Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s testing of GAMI’s G100UL unleaded fuel looks promising, the school told AVweb last week, and it says it sees no reason why the fuel can’t be a drop-in replacement for 100LL.
With two major flight training campuses, ERAU wants an unleaded replacement for avgas sooner rather than later and has been testing both Swift Fuel and General Aviation Modifications Inc.’s G100UL in a school Cessna 172. “Our students are green aware and they’ve made it clear we want to go in the direction of eliminating leaded fuel. If we can get an unleaded fuel, we would like to get out of 100LL, no question. We’re footing the bill for what we’re doing in the testing,” said ERAU’s Pat Anderson, who’s overseeing the G100UL test program at the school’s Daytona Beach campus.
ERAU’s test program is divided into three phases: a FAR Part 23 airframe certification test including climbs, shutdowns and restarts and a FAR 33 150-hour in-flight longer-term performance trial. Phase three will repeat the initial testing to identify any differences in findings. The test aircraft is a Cessna 172 with an engine at TBO, but with two new cylinders that will allow gauging wear that might not be evident on the run-out cylinders. Anderson expects the flight trials to be done by the end of the year with further testing, perhaps an operational pilot program, to follow.
Anderson says the testing ERAU has done so far reveals no performance shortcomings in G100UL that would rule it out as a replacement fuel. Other than smell, Anderson said, there’s not much noticeable difference between G100UL and avgas.
“I know some people are saying there’s no drop-in replacement for 100LL, but this looks a hell of a lot like a drop-in replacement to me,” Anderson told AVweb.
Two barriers that remain to deployment of a new fuel—G100UL or any other--are cost and certification. In 2011, the FAA set up an Unleaded Avgas Transition rulemaking committee to develop a testing and certification procedure for new fuels. The UAT-ARC evolved into an FAA office dedicated to certifying a 100LL replacement and in June, the FAA asked the industry to begin submitting proposed fuels for testing, a process that could take years to complete.
Anderson says ERAU would rather not wait, so it’s supporting GAMI’s effort to field a fuel through the STC process, with approved model lists for hundreds of aircraft and engines. As for cost, Anderson says the components in G100UL suggest it should be comparable to what ERAU is now paying for avgas or at least affordable for the university’s operating budget.
GAMI’s George Braly says the company has always maintained G100 would sell for a price within 10 percent of current avgas prices, although the difference could be as much as a dollar more. G100UL is composed primarily of aviation alkylate—the base refinery stream for 100LL—but without any lead, with octane enhanced by the addition of aromatic compounds such as xylene or mesitylene. G100UL’s octane is typically just above 100, making it suitable for any engine requiring 100-octane fuel.
Braly told AVweb this week that its testing toward completing the STC is proceeding, but at a slower pace. “We think we could finish it in 12 months, but we’re resource-limited,” he said. ERAU’s project will complete two of the six testing milestones required, including the Part 23 airframe test.
Braly hopes to avoid the cumbersome FAA fuels certification process entirely by obtaining an all-aircraft, all-engine STC for virtually every aircraft and engine combination flying.
“We could then get a million gallons a year to Embry Riddle so they can get rid of lead at their airport,” Braly said. “That starts the ball rolling and my expectation is that once there’s an approved unleaded replacement, it’s not going to take the state of California more than a couple of months to ban lead. And that starts the dominoes falling,” Braly added.
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In one of the bolder loss leader approaches we’ve ever seen, Redbird’s Skyport in San Marcos, Texas, will be selling avgas for a dollar a gallon throughout the month of October. What’s the catch? There really isn’t one, other than the company will ask fuel buyers to participate in a brief survey probing their views on flying habits and how—or even if—the price of avgas affects those views and, especially, flying behavior.
“The idea is to test whether the cost of flying had either a direct or indirect or even a cumulative effect on the fact that there’s a lot less flying going on,” said Redbird’s CEO Jerry Gregoire.
“The theory is that people don’t fly as much as they used to because it’s so expensive to fly. We’ve seen a lot of initiatives going on, mostly the alphabet groups, to encourage people to come back to flying. But we’re not getting any measureable data on whether any of that stuff is working,” he added.
