February 18, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by ... LightSPEED AviationAUX AUDIO ON LIGHTSPEED HEADSETS
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The light-jet engine market is becoming almost as crowded as the mini-jet market itself. The collaborative effort of General Electric and Honda (which flew its own aircraft in November) to produce and market the HF 118 turbofan with a thrust rating in the mid-teens (the prototype is 1650 pounds but engines of this type can usually be scaled to produce more or less power) creates, with Williams International and Pratt and Whitney Canada, a powerful triad of competitors for a group of aircraft designs representing thousands of aircraft that so far exist only in order books. "For our segment of the industry, this is huge news," said Eclipse Aviation spokesman Andrew Broom. "It's great that another innovator is entering the marketplace." Eclipse is one of the few mini-jet makers to actually fly a prototype (Adam Aircraft's A700 is the only to fly with production engines) and none of the manufacturers will have planes ready for delivery for more than a year. Diamond spokesman Peter Maurer echoed those sentiments, saying it was "really encouraging" that such major companies see the market potential. Honda and GE made the announcement in Tokyo on Monday after reaching a still-secret deal the previous Friday. Honda has been tinkering with the HF 118 since 1986. It was first tested on other aircraft before being mated to a six-seater of Honda's own design at a test facility in North Carolina. The HondaJet flew for the first time in November but wasn't officially introduced until December. At the Monday news conference, GE Transportation CEO David Calhoun said the partnership gives his company an (almost) instant foothold in the mini-jet market and Honda inherits access to one of the biggest parts, service and repair organizations of any engine manufacturer. "Honda and GE have a common vision with this agreement, "Calhoun said. "We think the future for this engine is just fantastic."
As significant as the competitive aspects of the deal are, the announcement also helps to validate the somewhat speculative nature of the mini-jet market. There's more than opportunism at work in Honda's official entry to the aviation market. According to Honda CEO Takeo Fukui, it was the dream of company founder Soichiro Honda to build airplanes. He told the news conference that working with jet engines helps to motivate Honda engineers and lend more prestige to the company brand (and perhaps a fair amount of buzz). Cessna's own announcement 18 months ago that it would build the mini-Citation Mustang has so far collected about 200 orders for the $2.3 million aircraft (the most expensive in the field), by far outdistancing any other Cessna model. "It certainly confirms our view that this part of the market is important to the future of the industry," said Cessna spokeswoman Jessica Meyers. Not since the light-single craze of the late 1940s (Sport Pilot-category zeal yet to be determined) has there been the wholesale creation of a new market segment -- and with such high hopes.
Honda America spokesman Jeffrey Smith told the Dayton Daily News the current market for mini-jets (most of which will be employed as air taxis) is about 150 to 200 planes a year, rising toward 250 units a year over the next decade. However, Cessna spokeswoman Jessica Meyers said she's not aware of any contact between her company (the largest bizjet manufacturer in the world) and Honda. Cessna's Mustang will carry Pratt & Whitney, Canada, (PWC) engines currently under development. Likewise, Eclipse's Broom said, "We won't be switching engines again," sticking with PWC after canceling an engine deal with Williams last year. With the market's big guns otherwise committed, could Honda have another market in mind? Based out of Atlantic Aero's facility in Greensboro, N.C., flight-testing continues on the reportedly uber-efficient HondaJet. Diamond's Maurer said his company might be interested in the engine in the future despite an existing deal with Williams to power their single-engine D-Jet. The aircraft already sports a pair of HF 118s on vertical pylons extending from the wings. Atlantic Aero CEO Don Goodwin confirmed that the flight-test program is continuing but refused to say how many hours have been put on the prototype or provide any other details. "Honda likes to manage its public relations," he said. If the aircraft is as miserly as the PR department, Cessna and Eclipse might have something to think about. Honda and GE say the engine is 10 percent more efficient than comparable designs, a significant accomplishment. But mated to the Honda-designed airframe, the company is claiming a revolutionary 40-percent increase in efficiency. Eclipse's Broom said Honda still has "a lot of work to do" to catch up to U.S. manufacturers. But, then, Ford and GM had similar thoughts when those funny-looking, rust-prone, underpowered Japanese cars started spilling off ships 40 years ago.
