How many Kitfox airplanes do you think are in customers’ hands, either built or still in the box? The total is 5,000 (worldwide), and 3,800 of those are out of the box and in the air. There are only seven factory-built Light Sport Kitfox aircraft in the fleet, but the factory is working off a year-long backlog. A day before this year’s U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida, Senior Editor Al Marsh, photographer Chris Rose, and video producer Warren Morningstar met with Kitfox officials at Avon Park, located about 10 miles from Sebring, to fly and photograph this month’s cover story ( “Light Sport Aircraft: Big Foot Kitfox,” page 50). The weather didn’t cooperate that much, providing cloudy skies and crosswinds from an approaching rainshower that tested Marsh’s tailwheel crosswind abilities. Rose managed to find just enough sun struggling through the clouds to pull off the photo shoot, and Morningstar finished a video interview in the rain. Many readers ask the location of our photo shoots, and this one was just offshore above Lake Jackson at Sebring. A water background provides a blank canvas to better feature the airplane. Avon Park Executive makes a great airport for doing magazine articles, thanks to its friendly atmosphere.
“Instructors at the Surratt Winter Survival Clinic had their work cut out for them this year,” says ePublishing Managing Editor Alyssa J. Miller. “I was the least experienced of the 33 participants, never having built a fire, shelter, or even camped out in the winter. They not only taught me lifesaving skills but gave me the chance to try it on my own to prove it to myself that I could survive after an accident ( “Survival Mode,” page 58). “The instructors also taught pilots who have attended the clinic more than five years in a row some new skills. I’d recommend all pilots find a course near them to learn survival skills for the terrain they fly over.”
“Distraction is dangerous, and forgetting to set the flaps can be a killer item under some circumstances,” says AOPA Foundation President Bruce Landsberg. “Business jets and airliners need them for every takeoff and light aircraft may need them in some situations. Automation is there to lower workload and serve as a backup, but when it malfunctions and that malfunction goes undetected, it can be catastrophic.” Landsberg examines a Northwest Airlines accident that illustrates his point ( “Safety Pilot Landmark Accident: Calm in Chaos,” page 74).
Pilots are always passionate about the aircraft they fly, notes Technical Editor Mike Collins—and owners of RVs, the series of kitbuilt aluminum aircraft designed by the legendary Dick VanGrunsven, are more passionate than most. “I spent a day in January with a group of RV owners and builders who were rebuilding the granddaddy of them all—Van’s original RV–1,” says Collins ( “Rebirth of the Pioneer RV,” page 79). Although it was not an official workday, 10 people crowded into a corner of the RV Central hangar at Hicks Field, northwest of Fort Worth. The historic homebuilt, progenitor of nearly 8,000 RVs over the past 40 years, will make its public debut at Sun ’n Fun this month, then tour the United States before going on permanent display at the EAA AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh.