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Checking Out the Homebuilts at Sebring 2012


By Mary Jones, EAA 224626, EAA Executive Editor for Experimenter

The U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida, is well known as a show that almost exclusively features special light-sport aircraft (S-LSA), but you'll find a few homebuilts there, too. Several S-LSA manufacturers offer traditional 51-percent experimental amateur-built (E-AB) kit aircraft that are sport-pilot eligible; there are also the lesser known experimental light-sport aircraft (E-LSA) kits, too.

Here's a quick primer on the difference between an E-AB kit and an E-LSA kit. An E-AB kit must have the majority (51 percent) of the construction and fabrication done by amateurs for their education and/or recreation. The owner/builder is then eligible for a repairman certificate, which allows him to conduct the annual condition inspection of that aircraft.

An E-LSA kit, however, may be as much as 99 percent completed by the manufacturer, leaving any amount of work left for the "builder," be it 1 percent through 99 percent. Because the owner/builder doesn't (necessarily) have detailed knowledge of the aircraft's construction, he must attend a 16-hour training course to earn a light-sport repairman certificate to conduct the annual condition inspection of the aircraft - or any E-LSA or S-LSA he may own currently or in the future.To offer an E-LSA kit, the manufacturer must produce at least one S-LSA version of the aircraft and gain ASTM approval on that aircraft before creating a kit version of that exact same aircraft. The builder then must adhere strictly to the plans and make an exact replica of the original, down to the very last electrical switch location.

Here's what we found new and interesting in the kit-built world at this year's U.S. Sport Aviation Expo. (The Expo will be held again January 17-20, 2013.)

Dick Russ was demonstrating his control lock on the new Bristell LSA. It weighs a mere 3.5 ounces and retails for $44.95 from Aircraft Spruce and Specialty or Wag-Aero. Looked like a pretty slick gadget to us.   The new UL350iS engine made its debut at the Expo, in the Zenith Aircraft booth, although it was previewed at AirVenture 2011. The 130-hp engine weighs 172 pounds installed and burns 4.75 gph at cruise. The direct-drive engine is air cooled and has multiport fuel injection to eliminate vapor lock. www.ULpower.net
Renegade Light Sport Aircraft displayed its newest aircraft-the Falcon LS taildragger in a camouflage paint scheme. The landing gear is a new aluminum spring gear that will also be available on the tri-gear model. The LS is available as a ready-to-fly aircraft ($130,000) or as a kit (price yet to be determined) and is powered by a Lycoming O-233 or a Continental O-200. www.RenegadeLightSportAircraft.com
Randall Fishman of the Electric Aircraft Company is developing a new electric ultralight sailplane that will look much like this motorglider. It will have a 37-foot wingspan and is powered by a third-generation electric motor that develops 30 hp and has 1.5 hours flight duration, but there will be lots of room for more batteries. www.ElectraFlyer.com   John and Deb McBean and Paul and Terry Leadabrand flew two Kitfoxes from Idaho to Sebring. They spent 17 hours in the air, but they're not done having fun. From there they flew on to the Bahamas for some R&R. Back at the shop, they've developed a firewall-forward package for the Lycoming O-233 engine and are reviewing the ULPower UL350iS and considering a firewall-forward package for it. www.KitfoxAircraft.com
U.S. importer Mike Zidziunas of Breezer Aircraft USA, LLC, Plant City, Florida, displayed the tail kit of the all-metal aircraft at the Expo, along with the very detailed builder's manual. The Breezer is also available as a ready-to-fly S-LSA, starting at $125,000 for the base model. The aircraft is powered by the Rotax 912ULS engine. The tail kit, which Mike recommends the builder start with, sells for $2,995, and Mike describes it as a great way for a builder to decide whether he can manage the building project. "While building the tail kit, you'll use every tool you'll ever need to build the aircraft," he said. The total airframe kit costs $46,000, and Mike estimates most builders will complete the aircraft in about 400 hours. Breezer USA includes an iPad with each airframe kit it sells, with the complete builder's manual loaded onto it, including video clips showing how to construct more complicated parts. www.BreezerAircraftUSA.com
The Viking 110 engine, a converted Honda Fit 1.5-liter automotive engine, is now in its final production form and flying in several fixed-wing LSA (including Zenith, RV-12, Sonex, Escapade, and Highlander), some powered parachutes, and gyroplanes. The engine produces 110 hp and weighs 178 pounds ready to fly. It has multiport fuel injection and operates on 87 octane fuel. www.VikingAircraftEngines.com   Zenith Aircraft describes the CH 750 as a light-sport utility aircraft. It's based on the popular CH 701 STOL aircraft, with fixed leading-edge slats for high lift, full-span flaperons (both ailerons and flaps), an all-flying rudder, and durable all-metal construction. Cabin width is 42 inches; with bubble doors, the width increases to 50 inches. Engines from 80 to 140 hp are acceptable on this airframe, with maximum engine weight limited to 300 pounds. www.ZenithAir.com
The SAM LS is a new LSA under development by Haim Aviation, Inc., Lachute, Quebec, Canada. While it's designed to have a "funky 1930s retro look" in the words of designer Thierry Zibi, the airframe is modern semi-monocoque construction with a 4130 chromoly cage covered with aluminum. It will be available as a taildragger or tri-gear and is designed to accommodate three different wings. Power will be a Rotax 912S engine. Zibi plans to display the aircraft at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2012. www.Haim-Aviation.com
Titan Aircraft brought both its T-51 Mustang and a Titan Tornado II to show the variety of aircraft they produce. Both aircraft are available as E-AB kits. A sport-pilot eligible version of the T-51 (with fixed gear to meet LSA requirements) is available as a kit, starting at $53,400 (less engine, propeller, and instruments). www.TitanAircraft.com   The World Aircraft Company Spirit was first introduced at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2011. The high-wing is available as a ready-to-fly aircraft or in three kit versions: a partially assembled kit where most of the structural frames have been completed; a fully completed airframe less engine, interior, and avionics, and unpainted; or a completely assembled airframe that's painted and then taken apart for you to reassemble. Ready-to-fly price is just under $100,000, while the kits range from $30,000 to $45,000. www.WorldAircraftCo.com
The Maverick powered parachute / flying car made its first appearance at the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo and was a popular display with attendees. Both E-AB and E-LSA kits are planned. Since it's a powered parachute, the ASTM requirements that the powerplant also be ASTM compliant is waived, so power is provided by a 190-hp, 2.5-liter Subaru automotive conversion. www.MaverickLSA.com   Paul Mather brought this Breese to the Expo to highlight the slow speed capabilities of this model. The airplane belongs to retired Navy Captain Ray Anderson, who wanted to see just how slow he could get this aircraft to fly. And the answer is-19 knots at 1,000 pounds gross weight, with the addition of the large wing fences, leading edge slats, and vortex generators. This Breese is powered by an HKS 700T engine that produces 82 hp and features dual fuel injection and dual electronic ignition. It cruises at 65 mph. Anderson has about $40,000 in the aircraft, $20,000 of which is the cost of the engine. M-Squared also is now a distributor for HKS engines, covering the Gulf States area, and will do installation and service on HKS engines for all models of aircraft. www.MsquaredAircraft.com
RANS Aircraft has been offering airplane kits since the company's founding in the early 1980s. Currently, RANS offers seven different aircraft, including the S-6ELS shown here, and the S-19 Venterra, which the company also flew to Sebring. www.RANS.com


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