What’s going on out in the marketplace? More than any time since the launch of Light-Sport Aircraft in 2004, I have not observed such a frenzy of activity for a particular niche, this time for LSA seaplanes. Next season, in 2013, we could see no less than nine entries — three brand new — and that count does not include any LSA equipped with floats, possibly adding several more. Yet some major potholes appear in the runway…or perhaps that should be waves sloshing over the bow.
Honestly, I didn’t expect much LSA news at AOPA’s Aviation Summit in Palm Springs. Despite several LSA on display, including Kitfox, Evektor, Flight Design, Arion, Jabiru, SportCruiser, Skycatcher, and CubCrafters, the AOPA event is not a common place for LSA announcements. Certainly I didn’t expect the world’s largest supplier of kit aircraft to offer a fully built Special LSA.
At Summit, Van’s officials unveiled a new program to build completed, fly-away RV-12s. The Aurora, Ore.-based company detailed a working agreement with Synergy Air to manufacture the airplanes in the U.S.A. Synergy Air is a well-established company providing instructional seminars, videos, and builder assistance to complete kit airplanes, located at the airport in Eugene, Ore.
Soon, it passes. I don’t refer to the move from summer’s heat to the cold days of winter, but rather to the merciful end to the political season that cannot come too soon for many aviators. Of course, we worry about how various moves by the government may influence our flying, both in costs and in privileges. Yet, the onslaught of ads and constant yammering of the political class tends to distract us from what we really love — flying our airplanes above this beautiful country in relative freedom.
Regretfully it won’t end on election day. That’s because another, even larger battle looms soon afterward. [Read more…]
I recently attended an ASTM meeting. This is for the standards that are used to “certify” Light-Sport Aircraft. Yes, it’s pretty dry stuff but it is the way such a staggering development of 128 new models of LSA has been possible in just seven years, an accomplishment not replicated anywhere in aviation, worldwide, since airplanes first flew. That would not be possible when using government certification systems.
So successful has it been that the FAA is now moving with surprising swiftness toward a similar system for Part 23 or regularly Type Certified aircraft, such as Cessnas and Cirruses.
SAB’s Vulcan isn’t entirely new. The design has existed in Europe and arrived in the USA more than two years ago, but stealthily avoided our radar as a Special Light-Sport Aircraft until the 2012 Midwest LSA Expo at the Mt. Vernon, Illinois airport. The secret is out now and Vulcan C-100 has been added to our SLSA List and comes at #127.
Anticipation is always high for the latest market share information and I am happy to provide an update, thanks to my European associate Jan Fridrich who does the hard work of sifting through FAA’s database. I remind you that his efforts are not merely tallying whatever FAA publishes. In fairness, Jan has to evaluate many pieces of information and judge accuracy of the entries.
This isn’t because FAA’s registrars are bumbling fools who cannot enter data accurately. The challenges come from the sheer number of brands (90) and models (127) over a mere seven years…unprecedented in aviation history. To that add the variations of Experimental Amateur Built (EAB), Special Light-Sport Aircraft (SLSA), Experimental Light-Sport Aircraft kits (ELSA), and converted two-place ultralights to LSA status.
Does the idea of electronic circuit breakers (ECB) make you yawn and look around for something more interesting? I understand, but this is truly a cool product. ECB developer Vertical Power also offers a related and extremely compelling product. After visiting with Marc Ausman at SUN ’n FUN, again at AirVenture 2012, and then with several LSA builders, I got over the yawn reflex and realized Vertical Power is a most progressive company, one that deserves additional attention.
Another busy week in the Light-Sport Aircraft world. Here are just a few brief news stories from the LSA space:
ROTAX “EMERGENCY AD?” — Aviation media was all over the Rotax “Emergency AD” story, but is that entirely accurate? Aren’t LSA subject to manufacturer-issued SBs or Service Bulletins rather than Airworthiness Directives, which are normally issued by FAA for certified aircraft?
Icon Aircraft and Cirrus Aircraft recently announced a deal for the general aviation composite aircraft producer to build parts of the Icon A5 and the news introduced dates for the A5 to come to market.
Several years ago I traveled to Cirrus’ Duluth, Minnesota, plant in the company of the Icon top leaders, including CEO Kirk Hawkins. In those days, Cirrus was seeking info to make decisions about their since-dropped LSA project called the SRS. The Icon fellows were obviously impressed and the trip subsequently paid off.