July 27, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Maybe it's a subtle ticking upward in the economy, or maybe it's the new sport-pilot rule, or maybe it's the weather -- sunny with a breeze, not too hot, not too humid (for Oshkosh). Whatever the cause, the mood here in Oshkosh is inescapably upbeat, the crowds are thick, the campgrounds are full, the aircraft parking grounds are full (or close to it) -- well past the usual for a Tuesday afternoon (and summarily putting last year's showing to shame). "The south lot yesterday was at row 150 of 155," said EAA's media relations man, Dick Knapinski and it was clear just walking by that the "north 40" was by Tuesday filled near (or to) the brim with aircraft. The general feeling is not only are there a lot of people here for so early in the week, but a lot of them are not the traditional diehard faithful -- they are curious newcomers, which of course bodes well for the future of sport aviation. ...Did we mention the first installment of our OSH image galleries? Plus, visitors are giving off the vibe that they are ready and able to part with their cash in pursuit of aviation dreams. As the icing on the cake, there are brand new 350-hp kitbuilt aerobatic designs on the field -- manifestations of a certain extravagance you just don't see when times are tough.
OREGON AERO SHOCKBLOCKERS SHOE INSERTS SAVE YOUR FEET AT OSHKOSH
Companies planning to sell Light Sport Aircraft don't seem to be frustrated with the delays already suffered; they seem universally upbeat about the opportunities that may await them. "This is all good," said Rob Rollison, of Rollison Light Sport Aircraft. He's has been carting LSA-qualified planes from show to show for the past three years and he says it will be at least December before the proper regulatory infrastructure is in place to allow him (and his competitors) to sell factory-complete airplanes. "They don't N-number themselves," he said. Rollison is planning to sell three European-built aircraft in the U.S. ranging in price from 40,000 Euros (about $48,000 at current exchange rates) to 70,000 Euros ($84,000). We did see LSA aircraft offered in the high twenties -- the range of available aircraft that fit the category is impressive.
Dick Koenigsberg, of SkyRanger Aircraft, said that in the first day of Air Venture he talked to more non-pilots than he's seen at previous shows. That tells him the new rule is generating interest in people who perhaps haven't considered aviation as a recreational pastime because of the expense and all the licensing requirements. Koenigsberg said that while it's important to get the regulatory framework up and running, it's equally important to market Light Sport to the masses of people who have money to spend on spare time pursuits. At about $24,000, the British-built SkyRanger is about the cost of a few snowmobiles, personal watercraft or ATVs. We wonder if proud owners will want to fight for hangar space for their aircraft (many of the designs have "fabric" wings) ... or if they'll care to endure the associated costs. Koenigsberg is betting a lot of his time, money and effort in the past three years that what Light Sport Aircraft and the Sport Pilot license will mean to people is pleasant way to pass a few hours on their days off. "What I think the masses want is to go out to the airport, shine and polish their airplane, dump five gallons of car gas in it, go out in the circuit for a while and then shine and polish it again and put it back in the hangar," he said.
Once the rule takes effect on September 1: the industry must establish consensus standards for each LSA type (airplane, powered 'chute, trike, etc.), the FAA must adopt those standards, and the manufacturer must factory-build the aircraft in accordance with those standards, the EAA said. For imported LSAs, the aircraft must be eligible for an airworthiness certificate in its home country. Homebuilt aircraft operated as sport aircraft will be designated Experimental LSA, and cannot be operated for hire. The new LSA designs are expected to originate in the kitplane and ultralight worlds, Poberezny said. So far the certificated manufacturers (busy packing their aircraft with Garmin and Avidyne flat-panel displays) have not expressed overt interest in going there. He also acknowledged that some companies now in the kitplane business may not choose to go the LSA route, for liability, facility, or other concerns. "That's a business decision, whether the potential reward is worth the risk," he said. "That's our free-enterprise system works, and this will all just have to shake itself out over time."
While he expressed some disappointment that EAA didn't get its way 100 percent on the good-to-go-with-a-driver's-license medical provision, Poberezny said, "That was not the core of the rule." The FAA's final take -- which excludes from Sport Pilot-hood anyone who's been denied an FAA medical -- affects a lot of people who were hoping to get back in the air, he said. "But we're still working with the FAA and looking for ways to remedy that." And the core purpose of the rule -- "an investment in the future, to bring people into aviation, and grow the aviation community" -- survived the 10-year rulemaking process, and meets the needs of many people, he said.
THE CESSNA SKYHAWK GOES GLASS
Live weather in the cockpit -- and not the kind that appears like measles on a sferics gadget -- has long been a must-have for aircraft owners and AirVenture 2004 suggests that it's becoming increasingly affordable. And it's also increasingly confusing to sort through all the options, price points and data plans -- not to mention minor warfare over which platforms will display the weather. The big surprise for owners prowling the booths for new developments in weatherlink came from WSI, which stunned everyone -- including Garmin -- by announcing that its satellite-based weather datalink service would be available for the popular GNS430 and GNS530 navigators. (See www.wsi.com and www.garmin.com).
Although Garmin offers its own weatherlink for the GNS navigators based on the Orbcomm system, WSI has enjoyed rave reviews for its satellite-based system, which plays NEXRAD radar and other weather products on portable cockpit computers and on GarminAT's MX-20 multifunction display. Thousands of 430/530 owners have lusted for the speed and high definition of the WSI system and on Tuesday, WSI scratched the itch by announcing the AV200-5, a certified weather receiver aimed specifically at the 430/530 market. Price: $5690, including antenna, with deliveries expected for the fall. Great news for Garmin owners. But there's a teensy weensy hitch.
