AVweb AVFlash - Volume 20, Number 4b
July 29, 2013
Pelton Could Remain 'Volunteer' EAA Leader
EAA Chairman Jack Pelton said Monday he could remain the leader of the organization through 2015 depending on the outcome of board discussions this fall. Pelton told a Q&A session with media Monday at AirVenture 2013 that the search for a president/CEO has been suspended as the board considers whether to make those duties the responsibility of the volunteer chairman. "I'll be here for three years," said Pelton, who was elected as the chairman of the board in late 2012 for a three-year term. At about the same time, former President and CEO Rod Hightower suddenly announced that he was resigning to spend more time with his family. It was widely assumed that a replacement for Hightower would be hired and that Pelton would be in the running.
But Pelton said some members of the board have said they'd be interested in taking on the job as volunteers and those discussions are forthcoming. Pelton did not say if he was one of those board members but he did indicate that if the existing role became the permanent mandate of the chairman, he would fulfill it. Meanwhile, he said he is in regular contact with former EAA President Tom Poberezny, who, like last year, will not be attending the show. Poberezny is a member of the board of directors of Garmin and is attending meetings in Europe. He and his wife are going on a cruise after the meetings.
New AOPA President By Fall
Outgoing AOPA President Craig Fuller says he expects his replacement will be on the job in time for AOPA Summit in Fort Worth in October. In an interview with AVweb, Fuller said AOPA's board of trustees has narrowed the search to a few qualified candidates and he expects the decision to be made early in the fall. "I think it's fairly focused on a couple of people," said Fuller, who announced his intended departure in February. He'd been on the job for four years and said it was always his intention to move on after five years. Fuller said the new president has to be a good manager who's passionate about aviation.
AOPA is like a medium-sized business with a $60 million annual budget and 200 employees. Like other aviation enterprises, the organization has been hard hit by the global recession and Fuller said the new president has to be mindful of its financial needs. But he also said he would offer advice similar to what he received from his predecessor Phil Boyer. "First and foremost I think anyone in this position needs to spend time with the members," he said.
Podcast: New Leadership Soon at AOPA
AOPA President Craig Fuller says the organization's board of trustees has narrowed the search for his replacement down to two candidates. Fuller spoke with AVweb's Russ Niles about the timing of the transition and the advice he would offer to the new president.
EAA Says Fight Over Controllers Not Over
EAA Chairman Jack Pelton says the effect of the FAA's imposition of fees for air traffic controllers at AirVenture will ripple through the industry and must be stopped. At a news conference Monday, Pelton said it's clear the FAA is cherry picking revenue it's not entitled to from special events but the FAA leadership doesn't seem to care. "They believe they have the right to do this," he said. EAA is paying the FAA $450,000 to cover the expenses of air traffic controllers staffing the show. He said the AirVenture expenses are included in the FAA's base budget, which is fully covered. The charge for controllers amounts to a $45 user fee on every aircraft that will attend the show, he said.
Pelton said there's nothing that can be done about this year. EAA either had to pay or cancel the show and the FAA brass was clear about that. EAA is however mounting an aggressive campaign to change the FAA's position for next year. Political action has already begun with meetings involving influential politicians and the new Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx. He said Foxx seems sympathetic and the aviation lobby hopes to win him over. Pelton said there are indications the price might even go up next year to the point where the economic viability of the event will be questionable. EAA has also launched a legal challenge for a ruling on the FAA's authority to assess the fee.
The Terrafugia Transition flying car flew for the first time at a public event on Monday afternoon at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh. The aircraft drove away from its exhibit on the south side of the field, with the company's chief test pilot, Phil Meteer, at the controls. He drove down Celebration Way and onto Phillips 66 Plaza, steering the airplane like a car, trailed by a crowd of curious onlookers, with the wings folded up. Once on the ramp, the wings unfolded, and Meteer stepped out of the cockpit to conduct a preflight before driving down to the end of the runway for takeoff. In the announcers' booth, company CEO Carl Dietrich said he and his company had been looking forward to this flight since they first launched the project in 2006.
The airplane flew around the field a few times, then after landing, the wings folded up again, and Meteer drove off the field to meet the crowd at Phillips 66 Plaza -- click here to watch the AVweb video. The airplane will fly again on Wednesday at 8 p.m. prior to the night airshow, and is on display all through AirVenture at the Terrafugia exhibit.
