AVweb AVFlash - Volume 20, Number 16a

October 20, 2013

City Of Wichita Establishes Beijing Office

Citing the need to forge closer links with China’s small but growing aviation market, Wichita, Kansas, mayor Carl Brewer announced yesterday his city has opened an office in the Chinese capital. “We have 90 years of experience in aviation, and we think we can show our Chinese partners how to do some of the things we’ve learned. More importantly, we want to connect our businesses together.” AVweb interviewed Brewer and Shanghai-based William J. Shultz of Cessna Aircraft Company at the Chinese International General Aviation Convention in Xi’an, China.

Xi’an is considered Wichita’s counterpart. Flight test and aeronautical engineering are conducted in this central China location. A branch of the Chinese government aeronautical group AVIC, which owns Cirrus, Continental Motors and other U.S. brands, is also located in Xi’an. Brewer said Wichita is known not only for large airframers like Cessna and Beechcraft, but also for small parts suppliers and maintenance companies, which will also benefit from closer Chinese ties.

Cessna’s Shultz indicated Chinese government restrictions on aviation are being “relaxed,” and he believes the market could grow rapidly. “There is extreme demand for general aviation in China and Cessna wants to be a part of that,” Shultz said. Cessna’s experience in China is unique in trans-global manufacturing. The company’s skilled Wichita-based workforce builds parts and ship-sets and sends these American-made goods to the Chinese cities of Shihjiazhuang and Zhuhai for final assembly. Cessna is producing 208 Caravans in this manner, and conducted a Caravan operators conference in Xi’an during the general aviation convention. Currently there are 40 Caravans flying in China, eight on amphibious floats.

Click here for video of our conversations with Schultz and Mayor Brewer at CIGAC.

Video: Xi'an Is China's Wichita

Geographically, technologically, and spiritually, Xi'an is poised to be the heart of general aviation in China's emerging GA market — much as Wichita, Kansas is to the U.S. GA scene.  Perhaps that's why Wichita is opening a bureau in Xi'an.  AVweb spoke with Cessna's William J. Schultz and Wichita mayor Carl Brewer at the China International General Aviation Conference 2013.

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Mooney's New CEO: Production to be Resumed at Kerrville

Incoming Mooney president Jerry Chen, a Taiwan native who holds a doctorate in aeronautical engineering, told AVweb Friday he intends to keep the heralded airframe manufacturer in its hometown of Kerrville, Texas. AVweb interviewed Chen at the Chinese International Aviation Convention in Xi’an, China, where Mooney is exhibiting an Ovation and an Acclaim.

Those two models will form the foundation of the Mooney product line, Chen said, emphasizing his top priority is to restart Mooney’s manufacturing line idled by the downturn in general aviation that began in 2008. Chen also pledged support for the Mooney fleet’s spare parts supply chain. His business strategy centers on Mooney’s speed and fuel efficiency as a city-to-city traveler, doubling as an advanced trainer as entry-level Asian buyers step up.

“Mooney has a long history of performance,” Chen said, which attracted his investor group to the much-admired American brand. Chen is also the CEO of Soaring America Corporation. To watch the interview, click here.

Video: Mooney's Fortunes Tied to China

A Chinese-based company recently bought Mooney and pledges to restart production, keeping the company at its Kerrville, Texas headquarters.  In this exclusive interview from AVweb's CIGAC/ATCC coverage of Chinese aviation, Jerry Chen reveals new details about where Mooney will be headed.

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Video: China Looks to the EU for Airport Design Help

As China struggles to expand its aviation infrastructure at a breakneck pace, it's seeking help from every corner of the globe, and the European Union is stepping up expertise in airport design.  AVweb's Tim Cole interviews Norbert Gronak of Aviare Consult GmbH about China's airport design needs.

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Video: Autogyros at China's Xi'an Aviation Trade Show

In Europe, autogyros are a mainstay in the recreational aviation market, and the same trend may develop in China.  In this exclusive video report from the China International General Aviation Conference in Xi'an, AVweb's Tim Cole reports that autogyros may be uniquely suited to China's developing GA market.

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Video: China Flightline Sampler

China is building new, modern, and capable airports at a blistering pace, and many of these will eventually serve the developing general aviation market.  AVweb's Tim Cole visited Peucheng Airport in east central China and filed this video sampler of what's on the flightline there.

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Behind The Unmanned Airliner Research Study

A study by St. Louis University senior researcher Matt Vance seeks to discover key factors that would encourage or discourage travel on unmanned autonomous airliners and, while the results aren't yet complete, Vance told AVweb Thursday that he expects at least one pattern to emerge. Vance performed a pilot study in March that included 44 people and said he's reticent to draw any conclusions from that smaller sample. But, those early results have led him to expect that responses will follow a polarization by age group. (Younger people may be more open to the idea than older people.) Vance has so far earned more than 1200 responses to his current study, which he says is designed to influence respondents. He also said it is not designed or intended to advocate for, or promote, the idea of pilotless airliners. It may, however, help identify some factors relevant to that task. He explained his approach.

The study, says Vance, is designed to introduce eight variables that are written into a story. The story doesn't probe satisfaction with or understanding of technology surrounding unmanned autonomous flight. Instead, it asks participants to assume the technology is there. There are 16 different versions of the story and each is designed to deliver varying degrees of influence. Respondents are exposed to only one of those versions. This is part of the study's methodology. According to Vance, some versions "have all eight variables set at a negative level" and "those should produce the least positive results." Variables set at a positive level should produce the most positive results. Vance believes respondents can likely figure out what the variables are, but also that they would have more difficulty determining which ones are positive and which are negative. Vance hopes his results will show the factors that are influential in leading an individual to a decision about flying on a pilotless airliner and therefore shed light on what social determinants may need to be considered in the matter. AVweb readers interested in participating in the study can find it here.

Cessna Citation Crash Kills Two

Photo Credit: Mulvane Emergency Services

Less than 20 minutes after departing Mid-Continent Airport, Kan., Friday, a 1975 Cessna 500 Citation I carrying California faith healing pastor Ed Dufresne, 72, and his pilot Mitchell Morgan, 49, crashed in a field, killing both men. The aircraft reached an altitude of 16,500 feet before it was lost from radar shortly after 10:15 a.m. a local sheriff told Kansas.com. Witnesses reported hearing an explosion while the jet was still in the air, and seeing the aircraft impact at approximately 10:18 a.m. Some said they saw pieces coming off of the plane as it came down. According to The Associated Press, "a wing" was found one mile from the crash site. 

The NTSB and FAA are now engaged in investigating the crash. So far, few details have been reported. There were no reports of radio communications from the aircraft indicating a problem. A flight plan was filed for the flight and indicated that the jet was scheduled to arrive at its destination near San Antonio before noon. The sheriff estimated that investigators would be searching a 1.5 mile radius for parts from the aircraft. The pastor operated a website that stated he had been called as a traveling minister and spent most of his time away from home. According to the site, "In 1999, Dr. Ed Dufresne had a vision of heaven, and at that time God gave him an endowment to kill cancer.  Since then, there have been an increased number of dramatic healings from cancer recorded." It goes on to say "Dr. Dufresne's heavenly assignment has been enlarged in this decade to go to the nations."

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Fighting Forest Fires In A Small Helicopter

This summer, a company called Universal Helicopters was called on to fight fires in Canada using the Bell 407, an aircraft often associated with executive or VIP transport, and AVweb spoke with one of the aircraft's pilots about his experience. Geoff Goodyear said the aircraft was contracted to serve as a firefighter because clients found it offered load-carrying capabilities that made it an economically advantageous option when compared with older designs. The helicopter's performance also offered some advantages not provided by fixed-wing aircraft, he said. Goodyear told AVweb about some of the challenges faced by firefighting pilots and gave a rundown of what a pilot could expect while flying a firefighting mission. The full conversation is this week's podcast. 

With water nearby, Goodyear said he could make 60-100 drops per hour of 200 gallons each, noting that the helicopter could deliver each drop with more precision and intensity than a fixed-wing aircraft. As for the challenges, Goodyear said that flying in a firefighting environment creates a mental and physical intensity that pilots must understand and contain. He said that the fire introduces new variables that a pilot needs to keep in mind. For example, while performing a drop and extinguishing a hot spot, a helicopter pilot needs to take care that his rotor wash does not upset embers and send them into nearby brush where they could easily ignite new fires. Goodyear stressed that one key to effectively flying in a firefighting environment is the ability to manage the multiple variables that are present and often changing in a very dynamic environment. Said Goodyear, the importance of  "slowing down" one's mental process was important in addressing each factor with proper care, while not neglecting the others.

Podcast: Flying and Fighting Fires

AVweb speaks with Universal Helicopters pilot Geoff Goodyear about his experience flying the Bell 407 to fight fires in Canada this summer and the advantages helicopters bring to the task.

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AVmail: October 21, 2013

Letter of the Week:
Me-Too Mooney?

