TL Ultralights Australia - Newsletter 8

Welcome to a massive Newsletter No. 8, what can I say..... OSHKOSH !!!

The past few weeks have seen both myself and Phil from Canberra (the cursed one for our regular readers) over in Oshkosh - Wisconsin for the first showing of the Sting in the United States.

To say the response has been overwhelming would be an understatement. The plane was so well received by both the press and the general public that the aircraft's future in the US has been secured for many years to come. Our new XCOM 760 radio also had the honour of receiving the best product of show award; so overall we couldn't be happier. Please read on for a full report........ * Click on any of the images for a larger view

We arrived in Oshkosh three days before the official start of the event because we had so much to organise. Being our first trip to Oshkosh as exhibitors I guessed we would need every hour of those three days to find our site, pitch the tent, find our aircraft and get everything set-up.... How wrong could I be.

The EAA centre was so well organised that we were directed to the site in about 10 minutes. The tent and other equipment we had posted over months before turned up a few minutes later and a truck with our Sting rolled by about 1 hour after that. We had it all setup and ready in about 4 hours from arriving. Not what I expected but it gave us a few days to recover from jet lag, catch a movie and get all the latest news and gossip before the show started.

The Sting Arrives....

We commented to each other that It's almost getting boring putting all these aircraft together as the truck arrived with the aircraft. A quick look inside and a thumbs up from Phil confirmed that she had arrived as expected without any damage and about 10 minutes later we had her unloaded and ready for assembly. Even in the heat and humidity of Oshkosh we had the aircraft ready for flight in under 90 minutes... We attached the wings, propeller, elevator and rudder and all we needed to finish it off for flight was fuel.

The next few days were eaten up as the public started turning up before the official start of the show and we spent many enjoyable hours talking with our new friends.

Ready for Action...... Day 1

Day one started the same as day 7 finished.... BUSY. It was rare for either Phil or myself to get a break, let alone lunch. We were kept busy from start to finish by the thousands of visitors who wanted information on the Sting and Star and the new XCOM radio. Following are the most asked questions which came from the visitors to our site.

Tell us about certification and registration in the USA and Canada ??

There are a number of ways to register the Sting and Star in the USA and it is made reasonably easy by the high levels of certification the aircraft has with its foreign Type Certificates.

Option 1. A normal aircraft.

The USA has a bilateral agreement with both the Czech Republic (where the aircraft is manufactured) and also with Germany. Germany is an ICAO nation and its airworthiness standards are internationally recognised throughout the other ICAO nations of which USA is one. We have started the paperwork approvals for having the aircraft accepted onto the USA register under these bilateral agreements. I expect the acceptance to be fairly straight forward as we have just completed the same process in Australia. Timing for acceptance is questionable depending on who in the FAA you talk to but I would expect approvals to be in place well before the end of this year. This may sound like a long time but delivery is currently at around 6 months from the factory.

Option 2. Experimental 51%.

We have a builder assist program in place where the purchaser can travel to the Czech Republic and spend up to 4 weeks working on their aircraft under the supervision and guidance of the aircraft manufacturers TL-Ultralight. The program allows for most of the major airframe work to be completed by the owner with the painting, engine, instrument fitout and test flying to be completed by the factory technicians. This option would qualify the builder for the Amateur Built 51% rule but the aircraft would not be Type Certified on completion.

Option 3. Sport Pilot.

Creating a lot of interest in Oshkosh was news of the new Sport Pilot program which is expected to be approved in the first quarter of next year according to the FAA and the EAA. Sport Pilot opens up the market for new aircraft like the Sting and the Star where a customer can purchase a factory built aircraft and operate it on a normal license which does not require a first class medical.

We need to make a few changes to the aircraft to fit the Sport Pilot rules as they currently stand and this includes the removal of the Woodcomp Constant Speed Propeller. The proposal bans the use of in flight adjustable propellers and there is also a limit for maximum speed in level flight of 115 knots.

The Sting obviously is well over this speed with the constant speed propeller but we are bringing out a new model called the STING SPORT which is manufactured to suit the Sport Pilot requirements. The Sting Sport will have a fixed pitch ground adjustable propeller which will be pitched and matched to a slightly reduced power output which will qualify the Sting at 115 knots to fit into the Sport Pilot category, The Star model will fit into the Sport Pilot category without any modification, powered by either the 80 or 100 HP Rotax engines matched to a fixed pitch propeller.

