AVwebBiz - Volume 13, Number 6

February 4, 2014

Analysts Bullish On Bizjets

Some analysts disagree with a Rockwell Collins forecast and are predicting a return to more normal business in 2014. At the International Corporate Jet Finance conference in London on Tuesday, several analysts interviewed by Bloomberg said sales will improve. “There is a lot of pent-up demand,” said Rolland Vincent, director of forecaster Jetnet iQ. “2014 is going to be a good year.” He said manufacturers will deliver 6 percent more aircraft in 2014 over 2013 with a book value of $21 billion. As we reported last month, Rockwell Collins said it didn't see any real improvement until 2016 because of stubbornly high inventories of used bizjets.

At the London conference, other analysts agreed the economy is on the rebound and business jet sales will follow. “We are entering the first phase of a period of stability,” Bradford von Weise, Citi Private Bank head of aircraft finance, said at the event. “The economy is in good shape to grow and sustain overall heavy asset purchases including business jets.” Currency fluctuations in some countries may slow demand there but overall the picture looks positive. “Optimism in the U.S. and European market will carry us through,” said Tom Perry, Cessna's VP of sales for the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

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EAA Challenges FAA Fee Policy

EAA says it's wondering why the FAA billed it $450,000 for air traffic services at last year's AirVenture when the NFL won't have to pay the extra costs associated with the Super Bowl. On Sunday, the FAA told AVweb that it only bills for services if it has to move equipment and personnel to the venue. EAA says it got a different story from FAA officials last summer. "We were working in good faith based on the information we received from the FAA, which was that the Super Bowl/NFL, NASCAR and other major aviation events were all reimbursing the agency for air traffic costs such as overtime, backfill costs and so forth," EAA said in a statement. "The FAA told us those costs were the reason we received the assessments last year." EAA said it's investigating the inconsistency "through a number of channels." Sun 'n Fun paid more than $200,000 for ATC expenses last year and spokeswoman Sandy Bridges said it has "teamed with the State of Florida, the City of Lakeland, the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport and Visit Central Florida to assure that the best quality FAA air traffic controllers are available" for the event, which is the 40th. She did not offer a comment on the NFL news.

Several smaller airshows were also hit with extra ATC costs last year and International Council of Air Shows President John Cudahy said it's particularly galling that a financially able entity like the NFL escapes the fees while non-profit groups struggling to stage community events have to pay. “In the Alice in Wonderland environment in which these ATC decisions are being made, it’s not surprising that the FAA has decided to stop charging fees to the NFL and begin charging fees to non-profit organizations working to hold aviation events in their local communities,” said Cudahy. “The post facto explanations and rationalizations are ridiculous and would be laughable if it weren’t so clear that the FAA intends to defend this contorted logic until they are forced to stop.” After last year's AirVenture, EAA took the FAA to court to try to quash the FAA policy.

Van's Issues Service Bulletins For RV Fleet

Van's Aircraft has released two service bulletins that advise owners of a variety of its aircraft to inspect for cracks in specific areas before their next flight. The first bulletin (PDF), which came out on Friday, applies to RV-6, -7, and -8 aircraft and advises owners to inspect a portion of the horizontal stabilizer forward spar for cracks on a flange. "There are no known accidents related to these cracks," Paul Dye, editor of Kitplanes, told AVweb on Tuesday. "Van's discovered them on their demo fleet airplanes, which probably have more time in service than any other RVs out there. If no cracks are found, the aircraft can be flown indefinitely, with an annual check of the spot for cracks at each condition inspection." If cracks are found, a $15 mod kit from Van's can be used to upgrade the spar.

The second bulletin (PDF), posted Monday, advises owners of RV-3, -4, -6, -7, and -8 aircraft to inspect the elevator spars where the hinge points attach. "Last year, a couple of people reported cracks at the edge of a doubler plate," said Dye. "The inspection takes almost no time … and because this got wide attention on www.Vansairforce.net when first discovered, many, many airplanes were inspected. Only a couple reported cracks. Yet Van developed a doubler plate that can be used if cracks are found." The service bulletins are not mandatory, and Dye said he inspected his own airplanes in under 10 minutes and found nothing of concern. Ken Scott of Van's told AVweb on Wednesday that repairs, if needed, should take a few hours at most. "The maximum anybody will spend for parts is $51," he said. The SBs affect up to 5,500 aircraft, Scott said, though he added he has no way to know how many of those are still in active service.

