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Oshkosh '03: Oh So Good

Bright Blue Beginning

Here in sunny Oshkosh, Wis., the dew point is low, spirits are high, and the field is fast filling with airplanes arriving from every corner of the sky. "This nice weather is really bringing people in," said EAA spokesman Dick Knapinski, early yesterday morning. Camping spots were already up to 99-percent full before the show even started and rumor has it that the number of visiting aircraft on the grounds is the highest it has ever been. All day, vendors busily served visitors in search of flight gear and steak burgers, while an assortment of unique aircraft packed into AeroShell Square at the center of the show. Hundreds queued up for a chance to climb into the cavernous innards of Airbus Industries' monstrous Beluga, while nearby, admirers studied the graceful lines and perfect proportions of the one-of-a-kind single-seat Hughes 1B Racer replica. Toss in the steady roar, whine, and growl of aircraft flying overhead, plus thousands of safe arrivals, and you have a near-perfect opening day for EAA AirVenture 2003. The buzz among show veterans was that more than balmy weather was behind yesterday's mood. "Things are turning around," said one. "After 9/11, and the weak economy, there's a feeling it's time to get past all that," said another. "The best crowds I can recall for the first day," one vendor offered. Knapinski promised numbers later in the week. If the breezy weather holds out, those numbers could be a sign of better days to come for the GA world.

Special Coverage Kickoff

Let The Videos Stream

Enjoy the first installment of AVweb/AirsideTV’s free steaming video coverage of AirVenture 2003. AVweb readers will enjoy this video supplement to our Oshkosh coverage including an interview with Bombardier’s VP of Aircraft Engines, the media event announcing the pilots selected to fly the Wright Flyer replica in December and some great aircraft footage from the show grounds. Pay-per-view subscribers will get a front row seat for Tuesday’s Wright Flyer pilot selection ceremony, an interview with famed X-15 pilot Scott Crossfield, a few words with EAA President Tom Poberezny and a close look at some of the aircraft taking residence at AirVenture’s Aeroshell Square.


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Empowered

New Jets? New Pistons!...

When the introduction of personal jets made a splash at Oshkosh three years ago, we expected 2003, the centennial of powered flight, to be the year of the engine -- the jet engine. Surprisingly, it's the piston engine that seems to be attracting the spotlight, with the unveiling of details on Bombardier's new line of six-cylinder powerplants and a surprise appearance by a new four-cylinder engine from Honda and Teledyne Continental. This joint venture between the Japanese automaker and Mobile-based Continental has long been rumored, but neither company hinted that the engine would make its debut at AirVenture 2003. It did and we'll admit we're intrigued.

...Bombardier Opens The Curtain...

First, Bombardier, whose Rotax engines are well-known to the experimental aircraft community. Recall that back in May we reported that the Canadian-based recreational products conglomerate announced it would market two new aircraft engines, the normally aspirated 220-hp V220 and the turbocharged V330T at 300 hp. Both are 120-degree V designs, with single overhead cams, water cooling, fuel injection and what Bombardier calls "true FADEC" or full authority digital engine controls. They're also geared with 5000- to 6000-rpm engine speeds reduced to cruise prop speeds below 2000 rpm. Displacement for both models is a sparse 189 cubic inches. That much we knew. What surprised us at a Tuesday-morning news conference is how economical Bombardier claims the engines will be. Stated specs call for a brake specific fuel consumption of .42 pounds per horsepower/hour for the V220 and .41 for the V300T, both at 75-percent power. In an interview after the morning press conference, program director Klemens Dolzer told us initial engineering flight tests in a Murphy Moose experimental and a Piper Arrow are turning in even better economy than originally planned.