YOU TOO CAN BE A WINNER WITH SCHEYDEN, AVIATION'S
Since the debate over arming airline and, finally, cargo pilots began two years ago, the focus has been on the gun. Where it's kept, how it's carried, who gets to have one. But when approved pilots finally get to a remote federal training center in New Mexico to become Federal Flight Deck Officers, they find the training much less about shooting bad guys than not shooting anyone else. "The actual amount of attention paid to the mental preparation as opposed to the physical is pretty amazing," a trainee, who couldn't be identified for the story, told Knight Ridder. "We're taking the mindset of the terrorist and applying the appropriate level of force." And that may take some explaining. The Knight Ridder account represents the first instance we're aware of that a reporter has been allowed inside the training center. In fact, earlier reports about the training indicated that pilots were threatened with termination (of their jobs) if they divulged any details of the training. There were also anonymous accounts (rumors and opinion) that harsh, unpleasant conditions associated with the training -- imposed by the TSA -- were intended to not-so-subtly discourage pilots from taking part. For the record, said Knight Ridder's story, only 3 percent of pilots who apply are turned down, only 2 percent because of the psychological screening. Less than 1 percent fail the course. "When you're through the program, you can see what is needed to produce a person who carries a weapon," said one candidate.
But while the training gives a pilot's mental ammunition a workout, there are, of course, practical lessons in how best to put the 9-mm Heckler and Koch semiautomatic to use in saving an airplane full of people -- and maybe hundreds or thousands on the ground. Trainees learn hand-to-hand combat (moves designed specifically for the confines of the aluminum tube), disarming techniques and, of course, take target practice. They also go through simulated scenarios on three Boeing 727 "shoot houses." But the biggest weapon they have in the war against terrorism is the terrorist's own risk calculation. As more pilots take the training (figures aren't released but there are believed to be about 1,650 armed pilots) the odds of a terrorist coming up against someone trained to deal with him are increasing. That makes the terrorist's planning more difficult and the outcome less certain. "It throws out a gamble," said one trainee. As would-be hijackers need not rely on reports like this one, or any other media account of the training, as a guide to what to expect if they attempt to personally breach the cockpit, only a fraction of the training is revealed publicly.
GETTING THE MOST OUT OF THE AIRCRAFT IN YOUR CLUB?
The FAA is hoping to propose a rule this fall that would require airlines to install equipment to lessen the chance of in-flight fuel-tank explosions. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey announced the initiative Tuesday, saying the rule is being considered because new technology, largely developed by the agency itself, is now available to displace some of the oxygen within fuel tanks with inert nitrogen. "We're taking this step because we have found a practical solution," she told a news conference. The new, roughly $220,000-per-plane rule would be phased in over seven years starting in 2006, 10 years after the NTSB determined the belly tank of a TWA Boeing 747 (Flight 800) exploded off Long Island, killing 230 people. It was not the first or the last event of its kind. In March 2001, a Thai Airways 737-400 exploded while sitting on a hot ramp at Bangkok's domestic airport. The NTSB released information that the recorded sound of the explosion was found similar to that of a Philippine Airlines 737-300 that suffered a center-wing fuel-tank explosion in May 1990. In November 2002 Emergency Airworthiness Directives were issued for Boeing 737 models. The system takes compressed air from the engines and passes it through a membrane that separates oxygen and nitrogen. The FAA's system dumps oxygen into the atmosphere and pumps nitrogen into the fuel tanks. The extra nitrogen cuts oxygen content by almost half, making combustion of fuel vapors virtually impossible. The systems cost $140,000 to $220,000 per plane and need about $14,000 worth of maintenance every year. They weigh less than 200 pounds. The NTSB, which has been pushing for some sort of action on fuel-tank explosion hazards, applauded the FAA proposal.
