Big Dreams Come True -- Especially For Small Airplanes...

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Light Sport Meets The Heat At AirVenture

The grounds were already hot at OSH yesterday (have a quick look around our pre-show gallery number one and number two) ... the temperature rose pretty high, too. EAA AirVenture has become such a huge event that it's almost impossible to encapsulate and in earlier issues we've told you about the truly incredible range of aircraft that will be on display here this year (some have already arrived). Years past have seen thematic marketing, but this year the best of years-in-the-waiting new aircraft designs, engine developments, electronic wizardry, and record-setting dream-fulfilling prototypes -- which in years past often surfaced as yet uncompleted, yet untested, "maybe next year" good intentions -- have found themselves made manifest. You can walk right up and, in many cases, touch them. GlobalFlyer, SpaceShipOne, actual, flying, very light jets -- they're all here. And representing perhaps the most widely pursued, hard-fought and now-attainable everyman's dream -- here are hordes of freshly certified light sport aircraft.

Organizers and manufacturers had hoped for the LSA rule in 2003. It was finally announced in time for the 2004 show but none of the implementation work had been done. Well, another year has passed and neither the FAA nor the manufacturers can be accused of wasting it. For the first time, those attending Oshkosh's big show can not only kick the tires, they can actually buy any of a dozen or more ready-to-fly aircraft that have been certified in the special light sport aircraft (S-LSA) category. The various manufacturers have been organized into the Light-Sport Aircraft Mall. In fact, there's been a major push in recent weeks to certify new designs (or new variations on old designs) in time for AirVenture. As expected, most S-LSA aircraft currently available are European designs. Light Sport-type regulations have been in effect in most European countries for more than 10 years and the industry has evolved there to turn out some pretty slick airplanes, many of which employ composite construction and advanced aerodynamics. Most are powered by four-stroke Rotax engines. One of the few American S-LSAs has none of those features but it does have a certain pedigree. American Legend Aircraft Company has redesigned the J-3 Cub, incorporating elements of the Super Cub and PA-11 and squeezing under the 1320-pound weight limit with a Continental 0-200 engine.