It’s not often a kit manufacturer keeps a significant upgrade to one of their products quiet, but Arion Aircraft has. When I met with Nick Otterback of Arion Aircraft, mostly to catch up with a former Wisconsinite, it came out that “about two years ago” Arion set about to replace the spar of the Lightning with something easier to build. Carbon fiber was the material of choice and the engineering was farmed out for checks and balances. The result? Not only did they meet their goal for an easier-to-build spar, they shed sixteen-pounds of empty weight on the C.G., which translates to a sixteen-pound increase in useful load. With this you’d expect a price increase. You’d be wrong. The kit price was unchanged thanks to the reduced labor burden. Win-win.
Bucking the trend in kitbuilding, Otterback noted a decrease in factory-built Lightnings sales as more customers choose to build the entire kit themselves. With the available shop space and a dedicated labor force, Arion Aircraft expanded their builder assist program to include other designs, citing Zenith, Vans, Sonex and RANS airframes among the most popular.