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The first-ever DeLand Showcase and the 13th Sebring Expo are over.

Next up in airshow coverage is Sun 'n Fun on April 4-9, 2017, and Aero Friedrichshafen on 5-8 April 2017. As these last two run concurrently this year, Dan Johnson will cover Sun 'n Fun and Powered Sport Flying publisher Roy Beisswenger has graciously offered to submit reports from Aero. Thanks to these efforts, you will not miss any of the great stories coming from these two spring events.

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...a web log of developments in Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft
Instrument Flying in Light-Sport Aircraft
By Dan Johnson, March 19, 2017

"It cannot be done," is the quick dismissal from many in aviation, referring to instrument flying in a LSA. In 2017, I venture to say everyone in aviation (worldwide) knows about Light-Sport Aircraft and the Sport Pilot certificate, but a superficial knowledge can be a bad thing. The details unveil more.

Think about IFR in an LSA this way: Can you fly IFR in a homebuilt aircraft? Can you do so in a Cessna 172? Does it matter that these two distinct types have not gone through a thorough IFR evaluation by FAA? If you know those answers then why should such flying be prevented in LSA?

It's true, the industry committee called ASTM F.37 issued advice on this subject to LSA producers. F.37 is the group that has labored for a dozen years to provide FAA with industry consensus standards allowing FAA to "accept" (not "certify") SLSA. The group has been working on a IFR standard for some time without arriving at consensus. Partly because the work is not done the committee urged manufacturers not to openly sell IFR capability until the standard was in place and accepted by FAA. (The agency accepts standards and aircraft under different processes.)

F.37's advice is directly related to a present lack of such a standard and possible resistance from legacy aircraft producers. However, neither the committee's advice nor the regulation creating SP/LSA prevents you from filing IFR. Instead yes-or-no relates to a manufacturer's preference plus written FAA-issued operating limitations.

So, as some say, it cannot be done, right? Wrong.

Bristell USA, importers of the superlative LSA of the same name built in the Czech Republic by BRM Aero, has a different approach. They use the ELSA opportunity.

An Experimental LSA starts out as a bolt-for-bolt copy of the SLSA version. Once issued its airworthiness certificate the owner can elect changes. He or she may not use an ELSA for compensated flight instruction or rental, but in other ways, they are significantly the same airplane. Am ELSA owner can change panel gear and other components (even including the engine) and need not seek permission for each change from the manufacturer.

Rather than repeat facts already reported here, I refer you to these articles: "A Raging Debate... IFR, IMC, VMC, and LSA""IFR and LSA: Much Ado About... What?""IFR 'Certification' of Avionics" — and, for those who want to examine FAA's exact words, go to "FAR Part 91.205 (required equipment for IFR)".

At Sebring 2017, I flew with Bristell USA's John Rathmell. John is not only a highly experienced pilot, he is knowledgeable about Bristell's IFR option. In our video shown below, I asked John to cover some of this detail for you and he was most accommodating.

Now, I understand plenty of readers of this website or viewers of the many videos produced by Videoman Dave and myself perhaps do not care a whit about flying IFR. If you fly strictly for fun in nice weather, good for you! Have at it and enjoy! Yet, if you like the versatility of IFR, it is possible.

To fly under IFR rules, the pilot must have an IFR rating on his or her Private or better pilot certificate, that person must be current in those skills, and the airplane must be qualified by the means referenced above and maintenance must be up-to-date. You cannot — and more importantly should not — go fly into clouds simply because you have wonderful equipment on board from companies like Dynon, Garmin, or MGL.

In summary, if you are an instrument pilot, and if you are current, and if you have a medical, and if you purchase an aircraft like the Bristell and register it as an ELSA, no regulation prevents you from filing and flying IFR including into IMC. Only you can judge if that is a smart activity for you, and I hope you'll do so wisely.

