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SUNDAY, JULY 22, 2007
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Don Langford, president of LSA Aero, Martin Lima, airplane designer, and Chris Wright, director of sales, examine their amphibious airplane at Pryor Field. The two-seater is slightly over 19 feet long, with a wingspan of more than 40 feet and a gross weight of 1,430 pounds.
Daily photos by John Godbey
Don Langford, president of LSA Aero, Martin Lima, airplane designer, and Chris Wright, director of sales, examine their amphibious airplane at Pryor Field. The two-seater is slightly over 19 feet long, with a wingspan of more than 40 feet and a gross weight of 1,430 pounds.

Amphibian
takes flight

Spanish builder comes to Decatur to check on light sport aircraft

Editor’s note: Chris Wright was injured in an accident at the airport last week. Doctors treated him at Huntsville Hospital. He was discharged Thursday.

By Ronnie Thomas
rthomas@decaturdaily.com · 340-2438

Hola! Coma esta usted?”

That greeting — “Hello! How are you?” — at LSA Aero came from Maria Lima, the wife of airplane builder Martin Lima.

LSA, which stands for light sport aircraft and operates from a hangar at North Alabama Aviation at Pryor Field Regional Airport, has a distinctive Spanish flavor. The company is the only U.S. distributor for planes manufactured by Colyaer, a plant in Pontevedra, a coastal city in northwestern Spain.

Lima, 48, launched Colyaer a decade ago. He made his second trip to America earlier this month. Three years ago, he was in Oshkosh, Wis., for an annual event billed as “the world’s greatest aviation celebration.”

Chris Wright shows the inside of the cockpit. Wright said in an emergency situation, the landing possibilities are almost limitless because of a glide ratio of 20 to 1.
Chris Wright shows the inside of the cockpit. Wright said in an emergency situation, the landing possibilities are almost limitless because of a glide ratio of 20 to 1.
He was in Decatur to check out LSA’s facility and his latest design, a Freedom S100 Amphibian, a so-called “flying boat,” that his plant shipped in a container in February.

“It came to port in Savannah, Ga., and it was on to Huntsville by rail,” said Chris Wright of Somerville, LSA’s director of maintenance and sales. “We picked it up in an enclosed trailer, brought it to the hangar and reassembled it.”

Wright and LSA President Don Langford of Huntsville drove the aircraft to Lakeland, Fla., in late April for the Splash-In on Lake Parker during the Sun ’n Fun Fly-in. Sponsors hold the Splash-In annually for seaplanes and amphibious planes.

“We hauled it down there because the weather wasn’t suitable for flying,” Wright said. “It isn’t that inconvenient because it comes apart in about an hour. We were there about a week and flew it several times. The response was phenomenal.”

John Robbins of Orlando greeted them and posed with the plane as curiosity seekers and admirers gathered. He has that right. He already paid $120,000 for it.

“John has been at our facility several times,” Wright said. “He has ridden in the plane but has not piloted it yet because he lacks more training before his insurance will cover him. He will return and fly another hour or two with Don before he takes delivery of the plane.”

Langford said that as part of the purchase price, the company gives the owner up to 10 hours of training.

“You buy a new Mercedes, and you don’t get that kind of treatment,” he said.

Robbins, 60, a business proposal manager, became interested in the plane when he saw the Gannet, the seaplane version, last year at the Decatur harbor. LSA has exhibited the Gannet since October 2005. Colyaer also produced a Martin3 Landplane.

Chris Wright, Don Langford and Martin Lima with their amphibious airplane.
Chris Wright, Don Langford and Martin Lima with their amphibious airplane.
Robbins said he saw plenty of seaplanes while serving as a pilot in the Navy and flew Phantom II fighter jets in Vietnam.

“The Freedom,” he said, “is a cross between a Jet Ski and a motor glider, and I really love it.”

Langford describes it as a “pusher,” with the propeller behind the engine for greater visibility.

“It is made from carbon fiber Kevlar with stainless steel hardware,” he said. “There’s no corrosion. It’s ideal for an ocean environment.”

The two-seater is slightly over 19 feet long, with a wingspan of more than 40 feet and a gross weight of 1,430 pounds.

“I have about 30 planes flying,” said Lima, who has a goal of taking employment from nine to between 30 and 40, and producing about 100 planes per year, mainly the Freedom Amphibian. “We have made 10 and in addition to Decatur and Spain, they’re in Korea and Australia. It’s about the only thing that will land on water or on a runway, and fly 120 mph with an eight-hour range.”

Handling emergencies

Wright said that in an emergency, the landing possibilities are almost limitless because of a glide ratio of 20 to 1.

Stan Smith of Decatur, LSA’s vice president, worked on the production line in Pontevedra building the Gannet, to learn its construction and how to maintain it.

“Martin gave him a white coat and put him to work,” Langford said.

Langford said two more Freedoms are coming to Decatur within six to eight weeks.

“We already have deposits on eight more,” he said. “They’ll be shipped in pairs because it’s less expensive, and we can only process two at a time and get them ready for FAA inspection. We will deliver to the customer or he can come here.”

LSA took the Gannet to the fly-in at Oshkosh last summer. The company plans to take both planes for this year’s event, July 23-29.

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