...Testing Time

If these numbers hold up to further scrutiny, Bombardier appears to have achieved something of an efficiency breakthrough for geared, high-rpm engines. (For operational comparisons, Dolzer says those numbers translate to 13.5 to 14 GPH in the Arrow, which is obviously a higher fuel burn than the Lycoming-powered version but at a higher altitude and true airspeed, thanks to the higher horsepower.) Even more impressive -- again, if it pans out -- is that Bombardier thinks a 2000-hour TBO will be quickly achievable if not available at the introduction of the engines, which is planned for 2005 through a combination of OEM and STC applications. Dolzer told us that because of the engines' unique design --integrated cylinders with water jackets and Nikasil coatings -- a typical overhaul might not even require accessing or addressing the cylinders at all, something the typical aircraft owner would certainly welcome.

Bombardier's staff soothed the press Tuesday with all the right words but thus far, of course, they've produced only test engines. However, the hardware we were shown in Bombardier's booth looks close to being production-ready. How much? Bombardier's Luc de Gaspe Beaubien, director of sales, wouldn't give us hard numbers but pledged that the engines would be competitively priced. For more, check out our streaming video coverage and the Bombardier Web site.


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FADEC, Liquid-Cooling Dreamteam

Honda/TCM Put Heads Together...

Competition for Bombardier's better idea will likely come from Honda and TCM who, with little fanfare and advance warning, planted a new prototype 225-hp, four-cylinder FADEC-controlled engine in a corner of the Continental booth. Unlike the Bombardier designs, this engine is a horizontally-opposed design but also water-cooled. Departing from the Japanese preference for overhead-cam designs, the Honda/TCM engine has pushrods with four valves per cylinder. More in keeping with traditional aircraft engines, its displacement is 370 cubic inches. How are they getting 225 hp out of that? With a 9.5-to-1 compression ratio and a modified version of the Aerosance FADEC that uses automotive-style sequential fuel injection. Honda's Haruo Nakayama, the project's chief engineer, told us the engine can easily be scaled up to six cylinders and/or turbocharged for more output. Thanks to the FADEC, it will burn mogas or avgas. Nakayama told us the engine is designed with durability in mind, especially for the crankshaft and bearing train. In the four-cylinder variant, it has five main bearings with one rod per journal. As with other Continental designs, the cam is positioned below the crankshaft.

According to Nakayama, the engine has been running in the test cell since February of 2002 and has flown a handful of hours in TCM's test-bed Cessna 337. Fuel specifics are in the .37 range, which translates to about 10.5 GPH at 75-percent power. It weighs only 200 pounds, which makes it both lighter and smaller than the Bombardier offerings and smaller than, say, a Lycoming IO-360 of similar horsepower. TCM offered no details on either cost or a certification schedule.


TELEDYNE CONTINENTAL MOTORS AND HONDA–A NEW POWER SYSTEM ON THE HORIZON? For the first time in public, Teledyne Continental Motors, in association with Honda, are showing off a mock-up of their new FADEC-controlled, 225-horsepower class piston aircraft engine at AirVenture in Oshkosh. The engine has been going through flight testing at Continental's Mobile, Alabama headquarters and this week will be on display at the Teledyne Continental Pavilion adjacent to Exhibit Hangar C. Come by and see the future of GA power at AirVenture 2003. http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/tcm

Grass Roots Power

Build It And They Will Come?

And while some of the biggest names in aviation engines serve up their version of the future for aircraft engines, a virtually unknown South Carolina company has its own ideas of what a high-horsepower piston engine should look like. And Nagel Engines' prototype is not like anything we've seen before. "Well, you can't make something you say is different and have it looking like everything else," is Will Nagel's homespun response to queries about the 444 Twelve, which he says gets 150 more horsepower for the same weight as a Lycoming TIO 540, costs less, lasts longer and is easier to fix and maintain. Nagel and his development team started with a clean sheet of paper on this design. For one, it's a horizontally opposed 12-cylinder mill (yes, 12) that runs (sort of) like a six. In regular engines, each cylinder fires in sequence but in the Nagel, each pair of opposed cylinders fires together. Nagel said the opposing detonations are a lot easier on the crankshaft, bearings and case because there's no sideways bending of the crank (and resulting stresses on the other parts) on the power stroke. He said the plethora of cylinders results in a small (3.5-inch) bore for each and that means it's happy on lower-octane fuel. While most of the engine is cast or machined aluminum, the cylinders are cast iron, ensuring longer life. Although it looks complex, Nagel claims the engine is designed for easy maintenance and serviceability. "The only thing you ever have to split the case for is the crankshaft," he said. The engine is turbocharged, runs at 4,000 rpm and uses a 2:1 gearbox for the final drive. It has run and is now set up on a dynamometer but no fuel or performance data are known. Nagel, who's 71, said the prototype took more than five years to develop and he hopes to live to see it certified. "I'd like to see some engine manufacturer get interested in it and sell them the technology," he said.