Hear more about IFR in a Bristell and join John and I for a flight in this gorgeous, well flying Light-Sport Aircraft in the following video:


He Built and Test Flew Airplanes for You!
By Dan Johnson, March 17, 2017

We lost one of the good ones recently. You may not have met or even know this man, but you certainly know — and may absolutely love — the airplanes he created.

We say a sad and final farewell to Professor Luigi "Gino" Pascale.

While it is somewhat melancholy to bid farewell to this man of short stature but giant achievements, he did what he loved for seven decades and until very near the time of his death. None of us can ask for much more than that.

Luigi is also succeeded by family members who continue to run and expand the operation he began with his brother Giovanni so many years ago. Officially he was chief preliminary design officer of Costruzioni Aeronautiche Tecnam but Tecnam team members remember him fondly as the heart and soul of Tecnam. He was 93 at his passing.

Professor Luigi — as I heard several Tecnam employees refer to him — got his start in aviation designing model airplanes way back in the 1930s. His brother Giovanni and he were passionate about flight and never stopped pursuing the dream.

The Pascale brothers began work on their first full-sized airplane in 1948. They called it the P48 Astore. On the 65th anniversary of that modest beginning, the now-giant of light aviation called Tecnam, unveiled a brand new version of Astore (reported here). Of course, Professor Luigi had a great deal to do with this one as he did with the first. Subsequently all Tecnam designs have the designation P##, with the numbers representing the year the design was started.

Luigi Pascale poses in front of the Tecnam Twin, one of his many designs.
That original Astore first flew in 1951 after Luigi earned his pilot's license. In university, he achieved a Master's Degree in mechanical engineering, reinforcing an obvious aptitude for aircraft design.

Perhaps his most famous design — at least prior to the Light-Sport Aircraft of more recent years — was the Partenavia, a sleek twin-engine general aviation airplane started in 1957. Before that he and his brother created numerous race planes. Sport and recreational flying never left his mind and Sport Pilots today benefit from his tireless work. Indeed, the original company and the one we know today as Tecnam has produced and sold more than 7,000 aircraft, the company reported.

Perhaps his major success — from a number produced standpoint — is his P92, a two-seat metal airplane that has been delivered in several variations. This wonderful light aircraft remains the company's most popular design. After 25 years of service, more than 2,500 are flying in many, many countries around the planet.

While no one knows for sure, it would not be too much of a stretch to say P92 is the most successful Light-Sport Aircraft ever built (though not all models precisely meet the LSA description). That many airplanes flown an uncounted number of hours have delivered many smiles to many pilots regardless of the language they speak.

Luigi Pascale pictured with his nephew, Paolo Pascale. In this video, hear Paolo describe the new Astore and refer to his uncle.
Professor Luigi's final design, the 11-seat P2012 Traveller, is currently going through flight testing. I never heard if he did the flying for this one, but his nephew, Paolo Pascale, who now leads the Tecnam organization, once told me, "Not only does Uncle Luigi design these aircraft, he also test flies them." Amazing!

"Luigi was incredibly proud of Tecnam and all of its employees, and we will all miss him greatly," said Paolo Pascale, who these days is Tecnam's CEO. "His drive to excellence, determination, can-do spirit and commitment to our company will inspire and stay with us always."

Luigi accomplished much and his family of both relatives and company team members have much to be proud of and the pilots who continue to fly his design join with the family in bidding a fond farewell to the talented gentleman from Italy.

See Professor Luigi's heartfelt appreciation when he won the LAMA President's Award for 2016. It is clear he loved aviation and those who loved it with him:


Quick Update on Quicksilver... Parts Are Shipping!
By Dan Johnson, March 11, 2017

Quicksilver made perhaps the most successful kit in aviation history, with more than 15,000 completed and flying. All photos by James Lawrence
One of the major stumbles in the light aircraft world was the closure of Quicksilver Aeronautic's southern California factory in Temecula. That ended a long-running era dating back to the 1970s. See articles here and here. Plenty of folks expressed concern.

