AVweb AVFlash - Volume 20, Number 15a

October 12, 2013

Mooney Confirms Funding To Resume Production

The president of the company that will provide the funding to resume production of three models of Mooney aircraft says he can't release details of the transaction at the moment. AVweb reached Cheng Yuan (Jerry Chen), president of Soaring America Corporation, at his other business, a hobby and RC aircraft dealer in Alhambra, Calif. "I cannot really say anything at the moment," he said in a brief phone interview on Saturday. He asked us to email him so he could confirm our identity and promised that he would get back to us. He did however confirm that his new company is involved in the funding of Mooney and gave us a mooney.com email address for contact. Mooney did not return email or phone inquiries over the weekend. In a news release quoted by The Wichita Eagle (it wasn't sent to AVweb and we couldn't find it online), Mooney said the undisclosed arrangement with Soaring America Corp. will allow Mooney to resume production of the Acclaim Type S and Ovation 2 and 3, presumably at its Kerrville, Texas, factory. Mooney said it will initially hire about 100 production and administration staff to get the line moving again but it did not say how many aircraft it intends to make next year. It expects to grow by exploiting its high-performance niche. “Given more positive economic indicators and the unique market niche for Mooney airplanes, the company feels confident about a sustaining future in the industry,” the company said in the release.

As we reported last week, a Chinese news website ran a story that said a Chinese real estate company called the Meijing Group had purchased Mooney but Mooney says Soaring America Corporation of Alhambra, Calif., is providing the funding under an arrangement that will be kept confidential. It's not clear if Soaring America is affiliated with the Meijing Group. Corporationwiki.com says Soaring America was incorporated in November 2012 and lists its president as Cheng-Yuan Jerry Chen and Haohang Li as the registered agent. Jerry Chen also owns Epyaya Corporation, which is listed by at GWS, an RC model aircraft manufacturer, as a dealer. Epyaya occupies a suite in a commercial/industrial building in Alhambra.

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Senate Approves Small Airplane Revitalization Act

Legislation that would update FAR Part 23 and streamline aircraft certification, the Small Airplane Revitalization Act of 2013, has now passed through the Senate and will go back to the House of Representatives where it is expected to pass (again). The House passed its version of the bill back in July with a 411-0 vote before sending it on to the Senate. The bill aims to provide a more direct path for the certification of new aircraft designs that integrate new technology and safety enhancements. It would also provide a more effective path for existing aircraft to be upgraded and may reduce costs for pilots seeking upgrades.

The bill directs the FAA to set up a system of compliance through consensus-based standards with outcome-driven objectives. In broad terms, less complicated aircraft would not be subjected to the same rules as far more complicated aircraft. Industry groups including GAMA, NBAA, EAA, AOPA and NATA have expressed support for the legislation. If approved by the president, the legislation could go into effect by a Dec. 31, 2015 deadline. If the rules serve as intended they may improve safety for pilots, facilitate avionics upgrades and reduce costs.

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Wichita-China Aviation Office To Open

The mayor of Wichita, Carl Brewer, is expected next week to attend the opening of the Wichita-China Aviation Office in Beijing, China, which seeks to promote Wichita's aviation industry in that country. "We need to be in the game of international trade, and this trip reflects our dedication to helping Wichita companies expand their export opportunities," the mayor said in a statement. The office will be funded by private sponsors in China and Wichita, according to Kansas.com, as well as local manufacturers.

Beechcraft and Cessna Aircraft have already donated enough money to fund the office for its first year, Kansas.com reported. The program is expected to develop contacts and establish connections while also working to protect intellectual property rights. China's general aviation industry is expected to expand and the office also hopes to offer guidance as that industry grows. That guidance could help develop fixed-base operators, help establish maintenance and repair centers, and facilitate the sale of aircraft.

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British Pilots Fighting Rest Rules

New rest rules for pilots approved by the European Parliament Wednesday and now seeking approval of the EU Council of Ministers may face another hurdle -- BALPA, a British pilots union, says it is preparing a legal challenge, Express.co.uk reported Thursday. BALPA believes the new rules could create circumstances that would allow for pilots to land flights after 22 hours without a required rest period. The union is urging Britain's government to stop the EU-wide deal and that seems unlikely. The country's Department of Transportation and its aviation regulator, CAA, have publicly backed it. British pilots have already very publicly complained about fatigue problems they attribute to the existing standards.

