AVweb AVFlash - Volume 20, Number 14b
October 9, 2013
AOPA's Last Summit Draws A Crowd
The AOPA Summit that opens on Thursday in Fort Worth, Texas, may be the last of its kind, but the turnout is strong -- many of the events are sold out, and the convention floor is filled with more than 400 exhibitors, plus 70 aircraft on static display at nearby Meacham Field. Mark Baker, AOPA's new president, will open the event on Thursday morning, with a talk where he'll lay out his ideas and vision for the future of the organization. Cirrus and Epic Aircraft also will offer updates on the projects they have in the works. Several avionics manufacturers are scheduled to introduce new products here this week, and lots of aviation inspiration will be on hand, from the story of a wounded warrior who learned to fly, to the memoirs of a pilot who flew Marine One, the presidential helicopter.
Also on tap is a full schedule of seminars, where pilots can learn about maintenance, new technologies, medical and legal issues, and a range of pilot skills. "We really cover the gamut," AOPA spokesman Steve Hedges told AVweb at the show. "All three days really are packed." Airshow pilot Mike Goulian, who will be flying in the Red Bull Air Races again when the series re-launches next year, is scheduled to give a talk, along with many others with impressive aviation resumes. Lockheed has an expansive presence at the show, as well as HondaJet, Redbird, Garmin, and many others. AVweb staffers will be reporting daily from the Summit about all the events and products, with stories, video and podcasts.
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Podcast: Steve Hedges on the Last AOPA Summit
On the eve of AOPA Summit in Fort Worth, Texas, AOPA spokesman Steve Hedges talked with AVweb's Mary Grady about the changes in how the organization will be reaching out to members in the future -- and highlighted some of the impressive events scheduled this week.
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Dynons New D2 Pocket Panel Talks to Apps Wirelessly
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Video: Dynon's New D2 Pocket Panel
At AOPA Summit in Fort Worth, Texas, Dynon Avionics introduced a new product called the D2 Pocket Panel. †It follows the company's popular D1 EFIS, but the new product, rather than being limited to a built-in display, communicates wirelessly with tablet apps.
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The Other D2: Garmin's New Does-It-All Pilot Watch
While Dynon was busy rolling out its D2 Pocket Panel gadget, Garmin showed up at AOPA Summit in Fort Worth, Texas with its own gadget, coincidentally also called D2. But Garminís version is a combination pilot watch and navigator with features reminiscent of the companyís early portable GPS models. (The GPSmap 90 comes to mind.)
The watch has a range of high-level features including a rudimentary GPS moving map, a built-in altimeter with alerting, multiple timers and a three-axis compass with an HSI display. Although itís not intended as a diverís watch, the D2 is waterproof down to 3 meters and has a spiffy orange backlighting scheme. It also has wireless functionality with Garminís new VIRB video camera.
In todayís video coverage of AOPA Summit, Garminís Dan Lind demonstrates some of the watchís top features. The D2 is expected to be available in November for a price of $449.†
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Video: Garmin's D2 Does-It-All Pilot Watch
At AOPA Summit, Garmin International is showing off something new: a sophisticated pilot watch that features GPS navigation, built-in altimetry with alerting, multiple timers, and even wireless camera control. †The new gadget sells for $449 is expected to be available in November.
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NBAA: FAA Registry Shutdown Has GA Stalled
In a letter sent to members of Congress and President Obama, NBAA said on Tuesday the ongoing federal shutdown has "grave repercussions" on the general aviation industry, forcing a "halt in the purchase, sale and production of all new general aviation airplane parts or aircraft." NBAA says none of those things can occur without the written approval of the federal government, including the purchase and use of small GA aircraft for business transport. "Until the FAA Registry in Oklahoma City opens, an important American industry remains on an indefinite layover," NBAA President Ed Bolen wrote.
The registry is closed during the funding stalemate, even though†more than†10,000 aircraft registrations expire each month, and these registrations cannot be renewed while the registry is closed, says NBAA. As a result, the government shutdown is "severely jeopardizing countless jobs, and America's economy and infrastructure," Bolen said. "In addition, many entrepreneurs and companies of all sizes rely on the airplanes for business flights, as do communities, for critical services including medical transport, mail delivery and fire fighting." The last time the government shut down, 17 years ago, the registry remained open, Bolen said.
