AVweb AVFlash - Volume 20, Number 4g
August 3, 2013
Tablet Apps: Connectivity is the Buzzword
What’s ahead for tablet apps? For the short term, look for yet more features, improved operational interfaces and more capability, especially with regard to getting weather. Longer term, however, the big thing will be connectivity with all sorts of devices in the cockpit, including certified panel-mount boxes.
That was one conclusion of a wide-ranging discussion on tablet apps held at AirVenture in a forum jointly sponsored by MyGoFlight and AVweb. Aviation Consumer magazine’s Larry Anglisano moderated the discussion among four major app makers, including ForeFlight, Jeppesen, Bendix/King and WingX Pro.
All four app makers agreed that connectivity is the developing trend and it will be a reality sooner rather than later. With its Connected Panel, Aspen Avionics has already pioneered the basic architecture and more hardware and app interfaces are inevitable.
“There’s no good way to say this, but I think we’re at the end of the beginning for iPad apps,” said ForeFlight’s Tyson Weihs. “I think connectivity will be the trend and we’re going to look back 10 years from now and see that we’ll have connectivity to just about anything the hardware manufacturers desire. I see connectivity with a wide range of certified systems. Whether that happens next year or the year after is a function hardware development and certification schedules,” he said.
Although the crystal ball remains unresolved in detail, connectivity with tablet apps will likely mean full control of panel avionics from tablets, some sort of display and data enhancements and likely interface with everyday gadgets like cellphones.
Bendix/King’s Roger Jollis believes cockpit tablet evolution will contribute to cost decreases for avionics, making sophisticated capability available to more buyers at lower cost. “We have avionics technology today that’s outside the cost envelope for most recreational flyers, but [more affordable] equipment is coming,” Jollis said. At least some of it will rely on inexpensive tablet computer interfaces, he added. Aspen’s Connected Panel is already doing this, but Jollis promises that what’s coming will go “way beyond that.” He said it’s critical that the industry arrive at an open standard for cockpit connectivity as a means of igniting competition and spurring innovation. An open standard would allow any equipment in the panel to communicate with any app that meets the standard, so smaller players wouldn’t be locked out by dominant avionics manufacturers pushing their own proprietary standards.
Hilton Goldstein, whose WingX Pro remains a popular app, said Aspen deserves credit for developing the first panel/tablet interfaces. “What I’d like to see,” said Goldstein, “is bi-directional flow. Whatever your iPad has, your panel should have, too. There should be no difference between the two.”
The app makers were also asked about a persistent problem with both apps and the hardware that runs them: lack of reliability. iPads overheat and die; apps freeze or fail to work. All of the app designers conceded they’re aware of these problems, but Weihs said for the iPad, Apple changes the game every six months with IOS revisions and what may have been a stable app before a revision, is anything but after. One solution—one that’s unavoidable for any app maker wishing to remain competitive—is a robust, ongoing quality program that maximizes uses of crash reports. The post-release quality process that Weihs described sounded not dissimilar from that used by avionics manufacturers for certified equipment, although there’s no regulatory requirement to test apps.
FAA Releases GA Certification Action Plan
The FAA this week released its implementation plan for streamlining the certification and approval processes for general aviation aircraft, "to keep pace with technological advancements in aviation products and to help the United States maintain global competitiveness." The plan lays out a timetable and road map for the project, which aims to get airplanes certified twice as fast, at half the cost, while providing a greater margin of safety. The FAA said its revision of Part 23, which governs the certification of GA aircraft, should be complete in July 2016. The new rules should promote an increase in application for primary-category type certificates, and an increase in the installation of angle-of-attack sensors, two-axis autopilots, glass avionics, and other important safety-enhancing systems that can aid the pilot, the FAA said.
Many GA manufacturers have been anxious for this change, with some new models now in the pipeline put on hold or slowed in hopes that the new rules will be advantageous. It will take time for those new rules to produce changes in the accident rate, the FAA says: "Rulemaking will take several years, and given the size of the current general aviation fleet (roughly 185,000 airplanes), it could take 10 years or more before measurable safety improvement occurs." The complete text of the FAA plan has been posted online (PDF). The FAA also recently published the final report of its rulemaking committee (PDF), with its recommendations for changing Part 23 to industry consensus standards, similar to the system now used for light sport aircraft.
