Michigan-based Prestige Aircraft recently rolled out their first U.S.-built Storm Rally. Examples of this attractive high wing aircraft seen at airshows like AirVenture 2006 were manufactured by the Italian company that created the design. Now, Prestige builds the Rally under an agreement with Storm Aircraft and plans to add the low wing Century and amphibious Sea Storm in the future. *** Rally, which won its SLSA approval in early 2006, is a carbon fiber and Kevlar reinforced composite design that comes equipped with basic flight instruments and equipment for VFR day operation including a turn-coordinator; tail-strobe; ICON 200 radio; and Garmin transponder with an altitude encoder. Unlike many other brands, national distributor Air Elite Aviation says, “All aircraft models come with a limited two-year, or 1000-hour warranty.” Rally can cruise at 107 knots (75% power) and, with 34 gallons of usable fuel, it boasts an 800 nautical mile range.
How to extract more performance from a 60-year-old design? How about a nose job? Pilots understand a smoother shape lends more speed to a design, but you may not sense the total gain possible without adding horsepower or burning more fuel. General aviation companies like Mooney, Cessna, and Piper hired LoPresti Speed Merchants to help boost speed. *** At the 2007 Sebring LSA Expo IndUS Aviation revealed a new LoPresti nose cowl for their Thorpedo LP; plus reshaped wing tips which enclose nav and landing lights plus strobes, and new landing gear fairings…which, being Texans, they called “cowboy boots.” LoPresti engineers say the streamlined improvements will boost Thorpedo’s speed near the LSA limit of 120 knots. A 75% power cruise gain of 20% is forecast. The new components modernize the lines of this venerable John Thorp design from the 1940s, though it may seem hard to improve on a airplane that never required a single Airworthiness Directive!
Maybe you’ve heard about Able Flight, an organization formed to assist people with disabilities to fly. This worthy effort recently awarded its first two scholarships with more to come. Sponsors are lining up and this summer will see a special presentation at AirVenture Oshkosh. The aircraft of Able Flight’s focus is the Sky Arrow which offers special hardware allowing the SLSA to be flown via hand controls. *** I had the chance to fly the Sky Arrow with Jon Hansen of Hansen Air Group, the eastern rep for Sky Arrow USA. We flew at Spruce Creek (near Daytona, Florida), which bills itself as the “World’s Finest Residential Airpark” and must also be one of the largest with some 500 homes that offer nearby parking for airplanes or an attached hangar. *** Flying Sky Arrow with the hand controls was different but highly effective.
Of recent SLSA approvals Breezer is the newest offering from one of Germany’s largest microlight producers. Comco-Ikarus is also the C42 builder and found a big success with German flight schools. Just as AirVenture Oshkosh 2005 started, Breezer won its SLSA certificate. On an exceptionally beautiful day as AirVenture started, I flew this German designed and built design. Very pleasant and straightforward handling plus easy landings, in all a very satisfying experience. You enter from in front of the wing (note step) which makes entry suprisingly easy. Inside you have a huge visual panorama. Watch for my pilot report in Sport Pilot magazine.
OK, this may sound complicated. Savannah is an Italian design which bears some resemblance to the CH-701 (though with numerous differences). It is being assembled by Skykits, a Canadian company with a U.S. location from parts fabricated throughout Europe. Got that? OK, let’s add more. Savannah is one fuselage with three diffferent wing variations. While I grant you these perform somewhat differently, I didn’t see them as each deserving their own airworthiness. But I’m not FAA…who, it turns out, did want three certificates to prevent owners from wing swapping. So, today, we have SLSA #39 as the “regular” Savannah with the fixed leading edge slat (inset photo); and #47 ADV model with a tapered wing with movable slots (rather significant differences); and the new #48 VG model, which has no slats, insteading using a line of vortex generators. Still with me? OK, finally, you can get all three models in ready-to-fly form, as an ELSA, or as a 51% kit.
