What's New at Sebring 2013
By Dan Grunloh
January 24, 2013 - The ninth annual Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida, that ended January 20 was a bit like paradise to northern aviators escaping zero and sub-zero temperatures back home.
Annual flowers bloomed everywhere; you could fly every day except for a short time when a very light rain settled any dust, and, best of all, you could examine, try out the seats in, or go flying in the latest light-sport aircraft. The layout of the Expo at Sebring Regional Airport provided excellent viewing of the runway, active ramp, and air show performances.
Here is a small sample of what's new and exciting in the world of light-sport aviation.
Flight Design from Germany was the first company to offer fuel-injected Rotax 912 engines on its composite CTLS airframes, so we expected to see one at their booth. Finding two of them - one on amphibious floats - was a treat.
Tom Gutman Jr., owner of N599CT, said he only discovered float flying two years ago and he is having a blast. He flew it more than 1,000 miles from Texas to Florida and reported a big improvement in fuel economy with his consumption dropping from more than 5 gph to about 4 gph at 118 knots (with floats). Tom departed on Sunday with the group flying to the Bahamas, so his adventure continues. Flight Design is the leading producer of LSA sold in the U.S.
The Bristell USA LP by BRM Aero was clearly one of the new stars of the show. Many people had not yet seen the sophisticated design that is the personal vision of designer Milan Bristela, known for his work on the SportCruiser and Evektor. There are currently seven Bristell LSA in the U.S., and two of them were at Sebring.
The all-metal aircraft features an extra-wide cockpit designed for maximum comfort, a large baggage capacity, and an eight-hour range. The goal was to build an aircraft to the standards one would expect in a modern automobile. The landing gear is extra robust to withstand the abuse of student landings in the flight school environment, and the aircraft is designed for easy maintenance. It is available as an E-LSA kit and any of the Rotax 9 series engines can be used.
Watch this video by Dan Johnson describing the many unique features of the Bristell.
Tecnam, a line of mostly metal LSA aircraft made in Italy, had four aircraft on display at Sebring and would have had six if not for bad weather, according to Philip Solomon, CEO of Tecnam USA. There were two P2008 high-wings (one with the Rotax 912iS), a Sierra low-wing, and a P92 taildragger with special 20th anniversary commemorative trim and interior.
Tecnam is the world's largest producer of sport class aircraft. It builds a large range of designs including a four-seat twin and has as many as 80 aircraft under construction at its manufacturing plant. The P2008s with metal wings and composite fuselage are positioned as comfortable touring aircraft. The mostly metal P92s are popular for training and available with taildragger or conventional gear.
Tecnam recently introduced a low-cost version of the P92 priced at $74,999 complete (fly-away) from the Hanover Airport in Richmond, Virginia.
The first Trail LSA from Italy has arrived in the U.S. with the help of Niley Church, who is also involved with the Savannah and SAB Vulcan. Factory representatives from Nando Groppo (including the designer) came here to shepherd the Trail LSA through the S-LSA certification process.
There are 90 aircraft completed and approved around the world. It's marketed as the Trial in Europe but in English-speaking countries it is the Trail. In either case, it's a light, economical STOL tandem with an unusually slick wing-folding mechanism.
It takes less than a minute (as little as 42 seconds) to fold each wing. There are two structural pins, an aileron connection, and an electrical connector on each wing root. A small release button on the wing tip allows the wing to pivot and swing alongside the fuselage while fully supported by a clever hinge. The construction is welded steel tube and riveted sheet metal and the aluminum wings and tail have turbulators for slow flight. The performance specifications are 34 mph stall, cruise at 105 mph, a useful load of 650 pounds, and eight hours of endurance on 36 gallons of fuel.
Watch for future announcements or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The Cavalon 914, a fully enclosed, side-by-side gyroplane from AutoGyro of Germany, is the only example currently flying in the U.S. (although a second aircraft has been completed).
Thirty other gyroplanes from AutoGyro are already flying in the U.S. including the tandem enclosed Calidus and the tandem open MTO Sport. The Cavalon and an MTO Sport on amphibious floats were flown daily at Sebring. AutoGyro of Germany produces about 300 gyroplanes per year.
Bob Snyder brought the Cavalon to Florida from Stevensville, Maryland, on a trailer due to weather problems but prefers to fly it to events as he did last year to AirVenture. Cruise is 87 knots with a range of five hours. There are no provisions for S-LSA gyroplanes in the U.S., so the Cavalon is a 51-percent amateur-built experimental aircraft. The carbon fiber kit requires about 100 hours to complete with the company's builder assist program, and Bob holds a LODA permit for primary instruction.
Evolution Trikes, maker of the Revo, was the only weight-shift trike manufacturer at Sebring. Based in Zephyrhills, Florida, Revo flew three trikes at the Expo including a 100-hp version in black with green trim they called "the Monster."
A total of 39 Revo trikes have been built - all in the U.S. They can cruise hands-off as fast as 100 mph with in-flight electric trim and include new features such as electro-polished stainless exhaust and a prop spacer spool drilled and tapped for dynamic prop balancing. The Monster has a conventional 100-hp Rotax 912 and a slightly taller windshield to improve passenger comfort.
Revo's first Rotax 912iS-equipped Revo was delivered to Glade Ross, who is said to be absolutely delighted with the engine. They hope to offer a new touch-screen EFIS system from MGL that will replace the current Enigma system and will also provide the required computer interface for the Rotax 912iS. A new 12.5-meter intermediate wing called the Rival is under development.
Levil Aviation has just introduced the first iPad-compatible AHRS system that can display inertial flight information on your iPad, iPhone, or Android device.
The AHRS-G is a small battery-powered attitude and heading system that provides pitch and bank information as well as magnetic heading, inclination, gravity load, and yaw rate - wirelessly, or connected directly to your portable device. The price is $795. It's compatible and works within apps such as WingXPro and many others.
A $995 version connects to the pitot static system (where permitted), adding airspeed information to the screens. More advanced units add engine data and even a solar rechargeable ADS-B receiver with WAAS GPS. The customizable displays put a "glass cockpit" in your hand!
Aces Systems, manufacturer of dynamic prop-balancing equipment, displayed a new, low-cost model that smashes the bottom out of the price for these units. The Aces 1015 ProBalancer Sport is $1,495, whereas previous units cost as much as $7,000.
Dynamic balancing is superior to static balancing because it balances the entire power system, not just the prop. The engine runs in the cruise range with the aircraft tied down while motion and optical sensors take measurements of the vibrations. The readout indicates the position and amount of weights (typically weighted washers) to be attached to the prop hub. Repeated runs and weight adjustments can reduce the vibrations to a level of smoothness unachievable by any other method. Eliminating vibrations will extend engine life and reduce pilot fatigue.
The ProBalancer Sport is available through Lockwood Aviation Supply, which uses the unit in its service department.
This is but a small sample of the airplanes and exhibitors at the Sebring Expo. Most of the familiar LSA manufacturers were present, including Aerotrek, Breezer, CubCrafters, Kitfox, Pipistrel, Sonex, Van's, and Zenith Aircraft - to name just a few.
Some of the dedicated regulars fought rain and snow to get to Sebring and support the event, which was a success due to the hard work of the organizers, exhibitors, and some 260 volunteers.