WHAT IS THE WEATHER LIKE TODAY AT OSHKOSH? WSI, the Trusted Leader in Aviation Weather, is publishing a free website of WSI aviation weather for the region surrounding Oshkosh leading up to and during AirVenture 2003. The site offers surface prognostics, satellite imagery and WSI's industry leading NOWrad® Radar Summary. If you are attending AirVenture visit WSI at Booth 3090-91 for up-to-the-minute weather conditions for the show, or go online where the site will be available through the event and for a short time thereafter at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/wsi

BRIEFS...

All In The Interpretation: Same Bill Prompts Glee, Dismay

On Monday, AVweb told you that the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) was thrilled with the latest version of the FAA reauthorization bill now working its way through Congress. Yesterday, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) had a different take: "Aviation Safety Up For Sale To The Lowest Bidder," read the headline on their press release, which said the bill would allow the FAA to hire part-time contractors to run dozens of towers. Yesterday's report from AOPA saw things differently: "House, Senate conferees prohibit ATC privatization," it read. So is this glass half-full or totally empty? The bill is still in flux, but later this week AVweb will chat with FAA chief Marion Blakey and DOT head honcho Norm Mineta here in Oshkosh. We'll sort it all out. Hopefully.

Adam Leads Mini-Jet Race

The last major company to enter the mini-jet race appears on track to be the first to deliver one. Adam Aircraft's A700 twin jet flew for the first time on Sunday and its first cross-country flight might be to EAA AirVenture 2003. "We hope to have it here at the end of the week," President Rick Adam told a news conference at Adam's display area Tuesday. The main focus of the conference was on the progress of the six-place A500 push-pull piston twin (which is proceeding according to plan and should be in customers' hands later this year) but Adam's almost-offhand reference to the jet project quickly dominated the questioning by reporters. Adam said the jet, which was conceived barely 16 months ago and announced last September, flew predictably in its initial flight. Cessna hasn't built a Mustang yet and Eclipse's test plane was damaged last week in a gear mishap. Further flights for Adam's jet are scheduled for the balance of the week and it's hoped the FAA will permit the hop to Oshkosh. Adam said the jet shares about 80 percent of the same (and already well-tested components) of the piston model and that should speed up testing and development. Add to that the off-the-shelf availability of the already-certified Williams FJ-33 engines and Adam is predicting a first delivery of the jet by the end of 2004. But don't bother lining up to put a deposit on one. Adam said the company isn't taking orders on the $1.9 million jet until development is complete. He said his firm is well-financed thanks to an undisclosed investment by New York bank Goldman and Sachs earlier this year and doesn't need deposit money to keep working on the A700.

