Flying the newest LSA: Sling

While out west on business,  I had the chance to fly the latest SLSA on the list, the South African Sling. Earlier I’ve written about the all-metal LSA’s round-the-world flight, but now this low-wing design is being made available for sale to Americans.

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Tecnam’s Tail Dragger keeps getting better

With five models currently meeting ASTM standards for SLSA, Tecnam has established itself as the leader in prolific design of Light-Sport Aircraft.

Much of this design prowess owes to family patriarch Professor Luigi Pascale, known for his incredible output of designs over the years under the company names Partenavia and Tecnam. Even into his 80s, Luigi Pascale continues his energetic engineering.

Tail Dragger with cargo pod

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FAA clarifies who is an LSA manufacturer

Late last month, the FAA issued its anticipated notice of policy that clarifies who can qualify as a Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA) manufacturer. You may wish to read the entire policy statement and, as government documents go, this one is fairly easy to read and comprehend. The agency also welcomes comments.

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One solution to the flight school dilemma

Anyone who has tried to borrow money in the last five years knows how tough it has become. Banks supported by government guarantees practically gave money away before the subprime meltdown but are now being much more careful. That’s a good thing, but it means even some credit-worthy customers can’t get the loans they need. Commonly rejected are flight schools. Flight training enterprises across the nation are struggling to obtain financing to buy new aircraft to replace aging fleets of trainers.

Despite the challenges, one LSA outfit has found at least a partial answer.

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Is spin resistance a big deal? Well, yes!

On Memorial Day I had a chance to visit Icon Aircraft and spend some time with CEO Kirk Hawkins. We met seven years ago — just after the Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA) rule was released — near the beginning of his ambitions to create an entirely clean-sheet LSA amphibian.

Recently, Icon released a video to tout its spin resistant airframe (SRA). I reported work toward this earlier and it’s been some time coming. Why the wait? From my first-hand experience with Cirrus Design and the development of the SR20, I have a bit of inside knowledge on this subject.

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Evektor wins EASA Type Certificate

The rush is on in Europe, at least for the best-prepared of LSA producers. EASA, the European Aviation Safety Agency, has accepted ASTM standards as a means of certifying light aircraft in the European Union, but put its own stamp on this approval. Those wishing to sell an ASTM-compliant SLSA in Europe have some extra hoops to jump through. The letters DOA, POA, and RTC apply, being, in order, Design Organization Approval, Production Organization Approval, and Restricted Type Certificate.

If you think that sounds a little like Part 23 requirements (read: expensive), you’re right. Yet if a LSA producer wants to sell essentially the same airplane in the USA and the EU, it has to get all the approvals. Recently, a third company achieved this, following Czech Sport Aircraft and Flight Design.

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Electric Sports weight-shift trike impresses

AERO, held each year in the south of Germany, is one of those shows that has interesting aircraft in more nooks and crannies than even a crack reporter can find. Thanks to Tom Peghiny of Flightstar eSpyder and Flight Design USA fame, we have more from the German show about electric-powered aircraft.

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Flying the Bristell

Since the Sebring LSA Expo in January, the airshow season has rushed by at warp speed and now we can return to more aircraft flown at the event that kicks off the aviation year. In this post, we’ll have a quick look at the all-new Bristell, first unveiled to the American pilot community at the AOPA Aviation Summit last fall in Hartford, Connecticut.

If you feel a sense of deja vu when looking at Bristell, that’s understandable. It has some common design heritage with the SportCruiser or PiperSport because the man behind the BRM Aero Bristell — Milan Bristela — was once affiliated with Czech Aircraft Works which originated the design.

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Pipistrel finalizes a new LSA trainer

Engineers at Pipistrel must not sleep in too often. This company, which won the NASA efficiency challenge several times — in 2011 taking home a $1.35 million cash prize — just unveiled a full-size version of a sleek four-seat design called the Panthera. Now on the other end of the spectrum comes its Alpha Trainer, a reasonably priced LSA model aimed at the flight instruction market.

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FAA forecast: Spot on or improbable?

As the Light-Sport Aircraft industry ramps up for a summer of flying and the season’s biggest celebration of flight, AirVenture Oshkosh, I am still analyzing the FAA’s recently issued 20-year forecast for aviation, which shows growth prospects for LSAs, while predicting a decline in the total number of piston-powered aircraft. Viewed from a distance, this might seem beneficial to LSA producers and sellers.

Regretfully, I find FAA’s forecast improbable. Not that the agency’s number crunchers are wrong — in fact, I hope they might be right. I simply find a 20-year forecast for an industry only seven years old to be a form of spreadsheet-based palm reading.

That said, here are a few tidbits gleaned from a study of FAA’s spreadsheets: [Read more...]