AVweb Biz - Volume 12, Number 9

September 10, 2013

AOPA Says Texas Summit Will Be The Last

The annual AOPA Summit is coming up in a few weeks, in Fort Worth, Texas, but AOPA said on Tuesday this will be the last time it holds the event. "Convention plans for 2014 have been cancelled," AOPA said in a news release. AOPA said it plans to redirect the time and resources spent on the Summit to hosting more "grass-roots" events and visiting community airports. "I want our members to make a personal connection with AOPA, and that is best achieved by meeting them where they fly," said Mark Baker, AOPA president, who took office last month. "This decision is about going out to where our members are, maximizing the number of pilots that we reach … and seek their honest feedback in a more comfortable and relaxed setting."

AOPA said the Fort Worth exhibit hall is nearly sold out, and new exhibitors are still signing up. Thousands of members also are registered to attend the event, which will feature seminars, exhibits and social events. In 2014, which is AOPA's 75th anniversary year, Baker and other AOPA leaders will host a "series of enhanced pilot town halls and fly-ins." These Saturday events will offer an educational forum and barbecues, AOPA said.

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Aviation Groups Ask FAA To Justify ECi Cylinder AD

Six aviation groups, including AOPA, EAA and the National Air Transport Association, have asked the FAA to publish the data and analysis that led to the agency's proposal to require thousands of aircraft owners to inspect and perhaps replace certain ECi engine cylinders. The letter also requests that the FAA either withdraw its NPRM until that information is provided, or extend the comment period 120 days from the time additional information is provided. "To date the FAA has provided no supporting or substantial data of any kind to the docket to back its proposed action," says the letter (PDF).

The letter also notes that the FAA's own AD manual states that the AD docket "must contain any documents that support the 14 CFR part 39 action." The proposed AD would affect about 6,000 aircraft, requiring repetitive inspections and the replacement of many cylinders. It would cost operators an estimated $82.6 million. "The early retirement of cylinders goes well beyond the February 2012 safety recommendation of the National Transportation Safety Board," says the letter. The letter was also signed by representatives of the Cessna Pilot Association, the Twin Cessna Flyer, and Savvy Aircraft Maintenance Management. As of Monday, 361 comments had been posted to the FAA docket.

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Asian Nations Press Aviation Reform

The transportation departments of the 21 countries in Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum have agreed on a common set of goals to facilitate the development of business aviation in the region. China Daily USA reported APEC met in Tokyo last week and the business aviation initiative was one of the key announcements. Essentially, the countries agreed that business aviation operations are non-commercial, which should make it easier for them to move around the region, but China is the primary focus of attention. "The upswing in business activity in the region has increased the demand for prompt, reliable access to business destinations throughout China and across the Asian region," NBAA President Ed Bolen said at a news conference. 

Bolen noted the accord is a guideline and not a regulation but it's progress, nonetheless, in an area where there could be a huge market for business aircraft. Bolen said there are now about 300 business jets in China but their freedom to fly is still severely restricted by the country's onerous airspace controls. China has pledged to ease those restrictions but they can't come soon enough for those involved in the industry. The rules are preventing many people who could otherwise afford a business jet from buying one, said Wu Jingkui, chairman of the Asia Business Aviation Association. "In the process of introducing private jets or during the flights, operators have to pay high tariffs and are faced with other barriers such as additional costs," said Wu.

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Seawind Announces Stall Prevention System

Seawind says it has overcome the final major technical roadblock to certifying its amphibious touring aircraft. In a news release Tuesday, the Pennsylvania company said it will be the first to certify a Part 23 aircraft with a stall/spin prevention system, clearing the way toward what CEO Dick Silva called "probably the longest certification of a general aviation aircraft in history." The unusual design of the Seawind, with its tail pylon-mounted tractor engine, prevented it from passing a key element of the flight test certification program. To be certified, an aircraft must recover from a spin in one turn without power. Because the prop blocks airflow over the tail, there isn't enough rudder authority to break the stall/spin. So, in conjunction with Canada's National Research Council, which is doing the flight test program, Seawind developed a combination stick shaker and pusher system to prevent the aircraft from ever entering a stall. "If an aircraft won't stall, then you can't put it in a spin," Seawind said in its news release.

All that's left for the certification is documentation of the performance figures for the aircraft. "They will be outstanding for an amphibian," said Silva. Seawind began as a kit aircraft but the company announced it would certify the design in 1993. It attracted more than 100 advance orders and throughout the long and sometimes frustrating certification process to date, there are still 50 orders on its books. “Production is poised to start and our production financing efforts are underway," said Silva.  "We owe a lot to our 50-plus order holders and especially those who became investors in addition to ordering a Seawind."

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Next From Musk: VTOL Supersonic Jet?

