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Briefing: Light Sport industry report card

Industry leaders at the U.S. Light Sport Expo in Sebring, Florida, in January were asked to grade the success of the Light Sport Aircraft (LSA).

Industry leaders at the U.S. Light Sport Expo in Sebring, Florida, in January were asked to grade the success of the Light Sport Aircraft (LSA).

BriefingIndustry leaders at the U.S. Light Sport Expo in Sebring, Florida, in January were asked to grade the success of the Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) industry now that it has reached its tenth anniversary. Most gave it high marks for innovation, but lower marks for actual sales.

Tom Peghiny of Flight Design USA, consistently the best-selling LSA, was an original founder of the movement and served on committees that brought the industry from a proposal to reality. Overall, he gives the industry a B+. “We thought the industry would have grown more than it did,” Peghiny said. “It was launched right before the recession. We pushed through that.” He noted there are a lot of airplanes and people flying today only because of the Light Sport industry. “The glass is more than half full,” he said.

Phil Solomon, CEO of Tecnam North America, gave the industry an A “from the creativity perspective.” Solomon gives sales a C or D. “The sales expectations haven’t been realized,” he said. “No industry with relatively small volumes of demand can survive with 70 to 75 manufacturers. History tells us that can’t happen.”

Phil Lockwood of Lockwood Aviation, a LSA school and maintenance facility, is considered a leader in the light sport movement. He is best known for his design of the AirCam, a twin-engine (and therefore, not an LSA) open-cockpit aircraft. He gives the industry a B-. Like Solomon, he noted that some of the aircraft manufacturers had trouble complying with FAA requirements. He noted that many have criticized the cost of the LSA aircraft, but added that they are a lot less expensive than the “old guard” fully certified low-end airplanes. He gave sales a B+ because, compared to sales of Cessna 172s and aircraft that paused production like Mooney (now returning to production), LSAs “have done pretty well.”

Aging pilots a boon to light sport

Many of us say, “Oh, no, the pilot population is aging.” The Light Sport Aircraft industry says, “Yea! The pilot population is aging.” Sport pilots can fly on just a driver’s license if they have never been denied an FAA medical certificate. The LSA industry expects, as a result, production to catch up with pent-up demand during two good years in 2014 and 2015, says a report on

On the watch list

• Mooney Aviation Company hopes to be back in production by late summer with one aircraft per month.

• Icon Aircraft will complete a production model of its snazzy amphibian light sport aircraft.

• Operations ramp up at unmanned aerial vehicle test sites in Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, and Virginia, and on drone testing ranges in Oregon, Hawaii, and Alaska.

• Twenty amphibious light sport aircraft are in progress on factory floors around the globe, including the Atol Amphibian in Finland, according to


Air Race Classic prepares for June event

California to Pennsylvania in four days

By Jill W. Tallman

BriefingThe Air Race Classic—a women’s air racing event with roots dating back to 1929—will launch on June 16 from Concord, California, to New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, by June 19.

The four-day event is flown in daytime, VFR conditions in stock aircraft. Routes vary each year and average 2,400 statute miles. The 2014 event, with stops in Oregon, Nevada, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, and Ohio, is 2,654 statute miles, or approximately 2,307 nautical miles. Each aircraft is assigned a handicapped speed, and the goal is to fly the “perfect cross-country”—utilizing the most favorable winds—and achieve a groundspeed as far above the handicap speed as possible. Awards are given for Best Stop and Most Congenial Team as well as for scores and times. The 2013 race between Pasco, Washington, and Fayetteville, Arkansas, fielded 47 teams, 33 of which completed the race.

To get started, pilots must request a racer registration kit, available from Air Race Classic. Entries are accepted until April 1, with late registration available until April 15 with Air Race Classic authorization and a late fee.


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The first Women’s Air Derby took place in 1929 when 20 pilots raced from Santa Monica, California, to Cleveland, Ohio. The first competition featured notable female pilots of the era, including Pancho Barnes, Amelia Earhart, Louise Thaden, and Bobbi Trout.

75 years ago this month

AOPA was formed in May 1939. It is March 1939. President Franklin D. Roosevelt has asked Congress for a defense budget hike. The phrase “March Madness” is coined in an essay by an official of an Illinois high school association in reference to a basketball tournament. The average cost of a new house in the U.S. is $3,800. A new car is $700 and a pound of hamburger meat is 14 cents.

March 3

Mahatma Ghandi begins a fast protesting British rule in India.

Students at Harvard University demonstrate a new tradition of swallowing goldfish.

March 7

Glamour magazine begins publishing.

Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians record Auld Lang Syne.

March 16

Nazi Germany occupies Czechoslovakia.

March 17

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain says Britain will oppose any effort at “world domination” on the part of Germany.

March 27

First NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship; University of Oregon beats Ohio State 46-33.