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Passenger Becomes Pilot In Emergency
Seventy-seven-year-old non-pilot passenger John Wildey became his own rescuer when he took the controls of a Cessna 172 at night, Tuesday, and with the help of an instructor on the ground, landed safely at Humberside airport, UK, after the plane's pilot lost consciousness. The pilot was removed from the cockpit after the landing and later died at a local hospital. Early reports suggest the cockpit was dimly lit and the aircraft was not operating external lights -- complicating things for both Wildey and his helpers on the ground. The aircraft's landing came on a fourth attempt and it was not smooth.†
Wildey told BBC news he initiated contact with controllers with a "mayday, mayday, mayday" call roughly 25 minutes after the flight began. He told controllers where he believed he was and they scrambled to formulate a useful plan. An RAF helicopter was sent to help with the attempt and early reports suggest two instructors were involved in guiding Wildey safely to earth. For his part, Wildey managed to maintain control and guide the aircraft to the airport where he began what became a series of approaches -- the fourth of which resulted in a landing. Witnesses (controllers deployed the airport's emergency personnel) reportedly saw sparks upon touchdown. Wildey himself later described the landing as a controlled crash. Instructor Roy Murray, who helped guide Wildey in flight, told the Independent.co.uk, "He did a beautiful landing," adding, "I wouldn't be frightened to fly with him." Murray said he felt "satisfied but sad," about the event, knowing he'd helped one man safely return but also that another had passed away.
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EAA: Dramatic Drop In Experimental Fatal Accidents
According to figures release by the FAA, fatal accidents involving aircraft registered in the experimental category fell 25 percent from 2012 to 2013, EAA reported. For 2012, 73 accidents involved fatalities in the category. In 2013, the number dropped to 55. The number of lives lost to accidents was also down, but by a lower amount, providing an 18-percent decrease. EAA says it has been working to promote transition and recurrent training as endemic with pilots of experimental aircraft and that it is "cautiously optimistic" the figures reflect its safety initiatives gaining a foothold in the community of experimental pilots. However, some important and relevant numbers are not yet factored in.
The FAA can take up to two years to generate an accurate accident rate -- a figure for the number of fatal accidents in relation to hours flown. So it's possible that experimental pilots flew fewer hours in 2013 than they did in 2012 and, if that's the case, the lower number of fatal accidents may reflect that. We don't yet know. But Sean Elliott, EAA vice president of advocacy and safety, delivered EAA's broader message. "We hope that by encouraging builders and pilots who purchase E-AB aircraft to seek out the best training and information available," he said. "We can help those in our community avoid some of the most common accident causes."
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Australians Hope To Find Hidden Spitfires
For 13 years, a team of warbird enthusiasts in Melbourne, Australia, has been trying to learn the fate of dozens of Spitfires abandoned at a military airfield after World War II -- according to local legend, some of the airplanes may have been buried in fields or hidden in mineshafts to save them from being scrapped. The group is now trying to raise money to continue their research and complete a film about the effort -- and perhaps, find a Spitfire. Any aircraft they find would be donated to a museum, according to James Carter, a researcher on the team. The Australian effort has no apparent link to a British attempt to exhume buried Spitfires in Burma, which ended empty-handed early this year.
In a fundraising video posted online, Carter says more than 500 airplanes, including Spitfires and others, were gathered at an airfield in Queensland after the war, where they were destroyed. Rumors have long lingered that some of the airplanes were hidden away, but none have ever been found. Carter says there's a chance that no such airplanes exist, but "with all the evidence, all the research, all the stories Ö we believe there's a damn good chance of finding at least one aircraft." Pledges will help to pay for ground-penetrating radar to aid the search, as well as the filmmaking to document it. "If we don't find a Spitfire Ö we'll still have a fantastic story. It will be fun, it will be an adventure Ö it's rewarding in itself," says Carter.