The Star model is almost overlooked by many customers who get drawn in by the Sting's aggressive looks and carbon fibre construction but the Star is worthy of more than casual attention. The Star is available in the USA for around $40,000 fully built with the 80 hp engine and basic instruments. Most kit aircraft are costing more than this and you still need to spend up to 3 years building them.

TL-2000 Sting Carbon
TL-96 Star

Can I be a dealer ???

After 10,000 requests a day at Oshkosh we have decided against appointing dealers in the USA for a number of reasons... firstly, it lifts the price because there is another mouth to feed..... It will also slow down support for our owners because there is a longer line of communication needed. Many have asked how we can support the US markets from Australia and it's really very simple - we have proven this with our international support for our other brand of aircraft, the X-Air.

Support is offered either over the phone or more commonly through the Internet. Being around the other side of the world has its benefits because when your working on you're plane or have the time to make contact it's generally late afternoon or early evening and that's when we are starting our day. Any questions can be answered immediately by phone or email and we also have the benefit of extensive product knowledge on the Sting and the Star aircraft from spending several months at the factory over the past 18 months. Any parts will be supplied direct from the manufacturer in the Czech Republic or directly from Australia. Most deliveries from either location on UPS or FedEx take less than 4 days so you're never far from help. The factory would prefer not to communicate direct with customers because of the language and communication barrier except in an emergency so it's all left to us.

We may consider appointing state agencies in the future but for the moment we are really interested in getting some aircraft affordably flying in the USA.

Sexier than the Sting ??? I think Not !!

Oshkosh brings out all sorts of interesting creations like this electric powered three wheel car.

Can I put a Jabiru engine in her ??

We have been asked this several hundred times over the Oshkosh event and the simple answer is yes..... But, why would you.

The 2.2 Jabiru is underpowered for the aircraft at around 65 hp..... I know the sales brochure says 80hp, but it's not. The 3.3 engine is advertised at 120 hp and would suit the aircraft but it's not certified. The 2.2 is the only certified engine and, being underpowered, the aircraft wouldn't perform to its capability. The uncertified 3.3 could be used in a 51% build but the aircraft range has been designed around the successful, certified Rotax 80, 100 and 115 hp engines.

A very happy Bill Canino takes delivery of the first Sting into the USA

How does she fly ??

Easy question for us because we know the aircraft but for a new plane in a new market there must be lots of doubts. We were very privileged to have interest from the International and US media throughout the event and Phil flew a couple of Photographic missions for the magazines, I also had the pleasure of taking Dan Johnson up flying.

Dan is a nice guy with experience flying over 300 different aircraft. He has published stories, which appear monthly in Ultralight Flying, Kitplanes, EAA Experimenter, General Aviation News, Hang Gliding, Fly & Glide (Germany), and Volare (Italy) ...and other titles on a non-monthly basis. He is respected as one of the most experienced and unbiased reviewers in the industry.

It was my pleasure and a great experience to spend a couple of hours with him in the Sting to the South West of Oshkosh.... He really knows his stuff and I learnt a lot from his flying and the way he tests an aircraft. I was really interested in his comments on the plane.... We knew it was a good one but without the experience to compare to hundreds of others you sometimes wondered if it was really that good or you were just becoming familiar and one with the plane. Well my beliefs in the aircraft were reinforced during our debrief after the test and we were delighted to be given a very big thumbs up !! Dan has advised that both Kitplanes and EAA's Experimenter are both interested in running articles on the Sting so we will have to wait with baited breath for their release......

Of further interest: Dan Johnson is starting his own web site The site will offer hundreds of pilot reports, thousands of airplane photos, and unique interactive features to help buyers of light aircraft select the right plane for them (PlaneFinder / SpecCheck / PlaneView / Pros & Cons). The site is still being built but you may sign up now to be notified when the site goes live.

Preparing and rolling for the first US flights

Nearly forgot to mention, the latest edition of Custom Planes (September 2002) also has a comprehensive 6 page report on the Sting starting on page 46. The excellent article was written by Peter Kraus who visited our home airfield in Australia some months ago.

The first American to fly a Sting on home soil.... Mario (a commercial pilot) was kindly lent to us to act as navigator during the EAA air-to-air photo shoots. Thankfully he was able to assist us as we had no maps, compass (the aircraft was fitted with a southern hemisphere compass and did not work in the northern hemisphere) or headsets.... His local knowledge was invaluable in our first orientation flights.