Cessna announced Monday that it will build the 340-knots-at-35,000-feet, six-place Mustang mini-jet in Independence, Kan., alongside the piston singles its plant there now makes. It turns out the out-of-the-way nature of the place was its biggest asset. Cessna spokeswoman Jessica Myers said there's room for expansion in Independence, and the ability to test-fly a lot of aircraft. Cessna already has 200 orders for the Mustang, which won't be available for two years, and expects it to be its biggest bizjet seller. To get ready for the expected mini-jet boom, Cessna will pour $13 million into additional plant space. At peak production the Mustang line will employ 500 people in addition to the 350 who make the singles. Local governments are providing incentives to cut the company's training, labor and construction costs. But all that now sounds like a bargain to the people of Independence, who have been hit hard by layoffs, plant closures and business failures in recent years. "My emotions range from extremely happy to extremely thankful," local resident Dennis Pruitt told The Wichita Eagle. Columbus, Ga., will also benefit because the wings will be built there. Sales and administrative support will come from the head office in Wichita.
AVEMCO OFFERS ON APPROACH ONLINE!
Few places have more need for night flying in bad weather than Alaska, and soon aircraft will be able to get into some of the state's most remote airstrips in an emergency. Galaxy Litebeams LLC, of New Jersey, and Greatland Laser LLC, of Anchorage, are partners in a $1.4 million contract to provide portable emergency lighting systems to 42 emergency landing zones and seven runways at remote villages. That's less than the cost of a single fixed-lighting system for many runways. All the gear fits on a trailer that can be pulled by something as small as a snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle. The laser gear marks out the landing areas by using the focused light to bounce off dust, smoke or precipitation in the air. The result is a clearly visible line that provides runway and taxiway markings. The lasers work in conjunction with battery-powered runway lights that can be deployed from the trailer to provide emergency runway lighting in minutes. The lights operate for eight hours on a single charge and the cold cathode light sources last for up to 40,000 hours.
Australia's government is furiously backpedaling from sweeping airspace reforms that have drawn fire from all facets of the aviation industry. Airservices Australia announced on Monday that it would implement "safety enhancements" at various airports in an attempt to restore public confidence in the system. Among the fixes are transportable radar systems to fill gaps in coverage and distribution of new charts, this time with air traffic control frequencies printed on them. More changes are expected. Two weeks ago, the government-owned airspace regulator held meetings with representatives from all parts of the aviation industry and was essentially told to scrap what was billed as an American-style system, implemented Nov. 27. The biggest change was the elimination of controlled airspace at altitudes where light aircraft and airliners mix, typically near medium-to-large airports. A near-collision between a light single and an airliner near Launceston, shortly after the reforms were introduced, produced a groundswell of opposition to the new rules. Airline pilots say that unless the new rules are substantially eliminated, they'll take safety into their own hands by slowing their aircraft and making passengers remain buckled up (in case evasive action is needed) at lower altitudes.
AEROSHELL GIVES YOUR AIRPLANE SHINE AND PROTECTION
It's not only civilian airports that get noise complaints. The sound of freedom is rattling the dishes -- and fraying the nerves -- of some residents near the Navy's Patuxent River Air Station. Some residents claim the Navy jocks are unleashing sonic booms over the naturally quiet hamlets of Princess Ann, Salisbury, Deal Island and Whitehaven in Maryland. "It rocked my house like an earthquake," Dinah Abbott, of Salisbury, told the Daily Times. But Pax River spokesman John Romer said it's not likely sonic booms that are jarring the residents. He said fighter pilots save their need for speed for the open ocean where the booms won't bust the peace. Pax River has about 130,000 operations a year but nearby residents say there's been a big increase in flight activity in the past 10 days. Romer said anyone bugged by a Navy plane should call the base to complain. "We don't want to upset the neighbors," he said.
