Sebring Expo 2011 Highlights Worldwide Partnerships
By Mary Jones, Director of EAA Publications
January 27, 2011 — The seventh annual Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation Expo concluded on Sunday, January 23, with a good crowd to bring the four-day event to a close. Expo Chairman Bob Wood said attendance would likely be the “best ever.” Staying true to its roots, the Expo caters almost exclusively to light-sport aircraft (LSA), with all of the major companies in that industry present at Sebring Regional Airport.
Even before the show opened, a rumble went through the industry when Piper Aircraft Inc. announced it was ending its business relationship with Czech Sport Aircraft (CSA) and would no longer sell the PiperSport. Differing business perspectives, liability concerns, and concerns about the viability of the company were all rumored to be why Piper chose to ends it agreement with CSA.
Since that time, a group of Piper’s LSA distributors have joined forces to continue to import and support the aircraft in the U.S. Don Ayres, president of U.S. Sport Aircraft, is a leader of that group and reports they are optimistic about having a good working relationship with CSA. “We believe the SportCruiser, which is the name we’ll import the aircraft under, is a good airplane,” Ayres said. “Our group alone was responsible for importing 40 of the airplanes for Piper, and we believe we can continue working with CSA. We’re not interested in selling airplanes anywhere other than the U.S.” That group, along with members of the Piper LSA team, had a pared-down exhibit at the Sebring event, but Piper did remain a sponsor.
As the Sebring event opened, Cessna Aircraft announced that it has taken delivery of 60 Skycatchers from Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, and in conjunction with its reassembly site, Yingling Aviation in Wichita, Kansas, has delivered more than 30 aircraft. Twelve of those aircraft have been delivered to Cessna Pilot Centers throughout the United States, while the other 18 have been delivered to private owners. Two Skycatchers were purchased for EAA by the Emil Buehler Trust for use in EAA’s Air Academy.
Cessna reports it is on track to deliver 150 Skycatchers in 2011, including the first models featuring the McCauley two-blade, fixed-pitch composite propeller. The aircraft also features the Garmin G300 avionics suite and a Teledyne Continental O200D engine, and is priced at $112,250.
Cessna also announced that the Skycatcher handbook is available online. The handbook provides system descriptions and basic operating parameters. Having it online complements Cessna’s new online Sport/Private Pilot Course, which is also available through Cessna Pilot Centers.
During the Expo, IndUS Aviation announced it was finalizing an agreement with its Chinese partner, IPI Technologies, and private investors to build its Thorpedo LSA in the new LuYangHu General Aviation Development Zone in Weinan, China. IndUS President Dr. Ram Pattisapu reported, “I just returned from China this week. While there, we continued the development plans to begin building aircraft in Weinan, Shaanxi Province, China, later this year. These facilities are being designed to enable us to build large numbers of aircraft, anticipating 100 units per year capacity within 18 months or so.” IndUS and IPI hope to have production on line by end of 2011 under the new company name IndUS-IPI.
Hayden Malone, president of Sterling Flight Training of Jacksonville, Florida, and IndUS have begun discussions to open flight training institutions in different locations in China. With IndUS’s production of aircraft in China, and flight training avenues, the plan is to deliver some of the produced aircraft to these training institutions, while concurrently exporting aircraft to the U.S. and other locations around the world. The unprecedented partnership puts IndUS in a unique collaboration with the Chinese government and private industry in central China.
“We will focus on building primary entry-level aircraft in large numbers to meet the expected demand for such aircraft in India and China,” Pattisapu said. “With our new Chinese partners, we will develop the LSA market in Asia, and continue to oversee final assembly of Thorpedos in Dallas to support sales in North America.”
The Thorpedo is a variant of the FAR 23-certified Thorp T-211, type certified in 1946.
The words “imported from the Czech Republic” still apply to many of the aircraft, including some of the newer offerings making their debut at the event, including the Viper, the Alto, and the Phoenix motorglider.
The low-wing Viper SD-4 is being imported into the U.S. by Tomark Aero USA LLC, based in Frisco, Texas. The all-metal aircraft has a wide cockpit and can be used as a glider tow vehicle. It currently sells for $99,900 and is certified for night flight. Tomark Aero is considering moving the aircraft production facility to the United States. “We feel we can produce the aircraft more cost-effectively here in the U.S.,” said Jan Pjatak, president of Tomark.
Corbi Aircraft Sales is now importing the Alto LSA into the U.S. and has optimized it for the flight training market. Ron Corbin and Dan Coffey teamed together to study the deficiencies of various LSA in the training environment and have worked with the Czech manufacturers of the Alto to produce any aircraft that can withstand the rigors of flight training. “We wanted an aircraft that is safe, sturdy, and easy to repair,” Corbin said. The low-wing, all-metal aircraft has a base price of $97,500, less avionics. It comes with a Sensenich propeller and has an empty weight of 710 pounds, leaving a useful load of 610 pounds.
Also from the Czech Republic is a new motorglider, the Phoenix, imported into the U.S. by Phoenix Air USA. The all-carbon glider comes with wingtip extensions that take the wingspan to 49 feet, but it can be reduced to a 34-foot span for hangaring. The aircraft also has a large useful load of 612 pounds, with an empty weight of 708 pounds. Flyaway price is $149,000.
While these aircraft continue to come into the U.S., the Allegro LSA, formerly built in the Czech Republic, will soon be built in North Carolina. Doug Hempstead, president of B-Bar-D Aviation, reports that his company has bought the design rights and tooling for the Allegro from the former Czech manufacturer and will begin setting up production in a facility on Halifax County Airport in Roanoke Rapids.
Previously, B-Bar-D Aviation had also imported the Mystique LSA and the ZJ-Viera ultralight, but the company reports that both of these Czech manufacturers have ceased operation. Hempstead also joined forces with Bill Sadler to develop the Vampire LSA, but that project is “on the backburner” until production of the Allegro is up and running.
Mike Zidziunas of Mike Z Sport Aviation reports that the Breezer LSA is now available as an experimental light-sport aircraft (E-LSA) kit. Priced at $39,995, the kit comes less engine and avionics, but Zidziunas estimates that the aircraft can be completed for less than $62,000. His company will offer builder’s assistance programs to aid owners in building their aircraft.
Gyroplane enthusiasts will be delighted to learn that two new German gyros are coming to the U.S. market - the fully enclosed Calidus ($87,000) and the open-air MTOsport ($75,000). Both aircraft were on display and flying at the Expo. The aircraft are manufactured by Auto Gyro GmBH and have been in production in Germany for seven years with more than 600 aircraft flying worldwide. Experimental category kits are also expected to be available. Just prior to Sebring, the Calidus received CAA approval for flight in England. It is being imported into the U.S. by Autogyro America of Stevensville, Maryland.
For photos of these aircraft and more news from the 2011 U.S. Sport Aviation Expo, visit the Sebring Expo photo gallery.