Kuntzleman LED Landing Lights

Kuntzleman Electronics introduces the latest addition to its LSA and Experimental line of aircraft lights called LTR, which stands for landing-taxi-recognition. The LTR consists of nine bright LEDs, focused through special lenses, resulting in a white beam of light that has been measured at 2.5 times the brightness of a 55-watt halogen lamp (while drawing a third of the current) and 1.5 times the brightness of an HID lamp at about the same current, the company says. Powered by 12 to14 volts DC, the LTR draws only 1.35 amps. Its dimensions are 3 inches in diameter and 1 inch deep, and it weighs less than 6 ounces. If you want it to flash on and off, you can use an LED flasher from your local auto parts store.

The price is $234. For more information, call 610/326-9068 or visit Kuntzleman Electronics

Sonex Introduces Sub-Kits

PRESS RELEASE

Sonex Aircraft, LLC has announced yet another option for building Sonex Aircraft: Sub-Kits for Sonex and Waiex airframe. These Sub-Kits are designed to give Sonex and Waiex builders more flexibility and options for constructing the already industry-leading Sonex Aircraft kit values.

Sub-Kits allow potential builders to get started with a minimal initial investment and gives them a great opportunity to see for themselves the level of detail and simplicity designed into Sonex Aircraft. Once this building path is selected, the builder may purchase the remaining individual Sub-Kits at their own pace as time and resources allow, and is a great way to amortize construction costs without the need for financing.

“Sonex has received requests for Sonex and Waiex Sub-Kit building options since we started offering a complete kit in 2001,” remarked Sonex Aircraft, LLC General Manager and CEO Jeremy Monnett. “Many customers expressed an interest in spreading their aircraft construction costs out over time, particularly as financing has become more challenging. These new Sub-Kits are designed to satisfy that demand by allowing customers to pay as they go. As Sonex has continued to expand, so has our ability to offer market-driven options like Sub-Kits. These options continue to fuel the strong growth of the Sonex Aircraft family of products, which unquestionably offer the Best Performance Per Dollar in the recreational aircraft market today. Sonex is pleased to see that, despite the challenging global economic landscape, potential aircraft builders are determined as-ever to pursue their dreams of flight.”

For more information, visit the company's web site.

Sherpa Utility Aircraft Flying Again With Big Horsepower

The massive Sherpa homebuilt, which has seen more than its fair share of delays, is flying again behind a new K650 Honeywell turbine, last seen as the Garrett TPE331, producing 740 shaft horsepower. While Sherpa Aircraft has used both the Walter turboprop and the massive IO-720 Lycoming (making 400 hp in nonturbo form), the new aircraft, upgraded from the Sherpa’s original five seats to eight, ups the power ante quite a bit.

According to the company, “The Turbine Sherpa, which has evolved from a series of three metamorphic changes, is the first model the company is now offering for sale. The original Sherpa that caught the eye of the public was a 5-place version introduced at an EAA Oshkosh fly in event by Byron Root and Glen Gordon in 1994. Today, the current version being produced is the K-650T model operating with a gross weight of 6500 pounds.” Useful load is calculated at 3000 pounds.

Changing to the Honeywell (nee Garrett) engine provides tangible benefits. “This direct drive geared turbine engine is perfect for Sherpa operations because it offers instant power without delay when working in short field situations,” according to the company. “The propeller rpm of 1591 makes possible the use of a 116-inch three-blade Hartzell propeller that produces amazing static thrust. Fuel burn numbers from tests completed so far are lower than originally expected and show that the -5 engine with the horsepower it produces will operate with the lowest operating costs compared to all other turbine engines.”

Performance is eye-opening with the extra thrust. Takeoff distance at reduced weight have been measured at just 100 feet. The company says the new Sherpa will climb to 16,000 feet in 11 minutes, and cruise at 182 mph at 16,000 feet on 42 gallons per hour. Fuel capacity is 348 gallons.

According to the company, plans are to “construct 12 K 650T aircraft in the first production run. They will be offered in kit form and produced under a builder-assist program at the Scappoose, Oregon, facility with an amateur-built experimental license. Construction time for the production of the kit and final assembly is expected to take approximately 9 months from start to finish.”

The first factory prototype is undergoing its Phase I flight testing now. Base price, including a remanufactured, zero-time engine (with a 5400-hour TBO) is $850,000. For more information, contact Sherpa at 503/543-4004 or visit the company's web site.

