AVwebFlash - Volume 19, Number 3c

January 18, 2013

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Sport Expo Coverage back to top 

U.S. Sport Aviation Expo: Sales Still Struggle

Although there are sales bright spots in the light sport aircraft segment, as the 2013 U.S. Sport Aviation Expo opened in Sebring, Florida on Thursday, the industry as a whole still isn't finding robust sales numbers. The Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association said on Thursday that some 258 LSAs were registered worldwide in 2012, with about 100 delivered to U.S. customers. That's down slightly from 2011 when 241 LSAs found their way into the fleet. Nonetheless, Sport Expo expects about 20,000 attendees at the Sebring show and it continues to be an important venue for some manufacturers who've been able to reliably mine sales leads from would-be customers who come to Florida ready to kick the tires one last time before pulling the sales trigger. "We had a buyer come down from Michigan just to see the airplane and make a final decision," said John Calla of Adventure Sport Aviation, which sells the Czech-made Bristell LSA. "Some buyers just have to see it, and see it again and see it one more time and then they've got to have it," he said. The Bristell is a low-wing design that claims the largest cabin size in the field and the aircraft can accept up to 130 horsepower.

That makes it quick, but it doesn't quite provide the power-to-weight ratio of the reigning hotrod, CubCrafter's popular Carbon Cub. CubCrafters told AVweb that it's now rolling a new airplane out of the Yakima, Washington factory about every four days, the strongest sales since 2008. CubCrafters has found success at the upper strata of the market, with many of its airplanes invoicing near or above the $200,000 mark. The Carbon Cub has been fitted with a new, improved cowling as shown in today's video wrap-up of the show.

Meanwhile, Tecnam's Tommy Grimes told us the company is going in the opposite direction pricewise with a new offering based on the Echo Lite. It will sell for about $75,000, Grimes said. Like everyone else, Grimes said, Tecnam is still searching for a potential price sweet spot and things a sub-$100,000 LSA is worth trying. As reported in our video, Tecnam was also showing off something some would-be LSA buyers will love: air conditioning in a light sport. The 23-pound FlyCool system fits into the tail section of a P2008 with a minimal weight and balance hit. It chills the cabin by about 20 degrees, a welcome capability for owners flying these airplane in the broiling southern tier states.

As seems to always happen, a line of severe weather to the west and the arrival of a brisk cold front tamped down arrivals at Sebring on Thursday. We were hoping to see Legend Aircraft's new Super Legend, but the company's Darin Hart said weather will make it a no show. (See a video on the aircraft here.)

The Super Legend has Lycoming's new O-233 LSA engine and the combination is gaining some sales traction. In our wrap-up video, we also took a peek at the FK12 Comet biplane that Renegade Aircraft is fitting with an aerobatic version of the O-233, the AEIO-233. Renegade's Doc Bailey told us that the airplane is ready to fly, but he's struggling getting the FAA to issue final approvals. Four are on order. Find an AVweb video on the Comet here.)

At this year's show, the organizers moved things around a bit and now have an expansive hangar for vendors instead of the tents used in previous years. They've also moved the food booths and other services closer to show center, making for less walking. The vendor hangar is gadget central and the light sport field doesn't lack for offerings. One that caught are eye is Levil Technolgy's new iLevil, an $1195 combined ADS-B/AHRS remote receiver that connects to a tablet via its own onboard wireless hub. Levil was an early entrant into the portable AHRS market, but its new product kicks up the competition a notch and we expect to see even more of these at Sun 'n Fun in April. Meanwhile, check out our video on the iLevil.

Another gadget we'll be reporting on in a few weeks is called the TerraTracker, a device that ought to cure the agita every flight instructor feels when a student on a long cross country gets a little late because of headwinds. The TerraTracker communicates aircraft position every couple of minutes through an airborne cellular link and the data can be accessed via tablet app from anywhere the tablet can grab a wireless or cellular link to the TerraTracker server. For a look at the system, see today's wrap-up video.

The Sport Aviation Expo show continues through Sunday and although a cold front cooled things down, no significant rain is expected with temperatures in the high 60s and low 70s.

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Sebring Video back to top 

Video: Sebring Sport Expo 2013

Original, Exclusive Videos from AVweb | Reader-Submitted & Viral Videos

AVweb was at opening day of the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo show in Sebring on Thursday and filed this video report.

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Video: Levil Technology's New ADS-B/AHRS

Original, Exclusive Videos from AVweb | Reader-Submitted & Viral Videos

The competition in the iPad remote ADS-B and AHRS market is getting white-hot, and now comes Levil Technology with a new device called the iLevil. AVweb took a took at it at the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo show in Sebring.

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From the Pages of Aviation Safety Magazine back to top 

Bad Judgement Gets Worse

A pilot who had twice extensively damaged airplanes by flying into thunderstorms tries it a third time. This time he doesn't live to tell about his own foolishness.

