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Volume 25, Number 4c
January 26, 2018
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Sport Expo: BasicMed's Mixed Effect on LSA Sales
Paul Bertorelli

Five years ago, one strain of conventional wisdom predicted that the demise of the Third Class medical would equal the demise of the light sport aircraft market, too. With BasicMed firmly entrenched, the reality is proving more mixed according to an AVweb canvass of the flight line at the Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring this week.

While some manufacturers see a measurable downturn, others report just the opposite and one company that sells both light sport and certified aircraft, CubCrafters, says it’s already sold out through the rest of the year for models in both segments, despite a drop in LSA sales.

“It’s down, I would have to be honest, because of the BasicMed effect. I think it will be until people realize there’s nothing easier than having a private pilot license and exercising sport pilot privileges,” said Tom Peghiny, of Flight Design, which was recently bought out of receivership by a new company in Germany. Others we interviewed said they thought BasicMed had no impact on light sport sales at all. “We haven’t noticed any difference,” said Ed Rinks, whose company imports the Paradise LSA from Brazil.

A couple of vendors we spoke to thought a low price point would give them market resilience and protect against erosion from BasicMed. “I think most of our buyers just don’t want to deal with the bull of any kind of medical,” said Deon Lombard, who imports the Aeropilot Legend 600, a composite LSA from the Czech Republic. Those airplanes are priced at about $100,000, but until recent currency fluctuations, were under that price point. Lou Mancuso brings in another airplane from the Czech Republic, the Bristell NG5. At the show this week, Mancuso said he has already taken a deposit on at least one airplane and that sales appear to be stronger than a year ago.

Yet high-priced models continue to sell well and are, in fact, the market leaders. CubCrafters’ Chip Allen told us that the company’s LSA sales have plunged by 50 percent, but they still can’t build enough airplanes to satisfy demand for the CarbonCub and the new certified XCub introduced last year. Normally, big volume drops like that would tank used values, but the reverse has proven true. “Our entire 2018 production is sold out. We can’t build an airplane for delivery in 2018, so we’re now selling 2019 delivery positions,” Allen said. “So a guy who wants a Carbon Cub now, his only choice is to buy a used airplane, so the used Carbon Cub prices are going up,” Allen said. Like Peghiny, Allen believes the LSA softness is due to BasicMed.  

Halladay: Guilt By Innuendo
Paul Bertorelli

In the world of economics, there’s a concept called tragedy of the commons or sometimes freedom of the commons. The underlying principle is that in an economy of shared resources, individual members act against the good of all by consuming more than their share or acting to spoil the resource. The classic example is a public pasture used by a group of farmers. If one places too many of his cows in the field, they overgraze and spoil what had been a benefit for all.

I’m stretching the concept to apply to the recent findings on the Roy Halladay Icon A5 accident. The commons here is not a shared resource, but a shared privilege to fly airplanes relatively unfettered by government intervention. The conceptual spoiling of the commons is the recent report that an autopsy revealed that Halladay had a cocktail of drugs in his system, including intoxicating levels of Zolpidem, a hypnotic sedative prescribed as a sleep aid.

This finding has not been confirmed through official documentation so for the sake of discussion, I’m going to stipulate that it’s true. It will likely never be known if that was causal or even a factor in the crash because we have no way of knowing how Halladay might have been affected by the drug. So we’re at the stage of guilt by innuendo.

But knowing the general risk of flying while using such drugs, did Halladay have a larger duty to the general aviation community to not do what he appears to have done? My answer? No, at least not to protect anything to do with his fellow pilots’ privileges or the industry at large. I’m sure we’ll hear some tear-eyed whining about this, but I don’t buy the argument. When any of us signed up to be pilots, we didn’t agree to decision-making based on some creed of behavior, some unspoken code that said we wouldn’t do anything to make the industry look bad, even if we could agree on what that is exactly. Your look bad is probably different than mine.

In this context, protecting you as a pilot from bad juju PR occupies the bottom rung on a ladder whose top step is responsibility to self, to immediate family and to anyone on the ground (or in the airplane) from direct harm. In my view, the guy in the next hangar or the corner office at AOPA barely has standing.

The reason I think this relates to what I wrote about a couple of weeks ago with regard to a pilot departing in zero-zero conditions. As I noted, Part 91 is virtually wide open to unrestricted use of an airplane. What rules do exist can be, and often are, easily circumvented.