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Four Killed In Nashville Crash

image: CNN

A Gulfstream/Aero Commander 690C crashed and burned in a small field in Nashville, Tenn., just before 5 p.m. on Monday, about 10 miles south of John C. Tune Airport. All four on board -- a couple with their daughter and granddaughter -- died in the crash. According to the NTSB, the pilot was executing a second try at the RNAV approach when the crash occurred. The local police chief said an eyewitness saw the airplane bank hard to the right just before plummeting straight to the ground, narrowly missing a YMCA building and a retirement home. The 690C is a variant in the twin-turboprop Aero Commander line, which at various times has been owned by Rockwell, Gulfstream Aerospace, and others.

 The airplane had departed from Great Bend Municipal Airport in Kansas at 2:45 p.m., according to the FAA. No one on the ground was hurt, but some nearby cars were damaged by the explosion and fire. About 300 people were in the YMCA building at the time of the crash.

Air Force Wants Bizjets For Surveillance Planes

The Air Force says it wants surveillance aircraft to be built on business jet platforms as a way to cut acquisition and long-term operations costs. According to Defense News, the first candidate for a bizjet conversion is the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS), which is based on a Boeing 707-300. The Air Force has 18 of the specialized aircraft, which can reportedly pick out moving targets on the ground from 124 miles away. With the range and capability of today's big business jets, the Air Force figures it can save a lot of money with the switch. Boeing may have seen the change coming and is already dabbling in the new market, even though it doesn't build traditional business jets.

At last fall's Dubai Air Show, Boeing signed a deal with Toronto-based Field Aviation Services to modify Bombardier Challenger 605 bizjets into maritime surveillance aircraft. The Challengers will get most of the gear carried by Boeing's P-8 Poseidon but it will cost about a third of the $275 million price of the converted 737-800. Boeing estimates there's a market for about 150 of the Challenger-based surveillance aircraft among military and para-military organizations in countries that can't afford the P-8. Field has already converted some Challengers for several countries as surveillance and search and rescue aircraft.

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Epic Certification On Track

The timeline for certification has slipped back a little, from early 2015 to mid-2015, but Epic Aircraft said this week it is moving forward, and holding fast on the introductory price of $2.75 million for its factory-built E1000 single-engine turboprop. The new airplane, based on the 2004 kit aircraft, will carry six at speeds up to 325 knots, with a range of 1,600 nm. "We believe our performance and price point distinguish us in the industry, so we are ramping manufacturing to service that demand," Epic CEO Doug King said this week. "We already have more than 10 new confirmed reservations for the E1000 and we haven't yet started to market."

The certified E1000 will feature an ergonomically designed cockpit with Garmin avionics, and a Pratt & Whitney PT6-67A engine producing 1200 hp. Epic recently purchased a 204,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Bend, Ore., that was formerly owned by Columbia and later by Cessna. The new space effectively triples Epic's production capacity. King said he is looking for more "aviation talent," and expects to hire about 100 workers by the end of this year. The company also said no more orders will be taken for the experimental version of the aircraft.

New SST Contender Aims For Mach 1.8

Spike Aerospace, an engineering firm based in Boston, has joined the ranks of companies working to bring to market a new supersonic jet. Spike, which launched in 2011, says its S-512 will carry 12 to 18 passengers, sell for about $80 million, and reach speeds up to Mach 1.8. The company hopes to find a manufacturing partner soon and have its first jet flying in 2018. At Mach 1.8, the jet would reach its destination about twice as fast as today's fastest business jets. Spike says its design team brings experience from companies such as Gulfstream, Airbus, Boeing and Eclipse.

Other companies working to launch in the supersonic-bizjet field include Hypermach Aerospace, which hopes to fly its 32-passenger Mach 4 jet by 2024, and Aerion, which has said it will select an OEM partner by next year to build a prototype supersonic jet that will fly in 2018. NASA also has been working with Boeing and Lockheed Martin to develop supersonic technology. Spike Aerospace said it will have an exhibit about the airplane at EAA AirVenture this summer.