Farmer Le Van Dahn spent $30,000 and seven years building a helicopter out of spare parts and an old Russian truck engine. The contraption has risen 18 inches off the ground in four test flights and Dahn was getting ready to start trying to maneuver it when the government clipped his rotor blades. No one in Vietnam has ever been allowed to build his own aircraft. So the government took the whirlybird away. Maybe EAA should consider opening a chapter in Vietnam. Sure, it might only have one member ... but he could really use the help. The farmer hasn't (yet) seen the wisdom of the government's action and is vowing to fight to get his chopper back, even putting the house and farm up for sale to finance the battle. And he has a long-term view of the struggle ahead. "If I cannot do it, my children or my grandchildren will do it," he said. He might check with them before he sells the farm.
CALCULATE OPERATING COSTS WITH THE INTERACTIVE AIRCRAFT BUDGET ANALYZER
AVweb's AVflash is mainly an aviation news service, so it's a little embarrassing when we run a story that's almost four years old. Alas, that is what happened with our breathtaking account of the runway departure of an F-15E in Lakenheath, England, in the Feb. 15 NewsWire and AVflash. Trusted sources provided AVweb with information indicating the event occurred within the last two weeks when it actually happened in September 2000. We should have checked more carefully. If AWweb is made aware of any factual errors in our news stories, we're happy to publish immediate corrections or clarifications.
A new Notice of Proposed Rulemaking may challenge Light Sport aircraft designers, check back Monday for more...
The Internet public meeting on National Air Tour Standards begins Feb. 23 at 9 a.m. A kind reader pointed us to the Federal Register announcement that we had not provided in previous coverage...
Some of the very best air show performers will be at Sun 'n Fun again this year. The annual fly-in is considered the start of the air show season so expect fresh acts from about 20 performers, including the likes of Patty Wagstaff, Bobby Younkin, and Mike Goulian, Michael Mancuso as well as warbirds and the Aeroshell team. Sun 'n Fun runs April 13 to April 19 at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport...
Sino Swearingen's SJ-30 bizjet has received pressurization certification to 31.40 psi, meaning the plane will actually be able to maintain sea-level air pressure at 41,000 feet. Sino Swearingen claims the thicker cabin air will be a selling point because it reduces fatigue and increases comfort on long flights.
PILOT'S AUDIO UPDATE
The Savvy Aviator #2: In Quest Of The Ideal Mechanic
There are a dozen crucial attributes that you should look for when choosing an A&P to maintain your aircraft. Realistically, however, you'll never find any one mechanic who possesses them all. AVweb's Mike Busch explains how to size up your mechanic's strengths and weaknesses, and offers a case study of how to take advantage of the strengths and overcome the weaknesses.
HAVE YOU SIGNED UP yet for AVwebs NO-COST twice monthly Business AVflash? Reporting on breaking news, Business AVflash also focuses on the companies, the products and the industry leaders that make headlines in the Business of Aviation. Business AVflash is a must read! Sign up today at http://www.avweb.com/profile/
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*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb asked you if the much-tauted ''bonus depreciation'' provision in last year's tax bill was responsible for the upswing in General Aviation.
We discovered that AVweb readers are well-grounded and not quick to make snap judgements just over 50% of you said that while it is an upswing, we shouldn't think that financial troubles are entirely behind us. Another 25% of respondents said the improvements in GA are a clear indicator that better economic times are on the horizon.
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
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PILOT GETAWAYS MAGAZINE'S SPRING
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"Early Aviator Delivering Christmas Gifts"
A season too late but better late than never!
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WHAT DOES A YELLOW TAG REALLY MEAN?
A yellow tag is the conventional way of signifying that a part or appliance is serviceable and okay to use. But what does yellow tagging really mean? Not as much as you might think a topic that's thoroughly addressed in the February issue of Light Plane Maintenance magazine, the first and best source of money-saving how-to information for aircraft owners. Order your Light Plane Maintenance subscription online at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/belvoir/lpm/avflash.
PILOTS COMMENT AFTER READING IFR: A STRUCTURED APPROACH by JOHN ECKALBAR:
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GRAB AVIATION'S MAINSTAY FLYING MAGAZINE AT SPECIAL AVWEB PRICES
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