Yesterday, I paid a visit to Cessna Aircraft and was generously hosted by John Doman, their VP of worldwide prop aircraft sales, Roger Martin, director of prop marketing, and Darren Jones, one of Cessna’s LSA Core Team members and a principal author of the business case being prepared to show Cessna and Textron management why proceeding with the LSA is advised. Leaders are still grappling with several challenges but one aspect has been confirmed. Through potential customer research and by talking to their 400 Cessna Pilot Centers and their dozens of STAR dealers, Cessna has become certain of the market for an LSA. You may already be convinced of this but the world’s largest airplane builder has data to prove their conclusion…such as 3,300 qualified customer surveys from those distributed at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. We were also given a tour of their jet manufacturing in one of the largest buildings in the state of Kansas.
The newest Special Light-Sport Aircraft to win approval will help the industry close out a spectacular year. In 2005, starting only by mid-April, 23 designs have won their airworthiness certificate under the ASTM Consensus Standards. For the year, #23 goes to Aircraft Manufacturing and Development of Eastman, Georgia. The AMD Zodiac CH 601 XL is powered by the Continental engine and all of it is built in the USA. American A&P mechanics are very familiar with the O-200 engine, which assures availability of service across the country. Since the southeastern U.S. company also builds the FAA Part 23 certified Alarus four seater, they are assembling the 601 to that high standard (such process meets the ASTM standards). The all-metal design flies conventionally and has won praise for its handling and performance. The CH 601 is one of several designs by Chris Heintz, father of Mathieu Heintz, president of AMD.
What fascinating new airplanes might we expect at AirVenture 2006 in only a few days? Excitement surrounds Cessna‘s “proof-of-concept” entry. The company has no final determination, but they’ll reveal their PoC LSA near AeroShell Square at 9:30 on opening Monday. *** Later may come an entry from Van’s Aircraft, supplier of the most popular kit aircraft. They report, “We are now in the earliest stages of building a ‘proof-of-concept’ airplane…the RV-12. It’s an all metal side-by-side airplane with a low wing. It uses a tricycle landing gear and has a 100 hp Rotax 912S for power.” Hmmm? Cessna is also rumored to be considering Rotax. What could this mean for Rotax‘s penetration into the GA world, what with the largest GA and kit producers looking at the brand? Decisions aren’t final, though. Van’s Aircraft added, “We’d welcome written or emailed thoughts on the concept.
Almost first thing on opening day at AirVenture, Cessna lifted the black covering that kept their Proof-of-Concept LSA a secret. The veil is off and now we all know what the world’s largest airplane builder has in mind. Top Cessna officials, including president Jack Pelton, still say they are studying the entry. They’ll make their decision in the first quarter of 2007. Several issues are still being investigated inside the company and they will be surveying visitors at AirVenture to see what they think. *** The big question is…”What’s it look like?” The photo explains much, but what you can’t see is mostly metal construction with limited composite, It has gull-wing doors and significantly, it’s powered by a 100-hp Rotax 912S. The Proof of Concept Cessna LSA had no interior or avionics. If they decide to proceed it will sell for under $100,000. *** Many industry leaders applauded the entry as credible and attractive and many I talked to enthusiastically welcomed Cessna, if for no other reason than the validation it offers to Light-Sport Aircraft.
Unless you were hiding out in Italian vineyards like I was, you know Cessna flew their LSA on Friday the 13th (no superstition in Wichita, evidently). EAA’s Sport Pilot website has more details (and in-flight photo proof). What you may not know is that the big company will make a marketing splash at Sebring’s LSA Expo. Oh, I’m sure the Cessna LSA entry will also display at the AOPA Palm Springs Expo on Nov. 9-11. But Sebring’s January 2007 Expo is the coming-out party for new and upgraded LSA. So Cessna’s purchase of a booth at the Florida event is significant. *** They are also rumored to be checking out a parachute installation, probably since so many LSA come similarly equipped but it would also gain an extra safety margin for their test pilots. *** I’ll be paying the world’s largest airplane producer a visit in late November.