News of the imminent resurgence of Mooney spawned two reactions in me.  I'm happy that owners of the breed are likely to have a secure supply of spares to keep their birds flying.  I have fond memories of a variety of Mooneys.  Most of my M-20 time is in a 231.  It's fast and capable, if a little snug for my taste.  If you're willing to fly it very slowly on final, it's even a decent short-field lander (short-field take-offs being another subject).  So, I admit that I like Mooneys.  But among the almost 100 aircraft types I've flown, I can't think of a single one that I've actually disliked.  Like pretty girls, some planes simply are nicer than others, but they're all good.

But here's my thing:  What can a Mooney do that an SR-22 can't?  I'm stumped.  Frankly, what can a Warrior do that a Skyhawk can't?  I wish Mooney the best, but I'm having trouble seeing how a low-volume industry and marketplace is aided by the addition of more me-too models. This absolutely is a big part of why light airplanes are so expensive.  An already tiny market is divided among ten times as many manufacturers as it needs.  I fear that this is vanity masquerading as innovation.

Thomas Yarsley

Reading Lessons

A point in the article about cockpit automation was "read the manual."  But a point that was omitted is that at least some manufacturers' manuals are boring.  That leads to scanning, not reading.  I'm a good, fast reader, a necessary skill for an experienced lawyer, but I find some manuals, from the lowly automotive GPSs' to the fanciest avionics', to be considerably obtuse and often impossible to comprehend.  It doesn't do much good to have important information buried in a format that makes it extremely difficult to find.  It's as if the manuals were created by people who have never been in a cockpit.

I don't fly with any autopilot at this time.  My experience with fancy GA autopilots stopped with the best King equipment of the 1980s, with altitude capture and hold, capable of coupled approaches, etc.  The benefit of that equipment was that, with almost no reading and almost no effort, the autopilot could be programmed, used, and easily shut off if necessary.  As long as the control box was installed where the pilot could see it, its mode was obvious.  Now manufacturers have made their manuals so difficult to read that it's no wonder pilots don't read them.  They miss important nuances of the system, and then the autopilot bites them, like partially shutting off when the GPS goes from GPS mode to VOR/LOC mode.

It's also no wonder that one of the most common phrases heard in TAA is, "Why did it do that?"  So ignorant pilots (those who don't try to read the manuals) need to shoulder some of the blame for automation problems, but I suggest that the manufacturers need to shoulder a big part of that blame for creating overly complicated systems and incomprehensible instruction manuals.  Truly, the KISS principle has been overlooked.

Cary Alburn

94 Octane Mogas Available in B.C.

Regarding Paul Bertorelli's comments about mogas:  Chevron Canada is listed on a no-ethanol web site as not having ethanol in their 94 Octane automotive fuel sold in British Columbia.

Chevron Canada confirmed that to me, as under B.C. rules they have to average five percent ethanol but can have from 0 to 10 percent.

They sell four grades of automotive gasoline while most stations only sell three, if I recall correctly -- 87, 89, and 91 Octane.  Chevron's price for 94 Octane fuel is in step with their pricing progression through the lower grades.

That's 94 octane by road method, the average of Motor and Research test methods.  Also known as Anti-Knock Index.  Aviation gas may use only the Research method.

Chevron Canada's web site cautions against use of auto gas in aircraft, however.

Keith Sketchley

Non-Profit Competition

I have been a member and supporter of AOPA for over 30 years, and I understand a non-profit organization's need to raise money for operations.  However, it doesn't seem right for a non-profit to be in the business of competing directly against private "for-profit" companies, many of whom may be supporters of that very organization.  Such is the case of the FlyQ app.  Regardless of the lawsuit against AOPA, for a non-profit to profit at the expense of private business seems unethical at best.  I no longer use FlyQ.

Kirk Lindberg

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Short Final

The following takes place at a high-altitude sector with multiple air carrier aircraft:

Pilot 1 (apparently meaning to talk to the passengers) :
"This is the flight deck. Air traffic control has — uhh —" [unkeys]

ATC:
"Darn. I wanted to hear that."

Pilot 2 (cheerfully) :
"Yeah. He was gonna blame you!"


Cheryl Bavister
via e-mail

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Mooney's Future With Chinese Investment

Not to be irretrievably cynical, but more than any other industry, general aviation has shown itself capable of reducing even well thought out business plans to smoking rubble. And never mind the half-baked ideas. I’ve always attributed this to the fact that flying and airplanes as a concept are so intoxicating, that only the most disciplined among us can avoid having our brains turn to mush when within, say, 50 feet of an airplane.

