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Wed, Oct 24, 2007

SoCal Fires Come Too Close To Higher Class Aviation For Comfort

Announcement Of New UL Overshadowed By Encroaching Flames

What was supposed to be an announcement Tuesday of a new ultralight variant of its Sport Hornet light aircraft, instead turned into a breathless account of the wildfires encroaching the southern California headquarters of Higher Class Aviation at Ramona Airport (RNM).

Company president Robert Gaither said the new version of the S-LSA Sport Hornet, the Sport Hornet UL, is intended for use as an ultralight trainer -- especially with the FAR 103 training exemption for two-place ultralights coming to an end on January 31, 2008. The Sport Pilot rule gave users of two place ultralight trainers a little over four years to either certify their existing trainers as E-LSA’s or replace them with S-LSA aircraft that are suitable for ultralight training. 

The Hornet began its life as an ultralight trainer, and evolved into the S-LSA-certified Sport Hornet (shown above), powered by a Rotax 912S engine. The Sport Hornet UL is essentially similar to that aircraft, but will be powered by the Rotax 582. A ready-to-fly Sport Hornet UL carriers a pricetag of under $40,000, according to Gaither.

Production on the UL variant had already begun... but is on hold due to the tragedy now playing out in southern California.

"We certainly intend to announce the Sport Hornet UL and will be at Copper State, but right now we are literally in the middle of the biggest fight for life that Southern California has ever seen," Gaither told ANN. "Our plant at Ramona Airport is surrounded by raging fires.

"Ramona Airport has become the command center for the intense aerial battle being waged by remarkably brave and dedicated airmen," Gaither added. "Several employees of Higher Class Aviation staff are fighting to save their homes and bring a new product to life all at the same time.  Our plant will be safe, but all production has been temporarily halted."

According to the Los Angeles Times, fire-fighting aircraft staged at RNM over the past several days were moved to nearby Hemet on Tuesday, due to a shortage of available water. The city's main water pump failed Tuesday morning, caused by a burned power transmission line.



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