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New Polish Aircraft Appears at Midwest LSA Expo

By Tim Kern

The shapely Ekolot, from Poland, was introduced at the Midwest LSA Expo.

Rans S-19
Jabiru’s work installing their 6-cylinder engine in this RANS S-19 drew attention at Mount Vernon.

Avid Flyer
Richard Sohn trailered his one-off, single-rotor installation from Florida’s panhandle, to show that Mazda power could be viable, even in something as small as his Avid Flyer.

Sam Hodges, of Dawson Springs, Kentucky, built this RV7A showcasing Tech Welding intake, exhaust, cooling, and other components, as well as a Real World Solutions gearbox on his potent Mazda engine.

September 30, 2010 — Sometimes, we just get lucky…though the second annual Midwest LSA Expo and the first Mid-America Alternate Engine Fly-In were both scheduled for the same weekend, they were each three-day events - and the dates overlapped. So, since the events were just 70 miles apart (in Mt Vernon, Illinois, and Paducah, Kentucky, respectively), attending both was possible.

Midwest LSA Show
The LSA Expo at Mount Vernon Airport (MVN) featured an immaculate airport, friendly volunteers, and a decent turnout of LSA manufacturers. A passing front and snappy winds may have kept a few attendees on the ground during the Friday when I attended, but the enthusiasm was there, and the show afforded a great chance to hold extended Q&A sessions with often-scarce company folks.

Shown for the first time in the USA was the Ekolot KR-030 Topaz, a composite Polish machine of delightful proportions. With a Rotax 80hp 912UL up front, its JAR-VLA origin is apparent; but its leather-trimmed interior is quite roomy and comfortable. Importers Maya and Kris Siuba trucked the brand-new airplane down to the show and set it up; it had no N-number displayed (though one has been issued), and of course this one (well over a hundred have flown in Europe) has not been flown. To learn more, click here and here.

The Topaz features a single stick, located in the center console, and dual rudder controls, with the brake lever on the stick. It has a 35-foot wingspan and 109 square feet of wing, for a maximum loading of 11.3lb/square foot. At 682 pounds empty and 1232 all-up, its 550 pound useful load and  over 20 gallons of usable fuel promise over 600sm range (745 miles at best cruise) with full tanks and 440 pounds of pilots and freight. Speeds are excellent for a high-line LSA: 120kt top; 107kt (123mph) at 75 percent; clean stall at 50mph, dirty at 35.

Flaps are electric, with full variability between the stops. Electric trim controls are on the stick’s hat. A ground-adjustable 3-blade Peszke composite prop can be set up for greater climb (1575fpm is claimed) or a little more range. Nice touches abound, including clear inspection windows for the aileron connections and locking gas caps to protect the recommended no-lead premium mogas. (Rotax recommends against use of avgas in their engines, but accepts it as a way of life – with more-frequent oil and filter changes.) The panel contains all the basics, and has room (and plans) for plenty of information, including glass. For “dessert,” there’s the price – planned to start at $80,000, f.o.b. DeKalb, Illinois.

Jabiru was showing a super-clean new 6-cylinder factory installation in a RANS S-19. “It’s so smooth,” said the RANS company pilot. “You’ve got to go see it!” Definitely well-thought-out, the Jabiru folks were saying that everything seemed natural, as they laid it out. It certainly looked that way – and every time the cowl came off, the crowds appeared.

There were a few more-unusual aircraft, too, including a Magni Gyro and a Diamond motor glider (not really an LSA, but you can fly these fast birds without a medical, so, heck – bring it on in).

Alternative Engine Fly-In
After the short drive to Paducah’s Western Kentucky Airpark, everything looked and felt different. This “down-home” airport is the base for one of the country’s top fabricators, Tech Welding, run by Ed and John Klepeis. They invited a bunch of their friends and customers, and provided enormous amounts of food and a great setting. Forums were geared toward rotary fliers (several Mazda-powered RVs were in attendance), and the information was refreshingly technical, with no discernable marketing effort being put forth among the tech-hungry crowd.

Did you ever have a situation where you ran more and more throttle, and yet power seemed to drop? If you backed off the throttle, the rest of the powerband seemed normal; if you richened the mixture, you’d get your missing power back… sometimes; but if you changed your spark plugs, you’d “solve” your problem, every time. Interestingly, even low-time spark plugs that looked fine, or cleaned and re-gapped plugs, wouldn’t solve the problem. Why? [This very phenomenon happened often with my racing Harley XR. I always “solved” it with new plugs, but never understood what had gone wrong. –TK]

Well, it turns out that Steve Bates of Laramie, Wyoming, one of the presenters, wanted to know, and with the help of his own chemical and metallurgical experience, many donated suspect spark plugs, hundreds of hours of work, and a scanning electron microscope (SEM) that could distinguish individual atoms (!), he developed a working theory that seems plausible. It has to do with the copper core and manganese sheath of the center electrode, and their different coefficients of thermal expansion… you really should have attended!

Several interesting projects were brought in. In addition to the flying examples, Richard Sohn brought his single-rotor solution up from Florida, and gave running demonstrations. “The only unmodified Mazda part here is the rotor,” he said. He developed his 12A-based, 110hp max (at 7500rpm; 6000 is normal) machine for his Avid Flyer, which couldn’t handle the weight of his earlier Subaru conversion or other 100+hp engines. With clever items like his tuned-length 270-degree intake and low-weight components (like a tiny 30amp Kubota tractor alternator) and a Hirth gearbox, a Subaru water pump and a Suzuki flywheel, he managed to make a package small enough for his Avid Heavy Hauler. He’s not planning to ever sell designs or plans or powerplants; he just wanted us all to see that it could be done. Why? Because he likes the “experimental” in “experimental aircraft!”

Both show organizers are already planning for next year. It might be a good time to do that, yourself!

More: www.midwestLSAshow.com; www.techwelding.com

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