Their worry was warranted. As a kit supplier, Quicksilver was one of the most prolific in aviation history with more than 15,000 kits delivered, nearly every one of which got airborne after the short build time. Some have been retired due to age, accident, or neglect, but many thousands continue to fly.

What happens when that large fleet can no longer buy parts? With the factory closed, are all those owners orphaned, having no factory-fresh parts available?

Don't worry, be happy (so the song said).

"We currently have all the Quicksilver parts in stock and are shipping mass quantities daily," said Gene "Bever" Borne, of Air-Tech, Inc. In case you don't know him — almost impossible to believe for any Quicksilver enthusiast, though new Quicksilver owners may be unaware — Bever is arguably the most experienced supplier of all-things Quicksilver since... well, since the very beginning of the powered Quicksilver aircraft. * (See a video interview with Bever.)

Quicksilver Aeronautics achieved Special LSA status for their side-by-side two seater, Sport 2SE.
Bever, his family (wife Kim and son Ken) have operated the Louisiana company for decades, in fact, they can celebrate their 40th year in business in 2017. I doubt anyone in the world knows more about Quicksilver products including all their history. If the Bornes tell you something about the former California company's aircraft, you can accept it as gospel.

"We've been shipping kits and are always packing more," Bever added. "We have a great crew."

Given his reputation and long time in the business, Air-Tech needs to do little advertising. Everybody who needs to know already knows how to reach them. "Our time is spent on the appropriate media forums and those with needs are being helped," Bever clarified. Keep up with Air-Tech on Facebook.

When Quicksilver was about to close their factory, Bever traveled west to negotiate and eventually acquired all the inventory and some of the (more modern) tooling and brought it all back to Louisiana in a caravan of semi-trailers. It was a massive undertaking but assures all the right components remain available.

Therefore, if you need factory-original parts, you can still get them ("Whew!" ...for many owners). Yet what if you want a kit?

Way back in 1993, Quicksilver won the very first Primary Category approval from FAA. That program never got any legs and the company sold few with this registration.
Air-Tech can supply them but as Bever cautioned, "I have absolutely no desire to produce 100 kits per year." After many years in the business, the Quicksilver expert prefers "a comfortable pace."

Apparently only one exception to parts supply remains outstanding. "The GT500 is a little bit different as I am lacking the aft boom tube drill fixture," reported Bever. I'll bet if the need arises, he and his team will figure something but the good news is that would be a rarely needed part.

He added, "I stay close with the Von Hirsch family [that ran Quicksilver Manufacturing for many years before selling it to Quicksilver Aeronautics]." Bever also noted that original design engineer Dave Cronk, presently enjoying his own slower pace in Moab, Utah, is still available for technical details. "He's an endless wealth of knowledge," said Bever.

In December 2016, Bever was contacted by the current owners of Quicksilver Aeronautics. "They have been going back and forth on a plan," he said. "If something develops, fine. If not, that's fine as well. We're busy."

Quicksilver owners can breathe a deep sigh of relief. Air-Tech is on the job! Those visiting Sun 'n Fun 2017 can find Air-Tech in Paradise City.

* Quicksilver was once a supplier of hang gliders before anyone ever heard of anything called an "ultralight." The company, originally called EipperFormance, made delta-wing-shaped hang gliders, which they sold by the thousands. A slightly different hang glider was an unpowered, foot-launched, wing-and-tailplane glider to which a small engine and landing gear was later added yielding, after much evolution, the Quicksilver you see in the lead photo.


Aero 2017 Approaches; Remos GXiS & More
By Dan Johnson, March 6, 2017

We are fast approaching an important time of year... only this year I am a bit conflicted. The good news is Sun 'n Fun and Aero Friedrichshafen are terrific shows. I have been attending both for more years that I care to admit. (OK, I guess I don't ming saying Aero 2016 was my 20th in a row. I've been going to Sun 'n Fun so long, it makes me feel old to say how many years it has been.)