It cant be all from me.... here is a quick report from Phil......

Oshkosh is one of the most amazing displays of organisation that I have ever encountered. I found it extraordinary that, with so many aircraft movements, few if any accidents or incidents were seen. I highly commend the EAA on their ability to bring the airshow together in such a professional manner.

Flying during the Oshkosh airshow is an experience that one will never forget. NOTAMs detail the unique procedures for entry into and departure from the Oshkosh airspace but it is not until you actually use those procedures that you realise the thought that must have gone into the preparations and planning.

During the airshow, aircraft simply start engines and begin to taxi. At each taxiway, ground marshallers marshall the aircraft to the appropriate runway. A sign in the cockpit window indicates the type of flight, VFR or IFR, and the marshallers direct the aircraft accordingly. Aircraft are directed based on type and/or callsign and no read-back of any radio calls is required.

When entering Oshkosh airspace, aircraft fly over designated rejoin points and are identified by ground controllers situated at the locations. Calls such as "Low wing white aircraft over Fisk rock your wings" are made by the ground controllers and the aircraft acknowledges by rocking its wings. "Low wing white aircraft identified, proceed along the railway tracks overflying the strobes and expect a left base on runway 36". "Low wing white aircraft sequence number three Oshkosh runway 36 right side, orange spot". Aircraft are positioned on either side of the active runway for approach and may be allocated a spot colour, which denotes a displaced threshold. Up to three aircraft can be landed on each side of the runway simultaneously using these procedures and a number of runways are operated at once allowing for ten or more aircraft to be landed at one time. Amazing co-ordination and organisation!

Our flying at Oshkosh consisted of a number of early morning flights. The Sting had to be at the stand from 9:00 am each morning so each flight had to be conducted prior to that time. The first flight was a test flight to ensure that the aircraft as ready for a close formation photo shoot - we didn't want any unexpected events to occur while in close formation. Michael, along with local guide Mario, conducted a short flight to 'prove' the plane and that was our first introduction to the 'limited radio' procedures.

That night I conspired against Michael by feeding him garlic laced bread sticks for an hour over dinner. Michael has an aversion to garlic and I knew that he would be feeling the effects the following morning and that would allow me the opportunity to fly for the photo shoot. My plans worked and again, our local guide Mario came along to ensure we found our way home. As I flew in close formation with the Cessna 210 for the photos, I had a smirk on my face thinking of Michael sitting in the toilet and cursing the breadsticks.

An uneventful but highly enjoyable flight with the Cessna ended after an hour and a half and we started the trek back home. The cloud was now low and we had to 'scud run' at 200' AGL to maintain visual. We found the rejoin point over Rippon and sequenced ourselves in amongst the other six aircraft entering. I was keenly aware of all of the aircraft both in front and behind after my run-in a few months back with the Cessna (see Newsletter No. 5).

As the rain showers and low cloud continued, we fought to maintain visual contact with the aircraft in front and finally made our way via Fisk back to Oshkosh for a smooth touchdown. I was pleased with clocking up 1.7 hours of flying since I had little opportunity to fly since the accident back in February.

We had managed to sell the demonstration Sting and the new owner, Bill Canino, was keen to get some airtime before we left the US. The cloud was low and the weather was closing in so we postponed his first flight until later that day. Again, Michael's bowels were proving weak after I laced him up with garlic and I got another chance to fly with Bill for his first check ride. We proceeded out to a small airfield about twenty miles from Oshkosh and did some touch-and-goes to get Bill used to the controls. The aircraft proved vastly different to his usual steed, the SeaRay, and Bill initially found it difficult to master the speed and agility first off as he attempted to overcorrect everything rather than just let the plane fly itself. The curfew for Oshkosh was 8:00pm and we had to be overhead or passed Fisk by 7:45pm to meet this deadline. After that time, all aircraft were diverted to neighbouring airfields and Oshkosh was closed.