Oshkosh: 2008 Goes Into the Books Exceeding Expectations

Finally home in California, there's time for me to take a quick look back on this year's Oshkosh. The highlights included the fact that it wasn't a bust, economically. Pre-show scuttlebutt suggested that it would be lightly attended on the premise that the economy is suffering and high fuel prices are keeping pilots flying less than they'd like. (For me, it was scheduling and cost that put me on an airliner to and from CA. Figure four days of travel and $1200 in fuel alone at 145 knots and 9 gph.) Around my home airport, the runways have been eerily quiet, and most of the Airport Way pundits said that sense of inactivity would extend to AirVenture.

Not so, as it turns out. In fact, many vendors were reporting good, strong sales and continued high interest in new Experimental-class products.

As an engine guy, I was happy to see some movement on electronic controls. In fact, it was movement both ways. While Lycoming showed up with a new FADEC system, to first appear on something called a TEO-540 twin-turbo fire breather—hey, notice that it's not a 580, I wonder why this much balleyhooed big brother has all but disappeared—that will, in time, be fitted to the front end of a Lancair Evolution. Lycoming's FADEC is nothing like the old semi-automatic system shown a decade ago. Best yet, Lycoming claims to have figured out a way to make electronic knock (detonation) detection possible. I'd been told by those in the know that traditional knock detection through acoustic means wasn't possible in an aircraft engine because its wide clearances, lightweight construction and air cooling made it "noisy" to the knock sensor.

More on FADEC. Precision continues to display its electronic engine controls, while Aerosance has quietly pulled the Experimental version of its FADEC from the market. At a press function with Aerosance's owner, Teledyne Continental Motors, the Mobile outfit's new president, Rhett Ross, announced that a new FADEC was in the works. I didn't expect this to mean the instant death of the first gen. Either way, the Aerosance FADEC has been a visible failure of the genre, with just one original-equipment buyer and very sparse aftermarket interest.

Also in evidence at the Lycoming tent was the TIO-360, a turbocharged and intercooled, parallel-valve engine rated at 180 horsepower. I had a few quiet moments with Lycoming's VP of Engineering, Mike Kraft, and he said that much of what was really cool about the engine wasn't visible: The joined intercooler, cast to make a nice arc from the turbo outlet to the forward-facing Precision injection servo, has internal passages to improve air flow and efficiency. It was Lycoming's belief that the TIO-360 would fit a lot of Experimental cowlings with minor modifications. A quick, very rough check suggests that my Glastar Sportsman's cowling isn't quite bulbous enough. Sigh.

News from the other side of the firewall: The EFIS wars are simmering down a bit. Except for Dynon's new big-screen, synthetic-vision units, the other units I saw were evolutions or slight updates of the devices shown this April in Florida. Of course, when the Dynons will arrive depends on who you talk to. Some in the company say early 2009, but the engineers all grimaced and said, "Can we just call it second-quarter oh-nine?"

We have all heard the term LSA until our ears are bleeding, right? And while that part of the industry—specifically, the ready-to-fly SLSA aircraft—are growing in number, the size of the fleet has yet to really take off, so to speak. Moreover, I have to wonder about the EAA's angle on all this, seeing as how the LSA Mall was rather unceremoniously shoehorned in next to the Affordable Flying hangar, just adjacent to the workshop buildings. Cessna's pretty white Flycatcher—er, sorry, SkyCatcher—was prominent in the exhibit down the main road, but over at Cirrus the jet, in both real and mockup form, was the real attention grabber.

Speaking more of LSA, Continental and Lycoming both showed commitment to the class. Continental's lightweight O-200 was praised by the company as being robust, while Lycoming showed the IO-233, a lightweight version of the venerable, lead-magnet O-235. Now sporting an unfinished throttle body injection system, sectioned starter ring gear, roller tappets and a prototype electronic ignition by the E-Mag guys, the 233 is said to be more competitive in the weight-critical LSA world. Anything to stop the tide of Rotax 912s, eh? Two years ago, I would have given both of these programs slim odds of success, but the plunging value of the dollar against the euro will help. The 912, never cheap, is starting to look almost gemstone-precious to cost-conscious builders.

Arguably the best show wasn't planned to be entertainment, and that was the Monday open seminar by the FAA on the proposed changes to the "51% rule." Certification director John Hickey (photo at right) and Frank Paskiewicz, of the FAA's AIR-200 (Production and Airworthiness Division) office were on hand to receive the general ire of the homebuilding community. They attempted to calm fears and explain the process by which the FAA has come to the recent set of proposals to overhaul the Advisory Circulars that provide guidance for homebuilt licensing. Perhaps the best news from that meeting was the announcement that the deadline for comments had been extended to September 30.