March 31

Britain and France agree to support Poland if it is invaded by Germany.

March 30

The Heinkel He 100 fighter sets the world airspeed record of 463 mph.

Capt. Tom Davis Field named

On December 17, 2013, at the Citrus County Courthouse in Crystal River, Florida, Tom Davis (“Pilots,” January 2014 AOPA Pilot) was officially awarded an honor that few receive. The airport in Crystal River was renamed with the tagline “Capt. Tom Davis Field.” A ceremony was conducted at the court- house and included members of the board of county commissioners for Citrus County and officials from the Tampa FSDO. A resolution was passed acknowledging Davis’s long history of contributions while serving as a Naval aviator and as the operator of the Crystal River Airport for 35 years. His years of dedication benefitted both general aviation and the community at large.

Favorite ‘Aopa Pilot’ cover


AOPA Photographer Chris Rose’s stunning image of a Cirrus SR22 model G5 over Alaska’s Glacier Bay won top honors from AOPA Pilot magazine readers as their favorite cover of 2013, according to a recent online poll ( The October issue photo was shot around 9:30 p.m. in mid-June near the time of the summer solstice, so the sun is still high overhead. AOPA Senior Photographer Mike Fizer’s December issue cover image of a magnificent Grumman Albatross near Catalina Island in Southern California was second with 17 percent, followed by the June cover photo by Rose of a gleaming de Havilland DHC-2 float Beaver made on the East Coast of Florida.

How to fly in the San Francisco Bay area

BY Jill W. Tallman

BriefingThe Rock. The Golden Gate Bridge. Sports arenas. The Presidio. All of these sights and more are the highlights of a relatively short flight within the San Francisco Bay area. CFI and glass cockpit expert Max Trescott calls it “the most beautiful flying of anywhere in the country,” and—while he may hold a certain bias, because he’s based in the Bay area—it’s hard to argue with him.

But the ability to spy all this natural and man-made phenomena from our unique perspective comes with a big fat warning label. This is one congested area. Actually, “congested” doesn’t adequately describe the Spirograph-like chunks of Class B and Class C that belong to San Francisco International and Metropolitan Oakland International, respectively. Their shelves loom large over Hayward and San Marcos airports in their Class D airspace.

Air traffic controllers expertly separate commercial and GA traffic and keep things moving like a well-oiled machine. GA pilots try to return the favor by being crisp and professional in their radio communications; understanding where they are at all times; and paying close attention for their N-number amidst all the chatter. Nobody wants to strain that relationship. Out-of-towners are highly encouraged to take a familiarization flight. San Carlos Flight Center ( offers them; they’re not sightseeing flights, but meant to educate pilots on local customs and procedures.

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What local pilots know:

Frequent fog and low-lying stratus clouds that arrive with the marine layer can put a damper on your plans. “When you get good weather, you go,” said one pilot based at nearby Palo Alto Airport.

ATC generally approves one of three VFR transitions through the Class Bravo—however they aren’t published on terminal charts.

A crosswind departure from San Carlos takes you across the Belmont Slough—a waterway that borders the edge of the San Carlos Class D airspace—out over the San Francisco Bay toward Oakland Airport. You’ll see the San Mateo bridge, but don’t loiter here. Matthew Herbert, a commercial pilot who conducts numerous sightseeing flights for San Carlos Flight Center, says he adds a little power to expedite this portion of the flight. “Right there between the shoreline and the midpoint of the bridge, all of the approaches going into San Francisco go right in on top of us,” he explains. “We’re at 1,200 feet and they’re coming in not even a thousand feet above us.”

You may be instructed to circle over Candlestick Park to avoid wake turbulence from a Boeing 777 taking off from SFO.

What you’ll see

Departing San Carlos Airport to the northwest, you’ll immediately spy a cluster of futuristic-looking office buildings that make up the Oracle Corp. complex.

Turning toward Oakland Airport, look for the double pyramid shape of Mount Diablo to the southeast.

Overflying the city of Oakland, you’ll see Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Turn back to the Bay to overfly Treasure Island, a manmade landform that was built to stage the 1939 World’s Fair. Its naval station’s auxiliary air station was designed for airships, blimps, dirigibles, airplanes, and seaplanes.

Nearby Alcatraz Island housed the infamous high-security prison known as “The Rock” from 1934 to 1963. Now it’s a national historic landmark. During the 2013 government shutdown, the National Park Service closed the site—but aerial tours continued, providing the only means to get a good look at the island.

Overfly the Golden Gate Bridge, which turned 75 in May 2012, and you may see a seaplane several hundred feet below you touring the same landmark. Then head south to spy the Presidio with its historic Crissy airfield.

Follow Highway 101 south back to San Carlos, and glimpse the reservoirs and the San Andreas Fault en route.

