Think about this: A Rotax-powered aircraft capable of high-speed cruising at 185 miles an hour? That’s pretty fast and some go quite a bit faster …although not in the USA, as Light-Sport Aircraft …not yet anyway.
Most readers are aware that FAA will make big changes to the LSA regulation (info also in this video) probably at the end of 2023. The last time LSA regulations were introduced in September of 2004, one geographical region of the world seemed to be ahead of the game. That 15-year-old experience appears ready to repeat.
As the new reg approaches — and with a giant assumption that it will remain approximately as we’ve been lead to expect — Europeans once again appear likely to seize an early lead.
Today, I am writing about high-speed aircraft with retractable gear and in-flight adjustable props. At Sun ‘n Fun 2021, we saw two such companies exhibiting.
From 2004 until the last few years, European aircraft composed the majority of LSA offerings. In the second decade of this millennia, American brands have caught up. I presume we’ll see this again but not right away.
The subjects of today’s post from Lakeland, Florida, VL3 from JMB Aircraft plus Tarragon Aircraft — along with a handful of other designs (see this earlier article on Euro Speed Machines) — are pushing the envelope of thrilling cruise velocities. Regulations in Europe don’t put caps on how fast these aircraft can fly, so the best designers are working hard to outdo one another.
VL3 looks LSA-sized. Indeed, Americans once knew this same airplane as the Gobosh LSA, albeit with fixed gear and prop. Although it lost the sexy winglets, this is a very similar airplane.
Contrarily, Tarragon looks surprisingly large yet reports empty weight of 700-750 pounds. Carbon fiber expands the size-for-weight calculation but some questioned this light a weight from such a large-appearing aircraft. In sharp contrast, all Cub-type LSA weigh considerably more.
JMB’s Ripping-Fast VL3
At Sun ‘n Fun 2021, this Belgium-headquartered company offered their latest, greatest …and fastest model. After installing Rotax‘s potent 915iS and fitted with retract and an adjustable prop, producer JMB Aircraft boasts almost shocking numbers.
JMB Aircraft makes several impressive claims, most significant among them, top speed: 370 kilometers per hour (200 knots!) true air speed at 18,000 feet. This competes well with a Cirrus selling for more than twice as much money (although it lacks the back seats of a SR-series aircraft).
The company also states 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, although I am quoting the factory and have not done my own evaluation of these numbers.
All that speed and the larger engine plus a substantial fuel capacity conspire to limit what you can carry.
VL3 with the 915iS lists useful load at 529 pounds. Given gross weight at 1,320 pounds and empty weight of 794 pounds with full fuel at 37 gallons, payload calculates to 304 pounds.
JMB has established a strong presence across Europe and they have many loyal customers. In the USA, JMB is represented by Alion Aviation. Their website shows a U.S. price for the 915-powered VL3 at $230,000.
In dollars per knot, that price may be a good value but it is clearly at the upper end of LSA-type aircraft. Naturally, since it has retractable gear and an adjustable prop it is only available as a kit-built airplane until FAA’s new regulation may permit it to be a LSA or LPA (Light Personal Aircraft, a new term tossed on the table just before they went into quiet mode — we don’t know much about what LPA means yet).
JMB reports more than 400 aircraft flying globally.
Large and Deluxe Tarragon
Check this Day Zero Sun ‘n Fun report where you see a clear image of Tarragon before all the exhibitors added their flags and other display items. You may not be able to tell in the photo but Pelegrin Tarragon‘s sleek tandem aircraft looms large. Positioned next door to JMB’s VL3 at Sun ‘n Fun, it seems to tower over it. Yet Tarragon is as light as VL3 thanks to extensive use of carbon fiber.
Of course, such high-tech construction also pushes up the price. Neither of these airplanes are in the range of what I’d call “affordable” for readers of this website. In fact Tarragon is carving out a space near the very top of where LSA are priced. In their booth, I heard staff quote numbers north of $300,000. It’s a breathtaking aircraft with a breathtaking price to match.
In addition, as with VL3, Tarragon must be built and registered as an Experimental Amateur Built aircraft. As this requirement does not exist in Europe, I don’t know how well configured they are to assist builders but the U.S. representatives are likely to handle that. If this aircraft interests you for purchase, you’ll want to talk to the fellows repressenting it in Illinois. Email them or call 309-346-3348 (central U.S. time).
In the USA, Tarragon is represented by Tarragon USA. They have no separate website, instead leading you to Tarragon in Latvia. To follow American activity on this aircraft, you can follow their Facebook page.
LSA Mall 2021
From the super-speedy to the more sublime. LAMA’s LSA Mall, now in its 15th year at Sun ‘n Fun, has a fresh new exhibit and an equally fresh batch of Light-Sport Aircraft for visitors to admire.
In 2019 and again now in 2021, the LAMA LSA Mall is supported by the DeLand Showcase, which readers should know is the organizer of a light aircraft show at the DeLand airport in November. Like all the others, they were forced to bow to Covid fears and cancelled all efforts to put on an event in 2020. Yet the show returns November 11-13 in 2021 and I hope you’ll considering joining all of us who value this new show …all the more important after Sebring’s LSA Expo closed down in 2019 after 15 years.
On a beautiful evening, almost 200 light aircraft businesspeople attended the DeLand Showcase annual reception. Smiles were plentiful as these vendors enjoyed a return to normalcy and an airshow routine that fuels their enterprise so they can better serve their pilot customers.
Hurray for Sun ‘n Fun for going forward with this keystone event and all best wishes to DeLand Showcase as they gear up for their own event this fall. I’ll be onsite and hope many of you can join us down here in sunny Florida.