Builders and potential builders sparred with the FAA and, to some extent, EAA's own Earl Lawrence on the interpretation and effect of the proposed new rules. The central point of discussion was arguably the new specific requirement for 20% fabrication by the builder. Although not stated explicitly in any recent documents from the FAA, Paskiewicz confirmed that it's the FAA's belief that the "intent" of the original wording, that the builder is responsible for the "majority" of the "fabrication and assembly," is that those tasks be apportioned equally. Until recently, the industry regarded the tasks interchangeably. And while no one argues that b
uilders should not be required to fabricate anything, the industry (EAA, kit manufacturers and builders all) has strongly opposed a specific fabrication percentage.

After a general presentation session that recapped the proposal, the floor was open to questions. Unfortunately, I was the next in line when Lawrence decided to stop the proceedings because we had run over time.

In the days following the meeting, my familiar industry contacts were hard to find. "He's in a meeting with the FAA," was the common response. Later, having caught up with most of them, I learned that the FAA is in fact looking closely at the proposals and, thankfully, some compromises appear to be in the works. I don't know enough to say with certainty what those compromises will be, but I'm led to believe that most builders will be relieved, if not happy, with the outcome.

So it was with a slight sense of relief that I boarded a surprisingly nice Air-Tran Boeing 737 for Los Angeles, smiling inwardly at the pasting our old friend, test pilot Len Fox (right), gave the FAA at the open meeting. If it wouldn't be a demotion for Len, I'd pencil him in for President in 2008.

GlobalAir.com's Fuel Route Planner in Beta

GlobalAir.com’s new fuel route planner, in its final beta version, was displayed at AirVenture this year. President/CEO Jeffrey Carrithers anticipates that the finished screens, airport reports and icons should be finished by November 2008. The service is intended for the cross-country piston pilot, and he estimates that the subscription would run between $10-15 monthly.

Carrithers gave us a quick look at its capabilities. When you input your point of departure and destination, the planner takes your aircraft’s range, lays out the number of stops and displays the nearest airport. Click on that airport, and Globair.com will do a radial search for the best fuel price. It will also show alternate airports in the area, including airport information and fuel prices.

Where GlobalAir differs is that the fuel prices are reported directly from the FBOs, not pilot reports. The fuel prices are updated every 30 days, and if an FBO doesn’t update, it’s removed from the system automatically—no false hope from outdated fuel prices.

Stewart Systems Debuts Nontoxic Epoxy Primer

Stewart Aircraft Finishing Systems introduced EkoPoxy, a new waterborne two-part catalyzed epoxy primer that also contains a proprietary corrosion inhibitor. No oxidation, no rust, no toxic vapors. Pretty cool. Oh, and it’s tough enough to resist a pretty good thumb dig into a coated fabric fabric surface. (It recovered shortly thereafter.)


Company principal Doug Stewart told us EkoPoxy was developed to protect the metal fuselage and any steel parts from corrosion. “It’s an extremely durable, tough paint, and we’re trying to keep those metal airplanes from rusting. With a lot of primers, you have to be very careful what type of paint you put over them because they dissolve them. This primer is impervious to just about anything we can throw at it: MEKs, lacquers, all your high-solvent rubs, even long-term exposure in warm salt water or salt air.” Good news if your plane’s on floats, or if you tie it down in a salt air environment.

EkoPoxy is also STC’d, and the company is working on getting its paints Mil-Spec’d. Stewart added, “We work to a higher standard. We’re the only fabric and paint system in the industry that’s totally nonhazardous, meets all OSHA EPA requirements and is noncombustible. You can use it indoors in a closed-room environment all day, with no health or hazard issues. It’s a catalyzed product that doesn’t require a fresh air breathing system. It’s safe to use—we just require a good-quality charcoal respirator. And you’re not going to blow your shop up because it will absolutely not burn in a liquid or a cured state.”

Stewart noted that their technology has been around for about 14 years, and that solvents are on their way out. They can ship the materials worldwide with no hazmat or special shipping requirements. He added they hadn’t received any reports from the field about cracking or crazing on fabric aircraft.

EkoPoxy can be cleaned up with water, and is now available. Check out Stewart Aircraft Finishing Systems’ Web site for more information, or call them at their Cashmere, Washington, facility at 888/356-7659.