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Video: Van's RV-12 S-LSA

Van's aircraft has dominated the kit market with the RV, line and now you can buy a factory-built RV-12 S-LSA model.  Aviation Consumer's Larry Anglisano flew the RV-12 at the 2014 U.S. Light Sport Expo in Sebring, Florida.  This video takes a detailed look at the aircraft.

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Video: Hartzell's New Propeller Products

Although aircraft sales are still in the doldrums, Hartzell has stayed busy in its R&D shop, developing a range of new products that are lighter and more efficient than existing props.  Hartzell's Joe Brown gave AVweb an update recently.

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Got a Drone in Your Marketing Plan?

Sometimes, you just have to pause, stand back and admire a perfect marketing plan. And that’s exactly what Lakemaid Brewery pulled off the week leading up to Super Bowl Sunday, but I’m not sure how many people got the joke.

By now, you will have read that Lakemaid, a craft brewer in Wisconsin, followed Amazon’s lead by rolling out a plan to deliver beer to ice fisherman on frozen lakes via autonomous drone. They produced this nice little video and once that got out there, the FAA woke up and grounded the operation, not that it had serious legs anyway. That particular drone has a payload of about 5 pounds or about three bottles of beer, less the packaging.  Lakemaid’s Jack Supple told The Verge as much. “It delivered the box with something in it. But we had to keep taking bottles out to get it off the ground,” Supple said.

Naturally, the brewery would have realized that (a) the drone is more like a robot bartender than a beer truck and (b) the FAA, upon hearing of the video within two minutes of a Google crawler sniffing it, would reliably shut down the operation. But this is the stuff of promotional gold and a can’t-lose proposition for Lakemaid. And how great is that?

For one thing, it keeps drones in the public eye which, whether you like them sharing your airspace or not, is a good thing because they’re here and more are coming. Second, the FAA looks a little silly cracking down on things like this and if that keeps pressure on the agency to get the rules governing UAS sorted out, so much the better. I predict you’ll see more clever marketing stunts like this until it gets to be full-scale whack-a-drone. While they’re at it, the authorities will have to deal with people shooting at these things. That’s coming, too. (Just read the YouTube comments if you doubt it.)

Meanwhile, I have only one thing to say to Lakemaid: 27.1236N 82.4389W.

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

Podcast: Suddenly, An Emergency

Sydney, Australia pilot Paul Reynolds was the only one around who could help the teen-aged passenger on a Piper Cherokee (previously incorrectly reported as a Cessna 150) whose pilot blacked out at the controls on January 25 over Forbes, New South Wales.  AVweb's Russ Niles spoke with Reynolds about the actions he took to help ensure a positive outcome for the crisis.

Video: Aircraft Spruce Tablet GPS Solutions

Now that iPads have become the dominant portable navigation device, there are more accessory options than ever to pick from, including remote GPS receivers.  In this video, Aircraft Spruce's Ryan Deck walks us through three popular solutions.

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Refurb of the Month: Scherer Brothers' P-35 Bonanza

Nothing against Cessna, but even some of the nicely restored older ones still show their age—that straight tail is a dead give away. But not so V-35 Bonanzas, whose timeless lines make them look as modern and anything flying, especially the P-35s built during the 1960s.

This month’s refurb of the month comes from Jeffery G. Scherer and here’s his report: “This is my 1963 Beechcraft P-35 Bonanza, Serial D-7088, manufactured in December 1962; nearly 51 years old. I bought it in December of 1990 and plan to keep it till I can't fly anymore. We(my twin brother flies with me since he retired as an Air Force C-5 pilot in 2001) have upgraded many times, the most recent depicted in the photos.

Total time is 4410 hours, with a factory new IO-470N in 2005. We added new paint and interior in 1994 and the airplane still looks new. A major avionics upgrade in 2010 included a Garmin G500 with synthetic vision, dual GNS430Ws, a Garmin transponder and audio panel. We’ve got the BendixKing active traffic system displayed on the G500. We love this, but it cost $30,000.

We use an iPad mini for charts (Jepp) and the G500 has Jepp chart view. We carry a spare iPad with Foreflight for back up NOS approach charts and Jepp VFR charts. We always file IFR and fly for business and pleasure in Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota, primarily. We fly 70 to 100 hours per year.” 

If you’d like to see your airplane in AVweb’s refurb of the month, send us some photos and a brief description of what you’ve done to your airplane and we’ll try to find a spot for it.