AVweb AVFlash - Volume 20, Number 4e
August 1, 2013
Beech Lands Huge King Air Deal
Beechcraft has secured what it says is the largest-ever order for prop-driven aircraft with a $1.4 billion deal to sell 105 King Air 350i twins to start-up "membership-based" aircraft service Wheels Up. The new company, being started by Marquis Jet founder Kenny Dichter, will offer access to aircraft without fixed costs and will get going in the Northeast with nine aircraft that will be delivered by the end of the year. Another 35 will be delivered through 2015 and Wheels Up has the option to order 70 more King Airs. Dichter said the King Airs will offer existing private aircraft users more flexibility in their travel options and it also offers those who don't currently use private aircraft a new entry point.
Although the King Air service will be less expensive than many that use light jets, there will be no shortage of luxury aboard the Wheels Up aircraft. The state-of-the-art interiors will include Wi-Fi and a deluxe lav. Wheels Up also incorporates Wheels Down, a ground service company that allows members to get tickets to special sporting and cultural events as part of their package. Wheels Up is also buying a full maintenance package from Beech worth about $600 million of the $1.4 billion deal. Wheels Up will be based in Wilmington, Del.
First AirVenture Job Fair Draws Crowds
EAA's first-ever job fair, held at the new College Park region of the AirVenture grounds, drew more than 1,000 job-seekers, EAA's Ann Gentz told AVweb on Wednesday afternoon. "We had so many jobs available," she said, as the event wound down. "They were not just flying jobs, there were mechanic jobs, engineer jobs, all sorts of things, and a well-qualified work force coming to see." Companies seeking workers included Alaska Airlines, Rockwell Collins, Cessna, Cirrus, Gulfstream, Garmin, Basler, The Spaceship Company, and more. The job seekers ranged from younger people to workers with lots of qualifications and years of experience.
"We'll definitely try to do this as an annual event," Gentz said. "I'm so excited with how it turned out. We didn't know, this was our first year. We could have used even more space." Vaughn Howig, with Garmin, said she was "very pleased" with the turnout. "We have 35 to 40 jobs to fill this year, both entry-level and experienced," she said. The jobs are based in both Kansas City and in Chandler, Ariz., where the company is expanding. "We'll have about 400 new jobs to fill in Arizona in the next couple of years," she said.
Pilatus Plans Earhart-Inspired Global Flight
We first heard of Amelia Rose Earhart -- whose parents named her after a distant, and famous, relative -- a few years ago, when she flew across the country in a Cirrus, re-tracing a famous flight by the original Amelia. This week at EAA AirVenture, Earhart announced that she plans to circle the globe in a Pilatus PC-12 NG, tracing (to some degree) the famous last flight of her namesake. In the last few years, Earhart, who works as a TV news announcer in Denver, has started the Fly With Amelia Foundation to provide flight scholarships to young women and offer programs to teach people about aviation and inspire them to fly. The round-the-world flight, sponsored by Pilatus and Jeppesen, is planned for June 2014.
Earhart and her co-pilot, Patrick Carter, will log more than 100 hours on the flight, and have planned 14 stops along the way. The flight will launch from Oakland, Calif. -- the same place where the original Earhart began her final flight -- and will return there about two weeks later. The PC-12 used on the flight will be modified to permit nonstop legs of up to 2,200 nm, for the leg between Oakland and Hawaii.
Cirrus Looks Beyond Vision Jet
Cirrus says it will develop new aircraft after it has brought the Vision Jet to market in a couple of years and President and COO Pat Waddick said the long-range planning is a direct result of the investment attitude of the company's Chinese owners. In an interview with AVweb at AirVenture 2013, Waddick said China Aviation Industry General Aircraft (CAIGA) has given the company the security and financial ability to keep company engineers busy developing new aircraft long into the future. He noted that Cirrus has capitalized on the latest advances in airframe design and materials and electronics and the industry is overdue for major developments in engines. "From my perspective one of the next big revolutions in aviation is in the powerplant area," he said. He would not, however, elaborate on where that revolution might specifically take Cirrus but he said there are lots of options and new technologies presenting themselves. Meanwhile CEO Dale Klapmeier said building aircraft in China is part of the plan.
Klapmeier said airspace in China will be freed up for private aircraft and when that happens a huge market will open up. He said he expects demand to exceed the company's Duluth operations capacity and Cirrus will open manufacturing plants in China. He said that kind of development is good for the whole industry because there is room for all the players to be involved in the market.