Video: Terrafugia Flies
At EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, the Terrafugia flying car flew in public for the first time. AVweb was there and shares this video.
FAA Grants Icon Weight Exemption
The FAA has granted a 250-pound weight increase exemption to Icon Aircraft for its A5 Light Sport amphib to allow the company to incorporate structures to make the aircraft spin resistant. Two years ago, the company announced it had achieved compliance with FAA certification standards for spin resistance but that it couldn't make the 1430-pound maximum weight permitted for amphibious Light Sport aircraft. Icon applied for an exemption based on the premise that the extra weight would allow for a much safer airplane and the FAA, after 14 months, agreed. “The FAA determined that granting relief from the MTOW (Maximum Takeoff Weight) for LSA for this specific safety enhancement is in the public interest and is also consistent with the FAA’s goals of increasing safety for small planes,” the agency said in its decision letter.
Icon President Kirk Hawkins told AVweb the company does not expect the aircraft to need more than a third of the extra wiggle room to begin with. He said the target weight for the first of four conforming test aircraft is 1510 pounds, the result of prudent design decisions made in case the FAA ruled against the exemption. Something that will increase substantially is the price. The cost of the aircraft when it was first introduced four years ago was $139,000 but that's gone up to at least $189,000. Hawkins said that in addition to the spin resistance, the revised design comes with a more-expensive Rotax 912 iS fuel-injected engine, a Garmin 796 panel and a fully finished interior. The first new test aircraft will be finished by the end of the year based on the new weights. Hawkins said his company is proud to have become the first to gain this kind of leeway from the FAA but he doesn't think it will be the last. "This exemption is great news for all of aviation," he said.
Lightspeed Unveils 'Quietest' Headset
Lightspeed says it has raised the standard for active noise reduction headsets with its new Zulu PFX. At a news conference at AirVenture 2013, the company unveiled a headset that automatically customizes the noise reduction while enhancing the sounds that the pilot wants to hear for a "personal flying experience." The ANR system uses microphones on the outside and inside the earcups to sense and then act on unwanted sounds while at the same time increasing the fidelity of voice transmissions and music. It also measures and maps the ear of the wearer to customize the sound response. "It's a significant breakthrough," said CEO Allan Schrader. The new headset will cost about $1,100, up from $900 for its existing Zulu 2 ANR line.
The extra performance was actually accomplished with a two-ounce reduction in the weight of the headset, but the control module is quite a bit bigger than other headsets, but Schrader said that's necessary for the extra computing horsepower required by the ANR system. The microphones sample the sound a million times a second and make the appropriate adjustments as the noise environment changes. Lightspeed has mitigated the intrusion of the larger box in the cockpit by mounting all the inputs and outputs on one end and making a mount that hangs from a map pocket.
Cessna Offers Black Paint, College Credit
Cessna is using a new black surface coating that can reflect solar heat, making black available as a color for striking new designs on a limited edition Turbo Stationair, the company said at EAA AirVenture on Monday. The coating is provided by AkzoNobel N.V., a paint and coatings company based in the Netherlands. “This is an attention-grabbing product that reflects an owner’s personality and preference,” said Jeff Umscheid of Cessna. Spokeswoman Jodi Noah also said the company has reached an agreement with Kansas State University that will enable pilots who train at any Cessna Pilot Center in the U.S. to receive college credit towards a bachelor's degree in technology management. "K-State is known for having one of the premier aviation programs in the country," said Noah. The program will be available starting in the fall semester in 2014. Cessna also has one of its new TTx aircraft on display at AirVenture.
The first new copies of the Cessna TTx, which the company calls "the world's fastest commercially produced and certified fixed-gear single engine aircraft," were delivered earlier this month. The all-composite, turbocharged four-seat aircraft evolved from the Corvalis (previously Columbia) line. The cockpit features sidesticks instead of a yoke and debuts the Garmin G2000 avionics suite, with dual 14.1 high-definition displays and touchscreen controls. Top speed is 235 knots, powered by a 310-hp Continental TSIO-550-C engine, and range is 1,250 nm. Cessna said pilots who transition into the airplane will be provided additional training, "due to the additional horsepower and capabilities of the aircraft." The first production unit of the Skylane Turbo also is on display at the show, along with the Turbo Stationair "Night Sky" edition with the new black and red paint scheme, with all-black wings using the new reflective coating.
