LoPresti's First LSA Holiday Weekend a Hit
By James Wynbrandt
June 10, 2010 — The first LSA Holiday - “a summer vacation for aviators” as described by event organizer LoPresti Aviation - brought scores of pilots and recreational enthusiasts to the company’s headquarters at Florida’s Sebastian Airport (X26), June 4-6.
“It’s not about so much about airplanes; the primary focus is a destination to go have fun,” said David LoPresti, the company’s director of marketing.
Some 160 guests and 30 fly-in aircraft were on hand for breakfast Saturday, the main day of the gathering, which began officially with a jump from a Skydive Sebastian parachutist trailing an American flag.
In blending aviation with ground-bound activities, the LSA holiday offered seminars on transitioning from GA to light-sport aircraft and maintenance of Rotax engines, as well as classes on fly fishing and kayaking. LSA manufacturers Breezer, Jabiru, Lightning, Piper, and Remos brought aircraft for static display.
LoPresti also unveiled a cabin mockup of the Fury, the two-place aircraft LoPresti is simultaneously developing in certificated and kit built versions. While no formal announcements about the program were made, company officials provided an update on progress. CEO RJ Siegel says LoPresti has enlisted the talents of homebuilders to assist in the design of both the kit and certificated versions of the Fury. “They’re helping design the construction techniques,” Siegel said.
Members of EAA Chapter 1288 at Valkaria Airport (X59) are providing the primary input on the Fury, along with assistance from chapter members at Fort Pierce (908) and Vero Beach (99). Their ideas will help to produce an easier to build kit, and a more economical certificated aircraft, according to the company.
“Homebuilders are cost constrained and don’t know that things can’t be done,” Siegel said. “They have ingenious ideas we never thought of.”
LoPresti has ideas of its own, as well. The HOTAS (Hands On Throttle and Stick) flight and engine controls, borrowed from the military, allow pilots to conduct all flight operations on the Fury without taking their hands off the controls. Even landing gear retraction and extension, and flaps are operated via the stick and throttle controls.
Siegel, who was among the first Apple Computer employees, has brought a high-tech touch to the cockpit. Both certificated and kit versions will feature big glass panels (system provider TBD) and iPod technology will be used to track data and perform as a black box, recording all engine performance parameters for easy troubleshooting and preventive maintenance. A Forward Vision UV camera system mounted in the wing eliminates the need to conduct S-turns while taxiing the tail dragger, and allows pilots to see through darkness and haze. The cabin has been widened four inches (to 48 inches) and computer studies show the added width will have little impact on the Fury’s performance. The company estimates the Furys - certificated and kit - will reach market in 24-36 months.
Noted movie and air show pilot J.W. “Corkey” Fornof, who is assisting with the Fury’s development, gave rides to prospective customers and a distinguished guest during the event. The guest was Jerry Yellin, a former P-51 Mustang pilot who flew at Iwo Jima. (Yellin is to be honored at AirVenture this year.)
“He loved it because the Fury flies like a P-51,” Fornof said. “He had tears in his eyes.”
Fornof says the fully aerobatic aircraft cruises at 185 knots with a fuel burn of under 10 gph. The Fury has flown fly-by demonstrations at AirVenture for the last three years but will miss this year’s Oshkosh gathering as the prototype is needed at LoPresti headquarters for certification work.
On Saturday evening Fornof regaled attendees with a presentation on his work as the stunt coordinator and aviation sequence director for many major Hollywood films, complete with aerial sequences from James Bond movies and The Phantom, and explained the art and science behind his craft.
LoPresti plans to make the LSA Holiday an annual event, and when the weekend ended, the company declared the first edition a success.
“It went really well,” David LoPresti said. “It’s our first year, it’s a dress rehearsal, we learned a lot.”