Video Extra: This online video details how to fly in the Bay Area. First in a series.

Pilot Products

New tools for basic needs: An iPad application, headphones, and flight bag are reviewed

By Ian J. Twombly

Bose QC20 in-ear headphones

BriefingIf you’re like most pilots who own a Bose aviation headset, you swear by its performance. Sometimes there are cases when we don’t want a full headset, though. Maybe it’s a son or daughter who refuses to be clamped, or you have an airline trip when wearing a headset would seem a bit strange.

In these cases you can keep it in the Bose family with the QC20 in-ear headphones. These are eerily quiet, incredibly comfortable in-ear headphones with active noise canceling. The company won’t say how much ambient noise is reduced, but it’s safe to say they are worthy alternative for your non-headset-wearing passengers.

Other than the price, which is characteristically steep, and the fact they must be recharged through a USB port, they are pretty close to perfect. That they double as a cellphone earpiece with microphone and great music player is just gravy.

Price: $299.95


Gyronimo performance applications

BriefingIt’s hard to get excited about weight and balance and performance iPad applications, but Gyronimo has created a series of beautiful, interactive apps centered on the basic tasks of computing weight and balance and calculating performance data.

We tested the Robinson R22 and R44 applications, which the company co-authored with longtime Robinson pilot Tim Tucker. Users interact with the app simply by sliding a bar left or right to increase or decrease the parameter. It might be weight, temperature, fuel, or whatever else it is you’re trying to compute. Anytime a limit is exceeded, the screen turns red, making it very obvious you can’t do what you’re trying to do. As the slider moves, so too does the bullseye in the center of gravity envelope or on the performance chart. Simply put, you can calculate a weight and balance and all your performance data in fewer than two minutes. Given how fun it is to use, pilots will be hoping to fly just to be able to use the application.

Price: Varies depending on aircraft model


Sporty’s Flight Gear collection

BriefingReflecting an evolving user, Sporty’s has redesigned its Flight Gear bag collection. Materials remain of high standard, but the design and configuration are all new.

We tested the Navigator bag, and we remain impressed with the durability and construction. Some of the madness from the flight bag pocket race is gone, and in its place is a more sane approach that focuses on quality over quantity. There are three separate and distinct areas to store headsets, a file folder pocket for charts, a padded iPad pocket, and pockets dedicated for cords and accessories. There’s also a large open middle section that can be used for a variety of other items. Given its good construction and thoughtful design, the bag is also a pretty good bargain.

Price: $99


This month on the AOPA JAY: Glacier Landing

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a glacier pilot in Alaska? Find out for yourself in this breathtaking simulation scenario for the AOPA Jay desktop training device. You’ll fly a Maule 260-C skiplane from Talkeetna up the Ruth Glacier to the Don Sheldon Amphitheater. You’ll land on the glacier below the historic Mountain House, pick up two ski mountaineers, and fly them back down to Talkeetna. Along the way you’ll see why this area has been called “One of the 10 most incredible places on Earth.”


Learn more about the AOPA Jay online (

Airport stories

‘Benign neglect’

Venice Airport has a new lease on life

By Julie Summers Walker

BriefingVenice Municipal airport in Florida—once a victim of “benign neglect” according to its supporters—is in trouble no more. This historic former army base on the Gulf Coast has turned itself around, thanks in great part to a small cadre of supporters who never stopped believing.

Venice Municipal faced opposition in this small resort town (population 21,000), which welcomes “snowbirds” January through March, when northerners trek south to Florida’s sunny shores. The airport was a training base and later an active general aviation airport, but when economic belts tightened the airport began to suffer from “benign neglect,” according to Paul Hollowell, a member of the Venice Airport Society Inc. (VASI).

And because of the city’s neglect, the airport’s detractors started to nibble at the airport’s 835-acre footprint. They wanted to shorten one of the airport’s two 5,000-foot runways. They wanted to deny new business. They wanted to take airport land. They started a smear campaign, which called out the airport for noise, jet traffic, and being a bad neighbor (one of the 9/11 terrorists had trained here).

It was a small group of airport supporters (VASI) working with local, state, and federal politicians and groups such as AOPA who eventually turned the tide for Venice Municipal (see “What They Learned” at right). Although Venice’s airport today is thriving, its supporters recognize that saving this airport has been a battle, but it is part of a larger war.

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Venice municipal today

Venice Municipal Airport (VNC) is self supporting and generates its own funds. As city council member Jeanette Gates says, “Economic development-wise, the airport is an engine without wings.” The airport generates more than $22 million in direct economic impact for the city of Venice. It has two 5,000-foot runways, a GPS approach, 184 T hangars, 98 tiedowns, and new precision approach path indicators (PAPI) on all runways. Runway 5/23 is a recently reconstructed noise-mitigation runway.