Podcast: More Planes in Cirrus's Future
The financially stability afforded by Cirrus's acquisition by CAIGA has the company doing what it does best, and that's looking to the future. Cirrus COO Pat Waddick spoke with AVweb's Russ Niles at AirVenture 2013.
Garmin G3000 Selected For Kestrel
Kestrel Aircraft has chosen Garmin as its launch vendor for avionics on its new turboprop single. The G3000 suite, the same system used in the Phenom 300, was picked but Kestrel CEO Alan Klapmeier said there will be future options for customers. "Competition is good," he told a news conference at AirVenture 2013. Klapmeier also announced that funding delays have pushed back the development schedule. Klapmeier says he's still hopeful a conforming prototype can be ready to display at next year's AirVenture. Klapmeier said he had hoped to announce the program was fully funded at this year's show but deals fell through in the weeks ahead of the event. He said all businesses face this issue and it can be as frustrating as it is puzzling. Meanwhile, the company has grown to more than 110 employees, most of them engineers, and progress continues to be made on the myriad tasks that must be completed in designing and building an airplane.
He said final design work of many components is complete and the FAA has commented favorably on the quality of the work and the process in general. Klapmeier estimates the cost of certification at about $175 million, of which about $50 million has been spent. He said that about a year after the next round of funding is complete the conforming prototype will be finished. He said the next round of funding will be private placement investments from a number of parties and he does not want anyone to hold 51 percent or more of the company. He said he wants the investors to understand aviation and be prepared to debate issues as they arise. Klapmeier said the earliest the first aircraft could be delivered to a customer is the end of 2015 but that will more likely occur in 2016.
Podcast: Funding Issues for Kestrel
Kestrel Aircraft has accomplished a lot on its new turboprop single, but a new round of financing is needed to build the conforming prototype. Kestrel CEO Alan Klapmeier spoke with AVweb's Russ Niles at AirVenture 2013.
Stemme Returns To AirVenture With Two Motorgliders
Stemme, a motorglider manufacturer based in Germany, returned to EAA AirVenture this week after a break of a couple years, with new management at the helm. Two longtime shareholders -- and Stemme pilots -- have increased their holdings to 70 percent of the company and they named Paul Masschelein, an engineer and experienced executive from Belgium, as the new CEO. "Stemme is here to stay," said Masschelein. "We are creating a future." The company is showing its flagship high-performance motorglider, the S10, as well as the S6, designed for touring. The S6 has been flying in Europe but is new to the U.S.
Alexander Papenberg, CEO of the U.S. subsidiary of the company, has an S6 in San Diego where he is marketing it to U.S. customers. The airplane, with a 55-foot wingspan, features two side-by-side seats, which Papenberg describes as "convivial," compared to the usual tandem seating. "You can converse without having to shout over your shoulder, you can hold hands, and enjoy the flight," he said. The S6 is designed "to go places fast," he said, with a cruising speed of 145 knots, retractable gear, and fuel consumption of five gallons per hour. The FAA requires no separate rating for motorgliders, Papenberg said. A glider pilot needs a logbook endorsement to fly the motorized aircraft, he said, but no medical certificate is required. The S6, which has a turbocharged Rotax 914 engine, sells for $390,000.
Video: Stemme Motorglider at EAA AirVenture
Alexander Papenberg, CEO of Stemme's subsidiary in San Diego, California, tells AVweb about the S6 motorglider on display this week at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Video: Inside AirVenture's Jumbotron Air Show
At AirVenture 2013, Live Airshow TV and Onboard Images have teamed up to present what looks like the best air show in recent history at Oshkosh. With two giant LED screens and a network of ground and airborne cameras, air show attendees are getting an unprecedented perspective on air show flying, with dramatic in-cockpit views, post-show interviews, and other entertainment programs.
The Spirit Of St. Louis Kitplane
It has no brakes, no steerable gear, and no forward visibility, but if you don't (and also if you do) ball it up on the grass, your three-quarter-scale kit-built Spirit of St. Louis from Robert Baslee's Airdrome Aeroplanes will likely attract a lot of attention. Baslee originally got into the replica business out of self interest, building approximately 17 WWI replica aircraft, including multiple replica Fokkers, Sopwiths, a Nieuport 24, Nieuport 17s, a Bleriot, and more. That led to attention from movie studios and museums and contract work. Now, public attention drawn by the Spirit of St. Louis replica (contracted by a bank for marketing purposes), has generated enough interest to prompt Baslee to create a kit version of the aircraft, which he says will be available soon.