Preston Bentley had a plan. He wanted to honor a good friend, raise money for a worthy charity, and do plenty of Light-Sport Aircraft flying. The 26-year-old Private Pilot is presently 12 days into an 8,000-mile flight. Preston is flying a Thorpedo donated by IndUS Aviation; he expects to touch down in each of the lower 48 states in 30 days. Bentley seeks to raise $500,000 for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Cincinnati in the memory of his cousin Seth Bailey, who died in April 2004. The flight’s progress can be followed via an online blog. *** After my spring mishap my wife benefitted from the Quantum House in Florida where I was hospitalized. This was far better than other lodging alternatives as it offered a support group in addition to living quarters. Some 259 Ronald McDonald Houses do likewise and I understand how important these places are to families of those receiving medical care.
Pete and Ben Krotje and their team have done it again. They won an Special Light-Sport Aircraft airworthiness certificate for Calypso SP, their third and SLSA number 40 in the USA. Last November the Shelbyville, Tennessee company certified the roomy J-250 and flight school-oriented J-170. Pete said, “Calypso Sport is a Special-Light Sport certificated version of Jabiru’s proven UL with wheel pants, six-inch wheels, winglets, and other upgrades.” Calypso SP’s lower ventral fin has been reduced in size and the flaps have been extended by 72 inches. This resulted in a LSA that stalls at 35 knots, demonstrates a very short takeoff, and has near-motorglider performance at a reported 18:1 with the engine at idle. Jabiru USA says Calypso SP can cruise at 100 knots on less than four gallons an hour but when operated around 70 knots sips a mere two gallons per hour. The SLSA airworthiness was awarded on September 8th.
Their entry has taken longer than two preceding sellers of Cub replicas under the LSA rules, but CubCrafters has taken the time to get it just right. On Thursday September 21st, the Yakima, Washington-based builder of the Part 23-certified Top Cub delivered its first two CC11-100 Sport Cub SLSA to customers from opposite coasts and starkly different environments. One will go to Juneau, Alaska and the other to Brooklyn, New York. Company president Jim Richmond thanked customers and employees who “worked and waited with us so patiently while we completely redesigned the airplane.” The company announced that deliveries will now take place at the rate of one per week, increasing to two per week near the turn of the year. *** The other two suppliers of LSA Cub replicas are North American Sport Aviation and American Legend; the latter will host a homecoming for 100 customers and prospects in the third week of October.
Barely over a month ago, I reported that Skykits Corp won their first approval for the Savannah. In that SPLOG posting I said that the plane would be produced with three wings mated to the same fuselage. Now, proving the point, Skykits president Eric Giles announced his second SLSA approval…for a Savannah ADV. Eric also claimed the airplane delivered to Hawaii was the first SLSA to be registered in the state (photo). *** Savannah ADV has a tapered airfoil with full-span retractable leading edge slats and double-slotted flaps, both operated electrically with a mechanical backup. Skykits says, “The new wing increases cruise speed by 25 mph while maintaining the STOL capabilities. “As their company name implies, kits are also available. The questions arise, though: Is this a new model or a model variation? Do we count it as a new SLSA? We’re bound to have more such questions as the LSA evolution continues.
At the Minneapolis Sport Pilot Tour, RANS exhibited their S-6 and S-7LS. At a fly away price of $75,000 S-7LS Courier SLSA represents a strong value. Coyote S-6 remains a 51% kit, one of the most popular in the world. Either can be flown with a Sport Pilot Certificate. Earlier this year the Hays, Kansas company abbreviated their line to their best sellers (S-6, S-7 & S-12) *** New Light Sport Aircraft from RANS are still in development. Designer Randy Schlitter has already announced his low-wing S-19, but he told me of S-20, a high wing variation using many of the same components. This could smartly establish RANS against Euro designs like Italy’s Tecnam with their high wing Bravo and low wing Sierra, which also share components. Look at the entire RANS family of planes. (The RANS website has no info on S-20 yet.)