Earlier this year, BALPA pilots were polled and 56 percent admitted they'd fallen asleep while flying an airliner while roughly 30 percent said they'd woken to find the other pilot asleep. In September, those figures were backed with the confession of two pilots who said they'd fallen asleep on the Aug. 13 Virgin Atlantic of a passenger-laden Airbus A330. The CAA has commented on the issue, saying, "We understand that BALPA are not happy with the proposals but we think overall it is a good package and not much different to what we have now."

Pelton: EAA Will Solve Tower Problem

The federal government's budget woes have affected aviation in many ways this year, but EAA President Jack Pelton says the cash crunch was no excuse for the FAA to refuse to staff the Oshkosh tower during AirVenture this summer. "We have an active lawsuit," Pelton told AVweb during an interview at AOPA Summit this week, in Fort Worth, Texas. "The FAA is not legally allowed to charge us for those services." But while he continues to press that case, he said EAA is preparing to have to pay for tower staff again in 2014. The organization also is looking at other long-term solutions, such as finding their own private staff for the tower, instead of paying the expenses for FAA controllers.

Pelton also said EAA will continue working to find alternatives to the high cost of fuel. "We've got to get creative," he said, to make more fuel options available at airports. For example, cheaper mogas fuels could be available in tank trucks at GA airports, instead of installing an expensive underground tank. Pelton said EAA has long been an advocate for finding cheaper alternative fuels for GA airplanes, and he expects that any work to bring the price down will translate to more pilots spending more time flying.

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Podcast: D'Shannon Enters the Specialty Engine Market

D'Shannon is well known, especially among Bonanza owners, as a purveyor of aircraft performance accessories, and now it's getting into the boutique engine business. At AOPA Summit in Fort Worth this week, D'Shannon announced new details about it Genesis engine series, a performance, tuned version of Continental's popular IO-520 and IO-550 lines that are the mainstay powerplants of modern Bonanzas.

In this podcast from Summit, the company's Scott Erickson describes the Genesis program, which includes mass balancing of all rotating components, cylinder flow matching within one percent, and 100 percent replacement parts in engines built to new limits. Erickson said D'Shannon has already begun building and shipping engines and expects to ramp up production next year.

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OpenAirplane Expands Nationwide, Adds Checkouts

OpenAirplane, a service that aims to make it easier for pilots to rent airplanes when away from home, has been growing since its launch this summer, co-founder Rod Rakic told AVweb in an interview at AOPA Summit on Saturday. The system now has 80 aircraft available in 22 cities, and more than 4,100 pilots have signed up at the company's website. Using the system, pilots can take a "universal checkout" at home, and then rent a plane from participating FBOs while traveling. "Our goal is to make renting an airplane as easy as renting a car," Rakic said. The system so far provides checkouts mostly in single-engine Cessnas, but Rakic said they are now expanding those options -- they are adding more variety in the fleet, plus offering a multi-engine checkout and a mountain checkout for flying from elevations above 5,500 feet.

The first Cirrus SR22 in the system is due to go online this week, in Scottsdale, Ariz. The concept has the potential to increase the total flying hours in the aviation community, Rakic said, since pilots are flying missions they wouldn't have otherwise. "The hassle and the expense of getting a local checkout just keeps too many people from flying," he said. His system aims to change that. OpenAirplane offers a depth of information on its website about every rental aircraft, including multiple photos of the interior and the panel, and reviews from other pilots. The FBOs provide abundant local information, such as the best local sites to visit and preferred routes. Also, Rakic said the company has just "sealed a deal" with Sennheiser to provide new digital headsets to pilots who rent, so you don't have to pack your own headset when you travel. Access to the website and pilot registration is free.

Podcast: OpenAirplane Grows, Add Options

Renting an airplane away from home has always been a hassle, but OpenAirplane aims to make that process "as easy as renting a car."  The company has made progress since its launch earlier this year.  Co-founder Rod Rakic gave an update to AVweb's Mary Grady at AOPA Summit in Fort Worth, Texas on Saturday.

Note: This story originally appeared with the wrong podcast file, but that error has been corrected.  Thanks to the readers who noticed and reported the error.

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AC Air Technology’s Wireless Tug

One way of attracting a crowd at shows like AOPA Summit is to have a clever gadget and Anthony Chan definitely has one in his clever wirelessly controlled aircraft tug. Chan was putting the tug through its paces on the exhibit floor in Fort Worth this week and drawing plenty of interest. Unlike most tugs, which use rubber-tired wheels for traction, the AC Air Technology tug has a miniature tank tread system driven by a pair of powerful electric motors powered by a lithium-ion battery capable of multiple tows.