Billionaire Elon Musk, known for his successful private ventures into space and the Tesla electric roadster, said recently he'd like to develop a supersonic jet capable of vertical takeoffs and landings and powered by electricity. Musk said in an online chat that he's been thinking about the jet idea for "about four years." He said when the Concorde fleet was retired, he felt it "seemed so sad that the world's only supersonic passenger aircraft would never fly again and there was nothing planned to replace it." He also mentioned the jet idea during an online video chat several weeks ago, saying that he'd like to see "somebody" develop such an aircraft, adding, "If somebody doesn't do that, maybe at some point in the future, I will."

He said he's busy right now, but the next company he would like to start would be to develop that aircraft. "I think that's sort of the ultimate form of transport," he said. It would have environmental benefits, he said, being quiet; it would be very fast, and it could fly high enough to minimize the impact of the sonic boom. The VTOL capability would make it possible to land much closer to the places where people want to go, he said. In a blog post on his Tesla website, Musk added that "a quiet supersonic plane immediately solves every long distance city pair without the need for a vast new worldwide infrastructure."

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FlyRight Adds King Air 350 Simulator

FlyRight, a simulator training company that specializes in King Air training, has announced that it has received FAA Level-D certification of its new King Air 350 ProLine21 simulator. The company, which is located at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, already trains to that level in King Air 90-, 100- and 200-series simulators and will start 300-series training in the new device this month. "“We are pleased to expand our training programs and look forward to providing our clients with the highest level of 350 training,” said FlyRight Executive Vice President Jim Crawford. 

The new simulator was built by Opinicus and is equipped with the Rockwell Collins Proline 21 avionics suite and RSI's 200-degree visual system with a worldwide terrain database. To complement the simulator purchase, FlyRight installed a Rockwell Collins Virtual Avionics Procedures Trainer.

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AVweb's Aircraft Cylinder Survey: Give Us Your Views

With a massive AD against ECI cylinders in the offing, we would like to know reader experiences not just with ECI cylinders, but other brands as well. If you've got five minutes to spare, you can tell us about your satisfaction--or lack thereof--with aircraft cylinders you've been flying behind. Just click here to take the survey.

We're asking specific multiple choice questions about cylinders, but also soliciting open-ended comments about reader experiences with cylinders. And yes, the proposed AD against ECI cylinders for head-to-barrel separation is definitely covered in the survey. This is your chance to tell us about these kinds of failures, not just on ECI cylinders, but for others as well. We'll publish the results in future AVweb news coverage.

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AOPA Ditches Summit: The Right Move at the Right Time

AOPA’s surprise announcement that it’s abandoning the annual fall Summit show came as quite a surprise, although anyone who’s been paying attention could have seen it coming eventually. From my point of view, it’s a welcome development and newly installed AOPA president Mark Baker deserves some props for making a decisive move barely days into his tenure.

So what’s the matter with Summit? Perhaps nothing, other than context. Given the size of the aviation universe and the fact that it’s in decline means that there are simply too many shows for vendors and attendees to keep up with or perhaps the frequency is just excessive. AOPA’s show never benefitted much from being renamed from Expo to Summit and its attendance has struggled, depending on the venue. A couple of years ago, during a dreary, rainy day in Hartford, I recall spending a solid hour in the press room by myself. Not a soul came or went. The exhibit floor was similarly sparsely attended.

I don’t know whether Expo/Summit is a cost center or a profit center, but I suspect at a dismal show like Hartford, it’s more likely the former. More important, I’ve always felt the show is marginal for both attendees and some vendors, who’ve already ground through a long, expensive show season starting at Sebring and culminating in AirVenture, not to mention a handful of smaller regional shows. Vendors I’ve spoken to in the past have been split; some find Summit a show worth the expense, others not so much. Late in the year and heading into winter, not many companies used Summit as a marketing springboard in the way that they use Sun ‘n Fun or AirVenture.

In cancelling it, perhaps AOPA is signaling that Summit is just an expensive distraction. Its press release on Tuesday said it will divert resources to grass roots events. Now grass roots is a much hackneyed description and I’ll confess I don’t even know what it means. But if it means a focus on more frequent, smaller shows, promotions and events and a clear emphasis on affordable flying for what passes as the masses—as suggested in the press release—that’s the right direction indeed. And if the market shifts, the association can always bring the show back or revert to a biannual format. 

But the most telling message in Baker’s decision may be this: Don’t count on business as usual. And that could be a good thing.

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

Video: Redbird's Redhawk Diesel -- A Detailed Look

At AirVenture, the really cool airplane wasn't from an airplane manufacturer but from Redbird, the guys who build motion simulators.  They showed off a nicely refurb'd Cessna 172 with a diesel engine from Continental, and they invited us to come fly it at their San Marcos, Texas Skyport.  So we did.  In this video, we offer a detailed analysis of the Redhawk, along with a closer look at the airplane's performance and cost figures.

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Video: Electronics International Unveils New Multi-Purpose Instrument

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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Video: PS Engineering's PAR200 Multi-Function Audio System

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.

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