There are 220 aircraft based at the airport, an FBO, avionics shop (Sarasota Avionics, which has contributed to AOPA sweepstakes projects), two flight schools, and maintenance facilities. The Sarasota County Sheriff’s helicopter, providing law enforcement and firefighting support, and Agape Flights, a missonary organization, are based at the airport.

“Venice Municipal Airport has gone from the poster child of neglected airports to a business case in turning one around,” says Brett Stephens, VASI president.

Want to know more?

Venice Municipal Airport (VNC) Venice, Florida

What they learned

Build a strong airport support team. Recognize that a few people do the work but they have to be recognized as speaking for more.

Be professional, don’t get personal. And don’t get emotional. Be careful what you say and how you say it.

Know your airport. Research, research. Who owns your airport? Is your airport federally obligated? Gather all relevant documents. Does your airport have a master plan? Get it.

What are the airport economics? Learn how your airport is operated financially. Get the airport budget and understand it. Know your airport’s financial benefit to the community.

What are the issues and why? Find out who is involved and why—who doesn’t like the airport, who complains about noise, who are the developers and the environmentalists.

Build a network. Identify community groups, join the Chamber of Commerce, hold airport open houses and other events. Contact local, state, and federal politicians.

Be a good neighbor. Establish fly friendly procedures, build a website, clean up your airport.

Powering up

The sweepstakes Debonair gets a big bump in horsepower

By Thomas A. Horne

BriefingAll was not well with the Debonair’s IO-470-LCK engine. A borescope exam of the cylinders revealed pitting and corrosion, which explained the high levels of iron in the airplane’s oil analyses. Basically, the engine had sat idle for so long under the previous owner that the steel cylinder walls had rusted, and that rust wore away as I flew it over the past year. Now it was showing up in the oil as tiny iron particles. Were those particles damaging the camshaft, crankshaft bearings, and other internal components? We didn’t know, and didn’t want to risk it.

Although Bonanza/Baron/Debonair expert Adrian Eichhorn pronounced the cylinders fit, we knew deep down that we had to do the right thing. No way were we going to give away an airplane with a questionable engine. So once again D’Shannon Aviation stepped forward with a bold solution: do away with the existing 225-horsepower engine and replace it with a 260-horsepower conversion of the IO-470. In engine designator terms, we’re moving from a Teledyne Continental IO-470-LCK (the -LCK means that it started life as a -L engine and was changed—hence the “-C”—to a -K model during its last overhaul) to a Teledyne Continental IO-470-N.

I flew N75YR to Aero Engines of Winchester, Virginia, in mid-January. Aero Engines, a renowned engine shop in its own right, will remove the bad old engine, take it to the Lake Norman Airpark (14A), then install and apply the finishing touches to the Debonair’s -N upgrade.

The big news here is that all of the original cylinders will be chucked, and replaced with brand-new ECi TITAN cylinder assemblies featuring cylinder bores with the company’s Nickel+Carbide internal coatings. It’ll be goodbye to rusty steel cylinder bores, and hello to more durable, longer-lasting ECi cylinders. ECi cylinders have come under fire by the FAA, which wants to slap an expensive AD on certain ECi cylinders for the Continental IO-520 and IO-550 engines and built between 2002 and 2009—a proposal that AOPA aggressively opposes. Bottom line: we’re giving ECi a vote of confidence by using its -N cylinders on the Debonair.


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D’Shannon and the Debonair

D’Shannon Aviation had already been involved in the Debonair project. Back in late 2012 it provided the airplane’s tip tanks, new windshield and windows, and flap and gap seals. But since then, D’Shannon has initiated a new business venture called Genesis Engines by D’Shannon. This arm of D’Shannon is exclusively devoted to engine overhauls and upgrades. And fittingly enough, the Genesis shop is located in Mooresville, North Carolina, in the heart of Nascar country. In fact, Mooresville is called “Race City USA” because of the prominence that so many engine- and race-related companies bring to the area. Not coincidentally, Genesis employs six technicians with Nascar experience. —TAH

Genesis’ philosophy goes beyond merely overhauling engines. “We go several steps beyond what the manufacturers’ overhaul manuals require,” said John Clegg, Genesis’ director of operations. “For example, the manufacturer might say that balancing the pistons to within two to five grams is OK, but we balance them to within one-tenth of a gram. That’s the kind of tighter tolerances we produce.”

AOPA sweepstakes coverage sponsored by Bank of America

Three ways to win one of 76 prizes in AOPA’s Debonair Sweepstakes

Join or renew your AOPA membership and you are entered to win in AOPA’s Debonair Sweepstakes. AOPA is giving away a completely restored 1963 Beechcraft Debonair B33 with an all-new ergonomic interior, the latest avionics, and up-to-date airframe as the grand prize. You could also win one of 75 other great aviation prizes. Visit the website ( to enter.

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