Remember back to when we were student pilots, with maybe 20 hours under our belts? We all asked our instructors "How many hours do you have?" Even if the answer came back as "400," we were in awe because our instructor had 20 times our experience.

Of course he was a great pilot; he had all those hours. Later, after earning our private certificates perhaps we met a pilot with 1000 hours, and then someone with even more flight time and a fancy airplane came into our aviation life. If we were sharp enough, we soon realized that hours in a logbook or the type of aircraft being flown can't hold a candle to a difficult to pin down concept known as judgment. Judgment we learned is the real core of what makes someone a good pilot.

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Flight Technique back to top 

Leading Edge: Stabilized Approaches in Light Airplanes

The airplane may not know it's dark, but the pilot does, and the accident record shows it. AVweb's Thomas P. Turner helps reduce the risk of night flight.

Click here to read the full article.

One of the hardest parts of flying instruments is making the transition from on-the-gauges to visual flight at the missed approach point. Visual and instrument pilots also have difficulty at times landing in the proper touchdown zone because they're too fast or too slow on final. One way to make safe, consistent landings, and to fly to tighter instrument tolerances, is to fly a stabilized approach ... modified for the realities of flying light airplanes.

What's a Stabilized Approach?

We hear the term a lot, but it's not precisely clear what is meant by a "stabilized approach." The strict definition of a stabilized approach is somewhat elusive; most educational materials focus more on what is not "stabilized" than what is. For example, the Flight Safety Foundation's (FSF) Approach and Landing Accident Reduction (ALAR) Briefing Note 7.1 -- Stabilzed Approach (65 KB PDF) nods to the fact that "stabilized" means different things to different operators, saying,

An approach is stabilized only if all the criteria in company standard operating procedures (SOPs) are met before or when reaching the applicable minimum stabilization height.

FSF's Briefing Note calls unstabilized approaches those "conducted either low/slow or high/fast." It provides a recommendation that the airplane be stabilized within 1000 feet of the ground in IMC or 500 agl in VMC. FSF cites unstabilized approaches as being a "causal factor in 66 percent of 76 approach-and-landing accidents and serious incidents worldwide in 1984 through 1997."

The airline pilot chat lines -- filled with commentary by pilots whose work evaluations hinge on whether an approach is stabilized -- show that even the pros are confused about what the term means.

A stabilized approach to most pilots means something that looks like the figure at right. The aircraft is put into landing configuration (gear down and flaps set) prior to reaching the let-down point (final approach fix or leaving the traffic pattern altitude), and airspeed is reduced to VREF or some target just above VREF. When time comes to descend, the pilot flying (we're talking primarily large, turbine airplanes here) adjusts attitude and power to establish a descent while maintaining airspeed. The aircraft is flown in this configuration and attitude all the way to touchdown (no wonder airliners often have such "firm" arrivals).

Although this technique may be desirable in turbine airplanes, small airplanes don't fly like large, jet transports. And weren't we taught something about a "round-out" and flare that is more appropriate in light aircraft?

A Better Approach

The FAA's Airplane Flying Handbook (AFH) provides this definition of the stabilized approach:

A stabilized approach is one in which the pilot establishes and maintains a constant-angle glidepath towards a predetermined point on the landing runway ... the point on the ground at which, if the airplane maintained a constant glidepath and was not flared for landing, it would strike the ground.

Aha! The AFH is giving us a different concept of what it means to be "stabilized." This is not a criticism of airline operations or the stabilized approach concept -- as we'll see in a moment, it saves lives -- but instead points out that the concept as commonly described does not apply directly to flying light airplanes. AFH's Figure 8-9 (below) shows how an approach may be flown stabilized to the point where the flare begins.

Airplane Flying Handbook Figure 8-9

Why Everyone Talks About Stabilized Approaches

Airline-style or lightplane-appropriate, why does everyone talk about stabilized approaches? The concept evolved to meet these goals:

  • Predicting aircraft performance by using the same technique every time;
  • Increasing situational awareness by allowing the pilot to focus on instrument or outside references, as appropriate to conditions, instead of diverting attention to changing trim, power and configuration settings during final approach;
  • More easily detecting and correcting for glidepath deviations;
  • Increased ability to establish crosswind corrections; and
  • Landing in the touchdown zone at the proper speed to ensure landing performance.

Common accidents where a stabilized approach is not flown include controlled flight into terrain (CFIT), landing short, landing long and running off the far end of the runway, and stalls. Stabilized approaches, especially in heavy, inertia-ridden transport aircraft, save lives. Notice that these causalities are related to distraction and improper airspeed control -- two things a stabilized approach are designed to avoid. The stabilized-approach philosophy in airline operations appears to have saved lives.

