A tale of two flight schools

Flight schools — like many private buyers — are hyperfocused on, “What does an aircraft cost to operate?” Busy flight schools operating at high volume simply must track how all the pennies add up. In this post we asked US Aviation’s Scott Severen for additional info. Why US Aviation? While much of aviation has been down in the dumps, this Texas operation has been growing rapidly. Everybody is else down. They’re up. How to explain? Could it be the company’s willingness to embrace change?

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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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Welcome to Sling

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.

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Aerotrek success mirrors other positive news

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.

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MoGas flying higher as avgas price rises

“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.

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FAA forecast for LSAs improbable

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...]

Cessna suspends Skycatcher sales in Europe

According to a French dealer for Cessna, 80 Skycatcher orders have been cancelled, but Cessna officials in the U.S. say the Wichita giant has just temporarily suspended taking orders for the LSA in Europe.

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