LSA America is a newly formed company separate from but associated with Fantasy Air USA, importer of the very successful Allegro*. The new company displayed their Mystique from Flying Machines, which won SLSA #46 just before the Sebring LSA Expo. This lovely bird has smooth flowing lines all the way to a squared off vertical stabilizer. I took a test flight in Mystique to find a light handling airplane with huge visibility. Built in the Czech Republic, Mystique joins Interplane’s Skyboy in LSA America’s lineup. Mystique has a contemporary appearance and equipment neatly fitting the LSA mold and looks second generation compared to the low-cost Skyboy. Look for my report in EAA Sport Pilot soon (perhaps the March or April 2007 issue). On less than 26 feet of span, Mystique boasts a 15:1 glide; such performance is hard to judge in an hour flight but clearly Mystique held energy well.
Evektor America requested their Czech supplier, Evektor Aerotechnik to perform an engineering study of the design. The result? By slightly raising the stall speed to ASTM standards (45 knots), the company was able to add 55 pounds of useful load. The newly capable model will be called the Sportstar Plus. *** On a visit to their Kerrville, Texas base (the same city/airport that is home to Mooney Aircraft), Evektor America‘s Jeff Conrad also told me that deliveries have now exceeded 42 Sportstars and that the importer plans to bring in 60 aircraft for 2007, growing steadily to over 100 units by 2008. Evektor’s surprising success has been in the GA flight school market where they currently have 15 schools using 18 Sportstars. “We believe this is the best penetration of any SLSA,” said Jeff. *** In addition to having the first certified LSA Sportstar, Evektor America is gearing up to sell Evektor’s four seat Cobra model, to be certified under Part 23 regulations.
One sign that Light-Sport Aircraft have arrived is when a well-known general aviation company joins forces with a LSA leader. That’s what occurred when IndUS Aviation, producer of the Thorpedo and Sky Skooter, retained Vero Beach, Florida-based LoPresti Speed Merchants. You surely know the legendary Roy LoPresti operation that gained fame by working with major airframe builders to extract more speed from their designs. Though Roy died last August, the company continues its “brain trust” work to squeeze speed from an airplane without adding horsepower. Those speed mods are now going to quicken the cruise of a new Thorpedo LP. At the Sebring LSA Expo in just four days, you can get first-hand info on components that will make a new, faster Thorpedo. *** You may also want to ask the IndUS folks why FAA Administrator Marion Blakey paid a three-hour visit to their operation in India.
We’re down to the last week before the 2007 Sebring LSA Expo kicks off a new year in sport aviation. In attendance will be every market-leading airplane and some in the works. One of the most watched of these is the Cessna LSA. The company is still working on their “business case,” a formal plan for the Textron board to allow them to consider Cessna’s proposed entry to the world of Light-Sport Aircraft. But while the Wichita giant makes its decision key Cessna people will staff the company’s exhibit at Sebring…virtually sealing the case for the Expo being an important event on the LSA calendar. Sun ‘n Fun has also bought space to promote their full airshow in April. EAA will be hosting a whole series of forums. LAMA will holds its annual member meeting. And other groups will gather. Media people are asking for credentials.
The count of Special Light Sport Aircraft rose another notch, to 18 certified models, with the addition on November 4th of the Italian Sky Arrow design built by Iniziative Industriali Italiane, or simply 3I. Hansen Air Group boss, Jon Hansen — well known for his promotion of the also-Italian Tecnam aircraft — reported the news while displaying the Tecnam Bravo at the AOPA Expo, which concluded today. (The big organization’s annual convention featured 15 Light Sport Aircraft in a special area arranged through LAMA.) Sky Arrow has previously achieved a tougher certification, that of FAA’s Part 23, so the SLSA achievement may be taken in stride by those who know the design. More surprising is that the Hansen Air Group, with representation on east and west coast, has now brought four aircraft into the SLSA fold…more than any other importer or U.S. manufacturer. Jon indicated that his company would put additional focus on the Sky Arrow due to its excellent value.