Both events are vitally important to the light aircraft space I enjoy and as steadily reported on this website. Both have strong sectors serving Light-Sport Aircraft (and in Europe, LSA-like aircraft) plus light kit-built aircraft and ultralight aircraft (in Europe called 120-kilogram class or SSDR, which means Single Seat De-Regulated).

These classes of aircraft are the ones I love to report and probably the ones you also enjoy.

The bad news and the source of my conflict is that this year, the two shows runs concurrently... darn it! Because "Beam-me-up-Scotty technology has yet to be developed, I have zero way to attend both. Fortunately, I have a plan.

As noted in the "Welcome" text above, I will cover Sun 'n Fun 2017 and my fellow publisher, Roy Beisswenger of Powered Sport Flying will attend and cover Aero 2017 for ByDanJohnson.com. Thanks, Roy!

I'm irked I cannot attend Aero this year for another reason: it is the 25th anniversary event. Organizer and Aero project leader, Roland Bosch, said, "The entire spectrum of modern ultralights, gliders, and [larger] aircraft, as well as business jets, will be exhibited at the show." I enjoy his leading emphasis on the light side, where Aero truly got its start a quarter century ago. Roland also noted the e-flight air show taking place one day before the opening of the anniversary Aero. "We want to give you exciting insights into the world of flight and offer you the opportunity to talk with experts."

 

What I consider to be the largest, more interesting show in Europe is up in exhibitor bookings for 2017. More than 630 are expected. They welcome back GA heavyweight Diamond but more important to our readers, Tecnam will be back after an absence of two or three years.

Tecnam will be showing off their supersized Traveler, an 11-seater aimed at the regional airline market, but they will also be showing their new version of the Sierra, the Mark 2. In a reversal of the usual situation, Americans have already seen this one, just a few weeks ago at Sebring 2017. Now, Europeans will get to examine the newest member. Tecnam has larger aircraft, certainly, but they are still most attentive to the LSA market, where their numbers remain strong.

German LSA producer, Remos debuted their superb GXiS at Aero 2016 last year. It was a pleasure to see this handsome aircraft again displayed after the Pasewalk-based company recovered from their court-ordered reorganization. Remos appears financially healthy again and their aircraft has long been one I admired. See this article for more thoughts on how it flies.

I judged as extraordinary the job Remos engineers did implementing the wonderful but somewhat more complex Rotax 912iS engine. Beyond that, the GXiS is a beautiful example of what the world calls "German quality." The machine is beautifully appointed and delivers great ease of use. Remos communications guru Patrick Holland-Moritz noted, "GXiS takes just one push of a button to start the engine. Almost all preflight checks will be done automatically." I liked that; you might, too.

Continuing their pilot-friendly refinement of this already impressive aircraft, engineers will unveil a new "jet throttle" in the center console that combines the control of power and wheel brakes in one lever. See more and talk to the team at Aero in Hall B3, Booth 107. The B1-2-3-4 halls, each the size of a gymnasium (see arrow), contain most of the aircraft we cover on this website although a few are located in the southern row of A Halls.

With 50 employees, Remos builds GXiS and GXNXT (called GXnXES in American). These flying machines reside in 1,320-pound (600 kg) LSA category and in the European ultralight category that maxes out at 472.5 kilograms (1,040 pounds) gross. The company reports more than 450 Remos models are flying all over the world with about 120 in the USA.


Watch for a Whole New Look... Very Soon!
By Dan Johnson, March 3, 2017

Although some aircraft were pretty sleek and cool as the new millennia arrived (such as the handsome Thundergull with developer Mark Bierle flying), a host of new brands descended upon aviation. Today you know them; in 2004, not so much.
For thirteen years, ByDanJohnson.com has served the light aircraft community, covering Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit-built aircraft, and ultralight aircraft. Along the way, we've covered all manner of interesting light aircraft from the tiniest drones to the emerging new-style certified GA aircraft from producers of LSA. As my outgoing webmaster said, "It's been quite a ride!"

