First, I would like to thank everyone who took the time to write in or participate in the survey about our aircraft buyer’s guides. Your thoughtful remarks spurred some good exchanges and sound ideas. It’s not too late to weigh in, by the way, so keep those cards and letters coming.
We are looking at ways to make the annual Aircraft Buyer’s Guides more useful to readers. One idea is to have a feature in the magazine that would highlight new designs, developments and trends, coupled with improved Buyer’s Guide data online, but without including the full Buyer’s Guide in the printed version.
The last of the 2012 annual aircraft buyer’s guides appears this month, featuring rotorcraft that can be built from kits or plans. Again, despite overall economic turbulence over the last year, this segment of the industry appears to have remained stable, and a few new designs have even been added to the mix. For some back story on regulatory issues related to gyroplane manufacturing and ownership, see Roy Beisswenger’s “Light Stuff” column on Page 62.
We are proud to debut a new regular feature this month, which we hope will continue for a long time to come. Dubbed “Build It Better” and authored by “Free Flight” columnist Paul Dye, this series seeks to get you thinking on a more philosophical level (not to the exclusion of practical advice, however) about approaches to building, and strategies employed before, during and after completion of a project, all with the goal of achieving a safe and enduring flying machine. For the premiere, Dye sets up the conceptual framework for the series before he tackles the specific issues that will come in future installments.
This month we also pull back the curtain on a very important aspect of publishing this magazine each month: capturing good photos with aerial photography. The process behind this activity is more time-consuming and complex than you might think, and it’s something of an artistic specialty. Our discussion is a bit insider baseball, but with the proliferation of affordable, good quality digital SLR still and video-capable cameras and high-def video cameras, we know some of you have already been tinkering with this, and illuminating our techniques may just help you improve your own results.
John and Debra McBean at Kitfox headquarters in Homedale, Idaho. They continue to invest in trying to improve the Kitfox design. (Photo Courtesy Marc Cook)
Last, but not least, we revisit a popular design that has graced the pages of this magazine on more than one occasion over the years: the Kitfox. Various companies that have purveyed the Kitfox since its introduction have come and gone, but for some time now John and Debra McBean have been custodians for the design. Not content to leave well enough alone, John McBean and company keep trying new configurations, and this month Marc Cook samples the latest iteration of the Kitfox, equipped with an O-233 Lycoming. As he so aptly points out, installation of the new Lycoming powerplant was no plug-and-play operation. The changeover required numerous modifications, some of which improved the design as a whole, and took place over many months.
Will this O-233-equipped Kitfox Series 7 Super Sport be seen as a desirable option for builders and become a commercial success for the company? That remains to be seen, but either way, the McBeans are to be applauded for not resting on their laurels and for continuing to put the “experiment” in Experimental aviation. There’s a saying that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Kitfox wasn’t broken—far from it—but there is something to be said for venturing out into unexplored territory, if only from curiosity to see how it will all pan out.