Stabilized Approaches In Light Airplanes

So how can we gain the benefits of the stabilized approach concept while flying with the characteristics of light airplanes? First, consider that the goal is to arrive at a known position relative to the touchdown zone while at a known configuration and airspeed. We want to be established in the known configuration and on that known airspeed in time to reach that final, known position where the flare begins.

Instrument Approaches: On an instrument approach, fly in a stabilized condition from just inside the final-approach fix (FAF) to the missed-approach point (MAP). You may decide to become stabilized outside the FAF -- the difference is primarily when you'll extend the landing gear in retractable-gear (RG) airplanes. I personally teach extending the gear at the FAF as the means of initiating final descent. So many times pilots forget to extend the landing gear, and if you're conditioned to initiate descent with a power reduction, on the day you forget the landing gear you'll have nothing to directly remind you at this point (in all fairness, almost no gear-up landings happen out of an instrument approach). You may fly a type of airplane that extends gear asymmetrically, with varying drag causing yawing motions when the gear is in transit. In such airplanes, it's probably better to extend the gear outside the FAF to be stabilized for the remainder of the approach. That's OK, too. What's more important is that you remain in a single configuration as you descend down the glidepath until you either break out to land visually or power-up to miss the approach.

When "going visual" out of the approach, you'll be in a known configuration at a known speed, as well as a known (from the instrument approach procedure flown) position relative to the runway. If you have enough altitude to transition to a new, stable, visual, approach configuration, that's great. Some pilots like to maintain the configuration used for the approach all the way to landing to minimize pitch and trim changes before beginning the flare. That's fine, and may even be the best way to go if you break out right at minimums. Remember: You'll probably use more runway than in a visual landing if you use this technique.

Visual Arrivals and VFR Traffic Patterns: When arriving visually, whether as part of an instrument arrival or by flying a VFR traffic pattern, aim to be stabilized on configuration and final-approach speed within about 400 to 500 feet of the ground. This is the usual height when rolling out onto final approach, unless a control tower directs a wide pattern or a straight-in approach. This is the point where I'll usually extend the last notch of flaps, confirm my gear is down (in RG airplanes), and aim for the "book" final approach speed.

The Ultimate Unstabilized Approach

Many airline pilots and GPS developers will tell you that step-down instrument approaches are patently unsafe. They fly in the face of the stabilized approach concept, because they require a power change and interrupt the constant-angle-of-descent-to-touchdown precept. Historically, airline crews have had difficulty with step-down approaches in the turbine era; the whole idea of GPS WAAS glidepaths is to do away with "dive and drive" approach profiles in the hope this will reduce CFIT accidents in all classes of airplane.

You can still think of the step-down approach as being stabilized, however, in the manner addressed in the Airplane Flying Handbook. The airplane is placed in configuration and on speed prior to reaching the FAF. A fairly big power reduction is necessary to descend to the minimum descent altitude (MDA), and power must be added to level off at MDA. The airplane is still on speed and in configuration, with power being the only variable. At the MAP the pilot must do one of two things: Reduce power, if the runway environment is in sight and a landing can be made using "normal" descent technique; or miss the approach if either of those criteria are not satisfied. However, if arriving visually, the airplane is in a predictable position relative to the runway, while at a predictable airspeed and configuration that allows a stabilized descent from there to the point where the flair begins. Viola! It's not as "unstabilized" as it seems.

Even a circling instrument approach should be flown "stabilized" if we define stable as being on speed and configuration to the MAP, and then again within 400 to 500 feet of the ground when on final approach.

Semantics, or Safety?

Are we concentrating too much on a buzzword, or is a stabilized approach -- as defined for lightplane flying -- a better way to go? Flying on speed and configuration from the FAF to the MAP when in IMC makes it far less likely you'll deviate from the approach course or bust altitude. Once going visual -- or if you're making a VFR arrival -- establishing a stable final-approach speed and configuration from when about 400 to 500 feet of the ground until the point you begin your flare makes it far easier to touch down where you want at a speed that permits easily stopping on the runway. If you find you are unstabilized inbound from the FAF or within a few hundred feet of the ground when visual, miss the approach or go around and set up for a stable approach next time.

Flying stabilized approaches in all classes of airplane results in smoother, easier, more passenger-friendly flight ... and more importantly, it's safe.

Fly safe, and have fun!

Thomas P. Turner's Leading Edge columns are collected here.

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Names Behind the News back to top 

Meet the AVwebFlash Team

AVwebFlash is a twice-weekly summary of the latest news, articles, products, features, and events featured on AVweb, the world's premier independent aviation news resource.

The AVwebFlash team is:

Tom Bliss

Editorial Director, Aviation Publications
Paul Bertorelli

Russ Niles

Scott Simmons

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Glenn Pew

Kevin Lane-Cummings

Ad Coordinator
Karen Lund

Avionics Editor
Larry Anglisano

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