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LSA News From AirVenture 2010

By Dan Johnson

Dan Johnson

As always, the big summer celebration of flight at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh brought new offerings from a variety of companies. This was also true in the light-sport aircraft (LSA) sector. Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association (LAMA) President Dan Johnson provides a review of some of the news and innovations seen and heard at AirVenture. Readmore

IndUS and China – IndUS Aviation, maker of the Thorpedo, has been rather quiet for the past few months. Now we know why. The company’s press event was the best attended I’ve ever seen for an LSA company. It announced Chinese investment in its company in a public/private venture between the city of Weinan and IPI Information Technology. Notably, since last year’s AirVenture, the Chinese government has opened a 124-square-kilometer (about 50-square-mile) chunk of airspace up to 10,000 feet as they cautiously encourage private and sport aviation.

Flight Design developments Flight Design always manages to stay in the news and not just because they have the largest fleet among all LSA producers. At the show, the manufacturer announced a new floatplane developed with its largest U.S. distributor, Airtime Aviation. Flight Design also showed a novel motion simulator using X-Plane software customized for the CTLS aircraft. The lower-priced CTLS Lite made its first production appearance, and the all-metal MC now has a special light-sport aircraft certificate.

Apple and iCub We saw lots of excitement about Apple’s new iPad on at least two fronts. One was the newly announced iCub from SportairUSA. This new distributor for the Zlin taildragger LSA has rebranded the model and equipped it with an iPad loaded with aviation software up-front plus “small glass”in the aft tandem seat, thanks to an iPhone 4. By the way, iCub is also available with Zenith Aircraftamphibious floats. In addition, Tecnam announced its Tecnam Flight Center initiative that employs an iPad loaded with sport pilot training courseware.

Flying cars or roadable aircraft continued to attract lots of attention with two flying and two more waiting on their wings. Terrafugia’s Transition got an extra weight allowance to help it cope with federal highway standards. Perhaps that’s why the FAA administrator paid a visit to its exhibit. Two three-wheeled projects – Caravella CaraVellair and Samson Switchblade – are classified as motorcycles and thereby don’t have to meet onerous highway standards. Arguably the most interesting was the i-Tec Maverick, which drove 1,400 miles to the show! It uses many innovative solutions to the aircraft/car concept, an example of which is the parachute/wing canopy storage above a zippered fabric enclosure.

Electric airplanes continued to have a major presence at AirVenture. An all-day forum drew hundreds of attendees to hear big-name speakers including Burt Rutan. Several electric examples were shown. Newest among these was the Powrachute Voyager. Very lightweight aircraft are presently the best platform to explore electric power, though helicopter giant Sikorsky also showed an electric chopper – Project Firefly.

Sport pilot news – One significant nonaircraft announcement was the opening of the Bahamas to aviators using a sport pilot certificate. LSA are already accepted in several other nations, but this is the first country outside the United States to accept the newest pilot certificate. A sport pilot fly-out is planned for later in 2010.

FAA supporter – In closing, it’s worth mentioning that FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt continued to strongly support the light-sport aircraft development, calling the safety record of these new airplanes “marvelous.” Yes, he actually used that word, and this is the third speech to major audiences in the last year that reveals his appreciation for what the industry has accomplished in only five years. What an exciting time to be involved with light aircraft. Happy flying!

For all the companies mentioned in this report and much more LSA news, visit www.ByDanJohnson.com. Dan Johnson is president and chairman of the board of the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association. LAMA was a sponsor of the LSA Mall at AirVenture 2010.

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