Of, course, since ByDanJohnson.com has been live for 13 years (almost to the day, which will be April 1st, 2017), this website preceded social media and even giants like YouTube. The website you have been so loyally visiting was assembled using the fairly crude tools available at the beginning of this new millennia. However, now that we are 17 years into the new century, it is time for a change... a BIG change.

In just a few days, after we check and recheck, adjust and tweak, we will hit the button for our "beta launch" of an entirely new look and feel.

As BDJ1.0 launched back in April of 2004, we had aircraft like this Drifter on Lotus amphib floats (flown by gurus Phil Lockwood and Jeff Hudson) powered by the two-stroke Rotax 582.
To be perfectly honest, this is making me a little nervous.

Most humans, myself included, are not always comfortable with change. While the new look — which new webmaster Russell Kasselman (of Iron Dog Media) and I abbreviate as "BDJ2.0" — will contain all the material you want most but it will not be 100% complete when it launches.

Oh, don't worry. BDJ2.0 will have all the news and video you have come to love in the last few years since video swaggered onto the stage. We definitely will get every aspect of the old site ported over to the new during the month of March. By our "grand launch" — hopefully by the April 1st 13th anniversary of the original website — you should find everything you ever sought on the old site.

Back in 2006, I traveled to Connecticut to fly an old favorite — the Flightstar II powered by a four-stroke HKS — with a longtime friend in the business, Tom Peghiny. My smile shows how I felt about it.
Indeed, we'll have some new features you never saw before... such as an easy comments section. It should be easier to navigate. Plus, most importantly for you — and for Google, used for more than 90% of all web searches* — BDJ2.0 will be fully "responsive" to mobile devices. It should look good on your big screen desktop, laptop, or TV. It will work nicely on your iPad or other tablet. Additionally, billions of smartphones will also be able to use BDJ2.0 as they never could on BDJ1.0. Here in 2017, we understand about two-thirds of all ByDanJohnson.com visits come from smartphones.

But BDJ2.0 will be different to use. I hope you will tell us what you like or don't like. We do this for you so we want it to work well. With literally millions of words, more than 100,000 images, thousands of articles, and hundreds of videos, plus one-of-a-kind features like PlaneFinder 2.0, our popular SLSA List, our resource-rich FIRM List, LSA Market Info, and the most informative advertisements you can find anywhere in aviation... (whew!) it has been been a major undertaking. We've been at this for 18 months and, truly, the work is never really done because the world of tech changes even faster than the world of affordable aviation.

Please stay with us as the "great ride" continues. I so sincerely appreciate each and every visitor. We love what we do and we hope it shows!

* Google's vaunted page ranking system highly values websites that are "responsive" but since we are launching a fresh site based on new servers, our ranking may suffer for a short period. In days or weeks, we think we will regain our high position on a Google search once their robots have thoroughly scoured BDJ2.0.


Shock Treatment for Real Get-Up and Go
By Dan Johnson, February 27, 2017

Once upon a time, the producer of a yellow LSA taildragger installed the industry's most powerful engine resulting in a performance leader. This gambit succeeded handily and the builder enjoyed several strong years of sales. Others looked upon this success and saw that it was good.

So, of course, being aviation entrepreneurs, others worked to do the original one better. How about not only an excess of power but other features and macho good looks to cause jaw-drops at every airshow? You may believe I am writing about Just Aircraft and their magnificent SuperSTOL. I've enjoyed flying this aircraft and you can research it further here.

Adding exceptional wing qualities to a potent engine results in a sub-market within the LSA sector that has been drawing strong interest and the sales that follow. With newcomers offering appealing features and reducing the price into more affordable realms, it's not hard to see why pilots are learning about these new flying machines and bringing one home.

Into the cauldron of development activity stepped Zlin and their Shock model. This Czech-based company is no newcomer. You already know their Savage models, reported here frequently as the former iCub and later the Outback and Nomad plus the one-of-a-kind Bobber.