When we thunder about not wanting such people in aviation, who’s supposed to be the judge of that? The FAA? You Mr. CFII? You Mr. DPE or, better, how about a committee of like-minded airplane owners? Then we can make aviation an exclusive little club composed of only “responsible” people who think just like us and have the same tolerance for risk.

Nope, not gonna work. People of all walks come into aviation for all kinds of different reasons. The overwhelming majority are sober, responsible and get scared when they should get scared. Some don’t. Halladay may or may not have been one of those. He may have just been clueless.

That’s not to say it doesn’t go the other way, though. We as a community can and should advise and intervene when we see pilots habitually taking over-the-top risks. But careful here, for the reason I stated above. Your idea of risk is not the same as mine and in stepping in, you can just as easily step in it. It’s a delicate gift of diplomacy to tell someone they’re about to do something stupid in a way that will convince them not to. I don’t have it. I’m sure some reading this blog do. Maybe you could convince perfect strangers to pee in a cup to be, you know, sure. 

One thing that complicates this is the monsters-under-the-bed way we generally write about risk in aviation publications. We always advise the safe way out; the lowest common denominator. Never fly in ice. Be careful of clouds. Thunderstorms will kill you. Don’t fly if you have a cold. Yet in the real world, risks are graduated, not black and white. Raise your hand if you’ve never ignored the label that says don’t operate heavy machinery while taking this medication. That’s not an argument for being a scofflaw, it’s a recognition of reality.

This has come full circle in the dispiriting amount of opprobrium heaped on Icon for (a) implying the A5 is a flying jet ski and (b) encouraging low flying. I reject both of those, too, and especially as being elemental in this accident. There's almost the suggestion that Icon will ruin aviation because it's encouraging "them" to participate. Yet people who buy these things are adults. They can make adult decisions and adult risk assessment without benefit of nannyism from the state or from people whose pants get snagged on something making the industry look bad. If you crash due to your own frailties and errors, you’re allowed. But it’s on you. All on you.

Yes, we should counsel and encourage people and coax them toward safe flying as best we can. Within reason. But in the end, you can get killed flying airplanes. Accept it or don’t. If the latter, I’ve heard bowling is fun.  

Sport Aviation Expo 2018 Quick View
Paul Bertorelli

For once, the Sport Aviation Expo caught a break from Florida's potentially nasty winter weather. The show opened under sunny skies on Wednesday and AVweb was there with this quick overview of what's to be seen on the show line.


Sport Expo: Flight Design Reviving The C4
AVweb Staff

Now that it’s out of receivership and ramping up production, Flight Design General Aviation is turning its attention to the long-awaited C4 certified four-place aircraft. But as time has marched forward since the airplane was announced eight years ago, so has technology.

In this podcast recorded at the Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Flight Design USA’s Tom Peghiny told AVweb that the C4’s specs will definitely change, although he declined to go into detail. “It’s being worked on right now. The specifications will be different because a lot of things have moved on in the eight years since it was originally designed,” he said. “There’s new certification, new avionics, new engines and new materials that we have access to that are going to make the airplane a little different,” he added. One new possibility is the 135-HP Rotax 915 iS just being rolled out for spring 2018.

Flight Design went into receivership in 2016 after it apparently got into trouble with non-payment from Asian business deals. Last summer it was bought by LiftAir, a German company, and renamed Flight Design General Aviation. LiftAir is a subsidiary of the Lindig Group, which also owns Rotorvox, a gyrocopter company. Although the Ukrainian factory where the Flight Design Aircraft were made never shut down, Peghiny said it’s now ramping up production to build as many as six airplanes a month later in 2018.

Peghiny’s U.S.-based Flight Design USA remained in business throughout the German-based company's insolvency, providing parts, service and support for more than 400 Flight Design aircraft in the U.S. 

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Sport Expo: Rotax 915 iS Soon Ready For Rollout
Paul Bertorelli

Rotax is about ready to roll out its new 915 iS engine and it will soon be available in uncertified form as a powerplant choice for experimental amateur built aircraft and high-performance LSAs. At 141 HP max for five minutes and 135 HP continuous, the Rotax 915 iS occupies a unique niche for factory-provided engines.