Redbird figures that its gas-too-cheap-to-believe experiment will illuminate opinions on both sides of the cost-as-driver divide. “So we have this laboratory here and we have this ability to test by pulling one of the levers to see what happens,” Gregoire said. The laboratory, of course, is Redbird’s Skyport facility, where the company has been developing new, simulator-centric training programs and attempting to drive its programs with experimental data that can be applied to a larger market.
“So we decided to pull the fuel lever and make fuel very, very affordable and see what happens,” Gregoire said. Upon filling up, pilots will be asked to take a short survey asking them about their flying habits and activity and how or whether cost figures in. As of press time, Redbird hadn’t developed the specific survey questions, but they do plan to ask follow-up questions a few months later to determine if the cheap fuel offer primed the flight hour activity pump.
As for contest rules, so to speak, there aren’t any. Just show up with an airplane and a credit card—no gas cans allowed. There are no restrictions on size of aircraft nor frequency of fill-up for those pilots lucky enough to be based around San Marcos. The experiment is specifically planned for October to take advantage of AOPA Summit, to be held in Ft. Worth, and Redbird’s own Migration training conference.
Redbird has enlisted co-sponsors for the program, including Garmin, King Schools, the city of San Marcos, Bendix/King, EAA, Piper Aircraft, Avemco Insurance, Hartzell, Brown Aviation Lease, Phillips 66 and Sennheiser. Gregoire said he’s not sure how much fuel the effort will sell, but his estimate is five times the usual 5000 gallons a month. But what if it’s 10 times? “We’re prepared for that. We can certainly get the fuel,” he said.
San Marcos, KHYI, is located between Austin and San Antonio and is a towered airport with instrument approaches. Redbird operates its own FBO on the field. Redbird’s Jeff Van West, the spokesman for the project, said for the month dollar-a-gallon fuel is available, CEOs and other industry leaders will conduct town meetings to answer pilot questions and gather opinions on aviation product and services. The data will eventually be published on Skyport’s website. See the latest schedule information here.
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Garmin has announced a planned G5000 retrofit for Beechjet 400A and Hawker 400XP aircraft. The company hopes it will have the STC ready in 2015. Although both designs are out of production, hundreds remain in service and Garmin VP Carl Wolf said the glass cockpit will modernize the legacy bizjet. “This upgrade offers existing owners and operators a chance to breathe new life into the aircraft they love," said Wolf, who noted the new panel will give the aircraft a 200-pound increase in useful load. The G5000 upgrade will naturally include the full complement of functions and features that Garmin packs into its avionics.
The suite for the Beech products will include three high-resolution 12-inch displays with touch-screen controllers and multi-pane capability allowing pilots to simultaneously see multiple pages at the same time. "Therefore, pilots can simultaneously view maps, charts, checklists, TAWS, TCAS, flight plans, weather, video input and more," said the Garmin news release. Synthetic vision will be an option.
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The first Embraer Legacy 650 assembled in China has flown and first delivery of the China-built aircraft is on track for the end of this year. Embraer announced last year that it had formed a joint venture with Aviation Industry Corporation of China called Harbin Embraer Aircraft Industry to build the large-cabin business aircraft. “The successful maiden flight of HEAI’s first Legacy 650 marks an important milestone not only in the Embraer-AVIC partnership, but also in the history of the Chinese executive aviation industry, as the jet is also the first large executive jet assembled by a joint venture in China,” said Guan Dongyuan, Senior Vice President of Embraer and President of Embraer China. The flight lasted two and a half hours and assessed the full flight envelope and all systems. Brazilian-built 650s have been in service for more than two years. Meanwhile, Embraer has announced it is helping to organize a trade show in China.
The China Regional Aviation Forum 2013 is being held in Ordos in Inner Mongolia and Embraer is working with the Civil Aviation Management Institute of China to run the event. Government, domestic and foreign aviation associations are represented at the event, which is designed to provide a platform for discussion of the issues facing China's domestic aviation industry. “Second only to the USA, China is the country that operates the largest fleet of Embraer commercial aircraft in the world,” said Paulo Cesar Silva, President & CEO, Embraer Commercial Aviation. “With Asia forecast to lead the growth in passenger enplanements, regional aviation will be a significant force in building China into a civil aviation powerhouse. No doubt this forum will serve as an effective platform for all participants, home and abroad, to discuss regional aviation issues.”
