Compiled By ANN Editor-In-Chief Jim Campbell
We made some changes
this year in the manner in which we name the most notable aircraft
of the year. Normally announced at Oshkosh, we decided to fold
these announcements into our Year-End Wrap-Up in order to take
advantage of the rest of the year's events and input as well as to
make such an announcement truly representative of the full
We've also spread out some of the gelt... with special awards to
Certificated as well as SportPlanes, an award for the Most
Impressive manufacturer, a "special" award for the best SpacePlane
of the Year (like there was a lot of competition... eh?), a
round-up of the Duds and disappointments, and a look forward to
what looks promising for 2005. Sit back, check it out and let us
know what you think of our choices for the year.
Liberty XL-2: Mangled By Moronic Management?
All certificated and NO place to go? Here's one of the true
tragedies of GA... despite the seeming inefficiencies and
inabilities of what can only charitably be called a "challenged"
management team, the little Liberty XL-2 managed to get a Type
Certificate this year... but one that is severely limited and seems
to pose more problems than solutions.
Sinking fast, this program is leaving disappointed purchasers in
it's wake after a number of promises go unfulfilled. Despite a
recent reported cash injection, we have severe doubts that this
program can get back on track unless they throw out the team that
mucked this program up to begin with and get back to work
to finish the rest of the bird's needed certification chores, get
into serious production, and do some HEAVY work in winning back a
disillusioned industry and customer base. This program is one of
the major muck-ups we've seen in a while.
Micco/Lanshe SP20/22: A Double Tragedy
As bad as the Liberty fiasco was, the Micco/Lanshe debacle was
not only far worse... it seemed to be that way on purpose. I
mean... could something this screwed up REALLY happen by
Melded into a single company, so-called aero-entrepreneur Wadi
Rahim made a convoluted deal with Micco owners, the Seminole Indian
Nation (who have horribly mismanaged this program since Chief
Billie was ousted), and Lake Aircraft's Armand Rivard to bring the
Micco and Lake lines under one roof.
It went to hell pretty swiftly. Worse; the result may well
have criminal implications, as a number of expensive assets
reportedly disappeared, some interesting games were played with
legal paperwork, allegedly damaged and used airplanes were sold as
virtually new, MANY lies were told, and Rahim finally
disappeared leaving debts everywhere, a staff unpaid, and a bad
taste in the mouth of an East Central Florida community that once
couldn't do enough to support general aviation. His many critics
call him a con-man and our direct experience with this fellow
seems to bear that out. In the meantime, the courts are
finally restoring Lake Aircraft to Rivard while the damage to Micco
may ultimately be fatal.
Micco, in particular, was once a promising program built around
a speedy little aerobatic hot-rod that was an excellent
cross-country bird while also promising a level of excitement
unheard of in a high-performance retractable SE GA bird.
Unfortunately; the whole program now lays in waste and GA is the
poorer for it all. What a damned shame.
Adam A500/A700: Wishing and Hyping Can't Cure Microjet
Don't get us wrong, we WANT to like these birds... the A500
anyway (the A700, however, may simply be too ugly to be allowed to
live... grin), but the BS ratio exuding from Adam has been a mite
too onerous to ignore.
Mind you, the pigeons ARE coming home to roost as cert date
after cert date comes and goes, and other issues pop up to make
this once-promising program look less likely as each month passes.
The A500 program seemed like a hot property a few years ago... a
great designer was enlisted to engineer a much-needed airplane for
the high-end private and low-end business operator... BUT, then
damaging and credible inside info started spilling forth while
Rick Adam's hype got the better of a company that, had it stuck to
building a high performance piston twin, would probably have been
rolling them out the door as we speak...
However; microjet envy seems to have gotten the better of them.
Serious reports of internal problems, questionable aircraft orders,
weird certification plans, and promises that (we now know) were
impossible to keep, have sucked them deeper and further into
the doldrums of the "companies that appear doomed to blow it."
We hope they get their act together, we really do... but unless
the A500 gets into production quickly, and the A700 hype gets back
to reality, we have a feeling that this program is heading for the
Europa: The Little SportPlane That Was Mismanaged Into
Ouch... you know that feeling that comes down your spine when
someone drags their fingernails down a chalkboard? Well, that's
kinda how we feel in writing about the Brit Bankruptcy filing of
the original Europa manufacturing operation. It all went to hell
this summer..,. with the horrible result being the deplorable
way that builders and customers were treated as the mess
sorted itself out.
Now in new hands, there is a huge task ahead of the new
owners... a great design has been tarnished, it's US presence has
been effectively killed off (and left some very bad blood in it's
wake on this side of the pond), and after all, this is not a new
design with a pent-up demand to help them see their way though to
the future. What there is, though, is a great little airplane with
excellent flying properties and outstanding performance that NEEDS
solid service and support. If it gets it, this truly delightful
little flyer (one of my favorite of all time... with a higher
giggle-per-flight-hour ratio than just about any ten other
SportPlanes), may yet survive. We hope so.
Next... ANN enumerates our most notable
certified aircraft nominees and then names the Top Birds in this
and other categories... don't miss it!