Dean Vogel of Lockwood Aviation, which will sell and service the engine to both kit aircraft and individual builders, told AVweb in an interview ahead of Sport Expo in Sebring this week that market interest in the engine has been modest. “What this engine really needs to succeed,” he said, “is for someone to design a clean-sheet airplane around its capabilities.” It's expected to be available in the first or second quarter of 2018 for full-kit prices in the $35,000 range.

And one of those capabilities is high-altitude performance. The 915 iS—essentially a higher-power variant of the 912 iS—is turbocharged with up to 45 inches of boost. It can maintain full power well above altitudes where normally aspirated engines are wheezing and its ECU is mapped to operate as high as 23,000 feet. The 915 iS uses the same ring mount as previous Rotax engines, but designers will need to find room for the engine’s intercooler. And also learn about and deal with more complex systems.

“I think they (Rotax) have done everything right, but it’s a more complicated installation,” said Sebastian Heintz of Zenith Aircraft. “It’s not like the engines we’re using now that you hook up the fuel and you’re ready to go. Firewall forward, the components are a lot more critical,” he added. Heinz said he’s most attracted to the light weight of the 915 iS. At 185 pounds, it’s less than half the weight of the typical engines Zenith uses in its aircraft. Heintz agrees that the engine is different enough to ignite interest in new airframes tailored to its strengths.

“From an efficiency standpoint, you could be flying at high altitude and burning five gallons an hour. It’s kind of fantastic if you think about it,” he added.

Starr - 'Click to read about Basic Med'
Sport Aviation Expo Opens With Higher Numbers
Paul Bertorelli

The 14th annual U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida, caught a break from the weather Wednesday and opened under clear skies and light winds. Show organizers told AVweb that both exhibitor participation and pre-show ticket sales are up over last year’s numbers. Moreover, the show grounds continue to get tweaks, including additions to the food court.

“I think a lot of it has to do with good weather. A lot of the folks are coming from up north and they’ve been able to get in. We still have a handful that are out but they’ve contacted us and said they should be in by tomorrow,” said Beverly Glarner, Sebring’s executive assistant. Show advance tickets sales are up by about 50 percent over last year, she added.

This is the second year that Sport Aviation Expo has set up the show oriented more toward the south end of the ramp and more or less centered on the airport administration and FBO building. Glarner told us some displays, like the vendor tent, have been moved a little more to the south to attract more foot traffic. Big draws this year include EAA’s Ford Tri-Motor and the original BatCopter used in the 1966 television series Batman. Show attendees can buy rides in both of these aircraft.

More than a dozen light sport manufacturers are showing aircraft and with the flightline right next to the display area, the vendors were flying numerous demos on Wednesday’s opening day. Glarner said the show is again sponsoring its YAZ program—youth in aviation—and will bring student groups from local schools to the show on Thursday. On Friday, a STEM program for students is planned. For a video overview, see AVweb’s show coverage video and look for more reports later this week.

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SpaceX To Launch Tesla Roadster In Mars Orbit (Really)
Paul Bertorelli

If the universe lacks for not having a midnight-red Tesla Roadster orbiting Mars, SpaceX is about to set things right. This week the company assembled its massive Falcon Heavy booster on Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center for what's planned to be the first launch of the most powerful booster since the Saturn 5 moon missions launched from the same pad. The company did a successful engine test Wednesday. The planned payload? Elon Musk's personal Tesla Roadster. (Used.)

The much-delayed Falcon heavy is essentially a modified Falcon 9 core booster with two strap-on Falcon 9s attached. It's capable of a little over 5 million pounds of thrust, powered by 27 Merlin 1D engines that SpaceX developed for its launch business. The booster was originally scheduled to fly in 2014, but SpaceX CEO Elon Musk admitted the company had a naive understanding of the flight dynamics of strap-on systems. It took another three years to sort things out and the company is hoping for a test flight later this year.

Musk has taken pains to reduce expectations. He said last July that there's “a real good chance that that vehicle does not make it to orbit. I hope it makes it far enough away from the pad that it does not cause pad damage. I would consider even that a win, to be honest.”

As for the roadster payload, many initial launch tests boost dead weight in the form of concrete ballast, but ever the iconoclast, Musk decided a car would be fun. "Payload will be my midnight cherry Tesla Roadster playing Space Oddity. Destination is Mars orbit. Will be in deep space for a billion years or so if it doesn’t blow up on ascent," he tweeted recently. "I love the thought of a car drifting apparently endlessly through space and perhaps being discovered by an alien race millions of years in the future."

Picture of the Week
Robert L. Burns wins this week by combining two of our favorite elements, air to air photography and great historic aircraft. That's a Beech AT-11 Kansan on its way to the annual Beech Party in Winchester, Tennessee.

See all submissions

Podcast: Flight Design General Aviation Revives C4
AVweb Staff

Now that it’s out of receivership and ramping up production, Flight Design General Aviation is turning its attention to the long-awaited C4 certified four-place aircraft. But as time has marched forward since the airplane was announced eight years ago, so has technology. At the Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida, AVweb got the details in this exclusive podcast.

Short Final

Pilots tuning into the ATIS at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Saturday got a laundry list of closed taxiways, runway and frequency information, a bird advisory and an apology.

ATIS: We apologize for any delay you might have today. Due to our elected leaders’ inability to effectively run (the) government, staffing is short. So sorry. Dilly Dilly.


Todd Huvard 


Control Surface Design: Keeping them Balanced
Barnaby Wainfan

When an aircraft designer is faced with the problem of tailoring control surface hinge moments as well as the effectiveness of and force required to operate those surfaces, she or he has several available design tools. Two of the most effective are types of aerodynamic balances—the horn and the external-airfoil balance.

Horn Balances

The horn balance is a section of the control surface at the tip that extends forward of the hinge line. It extends outboard of the tip of the fixed surface the control surface rides on, hence the term “overhanging or overhung balance.”

There are two types of horn balances. The first type, shown in the introductory photo, is the exposed horn balance. In this type of balance, the leading edge of the balance area is exposed directly to the airstream and has no fixed surface ahead of it. This type of balance was popular for ailerons during World War I and for about 15 years thereafter. Simple horn-balanced ailerons, sometimes called “elephant-ear” ailerons were a feature of the Fokker Dr.I triplane and the Fokker D-VII, as well as the post-WWI Travel Air airplanes. The horn-balanced ailerons on the Travel Air gave it a superficial resemblance to the Fokker D-VII. Since Travel Airs were easier to get than war-surplus Fokkers, they appeared as “German fighters” in several movies, leading to a nickname of “Wichita Fokker” for the Travel Air.

The second type of horn balance is the shielded horn balance. This has a fixed surface ahead of the moveable balance surface. Shielded horn balances are common on the tail surfaces of modern light airplanes.

Aerodynamically, horn balances behave very much like offset-hinge-line balances (the hinge axis is placed aft the leading edge of the moveable control surface) with the exception that they have a much larger effect on the floating tendency of the surface. The exposed horn balance has a greater effect on floating tendency than the shielded balance because the leading edge of the exposed balance is directly exposed to the airstream, and can develop significant aerodynamic force in response to changes in the airplane’s angle of attack. The fixed surface ahead of the balance area on the shielded balance protects the control surface leading edge from the free stream at low control deflections, reducing the balance’s effect on floating tendency.

Like offset-hinge balances, horn balances will stall if the control surface is deflected too far. Unlike offset-hinge balances, the stall is not total. Only the surface near the balance horn stalls. The rest of the surface is likely to remain effective. Although the pilot will feel sudden changes in control forces and buffeting, he will probably retain control over the airplane. The effect of stall of horn balances is further reduced by the fact that the exposed balance tends to be a relatively low aspect ratio, so it can get to a higher angle of attack before stalling.

Horn balances are most commonly used on tail surfaces (horizontal and vertical) where the reduction of the floating tendency is highly desirable because of the detrimental effect elevator and rudder float have on the stability of the airplane. Horn-balanced ailerons are rarer since the floating tendency of ailerons is of less concern than the floating tendency of elevators or rudders. Since ailerons move antisymmetrically, that is one up and one down, the floating tendency of the ailerons puts symmetric loads into the control linkage to the stick, and the two ailerons balance each other out. Horn-balanced ailerons have been used in the past, particularly on early airplanes, but are no longer common.

Horn Balance Advantages and Disadvantages

The horn balance has two primary advantages over the offset-hinge-line balance. The first is that the horn balance reduces the floating tendency more than the offset-hinge balance while having about the same effect on the restoring tendency. This means that a horn-balanced surface will float less and therefore destabilize the airplane less than a surface which has no balance or an offset hinge line. This is particularly important for elevator design.