Continental Ready But Not Enthusiastic About Mogas
With Continental Motors tilting strongly toward aerodiesels as a growth strategy, CEO Rhett Ross says he’s less convinced that mogas will play a major role in the aviation fuels market. In this podcast recorded this week at AirVenture 2013, Ross said Continental will remain committed to gasoline engines, especially its successful line of large displacement powerplants for aircraft such as the Cirrus and Beechcraft lines.
And although the company is aggressively pursuing mogas approvals for many of its engines, Ross is less convinced that mogas will make major market inroads, at least in the U.S. “Number one is convenience. As neat as it sounds to say price, when you have to go start filling Jerry cans and trundling them to the airport, you’re going to do that once and the convenience factor changes your mind,” Ross told AVweb this week.
“Number two, it’s just the reality of the economics. For the average airfield to sit there and have two fueling systems is expensive enough, but during the transition to suddenly require three or even four, you just can’t justify it. We have to make sure the customer gets something that is convenient and economic, not just panically delivered,” he added.
Nonetheless, Continental says it will be ready if demand for mogas in any market materializes from grassroots demand. “We are aggressively pursuing the certifications on our unleaded fuel line of engines,” Ross said, including a variant of the six-cylinder IO-360 that will be used in Flight Design’s new four-place C4.
Podcast: Continental's Rhett Ross on Thilert TBOs, Diesels, Mogas, and More
Following their acquisition of Thielert Engines' assets, Continental Motors is working to extend TBOs on the Thielert IO-series. And that's not all they're up to. Paul Bertorelli spoke with Continental's Rhett Ross about the company's new gearbox, its upcoming diesel projects, and support for mogas in international markets.
New From Quicksilver, Two S-LSA Models
Quicksilver, which has sold more than 15,000 kit aircraft around the world, announced at EAA AirVenture this week it plans to offer its first factory-built aircraft -- two two-seat Special Light Sport Aircraft models. The Sport 2S open-cockpit and a GT-500 with a closed or partially closed cockpit, which provides more speed and range, both should be available by the end of the year. The 2S approval process is nearly complete, the company said, and they are taking deposits now. "We expect demand to be brisk for the first factory-built Quicksilver models ever offered," said Will Escutia, company president. The S-LSA 2S sells for about $40,000. The company also said it is partnering with Tangent Aviation to develop an electric-powered motorglider.
Brian Carpenter, of Tangent, said he hopes the electric-flight project will be "an effective, successful, safe, game-changing program." The aircraft will be designed as an SLSA glider, with the electric powerplant to follow. Currently, LSA standards don't provide any way to approve airplanes with electric propulsion, but the partners are hopeful that by the time their glider is ready to launch, those standards will have evolved.
New LSA From Italy -- Trial
Nando Groppo, an Italian aircraft manufacturer, debuted their Trial light sport aircraft this week at EAA AirVenture. The all-metal airplane is a short-takeoff-and-landing design capable of operations from rough runways, with folding wings for easy storage. The wing change requires only about five minutes, for one person, with no tools required, the company said. The Trial cruises at 110 mph with a 100-hp Rotax 912 engine. The pilot can fly from either of the tandem seats. The aircraft is available with either tricycle gear or as a taildragger. More than 100 copies are flying, most of them sold as kits.
The Trial can carry up to 40 gallons of fuel for a range of 600 nautical miles and more than six hours of flight time. The airplane sells for $85,000 factory-built, or $25,000 for a kit. It's also available with 26-inch tundra tires and a belly pod. The company is offering a special Oshkosh promotional price of $79,900.