Aircraft Spruce will be at the AOPA Aviation Summit in Fort Worth, Texas on October 10-12, 2013. We are a strategic partner and proud sponsor of AOPA. Please visit our booth to get great discounts, meet our customer-friendly Aircraft Spruce team, and enter in our daily drawing to win a $150 gift card! We will be located at booth 1200. For more information about the event, please visit AircraftSpruce.com.
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Mooney Sold To Chinese Company: Report
Mooney Aircraft Company has reportedly been sold to a Chinese company, and indications are the intention is to resume production, build aircraft components and service the used aircraft market, mainly in China and Asia. Meijing Group, a Chinese real estate company, expected to close the deal on Tuesday and finalize the sale sometime in November,†according to CRI.com, a Chinese news website. The website quoted an unnamed Meijing executive as its source. The website says the U.S. government's Office of Foreign Investment signed off on the proposed deal on Oct. 2. After-hours phone and email messages to Mooney's Kerrville, Texas, headquarters were not immediately returned. There was a hint of a revival of the storied planemaker when it unexpectedly showed up at AirVenture Oshkosh this year, as we reported†from the show.
At the time, Mooney officials attending their modest booth were circumspect about resuming production but they did assure AVweb that all certifications had been maintained and that the existing fleet was being properly supported. According to cri.com, Meijing Group is looking to diversify. It's based in Zhengzhou, which has been designated China's first air economic zone. "Since then, [Zhengzhou] has been on a fast track of transitioning from a railway-pivoted economy to an aerotropolis," the website reported.
AOPA Responds To Patent Suit
As expected, AOPA has filed a detailed defense (PDF, PDF) of its FlyQ online flight planning tool against a $66 million patent infringement suit (PDF) launched July 29 by SD Holdings LLC, a Washington State company that holds two patents concerning online travel and flight planning services. AOPA asked the U.S. District Court in Portland, OR for dismissal of the suit or, alternatively, to have the case moved to Maryland, where AOPA is based. One of the attorneys arguing for AOPA is patent attorney Lionel Lavenue, who spoke to Aviation Consumer's Jeff Van West†in 2010†about the viability of such suits. AOPA spokeswoman Katie Prybil said the 39-page response disputes the patent infringement claims. "AOPA requests dismissal due to the fact there is no basis for SDHís patent infringement allegations against FlyQ Web, AOPAís online aviation flight planning tool that is available to members free of charge," said Prybil in an email to AVweb. †"AOPA explains that SDH does not assert a tenable claim of patent infringement, and therefore that the only allegation of patent infringement is defective, and that SDH lacks any good-faith basis to assert patent infringement against AOPA." SD Holdings says that online flight planning is worth money and it wants a slice for its patents, which cover the "Process for Generating Travel Plans on the Internet" (7,640,098) and the "Process for Generating Computer Flight Plans on the Internet" (8,447,512). SD Holdings says a reasonable price for an online flight planner is $150 and a reasonable royalty is 10 percent. So, $15 times 400,000 AOPA members equals $6 million. Further, it says it has "lost profits" of $150 x 400,000 members for $60 million. AVweb is unaware of any online flight planning tools being offered by any company identifying itself as SD Holdings, and a Google search doesn't turn up any.
The earlier patent†(7,640,098)†was awarded to FlightPrep, an online flight planning provider owned by patent holders Roger Stenbock and Kyle Everson. FlightPrep took action against a number of online flight planning Web sites in late 2010, demanding licensing fees and a non-disclosure agreement on the nature of those arrangements. A company operating under the name FlightPrep Inc. and offering many of the same services as the former company is now owned by Ross Neher. Neher was the general manager and vice president of FlightPrep when it was involved in the earlier suits. He spoke to AVweb about the nature of the earlier suits in a 2010 podcast interview. According to Washington State records, SD Holdings lists its office at an address that real estate Web site Zillow says is an upscale condo in a heritage building in downtown Spokane.