Mooney Enters LSA Market

Well, never accuse the Mooney Aerospace Group of being afraid to try something new. The company, which started life as AASI, developing the now-abandoned push/pull, turboprop, canard-ed JetCruzer, then bought the assets of bankrupt Mooney Airplane Company, announced Tuesday it's going to build light-sport aircraft. The Mooney Toxo, a two-place sport aircraft with a Rotax engine, will be built at Mooney's Kerrville, Texas, plant as soon as the new LSA category is brought into law. That will make Mooney the first of the mainstream U.S. manufacturers to announce an LSA project, and it's using a proven platform. Spanish manufacturer Construcciones Aeronauticas de Galicia (CAG) has built 20 of the speedy composite planes. CAG President Antonio Castelo Silveira said the two-seater cruises at 180 mph (yes, that is faster than LSA regulations allow -- don't worry, it's heavier, too), has a maximum speed of 230 mph on the 120-hp. Rotax 912, and has a range of 1,200 miles. Empty weight is 350 kg. (about 770 pounds) and gross weight is 650 kg. (about 1430 pounds). There are orders for another 22 on the books and Mooney CEO Nelson Happy couldn't be, well, happier. "This is a big move for us. We just wanted to be the first," he said. As far as its traditional products are concerned, Happy said the 19 partly built aircraft it inherited have been finished and sold and the production line should resume in August. The company also announced that it was forming a consortium with BAE Systems, Russian company KASKOL, Foxton Investments and Venture Interiors. Venture is developing an Audi-like interior for new Mooneys.

Countdown To Kitty Hawk Names Two Pilots For Wright Flyer

Since last year, four pilots have been learning to fly the earliest Wright airplanes so they could advance to the Wrights' 1903 Flyer in time for this December's centennial celebration. Veteran test pilot Scott Crossfield, first to fly Mach 2, has been overseeing their training. "It's one of the most challenging programs I've worked on," he told reporters yesterday. The early aircraft are notoriously difficult to handle. Yet all four of the pilots, Crossfield said, showed extraordinary ability and dedication. Choosing only two to fly at Kitty Hawk "was one of those things I wish I didn't have to do," he said. In the end, he named engineering professor Kevin Kochersberger and airline captain Terry Queijo as the Wilbur and Orville stand-ins. The other two pilots, Ken Hyde, president of The Wright Experience, and airline pilot Chris Johnson will continue to train as backup support. Kochersberger and Queijo will appear in period costume at the Wright Brothers National Memorial on December 17. Just like the first time, who flies and who runs along to guide the takeoff will be decided by the toss of a coin.

EXCITING NEW PRODUCTS FROM ASA! 2004 Pilot Test-Preps and Maintenance Test-Guides are now available, and a NEW Commercial version of the Virtual Test-Prep DVD Ground School Series joins the already popular Private and Instrument courses. ASA offers a complete line of aviation products for pilots and maintenance technicians from textbooks and checkride essentials, to the Flight Timer and On Top PC simulator. Don’t miss out, see ASA at AirVenture Booth 2076, or online at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/asadirect

Extra, Extra

Ken Keith announced at Oshkosh that his team will assume management control of Extra Aircraft beginning August 1, resume production of the aerobatic Extra 300 and seek certification of the $1.5 million, pressurized, six-seat, turbine-powered, 235-KTAS-on-20-GPH (with a 1,700-pound useful load) Extra 500. The Extra was nearly wiped off the map by the convergence of a slow economy, slow sales and the Lycoming 540 series crankshaft shortage that saw an end earlier this year. According to the new management team, Lycoming's work to resolve the crankshaft problem stopped the delivery of Extra aircraft for seven and a half months. "That really hurt us badly," said Oliver Oechsle, a member of the new Extra Aircraft. L.P. The net effect ultimately placed the company in the hands of a bankruptcy trustee, which has controlled it since January. Under new management headed by Ken Keith, the company will see new life, avoiding the imbalance of debt and equity and making a stronger push at marketing. Keith, who owns and flies an E400, is a former manager at Arthur Anderson and the primary equity investor for Extra Aircraft L.P.. Keith said the acquisition represents $30 million of research and design. The company expects to be delivering as many as 24 aircraft in 2004 with first deliveries of the Extra 500 following certification expected near year's end. The Extra 300 is the only unlimited category aerobatic aircraft with unrestricted international certification; the Extra 500, an all-carbon-fiber, $1.5 million pressurized turboprop with a 1,700-pound useful load, is seeking owner-operators of slightly different constitution.