In that context, here comes Mooney to make another run at the market after a business history best described as checkered. Mooney is the aviation equivalent of the irradiated cockroach. It has survived more bankruptcies and sales—not to mention bad management—than any other brand I can think of. The last round of Armageddon Mooney weathered was the 2008 downturn.

Now, it has been picked up by Chinese interests who pledge to enter the world market with two of Mooney’s models, the Acclaim and the Ovation.  In this interview with the company’s new CEO, Jerry Chen, at the Xi’an show in China, you can gain a glimpse of where Mooney might be going. The venue is changing, if perhaps the products aren’t.

If Chen and his colleagues have fleshed out the details of the business plan, they haven’t shared them with us. But the top line idea is that Mooneys will have a sales appeal in China and thus the venerable M20 line becomes a world airplane. But are these aircraft really suitable for a world market or are we at the point where it’s time for the next generation of designs that are more efficient and easier to manufacture to emerge? Frankly, I’m voting for the latter. If the demand is strong enough, you can sell some airplanes just about everywhere, but “some” is not always enough to add up to a sustainable airplane business and if any company has proved that, it’s Mooney.

Make no mistake, the Acclaim and Ovation are as good as any aircraft out there in terms of performance and utility. But they are complex airframes with high build hours and unless the volume soars to unimaginable numbers, there’s not much  economy of scale to be eked out in manufacturing riveted airframes with retractable gear. In other words, heading into the second decade of the 21st century, they’re still old school airplanes in an industry desperate for innovation.

There seems to be an all but unquestioned assumption that the Chinese airplane market is about to explode which begets a secondary assumption that buyers there won’t be choosy about price, features, complexity and operability in the way that car buyers are. This may be true. Or not. My crystal ball, such as it is, is utterly opaque on this question. But my gut tells me we’re going to be writing stories about demand in China being weaker than many first assumed and that it's taking longer to mature than anyone believed.

Stipulating that China has interested buyers and the wealth to buy $600,000 airplanes and that the airspace opens up, as we are assured it will, what does Mooney need to be a true world airplane? And world means not just China, but India, Russia, Brazil and, eventually, Africa. To me, the obvious answer is Jet A options. Both the Acclaim and Ovation are wedded to legacy Continental engines that require 100-octane avgas. In the west, no replacement for endangered leaded 100-octane appears ready for fielding and although China has its own homegrown 100-octane fuel, for how long will these exist? China is not disinterested in the lead issue, we’re told by businesses working the China trade.

Sooner rather than later, Mooney will need a Jet A option. At the moment, there’s no piston engine suitable for this. Continental’s Centurion 4.0 is likely to be too heavy and because Continental knows this, it’s clean-sheeting other options in the 300-hp range that these two airframes need. In 2008, Rolls Royce and Mooney signed an engineering agreement to fit the RR500 turbine into the long-body airframes. A few months later, the downturn iced that idea.

And now we get to the bright side of this deal. If the Chinese buyers have lots of capital—and we always assume they do—they can get that Rolls project re-heated while also putting some developmental energy into Jet A pistons so the line will have some engine options other than reliance on 100-octane gasoline. If you pencil in a new model onto the to-do list, you can come up with a hundred million in capital requirements, if not more. It’ll take some volume to return that kind of investment, which explains why it’s often more practical to squeeze what you can out the existing technology and take profits—or survival—where you find both. Of course, we’re also told that at some level, Chinese aviation companies care more about building industry and infrastructure than short-term profits. Who would argue that light aircraft manufacturing has proven fertile ground for foundation businesses in which profit hovers over the horizon?

Bright spot two is turning the lights back on at Kerrville. This alone is positive news. It may make new models available again domestically and Mooney can always find some buyers for what it builds. That’s made easier by having a financial benefactor with deep pockets. With the factory perking, people answer the phones, the parts chain improves, used prices stabilize and the outlook is just altogether better. Oh, and we’ve gotten to the point in the global economy where we can stop ringing our hands about the Chinese snapping up another American company. That’s the way the world works now and we should just get used to it.

So personally, I’m okay with the sale of Mooney to a China-based company, but only if it pulls in some investment to get the company to the next stage. Let’s just see if that happens.

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

Video: AVweb's China Tour

This week, AVweb is attending the China International General Aviation Conference (CIGAC) and the annual Aviation Training Congress China (ATCC).  We'll have coverage all week of our visits to Beijing and Xi'an.

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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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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: 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: 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: 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: 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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