AOPA Prepares Debonair For Sweepstakes
AOPA has a strong presence this week at EAA AirVenture, and visitors exploring the central show grounds can find the AOPA sweepstakes airplane on display, a 1963 Beech Debonair, a restoration project still in progress. The engine was in good shape when AOPA acquired it, but it has a completely new avionics panel -- after about four months of work -- and the cabin interior also will get a thorough overhaul. AOPA Pilot editor-at-large Tom Horne has been overseeing the process. "We have full ADS-B, in and out," he told AVweb at Oshkosh this week. "We have electronic charts, and a total of about seven screens in the cockpit. If you get lost in this airplane, you have a serious problem."
The airplane overhaul will be complete by the end of this year, Horne said. It will be awarded to a winner in October 2014 at AOPA Summit in Palm Springs. The sweepstakes is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada, age 19 or older. To take the Debonair home, the winner must be at least a student pilot. No purchase is necessary to enter or win the AOPA Debonair sweepstakes. The official rules (PDF) and entry instructions are posted online.
Podcast: AOPA Sweepstakes Airplane
At EAA AirVenture this week, AOPA is displaying a 1963 Beech Debonair that is in the process of being restored as the prize in their next sweepstakes. AOPA's Tom Horne, who is overseeing the project, spoke with AVweb's Mary Grady about the progress so far and plans to complete the restoration.
Able Flight Graduates Six New Pilots
Able Flight held its annual wings ceremony at AirVenture Oshkosh and the organization's remarkable record of success continues. The six graduates brought to 33 the number of students in wheelchairs who have qualified for light sport and/or private certificates in the past four years. This year everyone who entered the program, which uses aircraft with hand controls, has earned a certificate. Five of the six trained at Purdue University, which has graduated 17 hand-control pilots in the last few years.
Among the graduates was Marine Lt. Andrew Kinard, who lost both legs in an IED explosion in Iran. Dierdre Dacey has had MS since she was a teenager and Young Choi got polio as a child. Warren Cleary was paralyzed in a skydiving accident, Dennis Akins was hurt in a trampoline accident and Stephany Glassing was paralyzed in a car accident. Able Flight's Charles Stites said the dedication of the students and their instructors is remarkable and the success rate is proof of their commitment. "If you want to see what's right with aviation today, you can begin by looking at Able Flight," said Stites.
Social Flight Expands; Adds Regional Ambassadors
Just a year after launching, Social Flight, the aviation online resource that connects those interested in aviation with events and activities in the industry, is expanding its reach with regional ambassadors. Social Flight’s Jeff Simon told AVweb at AirVenture that the service was several years in the making, but just a year after its public launch, it reaches 20,000 pilots and has listed more than 4,000 events worldwide. “Social Flight basically takes all those events and makes them available to people in a way that’s proactive … and what we like to call reactive where we reach out to our members on a Wednesday and tell them everything that’s happening in the next seven days and give them reason to get up and get off the couch and get going,” Simon said.
Social Flight’s interactive dynamic is not unlike Facebook, but Simon says Social Flight—and aviation promotion—are grassroots efforts that require more outreach to be successful. So at AirVenture, Simon announced what Social Flight calls its Ambassador program. “We need to get out there and expand our footprint and tell more people about it. One way to do that is take this very active community and ask for volunteers. We’re looking for people to get out there and speak at events that are both aviation and non-aviation,” Simon told AVweb in this podcast from AirVenture this week. In just a few weeks, Simon said, Social Flight has enrolled more than 30 ambassadors covering at least 25 states and the program continues to expand. Simon said the ambassadors serve two roles; one is promotional, but the other is product outreach. “They help us steer where we take our product,” he said.
In addition to aviation, Simon said Social Flight is taking its community interaction idea into other interest areas, including motorcycling and cars. Simon said pilots tend to have multiple interests and he sees ways to connect them across those disciplines.
The Social Flight app is available for both IOS and Android platforms and online at SocialFlight.com.
Podcast: Get Out There and Fly! -- SocialFlight's Jeff Simon Can Help
It's a beautiful day for flying -- but where will you go? SocialFlight has an answer or ten at your fingertips. Jeff Simon chatted with AVweb's Paul Bertorelli at AirVenture this year about SocialFlight's growth and its new ambassador program.
