AVweb Biz - Volume 12, Number 14

October 16, 2013

Red Bull Releases Baumgartner POV Video

Red Bull has released point-of-view video from Felix Baumgartner's record-setting freefall on the anniversary of the well-covered event. The three-perspective video, accompanied by altitude, speed and biometrics display, displays what Baumgartner saw and heard as he streaked from the edge of space to the New Mexico desert in a little more than nine minutes. At about 53 seconds he hits the maximum velocity of 848 mph (Mach 1.25) and as the atmosphere takes hold he settles into a controllable and apparently more comfortable state of affairs.

He pulls the chute about 4:30 into the video at a little more than 8,200 feet and prepares for what turns out to have been a pretty soft landing. "I feel like I have done four trips around the world and met many famous and powerful people," he told Metro.us. Among the highlights have been long conversations with James Cameron and Tom Cruise. "I have these people’s numbers on my phone and we talk. That is the network I have been able to develop in the past year; I hope we can collaborate on projects."

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IAFTP CEO Robert B. Barnes Dies

Robert B. Barnes, the founder and CEO of the International Association of Flight Training Professionals (IATPF), died Sept. 29 following a stroke. Barnes created the organization to provide a touchstone for those involved in training to share best practices in the evolving vocation of teaching people to fly. "I considered Bob Barnes to be one of the brightest people I've ever worked with," said AVweb publisher Tom Bliss.  "He was a world business traveler, member of the Royal Aeronautics Society in the U.K., the top student in his USAF Undergraduate Pilot Training Class (68-G) and was currently working with flight schools in the Middle East and Far East."

Barnes was the owner of Robert B. Barnes Associates in Scottsdale. The company worked in aircraft modifications and flight training and also did technology consulting in the optical data storage and semiconductor industries. As a former USAF T-38 master instructor, Barnes's heart was always in the right seat of a training aircraft. "I hope that Bob's work at IAFTP to build a database of best practices in flight training and to develop a secure, electronic resume and database for flight school graduates worldwide will continue," Bliss said.

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AVweb's China Coverage This Week

While pilots and aviation enthusiasts in the U.S. have annual conclaves like AirVenture and Sun ‘N Fun to sustain their passions, China’s emerging aviation industry has no equivalent.  But that may be changing with Thursday’s launch of the China International General Aviation Convention (CIGAC), sponsored by the district of Shaanxi in the central Chinese city of Xi’an.  Best known for its ancient terra cotta soldiers, Xi’an is becoming China’s aeronautical hub, with a major airport and a growing manufacturing district. The 2013 show is the third annual event at this location.

The roster of exhibitors is substantial, and reflects China’s ambition to become a significant player on the world aeronautical stage. Beechcraft and Cessna are listed, along with Chinese-owned Cirrus and recently acquired Mooney. Significantly, a major portion of CIGAC will be devoted to the Chinese Air Training Congress, and numerous Asian and Pacific flight academies will be in attendance. Aerobatic performers from Poland, Romania and Sweden are expected to fuel a curiosity for aviation among the general Chinese population. Full implementation of personal flight in China awaits lifting of airspace restrictions, easier flight planning, adequate fuel delivery and storage, more complete GPS route structures and satellite-based precision approaches to China's growing list of new airports.

The show comes amid an ongoing Chinese acquisitions boom, which is seeing brands and technologies in the U.S and in Europe now operating under a Chinese banner. The Chinese government-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) led the aviation wave with the acquisition of Cirrus in 2011, and more recently Continental Motors and the former Thielert Aircraft Engines, a German company that put aircraft diesels on the map.

AVweb will be reporting from the show grounds. Watch for updates in upcoming editions this week.

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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Wanted For NBAA Convention -- Teachers And Students

For the first time, NBAA will be hosting a Teachers' Day at its annual convention, coming up later this month in Las Vegas. The program, hosted by the nonprofit group Build A Plane, will be held in conjunction with the Careers in Business Aviation Day, on Thursday, Oct. 24. Keynote speaker for the event is Bonnie Jeanne Dunbar, former NASA astronaut and a professor of engineering at the University of Houston. The Teachers' Day program will introduce high-school teachers and students, and college students, to a variety of aviation education programs and opportunities, and provide abundant take-home materials. During the day, full admission to NBAA2013 will be free to event participants, and lunch will be provided.

"We are amazed by the many great opportunities to use aviation to engage and motivate kids to learn," said Lyn Freeman, president of Build A Plane. "Today's students respond to real-world applications, and aviation really captures their attention." In addition to the teachers' programs, the careers program will provide a session about business aviation careers for high school students, followed by a guided tour through the exhibit hall and the aircraft static display, conducted by NBAA staff. A special session for college students, hosted by NBAA, will include roundtable discussions with industry professionals about the many career paths available in business aviation. Teachers can register for the event online.

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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.

Podcast: OpenAirplane Grows, Adds Options (corrected)

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.

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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