On the way back we encountered a few more rain squalls but Bill felt confident enough to maintain the controls. We approached final on runway 36 and could not identify the two aircraft in front who were hidden in the squall so I got on the radio and requested a short final approach, on the left side of 36 - the first radio call I had made all day! We were granted a straight in approach so Bill brought us in low to maintain visual and lined us up for touchdown. As we approached on short final, we were unexpectedly hit by a squall with a 30 knot crosswind gust which forced us over the grass on the left side of the runway. I quickly grasped the controls and with the agility of the Sting managed to position ourselves back on the left side of the strip for a very fast, flapless approach and touchdown at 70 knots. I guess that military training does pay off sometimes. After a congratulatory cheer from the controller for our recovery, we were guided off the runway and into the hands of the ground marshallers.

Another failed attempt due to bad weather to get Bill checked out on the Sting meant that either Michael or I had to deliver the Sting to Little Rock, Arkansas. As Michael had hired the car, and the insurance did not cover me, I was the bunny who had the task of navigating the countryside in search of North Little Rock airfield, some 700 miles south of Oshkosh.

An early morning briefing at the EAA Briefing Centre proved interesting to say the least. Radio procedures across the US are very different from here in Australia. For a start, there is only one "area" frequency, 122.2 MHz, and there are no overflying calls, no MBZs (Mandatory Broadcast Zones) and there are hundreds of Control Zones across the nation, but these only come into effect when IFR conditions prevail.

The night before I had planned the route from Oshkosh to Little Rock, Arkansas and estimated that it would be a 6-hour casual flight at 120 knots. I noted that Homer Simpson's house was on the way and made a point of a slight detour to overfly Springfield and photograph Homer's nuclear power plant and house. Unfortunately I couldn't identify the lemon tree as I flew over but I was happy that I had come so close to a famous location.

I was impressed by the professionalism of the briefing staff and felt a lot more comfortable flying across a foreign nation after spending ten minutes talking to the staff about the procedures and expected conditions enroute. After the briefing, Michael and I prepared the Sting. After a short warm up, I gave the taxi call and headed to Basling Aviation for fuel. The traffic departing Oshkosh was tremendous and after a full half hour waiting for a clearance to taxi, I was off.

My take-off had to be arrested since all of the other aircraft were quickly falling away in front of me and, with the large number of aircraft around, I didn't want to be caught out in a close quarters situation so I reduced power to about 50% at 200 feet and continued a gradual ascent at the rate of the Cessna and Baron in front. As I made the left turn from 27 to head south, I quickly overtook the other two aircraft in front whom appeared to be cruising at about 100 knots. It was a beautiful day and I trimmed the Sting for straight and level flight, 120 knots at 4500' and sat back with my hands off the controls to admire the view.

The first few hours flew by as I took a few photos and weaved to and from track to take in the views. I managed to find Springfield and took some photos of what appeared to be the nuclear reactor - taking care not to come too close as Homer may have been at work and who knows what could have happened if he was.

After travelling for three hours I decided to stop for fuel and, after spotting a car on a small gliding airfield I landed to ask for direction. It's great to be in a Sting, being able to land at any airfield and just ask directions. After a short stop talking to a local glider pilot, I headed west to another airfield to top up. Again, the Sting turned heads when I landed and I was asked for more brochures and information on the aircraft. I had planned to stop for fuel and then leave straight away but after 45 minutes of chatting, I had to drag myself from the hospitality of the locals and take to the air once again.

Again, the first few hours were pleasant, warm and cosy with clear skies and beautiful views. About an hour and a half from Little Rock however I began to encounter the foreboding weather that I had been briefed about that morning. The cloud started to close and the rain began to fall. I dropped down to 2000' and cautiously headed south, avoiding the thunderheads growing above. The cloud became thicker and dropped to the deck and I began hopping from airfield to airfield with the intention of stopping as soon as the next field was unreachable. I was lucky enough to keep to the west of the worst weather and found my way to Little Rock about half an hour after the planned arrival.

As I approached Little Rock, I was again surprised by the lack of radio calls made by pilots in the US. Right beside North Little Rock is a National Guard airfield with a number of helicopters operating. As I avoided the restricted areas and finally turned east for my final approach to North Little Rock, a Blackhawk and an Iroquios helicopter flew past at about 100 feet below me. I don't know whether they saw me or whether they just ignored me but it was then that I started to think that the lack of radio calls in the US must cause some near misses, especially given the bad weather regularly encountered across the nation.