The entire rig is remote controlled by a control box similar to that used for a RC aircraft. The tug on display here and featured in today’s video coverage of Summit is capable of towing up to 5000 pounds, but another more powerful model can handle up to 15,000 pounds. The smaller version is intended to be portable enough to toss into a baggage compartment for use at the destination. Both models have a self-locking engagement with the aircraft nosewheel that’s released remotely from the control box.

Video: AC Air Technology Wireless Aircraft Tug

One way of attracting a crowd at shows like AOPA Summit is to have a clever gadget, and Anthony Chan definitely has one in his wirelessly controlled aircraft tug.  Chan was putting the tug through its paces on the exhibit floor in Fort Worth this week and drawing plenty of interest.  Unlike most tugs, which use rubber-tired wheels for traction, the AC Air Technology tug has a miniature tank tread system driven by a pair of powerful electric motors powered by a lithium-ion battery capable of multiple tows.

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Short Final

Somewhere over Nevada, returning to Utah from San Jose.  All the airliners where working hard to find their customers smooth air.  There were sigmets for turbulence up to 14,000 feet and above 18,000.

A UPS flight checked in on-level at 35,000 feet and asked:
"What altitudes are working for smooth rides?"

Controller:
"There does not seem to be much smooth air, but it seems a little better above 38,000 and below 31,000.  What would you like to do?"

UPS Flight:
"At our altitude, how long will we be in this light chop?"

Controller:
"Maybe ten minutes."

UPS Flight:
"I guess we will ride it out and see what happens. Controller, let me know."

Then, from one to the other planes — saying what most of us had been thinking:
"What?  Are those boxes complaining?"

UPS came back and said simply:
"No."


Brad Brown
via e-mail

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AOPA Summit Field Notes

Although AOPA’s Summit show in Fort Worth this week may mark the end of an era, it didn’t necessarily feel like that in the exhibit hall on Friday. I canvassed a number of vendors on their impressions of the foot traffic and the replies ranged from just okay to surprisingly good. At the Aircraft Spruce booth, Ryan Deck told me the attendance had been spikey on Thursday and Friday. Sometimes the booth is jammed; 20 minutes later it’s empty. Some vendors just don’t take their show presence seriously. At three of the scheduled press conferences, we dutifully showed up with notebooks and cameras, but the companies didn’t bother to show. No notice, either. What better way to say: we don’t care?

I’m not sure what to make of it, but the vendors and attendees I spoke to seem to have mixed reactions when asked if AOPA did the right thing in ending the Expo/Summit idea for now. Several exhibitors I spoke to mentioned their favorite show venue—Palm Springs—as the location to beat for the AOPA crowd and some companies will find a hole in their marketing plans in not having this fall show as a season ender.

In the Rosen Sunvisor Systems booth, Gary Hanson told me the company isn’t certain a series of regional shows will work better for them than one annual national show with a traveling venue. More regional events, say up to a half a dozen, could elevate marketing costs without a commensurate increase in sales and exposure if those events are sparsely attended and only run for a day. For vendors, shows are expensive to do and for small companies, they draw staff away from the daily duties of making and shipping products and fielding customer calls. So there’s no free ride here, perhaps even for AOPA, if dropping Summit saves it some money. Two or three years hence, we’ll know how all this sorts out, but for now, it’s just an unknown.

What is known that it’s fashionable among the small government crowd to say the current partial shutdown is a good idea and let’s have more of it. Don’t try to float that idea among the small companies trying to get PMA and other cert projects through the FAA maze. Two companies I spoke to here in Fort Worth say they’ve got simple certification projects jammed up at regional FAA offices at a time when the agency has already slowed this work to a crawl. Further, dozens if not hundreds of aircraft sales are dead in the water because the registrations can’t be processed. This has a cascading effect on owners, sales organizations, banks and insurers. The delays are costing these companies real money and eventually, actual jobs. That’s something to think about when you find yourself cheering the shutdown because it hasn’t effected you personally.

I didn’t expect to see any major new products at Summit, but developments in the tablet app market always maintain a lively boil. We’ve seen the usual addition of features to app revisions, but one big development has escaped the notice it deserves. ForeFlight has been given Part 121 approval for use on the flight deck of a major airline, Frontier. That’s a first and an indication that the relentless progress in tablet-related capability has finally penetrated the dark suits of airline management and the thick heads of the FAA. ForeFlight’s Tyson Weihs told me the app, in its off-the-shelf form, will be an approved secondary choice if the airline wants to use it. That’s just a foot in the armored cockpit door, but its bound to open the market to more competition.