Redbird To End $1 Avgas Two Weeks Early
Redbird Skyport's offer to fill your airplane's tank for $1 a gallon during October has drawn so much activity that the organizers have decided to end the promotion two weeks early, spokesman Jeff Van West said on Tuesday. "In preparing for this experiment, we planned for traffic averaging eight times normal," said Van West. "Actual response has been four times higher than that -- over 30 times our normal volume. By the end of the first week, we'd reached our data collection goal for the entire month." The incessant demand has become "unmanageable" for the Skyport staff, he said.
"We have three trucks running full-time and wait times might still approach two hours, and we can't get fuel delivered fast enough to guarantee we don't run out," he said. "Not to mention conditions for our staff; they're icing their joints through the day due to the unrelenting workload." The FBO, in San Marcos, Texas, usually pumps about 4,000 gallons of 100LL in a month. Van West projected that by October 15 they will have pumped over 90,000 gallons. Van West said that to continue at that rate for the entire month is "physically and economically unviable," but the Skyport is committed to handling the demand through AOPA Summit in nearby Fort Worth, and up to the 15th. "We regret having to make any changes to the plan," Van West added, "but our goal was both data collection and stirring an infusion of activity in the GA community. On both those counts, we've already succeeded several times over even our boldest projections. So we view the experiment as a success."
Guest Blog: Shutdown Hits Flight Training
As AVweb has been reporting, the partial government shutdown has impacted aviation at a number a levels, from aircraft registration to aircraft safety inspection. But the effect on the provision on airman FAA knowledge tests is more critical than many realize.
Along with the shutdown of the knowledge test process, the provision of FAA airman practical tests are additionally affected in some important ways. While FAA Designated Pilot Examiners (DPEs) havenít been told to stop offering their services, the system they use to process applications for pilots seeking ratings or certificates is government run and if anything breaks, itís possible that no one will be there to fix it.
Currently, it is currently up and runningófor now. †For authorized practical tests, should the system fail, examiners, instructors, and applicants could go back to paper applications, but these--along with those being submitted digitally--are going to pile up during any time the FAA staff is furloughed.
Itís reasonable to think that even when FAA staff is able to return from furlough, which we hope is soon, the applications that have been submitted in the interim will be delayed in processing. The potential for expiration of temporary airman certificates issued (which only last 120 days) may lead to added workload for local FAA offices needing to re-issue temporary certificates that have expired. If an airman lets a certificate expire, he or she will no longer have a valid pilot certificate.
Any processing of practical tests that require FAA staff to be present will be halted during this shutdown. The most pronounced result of this is the initial flight instructor test. These tests are typically either administered directly by FAA staff or are deferred by FAA staff to appropriately qualified FAA DPEs if FAA staff arenít available. Even when deferred, FAA staff must interact with the applicant to assign the test. If FAA staff arenít in the office, this is not possible, effectively stopping the flow of any new CFI applicants.
Circling back to the knowledge test issue, in the short run, the effect will be limited for those that have already completed knowledge tests. In the longer term, if tests arenít administered, this will stop all processing of pilot applicants for ratings or certificates. This will effectively stop any training providers, including local FBOs, colleges and universities, or even airlines from moving pilot candidates through ratings and certificates.
For pilot candidates in collegiate or university aviation programs, this may halt their progress through expensive academic programs. When these programs are unable to move pilots through the system, not only will government staff be out of work, but all of the civilian DPEs that provide these tests will have effectively been laid off and no longer able to work.
If the shutdown continues without relief, or the FAA staff that oversee these activities arenít fully reinstated and allowed to return to work, it will stop pilot training in the U.S. eventually, even if this doesnít happen all at once. With concerns about pilot shortages growing more urgent each year, the shutdown is a significant worry for the industry, if it isnít ended soon.† It has the potential to affect the transportation infrastructure's ability to provide qualified pilots. And this wonít necessarily take months to notice. Pilot training facilities are already hitting the roadblock of knowledge tests and this is likely to grow worse by the day.
Jason Blair is a designated pilot examiner and former director of the National Flight Instructors Association.
Mogas: The Great Missed Opportunity
Every time I do research or reader surveys on mogas for airplanes, I come away thinking I must be living in an alternate universe. Or maybe the people I talk to are. In todayís news columns, weíre reporting on the results of our recent avgas survey, which revealed some interesting movement in opinions toward mogas.
