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.
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…]
There’s been a lot of debate in the aviation community over the value and challenges of LSA as flight trainers compared to old standards like Cessna 150s. I’d like to weigh in on some the questions being raised.
Are LSA harder to fly — specifically, are they harder to land? The best way to respond is to say that they are different. [Read more…]
Have you been thinking that it’s been some time since a new Special LSA was announced? While the torrid pace of yesteryear has abated, it ain’t over by a long shot. I know of at least a dozen aircraft still in progress to achieve SLSA status. Now, welcome to Sling, SLSA #125.
In a product launch somewhat comparable to an Apple product event, BRP Rotax recently drew a large group of attendees to its facility in Gunskirchen, Austria, to launch its new 912 iS engine. In the tech world, “i” means Internet. In the light aviation world, or more specifically BRP Rotax’s world, “i” now means injected.
Aerotrek may be one of those “sleepers.” You know, the kind of company that does well, has few problems, and doesn’t need to make a lot of noise to be successful. Aerotrek’s tri-gear and taildragger models look great, fly well, and are priced so reasonably that sales are remarkably steady. The company ranks #12 in fleet size and came in fifth for 2011 registrations.
Among all aircraft producers in the world, a very limited number have exceeded the daunting barrier of delivering more than 10,000 airplanes. Those in this exclusive club include manufacturers of major aircraft such as Boeing, Cessna, Piper, and precious few others. While Van’s Aircraft is approaching this number with its RV kit-built aircraft series (itself a rather incredible achievement), no recreational aircraft company has passed the 10,000 unit mark…except one: Quicksilver.
“Things are really popping with autogas,” said Kent Misegades, one member of a group, the Aviation Fuel Club, trying to assure more LSA-friendly fuels (like zero ethanol or E0). Though the new Rotax 912 iS can handle ethanol, it truly loves E0 and many experts say it runs more powerfully and cleaner with such fuel, plus wear and tear is reportedly reduced. Another big plus is that such fuel is significantly cheaper than avgas like 100LL.
Fk Lightplanes in Germany recently celebrated the production of Number 100 of its fascinating model, the Fk12 Comet. This snappy handling, steady flying, folding wing biplane has no competitors in the LSA space, even with 123 total models winning Special LSA approval. At airshows here in America, Hansen Air Group has been showing the Comet to substantial interest.
The FAA recently issued its 20-year forecast for aviation, showing growth prospects for business jets and LSAs. It also forecasts a decline in the total number of piston-powered aircraft. Viewed from a distance, this might seem beneficial to LSA producers and sellers. Reasonably, FAA’s report appears to suggest recreational pilots will enjoy more hours aloft in a growing fleet of LSA.
Against a backdrop of what seems to be continuously increasing prices for avgas — some believe 100LL might even disappear — the fuel efficiency of LSAs becomes more important. For example, Rotax just launched its 912 iS fuel-injected engine boasting a 21% reduction in fuel consumption, taking the popular engine from burning about five gallons per hour to a theoretical four gallons in an hour of flying. Should we LSA enthusiasts celebrate these facts?
Regretfully, I find FAA’s forecast improbable (see details below). [Read more…]