LSA Highlights from Sun 'n Fun 2012
Whew! It's over. Man, Sun 'n Fun can be the busiest six days of one's life... well, at least until the next one. In this survey article, I want to skim the very top of what I found interesting at the recently concluded show.
LIGHT PLANE POWERPLANTS
Lycoming is coming on stronger in the LSA field, with installations on Falcon, Comet, and Tecnam with hints of more to follow. The O-233 removed 40 pounds from the O-235 model so well known in the USA. Its being employed to create the second and third aerobatic aircraft in the LSA space.
Dominant powerplant supplier Rotax make a huge splash with their 912 iS U.S. launch, including a packed press conference and a professional display near the entrance in the LSA Mall.
Dubbed the "Wonder Bread airplane" for obvious reasons, Belite's Part 103 design flew regularly.
Fuel injection has arrived to the LSA sector in a classy way. Flight Design jumped into action with a special model named the CTLSi, specifically configured for the new engine. Rotax powers 75% of all LSA designs.
I got to fly Ray Anderson's unique M-Squared Breese single place powered by the 80-hp Turbo HKS, my first experience with this delightful engine. Saying it performs well hardly does justice to plane or powerplant.
PART 103 ULTRALIGHT VEHICLES
North Wing showed their new composite body Solairus Part 103 trike. I flew it with the 20-hp Bailey single cylinder four stroke electric starting engine from UK.What a hoot! Watch for a mini-review right here ASAP.
Sun 'n Fun visitors saw the Verner two cylinder four stroke engine on the Sky Cycle, another Part 103 trike. (Part 103 "ultralight vehicles," as FAA calls them, require no pilot license or N-numbers. The category celebrates its 30th anniversary this fall!) The four stroke Verner offers 35 horses and electric starting. I'd flown the four cylinder version of the Swiss engine many years ago and was impressed with its smoothness.
The Part 103-legal "Wonder Bread" Belite aircraft turned many heads with its bright "spotty" paint job and the world's lightest instrument panel. Their solid-state "gauges" make a panel less than an inch thick, really great for ultralight aircraft but popular among homebuilders, too.
Rotax BRP launched their fuel injected 912 iS engine to a warm response in this opening day press conference; standing room only.
Still in the former ultralight area, we did a fun interview with the "Father of Ultralights," John Moody, and we checked out his two 1980s Eagle ultralights plus the 1976 Easy Riser he uses in an airshow act. John's a great guy who deserves the attention.
MORE COOL FLY-STUFF
I visited with Mark Ausman of Vertical Power. I never fully grokked their product line of electronic circuit breakers, but I've got it now and understand the enthusiasm airframe makers and home builders have shown.
Don Ayers described his new SportShares program that helps find partners to share ownership of a SportCruiser. Similarly, David Kruger advanced his work with AOPA on the ownership partner program he developed and transferred to the big member organization.
Breezer Aircraft USA showed us their new iPad app with all their manuals and more handily available on the ubiquitous tablet; it seemed nearly everybody at Sun 'n Fun uses an iPad.
My onetime employer, BRS parachutes, has renewed their focus on LSA. They presented a great forum with an actual user (who deployed from a Cirrus SR22) doing most of the talking. It's great to see them reenergized; the company has saved 274 lives and counting.
AIRCRAFT TO FOLLOW
At the Aero show in Germany in mid-April 2012, Pipistrel will debut their new $85,000 Alpha flight trainer and they'll reportedly show their super-sleek Panthera four seater project. One of their other birds making a round-the-world flight recently "summited" Mt. Everest.
Come Oshkosh 2012, we'll be watching for first displays of the dreamy Lisa Akoya LSA amphib seaplane with an interior treatment and a sexy exterior to challenge Icon's A5. Also Edra will be bringing their Super Petrel, another seaplane Americans know but have not seen for many years. It will have many new features company officials assured me.
And yet... "there's still more to come!" as the late-night commercials exclaim. The development energy in Light-Sport Aircraft remains nothing shy of phenomenal.
FIRSTS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
The 10-year-old committee (F37) that worked with ASTM to write LSA certification standards had their first-ever meetings at Sun 'n Fun.
I was unable to attend due to other duties but the volunteer group continued good work on LSA standards including new ones in development for electric-powered aircraft. They work hard so FAA need not.
In related news, LAMA announced signing final contracts with Embry Riddle to provide independent third-party LSA audits, an action FAA supports even while it conducts "practice audits" of its own.
The unique area known as Paradise City was all abuzz over the prospects of the LSA Mall moving to the entrance to this charming Sun 'n Fun venue with its own runway. Many new plans are being prepared to revitalize the Lightplane exhibit area. The biggest (stunning!) news was the chance to fly during the main airshow starting in 2013; demo operators and more seemed charged up about this opportunity.
Sun 'n Fun 2012 may have started a bit slow but vendors said they signed more orders than in previous years. Friday logged an all-time attendance record and Saturday was also exceptionally busy plus the night airshow was the best attended ever. In all, a excellent show for new leader John "Lites" Leenhouts, his staff, and an army of volunteers.
Oh, one more thing... thank you Sun 'n Fun for air conditioned bathrooms with hand washes. One should appreciate the simple things in life, my wife assures me.