Many find it interesting to observe how the Light Sport Aircraft industry has begun to take form. American-built versions of LSA tend (currently) to be vintage designs. For example, American Legend and CubCrafters build aircraft resembling the iconic Piper J-3 Cub — and these are two of our best-selling LSA. European builders supply top-selling LSA that are predominantly modern designs.
The reasons for this dichotomy are well understood. Thanks to different regulations, Europeans have been able to fully build light aircraft. This permitted them to create companies organized around ready-to-fly factory airplanes. And, since the fall of Soviet communism, many Eastern European countries have enjoyed a supply of well-trained engineers and aircraft factory workers willing to work for low wages.
Contrarily, for the last couple decades, American builders have focused on kit-built aircraft. U.S. producers also had a much higher wage scale to deal with and had legal liability concerns, which encouraged kit-building operations. Many American companies are content to continue building kits, which qualify for operation with a Sport Pilot certificate.
But we are seeing hybrids, defined as foreign-designed aircraft that are supplied in major component parts to U.S. integrators that finish the airframe with American-sourced components. We also have American-owned and managed plants in Europe using all American-sourced components, but using ample and low-cost Eastern European labor. Globalization has come to LSA.
HERE COME THE HYBRIDS
In the auto industry “hybrid” infers the use of multiple technologies (think: Toyota Prius). In aviation, hybrid could mean an airplane designed in one country and built in another.
Car companies coined “domestic content” to state what portion of a car is “Made in the USA.” We’re doing it in LSA, too.
Besides the Storm Rally, the Jabiru 170 and 250 and the Delta Jet 912 trike are hybrids. The Italian-designed, Canadian-owned, Skykits line is U.S.-built. Prestige Aircraft is the licensed manufacturer for aircraft designed by Storm Aircraft of Italy. Like Jabiru USA, Prestige brings in major components, assembles them, and finishes with U.S.-sourced elements, which better addresses the American market.
Storm Rally comes with basic VFR flight instruments and equipment, including a turn-coordinator, tail-strobe, Icom 200 radio, and Garmin transponder with altitude encoder. Somewhat unusual, Prestige models also come with a limited two-year, or 1,000-hour warranty.
For more information: PrestigeAircraft.us.
HIGH-TECH SPORT CUB
I admit to being somewhat surprised at the success of the LSA Cubs. We have no less than three brands with SLSA approval: American Legend, Zlin Savage, and CubCrafters. Two of these (Legend and CubCrafters) are in the top 10 of Light Sport registrations and account for an astounding one in six LSA in the USA (by itself Legend represents about one in eight).
Despite a tendency to lump them together, they are distinctly different offerings. The Zlin Savage is the only one using a Rotax 912 engine and it is still selling for the remarkably low price of $60,000. Legend is…well, already a legend and can be powered by Contentinal or Jabiru.
Though CubCrafters earned certification later — despite being a Part 23 production facility — the Continental-powered Sport Cub is the most deluxe of the trio, and is priced to match (more than $100,000 with options). But the Washington state company worked hard to keep its airplane lighter, to be sure it qualifies with ASTM standards.
For more information: CubCrafters.com.
CZAW’S MILLION-DOLLAR EXPANSION
Over a short evaluation period of 25 months we’ve seen fairly consistent results among the top 10 LSA producers based on FAA registrations. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Take Czech Aircraft Works (CZAW) and its best seller, the $75,000 Sport Cruiser.
“CZAW raised additional equity capital last summer to finance a massive expansion,” reports Bob Anderson, U.S. marketing and sales manager.
The company is now housed in a 120,000-square-foot facility. “We have skilled engineers and modern equipment in place,” added Chip Erwin, president. “Our production ramp-up is not a ‘future claim.’ We’re doing it right now.”
Part of the investment bought nearly a million dollars of state-of-the-art CNC equipment for matched-hole technology parts, according to Anderson.
The American-owned, Czech-based company has been delivering more than 100 airplanes and kits per year from a smaller factory. It has shipped more than 850 aircraft to date. Anderson spoke of 10 SportCruisers delivered to customers just since Sun ‘n Fun 2007 — all fresh from the new factory.
For more information: SportAircraftWorks.com.
For more on Sport Pilot and LSAs, check out ByDanJohnson.com.
SLSA NO. 50:AIRWOLF 912
A few years back, when powered parachutes were all the rage, Powrachute arrived on the scene with a a big splash. The brand distinguished itself for hardware more built-to-order than gusseted tubing constructions that were common then. The company’s flare for finish remains through new ownership.
Right at the two-year point since the first Special LSA approval, Powrachute’s AirWolf 912 powered parachute brings the certified fleet total to 50 SLSA models: 42 are airplanes (the fixed wing variety) with five being weight shift (trikes), and three powered parachutes.
Among powered parachutes, the Canadian Summit II was first in 2006, followed by Infinity’s Commander early this year.
Team Powrachute loads up its AirWolf 912 with the electric start 100-hp Rotax, a four-blade Warp Drive composite prop with Super Hub, an electronic info system with instrument pod, extended footbars, spun aluminum wheels, tundra tires, dual hydraulic main gear suspension paired with springs, stainless exhaust, strobe light, electric fuel pump, dry cell battery, four-point seat belts, oversize canopy carry bag with line socks and a choice of parachute sizes and colors. While some complain about the cost of LSA, here’s one with a four-stroke engine for less than $31,000. Worth another look?
For more information: TeamPowrachute.com.
CZECH REPUBLIC IS MAJOR LSA EXPORTER
You can hardly doubt the headline. A cruise through our SLSA list will show almost a quarter of all (12 of 50) designs that have won certification are from the Czech Republic. Even the USA counts only 11 SLSA models so far.
Yet perhaps showing global cross-pollination, at least two Czech producers are owned by Americans (Czech Aircraft Works and Interplane). Even inside the Czech Republic one company often builds parts used by others. Since the Soviets withdrew 17 years ago, the Czech Republic has embraced recreational aviation with excellent success.
Of course, Germany, Italy, France and Spain, plus East European producers in Poland, Romania, and Hungary, also have made their impact in the American LSA market.