In the past LAMA has brought in speakers such as AOPA then-president Craig Fuller, EAA then-president Rod Hightower, and FAA ex-administrator, Randy Babbitt. Except for the last, they were active in their roles when they spoke but this is evidence of how things change over a fairly short time. However, two things seem not to change.
America (or at least the mainstream media) continues an infatuation with electing a new leader. Every four years — though it seems more often as the election cycles increasingly jam together — the two big political parties trot out their new candidates. The other, more relevant (to readers of this website) unchanging fact is that pilots love to hear about and talk about the engines on their aircraft.
With its beta-test debate at Sebring earning warm reviews, LAMA, supported by its principal airshow sponsor, Aviators Hot Line, is moving forward with a Great Debate series at Sun ‘n Fun. As those plans come together, I will report further here. Until then, you can see and hear the Sebring engine debate below.
Meanwhile, back to that fascination with engines …
One of the regular readers of this website had some questions, the sort that might be answered at the engine debate at Sun ‘n Fun. He asked, “Does Rotax have a aviation engine line? Or, are all Rotax engines made the same, be it an aviation engine or a snowmobile or land based engine?” Answer: Rotax has a line and facility dedicated solely to the assembly of aircraft engines.
I’ve visited the facility and seen the sprawling yet immaculate and highly organized plant where motorcycle and snowmobile engines are built. With robots, computer-controlled tools, and a completely automated inventory system, Rotax BRP is very impressive.
The main plant in Gunskirchen, Austria looks more factory-like while the aircraft engine line seems more of a custom shop moving at a deliberate and measured pace. I understand workers at Rotax BRP are very keen to get into the aircraft engine side, so that team is likely the best of the best building the 9-series engines and more.
My inquirer said, “I know Rotax did away with most of the two stroke line.” Comment: Most, but not all. While Rotax BRP no longer builds the 447 or 503 — and long ago did away with the single cylinder 277 — the Rotax 582 continues to be in demand and sells in good volume. “When they did sell [two-stroke engines],” he continued, “did Rotax have a special section for [those] engines that went into an airplane? Answer: They are built in the same aircraft engine facility as the 9-series though on different production runs.
“How many work in this [facility]?” Answer: About 25 technicians assemble aircraft engines and they are supported by engineering, sales, and management personnel. Some components of the aircraft engines come from the big plant, but the assembly is separate.
“Are Rotax aircraft engines made on an assembly line?” Answer: The Austrian engine manufacturer builds aircraft engines on a primarily hand-assembly line that is less automated than the main motorcycle and other engine production. Total volumes are quite different.
In addition to designing and testing aircraft engines — for example the new 135-horsepower Rotax 915 iS is getting closer to market — the European manufacturer also supports dealers and mechanics with a training facility that I have toured. I’ve also visited the Continental Motors factory in Mobile, Alabama, and it is also impressive in its size and technical sophistication but Rotax in Austria is a more modern establishment.
The questions above and more will be asked and answered at the Sun ‘n Fun Great Debates, held in a new much-larger LAMA tent that will be front and center in Paradise City, the Light Plane area of Sun’n Fun. If you are attending the show, come to Paradise City each day and catch a Great Debate at 1:00 PM. You may get your questions answered, too.
Get an idea how the debates will go by catching this video: