Aero fever

July 1, 2012

AERO Friedrichshafen, Europe’s premier general aviation exhibition, hosted 30,800 visitors this year and featured a number of significant announcements. Increasingly, the AERO show’s importance is rising in step with Europe’s growing profile in the light end of the general aviation spectrum.

Slovenian manufacturer, Pipistrel, grabbed a lot of the limelight at the April show with the rollout of its new Panthera, a four-seat, 202-knot, 1,000-nm piston single powered by a Lycoming IO-390 engine. The sleek, all-composite design is set for certification in Europe and the United States in 2015. Made principally of carbon fiber, the Panthera comes with gull-wing doors and a ballistic parachute system. Computer-aided design (CAD) technology is one reason why the Panthera can squeeze 200 knots out of a 10-gph fuel burn, Pipistrel says. And while elegant looking, the airplane will be approved for landing on unimproved strips.

AERO flags

Price is now $513,500, but Experimental versions will be available with factory build-assist for $435,500 (with a Skyview SV1000 panel) or $461,500 (with Garmin G500 avionics). Pipistrel, known for its eco-friendly design philosophy, has plans for future iterations of the Panthera, including a hybrid avgas/electrically powered model. And an electrically powered Experimental variant, priced at $117,000, is anticipated in 2016.

Diamond Aircraft is always big at AERO, and this year was no different. The company’s new DA52-VII was on display for the first time. This 197-knot, five- to seven-seat twin is powered by Austro Engines’ AE300 turbodiesels rated at 180 horsepower. The DA52 will come in both European and American versions—the U.S. version weighing in with an MGTOW of 4,750 pounds; the European model will weigh less, so as to avoid airway user fees. The airplane is still in flight test, but when it’s up for sale should run approximately $901,000 to $1.02 million, depending on equipment. Diamond also introduced a new DA42 twin—the DA42-VI. It’s a sleeker version of the DA42 NG and can cruise as fast as 193 knots, Diamond says. Price: $732,600 to $850,000 at current exchange rates. Certification dates for both aircraft have yet to be announced.

Diamond is working on a fly-by-wire system that will recognize pilot incapacitation and land an airplane automatically at the nearest suitable airport. A prototype is being tested using a DA42.

Cirrus took center stage when it announced that its Vision SF50 single-engine jet program received a $200 million shot in the arm from its new Chinese owner, CAIGA (China Aviation Industry General Aviation Company Ltd.). Cirrus’ Todd Simmons declared the SF50 fully funded and predicted certification of the SF50 in 2015.


Flight Design’s CTLS Light Sport aircraft earned European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) restricted type certification at the show—a move that should help European flight schools earn more revenue. EASA certification of the CTLS should also help pave the way for Flight Design’s latest, four-seat design—the C4—a boost to U.S. certification because many of the CTLS’ systems and features are also in the C4. The C4, a $250,000, 155-knot airplane powered by a 180-horsepower Lycoming IO-360 engine, should be certified in 2013.

At last year’s AERO, PC-Aero GmbH flew its electrically powered Elektra. This year, the company was back with a solar-electrically powered version, the Elektra One. The airplane uses wing- and fuselage-mounted solar cells to charge the ship’s battery, which in turn drives its electric motor. Plans are to certify the Elektra One under Germany’s light-powered sailplane rules, and under U.S. Part 103 rules for certifying ultralights. Price: about $105,000—steep for an ultralight, but you’ll never buy avgas again!

Speaking of avgas, Lycoming’s senior vice president and general manager, Michael Kraft, used an AERO presentation to announce that his company is seeking approval from the FAA to use UL 91 unleaded avgas in 35 Lycoming engines. This, after the European Union already approved the production, distribution, and use of UL 91 in western Europe. The list of candidate engines for approval is in Lycoming Service Instruction SI-1070R, which is posted online.

In all, 550 exhibitors were at AERO, and next year’s show promises to be equally eventful.

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Aero facts

AERO 2012 was the twenty-third AERO show. It featured 550 exhibitors from 28 nations. A convention survey stated that 72 percent of visitors held pilot certificates and that about 63 percent of those visitors were from nations in the European Union. As for sales, 43 percent of visitors bought something during the show and another 32 percent bought or ordered items after the show. More than 80 percent rated the show “good” or “very good.” In 2003, the AERO show moved from a site in downtown Friedrichshafen to a newly built convention site at the Friedrichshafen airport.

Thomas A. Horne

Thomas A. Horne | AOPA Pilot Editor at Large, AOPA

AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Tom Horne has worked at AOPA since the early 1980s. He began flying in 1975 and has an airline transport pilot and flight instructor certificates. He’s flown everything from ultralights to Gulfstreams and ferried numerous piston airplanes across the Atlantic.