Bottom line: mogas negatives are down and positives are up, meaning more people say theyíre interested in using it and fewer people say they wouldnít even consider it. Yet, the mogas market gains very little traction. Itís not much more available than it was two years ago, when last we did a similar survey.
I have a theory to explain the shifting opinion. Some of it may be attributable to survey error, but based on the comments I read, more owners are seeing aviation as a sunset activity and although readers who took the survey have confidence that a 100-octane replacement will eventually appear, thereís real worry that it wonít be affordable. Thus the interest in mogas.
And the industry dithers on. EAA and AOPA have shown little or no interest in promoting mogas as an option, yet itís the single most potent factor to reduce the cost of flying. On average, where mogas is available, itís about $1.40 cheaper than avgas and if your airplane burns eight to 10 GPH and you fly 50 hours a year, thatís up to $700 a year in savings. At some airports itís more, at others, less. The savings would at least pay for a few months of hangar rent. To be fair, the alphabets havenít gotten behind mogas for several legitimate reasons, one of which is the resistance of FBOs to install the tankage, knowing they wonít sell much mogas.
Fair enough, I guess. But the biases against mogas are, in my view, utterly unfounded. Yes, itís true it may be hard to find premium mogas without ethanol in some areas, but complaints about vapor pressure-related problems, lack of octane and engine and carburetor deposits caused by mogas are never substantiated in our surveys. I thought reader Jack Thompson put it best in replying to the survey: ďI've been using mogas for 25-plus years with nothing but good results. I'm a mechanical professional engineer, and I'm appalled at the institutional ignorance and head-in-the-sand attitude of the industry on this topic. Pure lunacy.Ē
There may be a confluence of events that will yet inject life into mogas, however. First, Lycomingís SI 1070 bulletin approves a long list of engines for mogas, provided the fuel meets certain octane and vapor pressure requirements and a new company called Airworthy Autogas proposes to make and distribute that very fuel. This should, once and for all, address at least some of the unfounded beefs against mogas. Oh, and third, Iím not alone in believing the replacement for avgas, when it eventually arrives, will cost more than 100LL does now. Iím guessing a buck more, so the Delta between mogas and avgas could rise to $2 or more. Airworthy Autogas will, however, cost a little more than traditional mogas, but maybe that will be a good tradeoff against its pedigree. In mogasís favor is the ever-growing number of Rotax engines that can burn it, as many owners of those aircraft do. Just to be clear, no one is saying mogas will substitute for 100-octane in those high-compression or high-octane engines that require it. Thatís a separate problem.
When I spoke to Airworthy Autogasís Mark Ellery about mogas, he asked me if I would use it. Good question, because I suffer the same biases as many others. For the Cub, Iíd worry about the effects of unintended ethanol on seals and o-rings and, frankly, I hate the smell of mogas. But if I had an airplane that burned more than four gallons an hour and/or someone would dispense branded mogasóand Airworthy will be thatóthen Iíd warm to the idea. I think others might, too. By branded, I mean someoneís name is on the pump so I know whoís providing it.
So perhaps weíre at a crossroads of opportunity. An aggressive company is addressing biases against mogas at a time when more expensive 100-octaneówhich many aircraft simply donít needóseems to be on the horizon. (Nothing is worse than presuming owners of low-compression engines have to pay more for fuel just to support a 100-octane ecosystem.)
If the economics of Airworthy Autogas prove workable, it then becomes purely a marketing and promotional challenge. Can the company and the industry promote it well enough to defeat the unsubstantiated biases against mogas in general? Will owners begin to demand it? If so, perhaps we could generate enough demand to double or triple the number of airports willing to pump mogas. And thatís where Iíd like to see AOPA and EAA go with this idea. If the two associations could pair up in promoting mogasóif Airworthy Autogas, so be itómaybe we could get somewhere.
Otherwise, Iím not sure I see any bright shining path to at least arrest the rising cost of flying airplanes, much less reduce it.