to exercise the privileges of Sport Pilot. For many of the latter, this relieves them of the need to obtain an aviation medical or use Basic Med in order to fly Light-Sport Aircraft. This point needs to be stressed: Even as LPA arrives, LSA will see "expansions."
Setting the Record StraighterAgency personnel are still very actively discussing this internally and many points are still being deliberated and refined. However, one person said, "The original ideas we shared with you [in previous discussions] remain as we informed you then. The plan is to expand LSA significantly." With the following, I will seek to address reader comments I received. These issues appeared to be of greatest importance. I start with one that garnered the most response and I’m pleased to restate this. Weight ••• Light-Sport Aircraft will be allowed more weight although this evolved somewhat differently than once expected. LPA entered the picture and will be the larger aircraft …but LSA will also benefit. How much weight an LSA can increase will be determined with Power Index — essentially wing loading and horsepower considerations. Few readers might fully understand Power Index (details here) yet use of this formula allows weight flexibility well beyond currently-prescribed values. Those of you who lamented the likelihood of no weight increase for LSA can breathe a sigh of relief. Sport Pilot Privileges ••• Sport Pilots will be allowed to use their certificate to fly LPA that meet the parameters of the new definition of LSA, which will include (somewhat) heavier airplanes and all LSA meeting the present day definition of LSA. When a Light Personal Aircraft exceeds the final definition of LSA, you will need a Private Pilot certificate or higher. How heavy an airplane can a Sport Pilot fly? That is still in discussion. Sport Pilots will not be able to fly an LPA that exceeds LSA parameters as described in the new regulation, but Sport Pilots will be able to fly a heavier airplane than a present-day 1,320-pound LSA landplane. Where precisely is the separating line? We’ll learn more about that later. Maintenance ••• Since heavier airplanes than today's LSA could be flown by a Sport Pilot, it seems reasonable that a Light Sport Repairman-Maintenance (LSRM) could work on an airplane that a Sport Pilot is permitted to fly. For those already using or contemplating earning that credential, an LSRM will be able to maintain LSA as described later. LSRMs will not be able to work on LPA that are beyond the eventual LSA description. Legacy GA Airplanes ••• A good number of you yearn to operate a Cessna 150 or 172, a Cherokee, or some similar aircraft using a Sport Pilot certificate. If such airplane meets the description of a LSA under the new regulation, yes, it may be possible to fly one as a Sport Pilot. A Cessna 150 or a Cherokee 140 may qualify but a Cessna 210 or a Bonanza will not. The boundary line relates to Power Index, but some of you who wish to fly a legacy GA aircraft may be satisfied. Single Lever Control ••• While this automated prop control is something that can be installed on LSA in 2024, it will not be limited to LSA. LPA may also use SLC and could have additional prop control options. Fully-Built Gyroplanes ••• This request remains on track. After more than 15 years, Special LSA gyroplanes should become a reality. Electric Propulsion ••• This remains in the proposal for LSA (as well as LPA). Hybrid systems will also be permitted. Aerial Work ••• Not the same as "commercial operations," aerial work remains under consideration although what pilot certificate may be needed is to be decided by the flight standards people. LSA (the aircraft) will be able to do such work, as eventually described, but a higher pilot certificate may be needed for certain activities or certain airplanes. This statement in the May 16th article still stands: “Aerial Work is actually defined as a pilot privilege and not an aircraft limitation.” Light Personal Aircraft ••• These will take the lead position in the new regulation and LSA will become a part of LPA. Both will be allowed to get heavier than today's LSA. However, I add that not all LSA need to get heavier. Weight shift and powered parachutes are two obvious examples that are well optimized under today’s weight limits. ASTM Standards Work ••• LPA will be built to FAA-accepted, industry consensus standards like present-day LSA, but updated standards are needed to address all the changes that will be part of the final MOSAIC rule. Revision of all LSA standards is taking place now based on information the FAA has shared, but newly-approved aircraft like gyroplanes or technologies like electric propulsion may not have completed standards when the rule becomes final. So, these newly-approved aircraft are coming, but there will probably be some time lapse from when the rule becomes final and when compliant designs are available for purchase.
Working TogetherLAMA, represented by myself and Roy Beisswenger, had numerous fruitful discussions with FAA. We went to many meetings and made several trips to FAA headquarters in Washington, DC. In most of these meetings we found FAA people interested to advance LSA in the aviation world and interested to hear what changes we wanted. LAMA was satisfied with those discussions and, indeed, FAA incorporated into the proposal every LAMA request. All LAMA's "asks" are captioned in this article. In the end, we got more than we asked for. I am pleased discussions continue so we can all learn more about what lies ahead.
In about one year, FAA may announce their new regulation for Light-Sport Aircraft. This rule, sometimes called MOSAIC, proposes wide changes for the light aircraft segment, including an entirely new term: Light Personal Aircraft (LPA). Here in early summer 2021, new information was discovered that shines additional light on what is ahead. I am privileged to have recent information in which I have very high confidence. While we do not know everything yet — neither does FAA itself — we are getting a clearer picture. Nonetheless, you should remember this is a proposal still in deliberation. It is not a completed regulation. We will know definitely what FAA recommends only when the NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rule Making) is released. My best guess for that is EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2022 …about one year in the future. The final rule, after assessing all comments, is not expected until the end of 2023.