With advice and suggestions from SportairUSA proprietor Bill Canino — himself already a highly skilled veteran of the SP/LSA movement — Zlin took the model SportairUSA sells as the Outback and added what Bill calls "the Shock options." He words it that way because these fresh features can be retrofitted to earlier Outbacks. In addition, the auto-functioning leading edge slats can be removed (with only eight bolts) translating to great versatility.

Custom hydraulic, side-mounted shock absorbers with 12 inches of travel and suspension geometry integrated into main and tail landing gear virtually eliminates the problems of touchdown rebound and ground hop that are all too common with traditionally sprung cabane-style landing gear. The gear position is also moved forward to enhance braking capacity with less risk of overturning. As a result, the Outback Shock lands and taxis with remarkable control and stopping power. The tailwheel is also shock absorbed.

Looking deeper into the details, the Shock options include what SportairUSA calls the "hyper-STOL" wing profile boasting short takeoff and faster rate of climb. This incorporates slatted wings that move according to airflows without pilot involvement combined with two-element Fowler flaps and strategically placed vortex generators in numerous locations to optimize low-speed control.

Compared to earlier models the Shock's wing is different in ways beyond the visible slats and Fowler flaps.

The newly designed wing has six inches of added chord length, all-new spars, stamped aluminum ribs plus strengthened attachments and other structural improvements. Truncated wing tips have wing tip fences (plates on the tip) to control tip vortex and reduce drag. Joined to a sturdy welded steel inner structure, Zlin successfully subjected the Shock-option Outback to more than 1,600 pounds at 6G holding this load for over two minutes without deformation.

A 40% increase in aileron surface area, together with a refined airflow design aided by vortex generators, allow the pilot to keep full control authority at extremely low speed on approach. Shock's Fowler flaps extend 70% from their retracted area and the flaps can be equipped with mini vortex generators installed inside the vane (see video). Zlin and SportairUSA love VGs; they are available for the wings, rudder, flaps and horizontal tail.

As Bill notes in the video below, the tailplane also saw changes, beyond the shock-mounted tailwheel. Rudder and elevator surface area were extended more than three inches aft to balance the moment from the new wing design.

Alright, you might accept Outback Shock as a engineering marvel with all the right attributes to qualify as a "hyper"STOL but what does all this do for you?

The significant increase in wing lift provides added performance in landing and takeoff. With the 180-horsepower Titan engine doing the pulling, Outback Shock can launch in less than 200 feet at gross weight and land in barely over 100 feet. With a single occupant these numbers are halved.

One part of the takeoff and landing prowess of Shock is low stall speeds... really low. Stall in the airplane with a single occupant is an astonishing 18 mph or about 15.6 knots; even at gross weight stall occurs at 23 mph (20 knots). However, Outback Shock is not a particularly speedy cross country cruiser. "Max" speed is 115 mph or 100 knots. Typical cruise is about 90 mph or around 80 knots.

Shock lets you keep an better eye on your landing site thanks to a pitching moment generated by the deep flaps that results in a lower nose attitude on approach.

Shock pilots can operate from smaller fields and land in places you might not otherwise consider (although this comment is not intended to encourage risky piloting behavior).

Find out more from SportairUSA located at the North Little Rock Municipal Airport (KORK) in North Little Rock, Arkansas. You can come see the airplane at the upcoming Sun 'n Fun airshow over April 4-9, 2017.

Find out more and see lots more detail of Outback Shock in the video from Aero 2016:


The Future of Flying... Could It Happen?
By Dan Johnson, February 21, 2017

Two forms of flying are racing at us at increasing speed. This is both scary and promising at once. What can we expect? My crystal ball is no better than yours, but let me tell you what I can imagine may be headed our way.

I refer to two generally unrelated activities in the air: autonomous aircraft and FPV drones. Most pilots to whom I've spoken seem intrigued by these innovations and a few are enjoying their quadcopters, myself included.

