Everyone is talking about tough economic times and aviators note the effect on the LSA and GA industries. But that won’t stop a good selection of Light-Sport Aircraft from appearing at AOPA’s annual Expo, this year in San Jose, California over November 6-7-8. In fact, with 60+ display airplanes expected and 14-15 of them LSA (list below photo), the light sector once again has a strong presence. *** Thanks to cooperation from AOPA static aircraft display organizers, LSA will once again be presented largely as a group (think LSA Mall). And the location for the collected LSA is sweet indeed: immediately inside the entryway to AOPA’s static aircraft display at Norman Mineta airport. You won’t be able to miss the LSA collection, so come on out and do a little shopping. *** In addition to aircraft displays, AOPA offers a wide range of seminars, including two presentations I will give called, “State of the Light-Sport Aircraft Industry” (TH-11/6 and SA-11/8, both at 11 AM to noon).
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Lots more fun than a military build-up but bearing some resemblance, companies across the USA are preparing for Sun ‘n Fun starting Tuesday the 4th. I was on the grounds today and it already looks busy. I also traveled to Lockwood Aviation at the Sebring, Florida airport. A busy crew was assembling airplanes from Flight Design and Tecnam in preparation for the show in nearby Lakeland. Other companies set up at South Lakeland Airpark — the relaxed strip a mere three air miles from Sun ‘n Fun (where I do the majority of my flight evaluations). Today, I got a chance to compare a late-model 2005 CTsw with the 2006 model; look for the full report in EAA Sport Pilot for June 2006. Tomorrow, the folks at Sport Aircraft Works are hosting me to fly the Parrot, Sport Cruiser, and Mermaid from Czech Aircraft Works.
In late 2006, the second amphibian to win SLSA approval was Colyaer’s Freedom, after CZAW’s Mermaid. Since these two, the SeaMax also joined the party, and at least two more are in development. Flying boat fans have some sweet choices. Even though we have three today, sales have been modest for a variety of reasons: manufacturing is more complex with retractable gear; marketing to a country the size and diversity of the USA is challenging; and cost of any LSA floatplane is greater than its equivalent landplane (though a fraction of the cost of a Part 23-certified airplane on floats). *** Now, welcome Waterbirds. From the people that bring you the Sting S3, availability will now be better as this new company struck a deal with LSA Aero, importer of the Freedom. Contact Larry Martin stated, “Waterbirds will manage the sales and marketing of Colyaer’s Freedom, while LSA Aero will continue to import the airplane and provide after-sales support.” *** With a wingspan greater than 40 feet, Freedom claims a glide of 20:1, an impressive figure, especially for an amphibian.
The “night before Christmas” was special as we logged what may be the final approval of 2007. Carlos Bessa of SeaMax USA called to say his efforts over the year paid off with a fresh airworthiness certificate. How’s that for a Christmas gift!? SeaMax completes a trio of flying boat LSA. *** The first amphibian certified was the CZAW Mermaid in February 2006. Second was the Colyaer Freedom on January 2007. SeaMax makes three but could be the first to log customer sales. My previous SPLOG on SeaMax was followed with several more hours logged on this beautiful amphibian. She’s a light weight high performer that takes some familiarization but is deluxe in many ways and has achieved notable market success with 33 SeaMax aircraft delivered in 2007 and 72 presently flying worldwide. Carlos reports 12 will be delivered to the USA in 2008, so interested pilots ought to pony up a deposit soon.
October 2007 was the One for Sport Aircraft Works, U.S. importer of Czech Aircraft Works (CZAW) airplanes. They registered #41 SLSA with FAA, they took order #101 for their SportCruiser, and they sold a pair of SportCruisers to the #21 school to adopt the brand and become a Sport Aircraft Pilot Center. Customer deliveries reached 40 for CZAW’s best-selling SportCruiser. Sport Aircraft Works Director of Sales Bob Anderson said, “SportCruiser is one of the few aircraft sold as a Light Sport Aircraft that was designed for the 1,320-pound weight limit,” that is, it wasn’t scaled up from a European 992-pound (450 kg) microlight. The company partners with Gleim Publishing for training documents in their Sport Aircraft Pilot Centers. *** Sport Aircraft Works also represents the Aerospool WT-9 Dynamic which can be homebuilt as a retractable speedster or flown by a Sport Pilot with fixed gear and a prop that translates speed into more climb.