OpenAirplane Adds Eight Outlets
OpenAirplane, a network of aircraft rental places, has added eight new outlets, including one in Alaska. In an interview with AVweb at AirVenture 2013, co-founder Rod Rakic said thousands of pilots have registered for the unique program, in which they take a single checkride in the aircraft of their choice and that checkride is valid for renting aircraft of the same type at any of the participating rental businesses. "We think we've really created a new way to rent airplanes and a better way to use your pilot certificate," said Rakic.
Normally if pilots are traveling or visiting another area, they have to have a checkride before a business will rent them one of their aircraft. With OpenAirplane, qualified instructors at any of the current 14 bases can conduct the checkride and the credentials are accepted by any of the other businesses in the system. Rakic said the checkrides are done to the standards of the private certificate flight test, which is more thorough than a biennial flight review and also counts as a BFR. As they rent airplanes, pilots build a portfolio with OpenAirplane and those they do business with can comment on their experience, much like eBay keeps a log of transaction comments about those who buy and sell on the site.
Podcast: OpenAirplane Grows
OpenAirplane, a network of aircraft rental outlets with a common database of renting pilots, has more than doubled in size in a month. AVweb's Russ Niles spoke with OpenAirplane co-founder Rod Rakic.
Video: Jeppesen's New App for the VFR Pilot
The general trend in tablet apps is to add ever more features as a competitive edge. But at AirVenture 2013, Jeppesen took a different tack, introducing Mobile FliteDeck VFR, an app intended for the less demanding needs of the VFR-only pilot.
Video: Adept Airmotive Shows Its V-6 at AirVenture
Two years ago, a South African startup called Adept Airmotive announced a V-6 engine project, and they're back at AirVenture 2013 with a running example and some test data. The company's Richard Schultz says testing has thus far revealed that at 320 pounds and 320 horsepower, the Adept engine has an excellent power-to-weight ratio, and it addresses one sticky issue in aviation: It doesn't require 100-octane fuel but can operate on lower grades, including mogas and biofuels. Certification, says Schultz, is about two years out.
AirVenture 2013 Photo Gallery #5
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.
Apps: Tilting Toward Simplicity?
At AirVenture, Jeppesen has introduced a new app that runs a little against the trend in app development in general and frankly, I’m happy to see it. As described in this video, the app is called Mobile FliteDeck VFR and it’s aimed specifically at VFR-only pilots. And given the way flying habits may be changing—less use of small personal airplanes for business flying and more recreational flying—Jeppesen may be on to something.
The app market is intensely competitive with revisions to the major products arriving every couple of months, if not faster. The competitive thrust seems to be ever more features and gadgets related to performing tasks that pilots may or may not have thought they needed. This gives some apps a layered complexity that’s anything but simple in an industry that has plainly recognized (and stated) that it’s time for simpler, cheaper products across the board.
So Jeppesen’s Mobile FliteDeck VFR is clearly intended to break through the noise and offer a VFR-only pilot who’s not interested in and doesn’t need the higher level functions required for IFR a more accessible and easy-to-use option to get from A to B. It’s full featured enough, but not so festooned with options as to be much of a training challenge to learn.
It’s interesting that such a product would come from Jeppesen, a company that’s owned by Boeing and which made its chops on building a worldwide network to collect data for the airline industry which is, by definition and regulation, IFR. I’m more than a little surprised that one of the other app makers didn’t come up with this idea.
On the other hand, none of the other app providers have access to Jeppesen’s excellent VFR charts. In 2009, as an alternative to the FAA’s sectional charts, Jeppesen developed its own visual charts and they are, quite simply, better. They’re less cluttered, use color more effectively and display more useful data. In Mobile FliteDeck VFR, Jeppesen has done something else we’ve been carping about for years: they’re using a database to render the charts on the tablet rather than using scans or PDFs. This makes for a sharper, crisper chart and usually a faster refresh.
It also portends a recasting of the basic instrument approach plate that’s better suited for cockpit displays than is the traditional paper approach chart which, for years, has simply been rendered on whatever cockpit display has been available. In other words, we may be on the cusp of the data shaping the display rather than the display accommodating the ancient and fading notion of the paper chart.
If that’s progress, I’m liking what I see.