On the subject of competition, it’s a wonderful thing, even in a market as stressed and flat as GA happens to be at the moment. Here at Summit, I saw one the cleverer manifestations of competitive drive in a booth called Giant of Quiet. This is sponsored by a major headset manufacturer who I won’t identify because I don’t want to spoil the fun and it consists of an open-ended challenge to try all of the major ANR headset brands. You’re then asked to fill out a form rating these headsets. Interestingly, the company running this has its own products and those of its competitors all lined up for trial. Although customers entering the booth quite naturally slip into the customer-salesman banter, the booth staff carefully steer away from and recommendations about any of the headsets, offering instead a little sticker that says, “I’ll be the judge of that.” They clearly want customer opinions unfettered by sales babble.

This experiment does two things: it allows the company to objectively  measure its own products against its competitors and puts competitors on notice that at least one headset maker is confident enough in its products to do this. In a way, it’s downright devious, but it may spur some new product intros. See a video on the headset challenge here.

A decade ago, when we went to what was then called Expo, we often flew an airplane to the event. Now? Not so much. I ran into a couple of friends and acquaintances who can no longer justify the expense, presumably because of fuel costs. But maybe not entirely. John Frank of the Cessna Pilot’s Association told me he’s able to operate his 210 more inexpensively than anyone on the planet, but the real cost is around $300 an hour. He used to use the airplane to travel to his itinerant CPA seminars, but not as much these days. On the other hand, I ran into Mike Busch who did fly his 310 into Fort Worth from California. I asked him if he stopped by San Marcos to take advantage of Redbird’s smoking deal on $1 avgas. He hadn’t. Maybe Jerry Gregoire is right; the cost of fuel doesn’t loom as large for everyone as we tend to think.

Meanwhile, when I ran into a bleary-eyed Gregoire on the exhibit floor, I had to ask if he was out there on the ramp pumping gas himself. “Oh, hell yes I am,” he laughed. Redbird’s buck-a-gallon avgas gambit so far exceeded every expectation that the company couldn’t keep up with demand, despite having a dedicated tanker truck shuttling between the refinery and the FBO. Gregoire said Redbird collected all the pilot and aircraft data they hoped acquire in a month within a couple of days. So what does this tell us about the relationship of fuel price to flying? For sure, it’s this: if you all but give owners gasoline, they’ll fly more. But we still don’t know if everyone will fly more or just a select few will. Perhaps Redbird can answer that question after they’ve crunched the data. One thing is certain: the ramp crew will be looking forward to some sleep and probably physical therapy when the program ends next week, having sold in two weeks more than 30 times the fuel they’d normally move in a month.

Continental Motors has a booth here in Fort Worth and sold a few engines on Thursday, making the effort worth the expense of coming, Mike Gifford told me. Will they do the regional shows? Gifford wasn’t sure, which was the answer I got from other companies. This is not a major show for Continental by any means and Gifford said they’re showing the flag mainly in support of the American Bonanza Society, whose members are Continental customers. Beechcraft, by the way, was pointedly absent from Fort Worth, which tends to plant ominous thoughts about a company that needs all the good PR it can get. People want to cheer for a company that’s struggling, but you have to show up to hear the encouragement.

Continental continues its bullish run toward diesel. Gifford said they’ve got a clean-sheet design in the works for a high-horsepower Jet A engine, which is just what the market desperately needs. Continental predicts that the OEM market will wake up in 2014 and it wants to be ready with diesel engines for every power segment. No other company can make that claim yet, although Austro is certainly getting closer. As we knock out the lights on the last Summit, I hope Continental is right about the OEM market.

Join the conversation.  Read others' comments and add your own.

Video: AOPA Summit Mystery Headset Challenge

At AOPA Summit, you can try all of the major ANR headsets in a single booth and fill out a survey form to quantify exactly what you think of each one.  If you buy any of the headsets from any manufacturer, Giant of Quiet will give you a $25 coupon toward the purchase.  We'll play the game here and refrain from identifying which company is sponsoring the mystery headset challenge.

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Video: AOPA Summit App Wrap

At every show, we see ever more functionality and high-level features in tablet apps. At AOPA Summit this year in Fort Worth, we’ve uncovered some useful new features in three apps we examined: ForeFlight, WingX Pro and Jeppesen’s FliteDeck app. In today’s video tour of these products, you can get a look how the new features work from Tyson Weihs of ForFlight, Hilton Goldstein of WingX Pro and Weston Greene from Jeppesen.

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Video: Cirrus SF50 Progress Report

At AOPA Summit, Cirrus CEO Pat Waddick gave AVweb a progress report on the company's SF50 single-engine personal jet.  The aircraft is on fast track development for delivery in 2015.

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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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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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