I finally joined the circuit and landed after 6 and a half hours flying. I rang Bill and surprisingly, he was on his way to the airport within minutes. He was keen to get airborne so after a couple of cold drinks, we took to the skies for his second check ride. After 14 landings I was confident that Bill had finally mastered the Sting and we called it a night and headed for home.

The following morning I jumped in the right seat and let Bill take command of his new steed from the left seat. Another three landing and some airwork and Bill felt right at home so we headed back to the airfield for some ground instruction. I ran through all of the major items including engine inspection, airframe inspection and methods to remove the wings and tail. Bill was extremely pleased with his latest acquisition to his fleet of aircraft.

Then began the fun with flying commercial airlines across the US. As I waited for the flight to board I thought to myself, no sense rushing to board, there's so many people here I'll just wait until they board and then go on last. I handed my boarding pass to the hostess and she put it through the scanner. "Please stand over here sir" was her first words to me. I was selected for a 'random' security check - I think it was the Australian Passport and the beady little eyes that did it.

I spent the next 10 minutes being scanned and going through my backpack, my only piece of luggage for the trip. Now I was wishing I hadn't waited until last as I saw them close the doors to the walkway to the aircraft. Finally they finished and allowed me to leave so I rushed down the walkway to board. Phew, I just made it !

The Hostess began her speech. "Ladies and gentlemen, please make it look like you are giving me your attention as I brief you on the safety precautions of this aircraft which I hope that we won't need". Hmmmmm, not the normal intro to the safety talk. "If the cabin should lose pressure I will be sitting in my seat crying and masks will fall from the ceiling. Pull on the mask firmly, place it over your nose and mouth and breath like this ..." She then proceeded to make heavy breathing sounds over the intercom. "Yes It was me who rang your house last night and no I won't promise never to do it again. For those of you who are travelling with small children ...... I'm sorry...... "say goodbye to them now"

This was the strangest safety brief I had ever heard, but nonetheless, it was entertaining.

As we taxied in after landing, the hostess again came onto the intercom. "Thankyou for flying SouthWest. I'm sure that you found it enjoyable; and I'm sure that you won't find a cheaper, less frills airline with hosts more attractive anywhere in the US anyway."

Ah, it's good to be back in Chicago.

Featuring in the EAA Airventure Today Newspaper was a fantastic report on the Sting which drew the crowds to our stand...

A Funny Story......

A guy came up to us near the end of the show and said 'how much for your plane'. We had to politely tell him that it was already sold and awaiting delivery for the new owner but he kept persisting.....

'I don't care if it's sold - I want it !!'

This went on for a few minutes with his insistance that "I will give you more than the other guy paid". Again politely explained it was sold and that we wouldn't dump the original purchaser....

Anyway he reached into his pocket and said "last chance..... This is an offer you wont refuse" but we again shook our heads. He then proceeded to pull out a $1,000,000 note...... And said

'You've just missed your big chance'.......

After a brief inspection we realised it was fake and he had his details printed on the back as a business card !! It brought a nice smile to everyone in the group and this is really the atmosphere of Oshkosh... no barriers between visitors. Everyone is there with a common interest and a good humour and I guess that's why the event is so successful.

By the way, it was Ric Lee of Mountain High Oxygen Systems who was flashing the cash....

What an award !!!

The new
XCOM 760 VHF radio was awarded "Best Hardware of the Year" by electronics guru Jim Weir. The XCOM is due for US release around mid November and information can be found at our web site The certificate didnt survive the last days at the show and the trip home too well but i have asked for a replacement so we can frame it at our offices.

World Records......

I was happy to report the successful completion of some world records in the last newsletter. Well we might be in trouble with them....... Seems I didn't fully understand the ambiguous rules and I may have been overweight for the attempt.

It really depends what section you read but a two place aircraft flown with only one person looks like having a MTOW of only 300 kgs for a world record attempt. If it's flown with two people then you're allowed 450 kgs.... We are waiting for clarification of these rules from the controlling body, the FAI and we are not really put off by their preliminary decision as they still qualify as Australian records. We will have to find a second person, load her up to 450 kgs and go and set them again !! More fun so I am not complaining, but I cant understand how you can have a two seater ultralight aircraft and be only 300 kgs one up ???.

After its all over and everyone is packing up there is only one thing left to remind us of the activity at our site and that's the ground.... Here is the perfect shape of our Sting left in the trampled grass..... Till Next year...

Until next time....... Have fun and fly safe.

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