Video: Continental's TD300 Diesel -- Nearer to Market
Although Continental's purchase of Thielert Aircraft Engines has gained most of the attention, Continental continues development of its homegrown diesel, the four-cylinder TD300. On the way to AirVenture, AVWeb stopped at Continental's Fairhope, Alabama facility to get a look at work on the TD300. In this video, Continental's James Ray describes some of the improvements the company has developed for the TD300, including higher compression ratio, stronger case through bolts and an improved induction system. Still to go is a larger turbocharger to improve the TD300's high altitude performance.
Video: ArmyAV.org Brings Hueys To OSH, Cobras Elsewhere
The Army Aviation Heritage Foundation found its way to AirVenture Oshkosh this year, offering rides in a historic Huey aircraft that flew combat missions in the Vietnam War, but the foundation does much more. AVweb spoke with the foundation's Rick Welch, who said the group's primary goal is to maintain and showcase Army aircraft to preserve the history they represent, but also to connect veterans -- often Vietnam War veterans -- or their family members with a piece of their past. The foundation operates four Hueys and five Cobra helicopters, and through the foundation rides in those aircraft are available at locations across the country. Welch shared stories about the foundation's work, and the particulars of its involvement in airshows.
The foundation is a non-profit group based out of Hampton, Ga. Find them online at ArmyAV.org.
Podcast: Avidyne Updates Product Schedule at AirVenture
At AirVenture 2013, Avidyne Corporation gave an update on the anticipated IFD540 and IFD440 GPS navigators and the DFC90 retrofit autopilot, described a new ADS-B/TAS traffic alerting system, and formally introduced their FlexPlan extended warranty coverage plan. AVweb's Larry Anglisano spoke with Avidyne's Tom Harper for the update.
AirVenture 2013 Photo Gallery #1
AirVenture 2013 Product Minute Videos
There's so much to see and touch at AirVenture that your eyes may tire of looking and your button-pushing finger can get a little stiff. That doesn't deter the AVweb team, however, as they poked, prodded, and otherwise product-tested their way through some of this year's most interesting products in a series of "Product Minute" videos.
Aerodiesels: What, No Overpromise?
If there's any overused word at an AirVenture press conference, it's "excited." The second most overused word to the point of cliche is "game changer." Considering that the last real game changer in aviation was, I dunno, the invention of the turbojet engine maybe, a clever new app with drop shadow shading and redesigned pulldown menus doesn't quite strike me as being in the same league.
Continental's foray into the diesel market may come close to shaking up the sleepy backwater of engine development, but it's going to have to prove that with demonstrated and repeatable economics. In my view, Diamond has already done that with its DA40 and DA42 models, but what it didn't really prove is that aerodiesels in the Thielert mold have the staying power of something like a Lycoming O-320 or Continental IO-550. That's the task before Continental and they're not wasting any time trying to prove it. At a press conference on Monday, Continental said it will soon have approvals for a 600-hour gearbox, which should delight stalwart owners who've been ponying up $3400 every 300 hours for years.
With its Redhawk project, Redbird drew a lot of eyeballs and although the idea is impressive enough, I was more impressed with the company's discipline in not overstating the case for diesel. In yesterday's video on the Redhawk, Jack Pelton quite deliberately stopped short of calling a diesel in a Skyhawk a game changer because no matter how successful it is, it won't be that. It will be a incremental improvement in access to flying, a marginal reduction in the cost of obtaining a rating and perhaps just a better training and flying experience. In the current state of general aviation, that's achievement enough, thanks.
At Continental's press conference on Monday, I got some fresh numbers on the cost of a Centurion 2.0 engine replacement: About $39,000 for the 2.0 and around $42,000 for the Centurion 2.0S. At a TBO of 2000 hours, that's still twice as much as the equivalent Lycoming, but as I pointed out in last week's blog, the diesel's fuel specifics give it an edge when full-cycle costs are added up. But only if it makes the higher TBR numbers; better yet if it gets to 2400 hours.
Because its training aircraft are constantly on the move, Redbird may be the lab experiment that proves the higher TBRs in the real world. And it might get there within a couple of years. If so, some crowing may be justified. But until then, the game will remain pretty much the same.