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Plenty to see at Sebring Sport Aircraft Expo
First Posted: Tue 22 Jan 2013
Several LSA manufacturers reported sales to new customers at the well-attended Sport Aircraft Expo, held at Sebring in Florida during mid-January.
While the LSA market has been growing, much of the volume has been due to sales of the Cessna Skycatcher which has taken market share away from the established companies such as Flight Design, American Legend and CubCrafters.
The less prominent manufacturers have suffered and past exhibitors such as Paradise, Fantasy Air, IndUS and Gobosh were absent from the Sebring show. However, Cessna has re-positioned the Skycatcher as a 'primary' certificated aircraft which will take it out of the LSA category, although its weight, top speed etc. still allow Light Sport pilots to fly it. The Cessna is quite expensive at $149,900 and several LSA manufacturers are trying to reduce aircraft prices to attract new buyers. Tecnam have introduced the P.92 Echo Classic Light at $74,000 and WAC (World Aircraft Company) launched its new Vision LT, which is a reduced-specification version of the standard Vision at $84,995 - a reduction of $28,000.
Attracting much attention was the prototype SAM LS which will shortly make its first flight in Canada. This substantial tandem two-seater, which closely resembles the Varga Kachina, might also be described as a tricycle-gear Chipmunk or Ryan STM. It has been designed by expatriate Frenchman, Thierry Zibi and will be sold either factory complete or as a kit. Built from 4130 tube and aluminium, the SAM LS is offered with three wing options, open or closed cockpits and alternative tailwheel gear. The powerplant is the 100hp Rotax 912ULS giving a 113kt cruising speed and the 24USG wing tanks provide a range of 520nm. The comfortable 26in wide cabin has stick controls and it comes as standard with a 10in Dynon Skyview panel with GPS, terrain view, engine monotoring, Garmin comms and a transponder.
Another newcomer was the Golden Avio F30 which has already appeared in Europe but is being approved as an LSA for the American market with a base price of $126,000. Displaying the sleek lines that could only be created by the late Stelio Frati, the all-metal F30 will be sold with fixed-gear for the LSA market but will also be available as an advanced kit with a retractable undercarriage. Also making their Sebring debuts were the Nando Groppo Trail, Pipistrelle Alpha and AutoGyro Cavalon, all of which are offered as LSAs. Notably absent were weight-shift microlights with no representation from P&M or Air Creation, the sole exhibit in this category being the Revo which is produced at Zephyrhills in Florida. The Revo, which has a very substantial trike unit, is described as combining the speed and agility of a P&M QuikR with the comfort of a Tanarg. There are five wing options, suitable for roles from training to long-range touring and, with a Rotax 912S, it retails for $93,000. Forty have been completed to date, many being exported - including one to the UK.
Crowds also gathered round a trio of aircraft powered by the new Viking 110 engine which has now been installed in around 100 homebuilt and light sport aircraft. The 110hp Viking is a four-cylinder in-line engine based on the 1.5 litre Honda car engine. It is substantially cheaper than the competing Rotax 912ULS or Jabiru 330, and is the same weight as the Jabiru but shorter and narrower than either competitor, and runs on 92 octane auto fuel. And, finally - no American show would be complete without a roadable aircraft. This time, Samson Motors was exhibiting its new Switchblade concept which has a retractable tail and wings which fold into the body for road use. The company claims it will be possible to build a Switchblade in three weeks at its builder-assist centre. Its flying top speed will be 175kt and road speed up to 100 mph. We canít wait to see it in the air! Rod Simpson
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