Emergency Landing Bolsters Meigs Effort

The last-ditch, final-straw, by-a-thread effort to save Meigs Field may have found an unlikely poster boy in the form of a 63-year-old banner tower from Maine. Richard Randell put his 58-year-old Piper Super Cruiser onto the grass beside the torn-up runway at Meigs after an electrical failure Monday. Randell was on his way to EAA AirVenture and was expected to arrive Tuesday after his airplane was fixed. EAA spokesman Dick Knapinski said there was a tentative plan to park the Super Cruiser (subject to Randell's permission) beside the Friends of Meigs' campaign tent just off AeroShell Square. Randell was flying over the Chicago waterfront with friend Dick Green when the problem occurred. Witnesses told the Chicago Tribune the sputtering Super Cruiser barely cleared one of the abandoned buildings at the now-closed airport before setting down on the grass. That's apparently not much of a problem for Randell because his hometown field is turf. Friends of Meigs (FOM) spokesman Steve Whitney said the emergency landing was the second in two weeks. A helicopter also used the closed airport after running into trouble. He said it shows the airport's value and the Meigs troops manning the tent in Oshkosh hope it adds fuel to their fire. Meanwhile, the FOM has taken a different tack in its effort to save the airfield. President Rachel Goodstein said the group is calling for an environmental review before the area is turned into parkland. "These are legitimate concerns," she said, while helping fellow volunteers distribute petition cards and information at AirVenture.

Stratoliner No Show

The long and winding road to the Smithsonian got a little longer for the Boeing 307 Stratoliner on Tuesday. The one-of-a-kind airliner was supposed to arrive at EAA AirVenture Tuesday morning before heading to Washington for permanent display next week, but EAA volunteers said carburetor problems prevented it from making the trip from the Seattle area to Oshkosh. The plane was ditched in a Seattle bay last year after it ran out of fuel and has undergone a second restoration. There's no word on when it will make the trip...


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ON THE FLY...

AVweb invite's you to browse the grounds of OSH in our AirVenture Image Galleries.


AVweb's Question Of The Week...

*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***

We received over 300 responses to our question last week on foreign air carriers. More than half (59 percent) of those responding felt their level of safety onboard foreign airliners is directly related to the specific carrier being flown. About 19 percent felt comfortable flying aboard US-based airliners, while 4 percent actually felt more comfortable flying via non-US carriers.

To check out the complete results, including comments, go to http://www.avweb.com/qotw.

*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***

This week, we would like to know your thoughts on AVweb's AirVenture coverage. Please go to http://www.avweb.com/qotw to respond.

Have an idea for a new QOTW? Send your suggestions to qotw@avweb.com. Note, this address is ONLY for suggested QOTW questions, and NOT for QOTW answers.


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SHOPPING DEALS

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RYAN'S NEW WEBSITE NOW ONLINE!
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GULF COAST AVIONICS: "WE GUARANTEE THE LOWEST PRICES IN THE INDUSTRY"
Gulf Coast Avionics is a leading supplier of avionics, instruments and pilot supplies. With one of the largest comprehensive inventories in the industry, pilots are sure to find what they need. Visit Gulf Coast at AirVenture Booth A1101-1104 and go online to their e-commerce site and shop for the latest products and offers at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/gca.

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SPONSOR NEWS

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DISCOVER ARLINGTON, WASHINGTON WITH PILOT GETAWAYS MAGAZINE
The latest issue of Pilot Getaways magazine takes you around this Washington city famous for its July Northwest EAA Fly-in. Know where to dine by candlelight and get the latest scoop on camping under your aircraft's wing. But Arlington is just one of the many destinations featured in the summer issue. Go by AirVenture Tent #34 and get your FREE issue. Subscribe today at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/getaways.

SUPPORT THOSE WHO BRING YOU FREE AVFLASHES!
Stop by and tell AVweb sponsors how much you appreciate their support of your FREE AVflash issues. AVweb will be in AirVenture booth 4144-45. For a list you can print out and take with you go to http://www.avweb.com/shopping/sponsors.html.