You can hardly doubt the headline. A cruise through our SLSA List will show almost a quarter of all (12 of 50) designs that have won certification are from the Czech Republic. Even the USA counts only 11 SLSA models so far. Yet perhaps showing global cross-pollination, at least two Czech producers are owned by Americans (Czech Aircraft Works and Interplane). Even inside the Czech Republic one company often builds parts used by others. Since the Soviets withdrew 17 years ago, the Czech Republic has embraced recreational aviation with excellent success. *** Of course, Germany, Italy, France and Spain plus East European producers in Poland, Romania, and Hungary have also made their impact in the American LSA market. So, ASTM‘s LSA committee will hold its next standards writing and review session in Prague, Czech Republic. I’ll be going as will several other American leaders, partly as a significant gathering of EU aviation officials will also meet in conjunction with the ASTM meeting.
In a year of facilitating independent audits for Special Light-Sport Aircraft, LAMA, the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, completed reviews of six companies: IndUS (Thorpedo); Jihlavan (Kappa KP-5); Aeropro (EuroFox); Flight Design (CT); Czech Aircraft Works (SportCruiser, Mermaid, & Parrot); and Evektor (SportStar). CZAW and Evektor were announced at a press conference at AirVenture Oshkosh 2007; all the others were announced earlier. Successfully audited LSA can display individually-numbered LAMA decals. Customers appreciate and seek independently reviewed products. *** At the same press conference LAMA announced expansion of its board to seven members. New members are Jack Pelton, president and CEO of Cessna Aircraft and Jo Konrad, president of the German Ultralight Association (DULV). These impressive additions join Dave Martin, journalist and former editor of Kitplanes; Tom Peghiny, president of Flight Design USA; Phil Lockwood, president of Lockwood Aircraft Supply; Tom Gunnarson, LAMA president; and myself, serving as Chairman.
Czech Aircraft Works (CZAW) began life in the newly
freed Czech Republic not long after the history-making
fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Tapping a wellspring
of aeronautical training and experience that became
available when the Soviets pulled out of the former
Czechoslovakia, American owner Chip Erwin started
CZAW in 1992. Using the highly trained but lowcost
labor force available, Erwin manufactured parts
for and assembled the CH 601 and CH 701 designs of
Chris Heintz’s Zenair Ltd. The young company found
a solid market in Europe for fully built CH 601s and
CH 701s. Each year it grew in size and built ever more
of the all-metal designs.
As CZAW increased its production
capability, it began to explore designs
of its own. It found success first with
its Czech Floats; many American
aircraft are fitted with this all-metal
amphibious system. Three years ago,
CZAW partnered with Sport Aircraft
Works (SAW) of Palm City, Florida,
led by Danny and Zaneta Defelici,
to pursue the development, sales,
and marketing of light-sport aircraft
Continuing the tour of floatplanes (yes, I remember it’s winter up north even while I tour the tropical south, but what a good time to think about warmer days to come)…we paid a visit to the home field of Sport Aircraft Works. SAW is the U.S. marketing arm for Czech Aircraft Works (CZAW) and their SportCruiser, Parrot, and Mermaid. SAW proprietor Danny Defelici aided CZAW in the development of all three LSA. *** A crowning achievement was completing work on the amphibious Mermaid. I was the lucky first U.S. journalist to fly Mermaid! With its 120-hp Jabiru 3300, Mermaid performs well on land or water. Hiking up or dropping the gear is done via an easily-reached, hand-pumped hydraulic lever in the center console. Taxiing up on a beach proved effortless. Danny has taken CZAW’s Mermaid and fashioned an enjoyable amphib, coincidentally the first such to gain an FAA exemption allowing a properly trained Sport Pilot to, ahem…reposition the gear.
My wife, Randee, and I are finding lots of good reasons to winter in Florida (while our home state of Minnesota gets buried in snow). Here’s three of those good reasons: SeaMax, Mermaid, and Drifter on Lotus floats. Float flying in winter is different…and fun! *** I have now flown the SeaMax three times. Yesterday we did three water and three land touchdowns. What a hot little flying boat. (Earlier SeaMax SPLOG) I use the word “little” literally…the amphib high wing LSA barely comes up to my chest and gross weight is only 1,144 pounds; LSA floatplanes can weigh 1,430 pounds. At this weight SeaMax performs brilliantly with the 100-hp Rotax 912S; 4800 rpm produces more than 100 mph. SeaMax has not yet finished its work to achieve SLSA status. But since this is the designer’s 22nd creation and as over 45 SeaMax aircraft have been sold into Europe and elsewhere, the task is not difficult, just time consuming.