The second advantage of the horn balance is that it is easier to build and hinge a horn-balanced surface than to provide an offset hinge line. A horn-balanced surface can be hung on simple hinges, while a surface with an offset hinge line must have more complicated hinges that are cantilevered a significant distance away from their mounting point.

A third advantage of horn balances is that the balance area can also house the mass-balance weights used to prevent the control surface from fluttering. This is very common practice in the design of light airplane elevators and rudders.

The primary disadvantage of the horn balance is that it is vulnerable to damage. The horn is exposed at the tip of the control surface and is therefore the first thing to be hit during the seemingly inevitable ground handling mishaps that cause hangar rash. This is a problem particularly if horn-balanced ailerons are used since wingtips are the first areas to get hit. The exposed nature of horn balances also increases the possibility that the surface can be jammed by debris lodging in the fore-and aft slot between the balance and the tip of the fixed surface. The fixed surface ahead of the balance on the shielded balance greatly reduces the chances of this happening.

A second disadvantage of horn balances, particularly if they are large, is that since they are cantilevered off of the end of the control surface they can produce relatively large structural loads on the rest of the surface. The designer who uses horn-balanced controls must take this into account when designing the movable surfaces.

External-Airfoil Balances

An external-airfoil balance is a small surface mounted to the main control surface on struts so that the aerodynamic center of the smaller surface is ahead of the hinge line of the control. This type of balance has become very common on aerobatic airplane ailerons as designers attempt to reduce the aileron forces to improve roll performance.

The most common design is a flat metal plate suspended ahead of the aileron on a single supporting tube or strut. This type of balance is sometimes called a paddle balance, but are usually referred to as “spades” because of their resemblance to small shovels.

The spade balance affects the control surface hinge moments very much like the simple, unshielded horn balance. While spade stall will cause an increase in hinge moment, it will not significantly affect the control power of the main control surface it is attached to.

The primary advantage of the spade balance is that it is easy to modify to tailor the control surface’s hinge moment to the desired level. Both the size and planform of the spade affect how it changes hinge moment over the full range of control surface deflection. Modifying spades is one of the primary tools used to fine-tune competition aerobatic airplane roll performance.

The primary disadvantages of spade balances are their vulnerability and the drag that they produce. Because spades are exposed, they are relatively easy to damage in ground handling. This is offset by the fact that they are easy to replace or repair.

Spades add wetted area to the airplane, and the struts supporting the spade can produce significant drag. Because of this, spades are rarely seen on airplanes which are designed for fast cross-country performance. They are, however, quite common on aerobatic airplanes where proper tailoring of the aileron forces is much more important to good performance of the airplane mission than a small reduction of drag.

A secondary advantage of spade balances is that the struts supporting the spade can be used to hold mass-balancing weights to prevent aileron flutter.


When designing an airplane with balanced controls, proceed with caution. In general it is more dangerous to have control forces which are too light than too heavy. An airplane with heavy controls may not be particularly pleasant to fly, but unless the forces are so heavy that the pilot cannot move the controls, it will be safe. An airplane with excessively light controls will be prone to pilot-induced oscillations, and it will be easy for the pilot to exceed the airplane’s structural limits by an abrupt control input.

Another danger that must not be overlooked is control-surface instability, sometimes known as overbalance. If the aerodynamic balance is too large, or behaves nonlinearly, the control surface may have an unstable restoring tendency. This means it will tend to go hard over when deflected. If this happens, the pilot must fight the control to keep it in the neutral position. When this happens on ailerons it is known as “aileron snatch”. Control-surface overbalance is extremely dangerous and has been responsible for several fatal first-flight accidents. An airplane with overbalanced controls is, at best, difficult to fly and may prove to be uncontrollable.

Before deciding to balance the controls aerodynamically, the designer should have some idea of what the control forces on an unbalanced control surface would be. In many cases, aerodynamic balance is unnecessary. In situations where control forces will be too high, or floating tendency excessive, aerodynamic balancing offers a way to get satisfactory characteristics.

Barnaby Wainfan is a principal aerodynamics engineer for Northrop Grumman’s Advanced Design organization. A private pilot with single engine and glider ratings, Barnaby has been involved in the design of unconventional airplanes including canards, joined wings, flying wings and some too strange to fall into any known category.

This article originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Kitplanes magazine.

Read more from Kitplanes and learn how to receive your FREE copy of The Annual Hombebuilt Buyers Guide!


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