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The North Sea oil industry is scrambling for helicopters after operators voluntarily grounded all variants of Eurocopter Super Puma helicopters last Friday. Super Pumas carry about half the personnel and freight required to service oil rigs in the region. The helicopters were grounded after the crash of a CHC AS332L-2 variant of the twin-engine, single-rotor utility aircraft in the North Sea. Four people died in the crash, which various media report is the fifth fatal crash of the type in four years. "The industry met today to set in train appropriate actions to address the operational consequences of the current situation," Oil & Gas UK CEO Malcolm Webb said in a statement. "The Super Puma helicopter fleet represents over 50 percent of the capacity in the North Sea. The immediate knock-on effects of this are delays and flight backlogs with considerable inconvenience to the workforce and their families, and potential adverse effects on offshore activities."
Meanwhile CHC has resumed flights of other variants of the Super Puma outside the UK on Monday, saying the other versions, the AS332L-1 and the EC225, are different from the type that crashed. There have been calls for the grounding of the aircraft previously and the weekend developments led to the creation of a Facebook page supporting that movement. The Destroy the Super Pumas page had 37,000 likes by late Tuesday.
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The pilot of an experimental Cessna 182 JT-A with an SMA diesel engine reported that his "engine blew" during a test flight last week, and he landed safely in a field near Wichita, Kan., according to local news reports. "The flight was a part of the normal certification process, which up to date has been running the normal course," Cessna spokesman Andy Woodward told the Wichita Eagle. The pilot was not hurt and the airplane "appears to have not suffered any significant damage," Woodward said, adding that the aircraft inspection was ongoing. At EAA AirVenture last month, the company said the 182 JT-A is scheduled to start deliveries later this year. The SMA engine, made by Safran, is expected to use up to 40 percent less fuel than a comparable avgas engine.
Woodward told AVweb on Monday morning the company had "nothing to add" to any of its previous statements. The jet-fueled JT-A Turbo Skylane first flew in May, and in July the company reported it had logged almost 200 hours, including a trans-Atlantic flight from Nova Scotia to the Channel Islands, off the coast of England.
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While old airframes may keep soldiering on, the instruments and radios in the panels usually don't. At AirVenture this year, Electronics International rolled out a new instrument designed to replace older instruments, including tachometers, engines instruments, and other indicators. In this video, EI's Tyler Speed gives us a quick product tour of the new CGR-30P.
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As the quest for a replacement for 100LL drags into its third decade, our sister publication Aviation Consumer, is seeking opinions from owners, pilots and aircraft operators on how you think the process is going. The FAA has established a special office devoted to a replacement for 100LL and piston fuels in general. We would like to know if you've followed the process and, if so, what you think of it.
And what what about mogas? In some cases, it's $2 cheaper than avgas. Are you using it? If so, what are your experiences and if you haven't used it, why not? You can take the survey by clicking here. It'll take about five minutes.
We'll compile the results and compare them to the same questions we asked two years ago.
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Why hasn’t some simulation enthusiast created a simulator to teach a child how to ride a two-wheeled bicycle? Imagine all the advantages of a simulator like that. You could teach in any weather, day or night, with no more skinned knees or jogging to keep up as they figure it out. And just think of the fun of using the instructor’s panel to throw in a blown tire now and then: “OK, porkchop. What are your memory items?”
The reason it hasn’t been done is the same reason there isn’t a helicopter simulator under a million bucks worth buying, and part of the reason we keep having the same tired argument about whether motion is important to simulation: Motion is hard to do well—and motion is essential to doing it right.
Humor me with the bicycle simulator a bit longer. Developing anything more than a game or traffic-safety trainer would have a cost/benefit or return-on-investment that only a government agency could love. The barrier is simply that a simulator that could help ditch the training wheels would require precise motion beyond what visuals alone could represent. You don’t balance a bicycle by seeing that you are falling; you balance it by feeling that you are falling.
Learning to ride means making subtle turning motions to keep the bike underneath you; when the bike falls to the left, you turn slightly left, which puts the bike back underneath. Once learned, you do this unconsciously and almost invisibly. Any training device using only visuals would be useless, perhaps even detrimental. By that time you saw you were falling, it would be too late.