Others are not so sure if they like the idea of either unmanned but man-carrying aircraft or a swarm of drones buzzing about the airport or neighborhood. I understand this viewpoint. Most of us treasure our privacy and don't want it invaded.

Yet I invite you consider the following scenario... perhaps 3-10 years in the future.

Think about why you like recreational flying, in your LSA, light kit, or ultralight. I've asked many pilots this question; the most common answer is sightseeing, seeing your neighborhood or the planet from a few hundred or a few thousand feet up. Glorious, most of us agree!

FPV (First-Person View) of drones racing through gates.
Sure, we also like to fly cross country... or fly from off water... or perform aerobatics... or master soaring flight... take a friend or the family on an aerial excursion... travel regionally. Might some of these activities be done another way, specifically, could a drone do the job? You might not think so but please keep reading.

At Sebring 2017, the Drone Zone was of interest to check out the equipment but also to witness the series of short races vying for a $25,000 purse. Let me tell you, this was one fast-paced affair. Drones about the size of a dinner plate whipped around a turning, twisting, up and down course at 80 miles an hour! I could not even follow the action, such a frenzy it was.

No racers ever glanced at their aircraft. This isn't like standard radio control flying where the pilot holds a joystick controller and closely watches their flying RC model.

Racers use VR goggles — basically a hood into which you insert your smartphone — to direct the aircraft using FPV, First-Person View. They see what a tiny little pilot seated in the drone would see. Are you starting to get where I'm going with this?

Imagine it is 2021. You go out in your back yard, or go to a park, or any number of places. You prepare your drone for launch, snap in your smartphone, put on your VR goggles, pick up the controller and go flying. Once you get this method down, you might replicate a real sightseeing flight to a significant degree.

This can be done today. In five or 10 years far more sophisticated and longer-flying drones with rapidly-advancing technology will help prevent conflicts or crashes. A vastly improved VR (Virtual Reality) experience might include 3D, 360-degree view (even wider than your big-windowed LSA). Can you see that flying by drone could replicate at least some of the joy we feel when we go aloft in our little airplanes?

Of course, such FPV drone flying won't replace manned flying or the satisfying experience of mastering stick and rudder. Yet FPV drones could be a game changer, perhaps getting more people involved with flying. Cross pollination might follow with drone pilots wanting to sample manned flight.

Here's a kicker. After observing the drone races for a while, I wandered over to a vendor to ask how much a basic drone racing rig would cost. A compact quad copter, batteries, charger, control unit, VR goggles... all you need to race: $275; you use the smartphone you already own. These prices have dropped and will surely go down further. How do you suppose that cost sounds to a young person compared to taking flying lessons in what the drone guys call "full-size aircraft?"

Now, let's add another dimension.

To the futuristic superdrone scenario, factor in recent news about the Dubai Transportation authority allegedly approving operations within a year (!!) for a fleet of eHang autonomously flown air taxis. Does this sound far-fetched and unlikely? Yep, it does to me, too. However, many believe it is only a matter of time before such services might be available. We may know in a year.

The smallish eHang 184 is a single seater, which makes it seem more achieveable with today's technology. Its four twin-motored boom arms fold up to occupy minimal space. Plus, these things keep getting smarter and such smart tech has gone mainstream.

Recently I watched a friend's Roomba autonomous vacuum cleaner work all by itself, even recognizing when the battery starts to run low and heading "home" to dock before running out of juice. It was amazing to watch but you don't get much more mundane than vacuum cleaning.

That's not a joystick inside. It is a controller unit to tell eHang 184 where to go.
Apply the tech needed to provide autonomous air taxi service to drones of tomorrow and you get something surprising. Two people (or more!) sharing VR goggles means you could take friends along for a flight, perhaps where everyone can watch where they want, not just 360 degrees, but a full spherical view. Meanwhile, pilot and "passengers" are safely on the ground merely enjoying the view through the VR apparatus.