Baslee's company has been working since 1989 in Holden, Mo. The company has produced aircraft for the movie Flyboys and Amelia, and has done multiple builds for museum displays. He says he always flies his aircraft builds as a condition of his contracts. Baslee hasn't yet flown his Spirit of St. Louis, but predicts it will stall below 45, and cruise at 105 with a three and half hour range. The aircraft is powered by a 110-hp seven-cylinder Rotec engine, but a 150-hp option is available. He'll introduce the kit at $12,995 including everything for the airframe including covering, but excluding engine and avionics. He expects buyers to be very experienced pilots (military and airline) who love aviation and history, and want to experience and learn what it took to fly an airplane in the 1920s. He also imagines he'll incorporate cameras and a cockpit display "because people like to see." Baslee himself told AVweb Thursday that he is looking forward to experiencing the aircraft after its visit to AirVenture.
Video: Spirit of St. Louis Kitplane
Robert Baslee's Airdrome Aeroplanes was contracted to produce a replica Spirit of St. Louis aircraft for a bank. He says the aircraft has attracted enough attention that he now plans to produce the aircraft as a kit. It won't be his first. His company has been producing WWI replica aircraft (Fokkers, Sopwith designs, Nieuports -- even a pre-War Bleriot) since 1989.
CAF Looking For New Headquarters
The Commemorative Air Force says it wants to take warbirds mainstream with a new headquarters complex in a major urban area. At a news conference at AirVenture Wednesday, CAF President Steve Brown said the idea is to take the organization uptown while preserving and honoring its rural roots. "We want to add," he said. "We don't want to subtract anything." The current headquarters is in Midland, Texas, a city of 160,000 about halfway between El Paso and Dallas, and is home to the organization's museum and annual airshow. Brown said the facilities and airshow will continue in Midland but the new national headquarters will have its own attractions and be located in a major metropolitan area.
Brown said the new complex will include an "aviation attraction" along with storage and maintenance facilities for the cream of the crop of CAF's fleet of 158 flying aircraft. A primary role of the new digs will be to educate young people on the legacy of their forbears in allowing them to take for granted the lives they enjoy. "Our mission is education, such that Americans will value and support the contributions of military aviation in assuring our nation's freedom," he said. The potential sites have been narrowed to a short list of eight and include Alliance Airport in Fort Worth, Collin County Airport in McKinney, Dallas Executive, Ellington Field in Houston, Lackland/Kelly in San Antonio, New Century in Kansas City/Olathe, Kansas, North Texas Regional in Dallas and Smyrna/Rutherford County near Nashville.
Podcast: CAF on the Move
The Commemorative Air Force wants to build a new headquarters near an urban center with a big tourism base. President Steve Brown spoke with AVweb's Russ Niles at AirVenture 2013.
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.
AirVenture Air Shows Rock
We’re usually so busy covering AirVenture that we rarely have time to give the afternoon airshow more than a passing glance. But this year, I’ve spent a couple of hours shooting around show center and I have to admit, EAA has outdone itself with both the acts and the pace of the show.
When we talked to Jack Pelton last weekend, he said the show had been retooled to include more acts at a faster pace and he wasn’t kidding. Some of the acts are as short as five minutes and few are longer than 10. That makes for an unusually quick-moving show and judging by the people I talked to around show center on Wednesday, the audience likes it that way.
But what really kicks this year’s show over the top is the addition of live cockpit audio and footage displayed on two giant Jumbotron screens either side of show center. This is a first at AirVenture and I think it dramatically improves the quality of the airshow experience. Like a major sporting event—think NASCAR or the NFL—the Jumbotron footage is both live and directed, so there’s a mix of cockpit shots, external tracking camera views and even performers ingressing their aircraft before takeoff.
We’re seeing live shots from everything from skydivers to the major aerobatic acts, all transmitted via a real-time datalink. This technology really saved the Yves Rossy Jetman act. At 5000 feet, the guy is a speck and everyone in the crowd was looking in a different direction. But on the big screen, you could see his live feed and the tracking camera could always seem to find him. Without it, I think that portion of the show would have been a snoozer.
We’ll be doing some reporting on the technology later in the week, but if you’re here at AirVenture, make a point to take in the airshow. If you plant yourself a couple of hundred feet from the screens toward the front of the flight line, you won’t be disappointed.