Yet learning to ride a bike works because our brains collect all the cues that might be valuable. We watch, feel and listen; integrating whatever information helps us succeed. The brain is lazy—in a good way. Unconscious response to cues frees up the conscious mind for more important tasks. This is millions of years of evolution at work. Integrating physical cues happens whether we want it to or not.
“But wait,” you say, “In real aircraft, you can’t trust your vestibular system for control. That’s why a visible horizon or instruments are required.”
I agree—but this statement completely misses the lesson of bicycle riding. In the airplane, subtle cues alert us to aircraft motion long before it’s detectable on the instruments, or perhaps even the horizon. We learn to respond to the physical cue and look for the correction needed. We learn the feel of that correction being applied.
This inner control loop of responding to accelerations occurs in full-motion simulators and aircraft, but not in fixed simulators. It’s not that fixed simulators teach incorrectly, so much as they teach incompletely. When it comes time for primary pilots to transition to a real aircraft, those with motion experience have an undeniable advantage; they’ve already integrated cues of motion.
The importance of motion for flight training becomes more obvious when we look at helicopters. The bicycle simulator would be for an inherently stable vehicle with only one axis of motion (roll). The helicopter needs roll, pitch, and yaw (like an airplane), but also heave, which is a straight up and down motion. And it must combine them in any combination. And the helicopter is dynamically unstable to boot. It’s like standing on a basketball. Perhaps while bouncing.
That’s the reason no helicopter simulators under a million dollars are worth buying. The three most difficult, dangerous, and time-consuming maneuvers in a helicopter are hovering, ground-reference work, and auto-rotations. All three require motion just as much as a bicycle simulator would because by the time you see the problem, it’s too late.
To be worth the money, helicopter simulators also need superior visuals and control loading in the cyclic. The sub-one-million dollar helicopter simulators lack these as well. The common visual projection systems get so distorted at the edges that it’s impossible to judge how close the skids are to the ground. A cyclic without control loading tells the pilot nothing about the condition of the aircraft or the unseen aerodynamic forces working on it.
Once the helicopter is well into forward flight, it performs largely like an airplane. It’s no surprise fixed simulators handle the task equally well as they do for airplanes, which is to say incompletely.
The FAA’s Human Factors Division and the Department of Transportation’s RITA websites host, among other things, nearly every study ever done by Universities and Governments over the last 40 or 50 years regarding the value, or lack thereof, of motion in simulation. Pick a side on this argument and you’ll find seven studies here to support your point of view.
For example, one of the dozens of studies that support motion’s importance was done by Delft University of Technology for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) entitled, “Visual-Vestibular Interaction in Pilot's Perception of Aircraft or Simulator Motion.” The authors reviewed research done by them and others watching pilot response to maneuvers and turbulence, specifically watching peripheral visual and vestibular motion perception in tasks that require inner-loop stabilization. They concluded that peripheral visual and cockpit motion cues are of paramount importance in actual or simulated manual aircraft control.
Another study for the Journal of Aircraft entitled, "Response of Airline Pilots to Variations in Flight Simulator Motion Algorithms," stated: "... it was found that there was a definite positive effect on how the pilots perceived the simulation environment when motion was present and there was almost unanimous dislike for the simulation environment that lacked motion.” The authors also concluded that, “Motion is more realistic, thus more iterative and more stimulating." Simulation, like theater, is an exercise in the suspension of disbelief. In order for it to work, the pilot (audience) must be given just enough reality to be fully engaged in the training, and motion promotes that engagement.
Now, I could be accused of “cherry picking” studies here, just as we’ve seen from companies that don’t offer motion with their simulators and commentators seeking validation of personal biases. Yet what none of these studies, pro or con, have looked at is motion’s impact on training in small aircraft and—most importantly—in primary training. This is exactly the basis of studies underway at the Skyport laboratory in San Marcos, Texas. The good news is that evidence in favor of motion comes in all three flavors: physical, testimonial, and circumstantial.
When the Skyport laboratory went into full operation in January of 2012, the list of experiments that it immediately undertook were based, primarily, on the data collected as part of an exhaustive 2011 study commissioned by AOPA. It provided a baseline of costs for training, student retention, hours to completion, and dozens of other valuable statistics on the challenges of flight training in the U.S.