Go even further with chairs that transmit motion — another technology that is already here and not particularly expensive — and the sensation of a sightseeing flight around your part of the world while sitting in your living room becomes a very possible reality.

Like all tech, flying an aircraft is largely information, just data. With enough data and improving sensors, eHang or its certain competitors could reasonably be expected to navigate from building top to other designated landing areas in good safety and with no human control, and at ever-decreasing cost. Because tech is eminently sharable, drones and autonomous vehicles benefit from each other's progress.

FPV drone flying and autonomous flying are coming. Should you adapt? Should you resist? It might be time to give serious thought to an alternative future of flying.

To see what FPV drone flying looks like from inside the VR goggles, check this video (one of many available):


Hawk is Finally Back and Looking Good
By Dan Johnson, February 19, 2017

At Sebring 2017, another long-awaited aircraft emerged... or re-emerged. After wandering for a few years since original Hawk developer Chuck Slusarczyk retired and sold his company, the once-popular design has a new home in central Florida.

I've written about this before (earlier article), but we hadn't seen much until Sebring 2017.

The season-starting Sebring Expo brought the debut of CGS Hawk now making its home in the sunshine state after migrating from Ohio to Alabama. Thanks to accomplished kit builder and restorer, Terry Short, this celebrated brand that once held a major presence in the ultralight aircraft space has returned. A refreshed Hawk was looking good.

Indeed, Terry beamed when he told me that he'd already sold six aircraft (recently; not all at the show), most of them the two-seat variety as shown in the nearby photos plus one Part 103 ultralight.

Because original designer Chuck Slusarczyk won FAA acceptance for an ASTM-compliant model, Terry can supply a fully built Special Light-Sport Aircraft version and at Sebring 2017 he told me that he fully intends to do so. Because any new manufacturer, even of an existing brand, can be required to go through an FAA audit, a SLSA Hawk may not be an immediate development. (The agency can also elect to review documents and not do an on-site inspection, at their discretion. For a slower speed, lighter weight aircraft with many hundreds flying, FAA may choose not to make a manufacturing site visit.)

Amid the displays at Sebring's 13th annual Expo, many attendees took a look at this new model and came away with a smile. Several times as I passed Terry's display at Sebring, people seemed to be examining his handsome entry with interest.

New Hawk proprietor Terry acquired the venerable Hawk line from previous owner Danny Dezauche who bought the company from Chuck. Danny kept the brand alive but did not progress too far with it.

All told, CGS Hawks number close to 2,000 units flying. Many owners to whom I've spoke truly love this simple but well-flying aircraft.

CGS originally stood for Chuck's Glider Supplies. Chuck was an early leader in hang gliding and made thousands of them. As "motorized" hang gliders arrived on the scene back in the late '70s and early '80s, Chuck made the jump. In fact, he formerly sold "power packs" to others who wanted to power their hang gliders.

One thing lead to another and Chuck developed his company into a airplane manufacturer, leaving behind his youthful days as a hang glider pilot and entrepreneur.

After decades of operation, Chuck sold his company to enjoy a well-deserved retirement and Alabama businessman Danny Dezauche kept it going for a few years.

A year ago, in January 2016, Dezauche sold CGS Hawk to Terry Short based in Lake Wales, Florida. After retiring from the Polk County School Board, Terry and his son Chris will operate the enterprise in central Florida. They will support the many hundreds of Hawks still flying with parts and services in addition to build several of the models including the Special LSA Model called Hawk II, a tandem two seater.

Catch Terry and the Hawk at Sun 'n Fun 2017, coming in just six weeks! In the meantime, interested pilots can contact Terry Short Aircraft Services in Lake Wales, Florida by calling 863-430-5829 or by emailing him. Short's website remains under construction.

To read SPLOG postings going back to 2005 -- all organized in chronological order -- click SPLOG.

 



 

 
 

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Updated: March 22, 2017

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