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Predictions for 2011

By Dan Grunloh, Editor, Light Plane World

Dan Grunloh

No mortal can foresee the future with certainty because the future is determined by what you and I and everyone else does today, tomorrow, and the next. With a little knowledge we can make some accurate guesses. I don’t need a magic crystal ball or the skills of Carnac the Magnificent to predict correct answers to three questions about ultralights and light planes that have not yet been revealed. Those answers are “Quicksilver, electric, and encouraging.”

The first envelope contains the following question. “What make of ultralight has contributed significantly to the sport of aviation and should be recognized by a special tribute in the ultralight/light plane area at AirVenture 2011?” The EAA ultralight council and convention volunteer planners seeking to have a theme or special focus for the 2011 event have chosen to honor the venerable Quicksilver. There has been no formal announcement, and it’s only an idea at this point, but it could include special exhibits, forums, and recognition or awards for the oldest, best, or farthest flown. Everything in the ultralight/light plane area (like much of the convention) is organized and run by volunteers, so discuss the idea with your friends and send your suggestions to me at lightplaneworld@eaa.org.

The next question is more of a wish than a prediction. “What kind of evolutionary ultralight will be seen flying Down on the Farm at AirVenture 2011?”  I hope it is one with electric power and I want to fly alongside it as I did when Randall Fishman flew his Electra-flyer trike there in 2007. Seeing your first electric aircraft flying up close for the first time is a little like your first kiss. You know right away a whole new world of opportunity is opening. Unfortunately we didn’t have anything electric flying in our area at AirVenture 2010. You will read about a contest with cash prizes for electric aircraft at AirVenture 2011. The sponsors are focusing on aircraft, with airworthiness certificates, that have flown at least 40 hours (the typical period for phase one testing in experimental amateur-built aircraft), so anyone interested should start building soon. It’s been shown that ultralights are easier to electrify than heavier aircraft. You can fly a FAR103 ultralight Down on the Farm with only 10 hours on the airframe (in its current configuration) and the pilot must have 15 hours in type. Please bring one.

The final question asks what kind of news is there for new student ultralight pilot, student sport pilot, or sport pilot instructor who wants to fly trikes, powered parachutes, or fixed wings at less than 87 knots. I predict the news will be encouraging. The FAA has finally recognized the failure of its previously issued LODA guidance. After a full year of lost training opportunities, a new version in 2011 will allow primary training for a sport pilot certificate in some of the previously grounded E-LSA training planes. It’s not going to be a monumental step and training will still be scarce, but it is a start. If it doesn’t happen soon we need to show up on the front lawn at 800 Independence Avenue in Washington, D.C., and demand results.

Finally, regardless of what traditions you and your family celebrate at this time of the year, remember that giving thanks for your blessings is probably an important part of it. It’s too easy to focus on the things that didn’t work out. Instead we should recognize the good things we share together (including a love of aviation) and look forward to the promise of new opportunities in the coming year. See you in 2011.


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