The terrible statistics on student retention are well known, but less well known is the amount of money the average student is spending toward a private pilot certificate or the numbers hours in the logbook. The numbers were so surprisingly large, understanding the impact of an experimental simulator-centric, proficiency based curriculum felt more like a public service than an experiment.
The Skyport trained students (laboratory subjects) to proficiency in a wide range of flight maneuvers in a full-motion simulator, measuring the time to proficiency when transitioning to the airplane. The study mixed maneuvers logically suited to benefit from motion cues, such as steep turns, stalls or crosswind landings, and those not normally associated with motion cues, like instrument approaches or holding heading and altitude.
The preliminary results of those studies were released at last fall's Migration Flight Training Industry and Design Conference with more data to be released at this coming fall’s conference. Two of the most notable findings were, first, that time to proficiency dropped all tasks. Interestingly, seeing time to proficiency decrease for an ILS or other “non-motion” maneuvers required adding turbulence to the simulation. While the total training time of motion simulator and airplane combined did not drop, the time in the airplane was cut in half. The result was dropping the cost of a Private Pilot certificate by about $4000.
That savings would be even more significant if we were training in helicopters. I learned to fly helicopters in a Schweizer 300C at a whopping $360 per hour. I’m not the most coordinated human being on the planet, but I’m not Joe Cocker either. It still took three excruciating days and about eight hours on the Hobbs meter to hold the Schweizer in a “sort-of” hover.
That hover cost $2880 plus instructor time. What if we could train a pilot to hover in a simulator in eight hours, and then transition to the helicopter in only four hours? The cost to the hover now drops to $1880 in a 300C. Make that a serious helicopter that might cost $800 per hour and we’re talking thousands in savings.
But that’s only if the sim had the right motion cuing, visuals and control loading, and didn’t cost millions. We know of a new helicopter sim with all three requirements in development that’s expected to sell for less than $150,000 in the U.S. When it starts testing this fall, we’ll see if it has the same impact our motion sims did on reducing time to proficiency, and the associated cost.
The last factor in favor of simulation has nothing to do with time-to-proficiency or motion’s integral role in interpreting the flying environment. It comes under the heading of “Circumstantial.”
A couple of years after Redbird started shipping its FMX full-motion simulator, the bestselling simulator in history since the Link trainer, we noticed a phenomenon later dubbed the “Redbird Effect.” At airports with multiple flight schools, soon after one flight school purchased a full-motion simulator, some or all of the other schools will order their own. The reason is simple: In competitive situations a motion simulator bestows a competitive advantage.
As evidenced above, the simulator can reduce training costs and better prepare pilots for the multi-sensory world of the cockpit. These students talk and word gets around. But motion is also just cool. It’s what the consumer (student) wants, and who’s to say they’re wrong? So, trot out your fat logbook and your hand-picked studies and tell them that motion doesn’t matter and see what they say.
Students pay obscene amounts of money for a pilot’s license today. They deserve the best, most effective technology we can give them. They deserve the one that most completely prepares them for the cockpit, delivers the most for the money and that reinforces the sheer “cool factor” of learning to fly. They deserve something that makes the skill of flying an unforgettable, permanent part of who they are.
You know, like learning to ride a bike.
Jerry Gregoire is CEO of Redbird Flight Simulations. Don't expect this is the last you'll hear from him.
There's a need for affordable audio system upgrades for basic aircraft. PS Engineering attempts to answer the call with the PAR200 -- a three-in-one system that combines an advanced audio panel, a stereo intercom, and a remote comm radio. In this video, Aviation Consumer's Larry Anglisano takes a look at the unit during it's introduction at AirVenture 2013 at Oshkosh.
As AirVenture 2013, ForeFlight was showing off the latest version of its popular app, and it now includes Canadian charts, a unique plate overlay feature, and helicopter charts for U.S. pilots. In this AVweb Product Minute, ForeFlight's Jason Miller gives us a tour of the app's new high points.
Angle-of-attack indicators have become a hot safety-of-flight market item, and at AirVenture 2013, we're seeing more competition in the field. Bendix/King announced its entry into the AoA market with the new KLR10, which uses differential pressure to infer angle of attack and then presents this on a color-coded display in the cockpit, equipped with audio warnings. Initially, the KLR10 will be for experimental aircraft only, but it will soon be certified for all aircraft.