WSI developed the product on its own and Garmin declares that the WSI 430/530 interface is unauthorized. What does that mean, exactly? Since Garmin's weather interface to the outside world isn't patented or copyrighted, there appears to be no legal infringement. However, Garmin's Tim Casey told AVweb that the company can make no assurances the WSI system will continue to function correctly as Garmin upgrades the 430/530 line with WAAS firmware and software. Whether the FAA will have anything to say about the WSI/Garmin contretemps remains to be seen but to protect its product, it will be in WSI's interest to work around any problems caused by upgrades to the GNS series.
It certainly will let you see the big rain out ahead of you, but the WSI announcement took a bit of the glow off Garmin's announcement that it will offer its own XM-based receiver -- the GSL69A -- for the MX-20 multifunction display. (Confused yet?) XM includes real-time NEXRAD imagery, METARS, TAFs and TFRs. But Garmin's receiver won't play weather on the 430/530 boxes. While Garmin works on an XM receiver that will work with the 430/530 series, its concern is that WSI's product will eat into any further sales of the Orbcomm-based GDL49 product and may stunt growth of the XM-based receiver that Garmin will probably introduce next year.
Speaking of XM Radio, Avidyne announced that it would offer an XM-based datalink option for buyers of its EX500 multifunction display. Avidyne's first datalink effort was based on Orbcomm technology similar to that used by Garmin -- it was met with mixed reviews. The XM variant--which will co-exist with the Orbcomm receiver--promises faster, more reliable weather downloads. Retail price for the XMD-076 receiver is $3750 but EX500 owners will get a special discount price of $1575 if they buy by September 30th, 2004. The welcome news for all companies using XM came in the form lower prices that promise to break the datalink market open with lower monthly charges. XM said this week that datalink monthly charges will drop to $29 from $49 a month, for a slightly reduced package of products that still includes real-time NEXRAD imagery, METARS, TAFs and TFRs. (See www.wxworx.com for more.)
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Scaled Composites is ready to launch SpaceShipOne from Mojave on September 29 in hopes of winning the $10 million X Prize, the X Prize Foundation announced yesterday. But designer Burt Rutan and astronaut Mike Melvill may have competition: the da Vinci Project team, based in Toronto, Canada, plans to roll out its completed Wild Fire spacecraft for a public unveiling on August 5. That team is expected to also launch in pursuit of the space prize this fall. Teams are required to tell the foundation of their launch plans 60 days in advance. To win the $10 million, SpaceShipOne will need to make a second flight within two weeks, by October 13. The public is invited and encouraged to attend both events at Mojave. Parking passes can be purchased on the X Prize Web site (www.xprize.org). To qualify for the prize, the flights must be privately financed, sending a manned spaceship to 100 km altitude twice within two weeks, each time carrying a pilot and the weight and volume equivalent of two additional passengers. Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, chairman and founder of the X Prize Foundation, made the announcement about the Mojave launch yesterday morning in Santa Monica, Calif. "When the ANSARI X PRIZE competition is won, it will herald the start of a new renaissance of spaceflight in which the general public will have their chance to fly next," he said.
Burt Rutan and his team at Scaled Composites have formed a partnership with investor Paul G. Allen called The American Mojave Aerospace Ventures Team to continue the SpaceShipOne project. On June 21, Melvill became the first commercial pilot to enter suborbital space. Similar to the June flight, the competition launches will take place at the Mojave Airport Civilian Aerospace Test Center in Mojave, California. Wild Fire, the Canadian da Vinci Project Team spacecraft, is also launched at high-altitude (80,000 feet) into suborbital space from an unmanned, reusable helium balloon. The project is working with an all-volunteer team.
Loan guarantees from the Canadian government have ensured the long-awaited (and frustrated) certification of the Seawind amphibian can go ahead, possibly as early as next year. Company President Dick Silva told a news conference at Air Venture that the money enabled the Quebec-based firm to overcome some technical certification issues regarding the materials and bonding used in the all-composite airframe. "We're breaking new ground," he said. Transport Canada is the regulatory authority but it is working hand-in-glove with the FAA and certification in both countries will take place simultaneously. The production Seawind has only subtle differences from the 64 kits that have been built so far. A trailing link landing gear will be put on the factory models (and won't be available on the kits) and there's an extra two-inches of headroom in the production planes. The factory jobs also come with a "water motor" that retracts from the nose and makes docking and maneuvering (not to mention trolling) a lot easier. So far, 19 orders have been placed for factory Seawinds and all customers have gone for the $320,000 IFR version. The VFR model is about $30,000 cheaper.
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It may be the slowest jet-powered aircraft ever built but we bet it will climb. Powrachute, which builds lots of the familiar reciprocating engine-type chutes has, with the help of jet guru Les Shockley, strapped a former helicopter turbine to a basically standard powered 'chute frame and is hoping to fly it for the first time at Air Venture, maybe today. "One of our competitors criticized us for not being innovative," chuckled company president Eddie Johnson, who said the FAA (quite understandably, we venture) is having a close look at the paperwork necessary to put the chute in the air. Among the innovations on the engine is a shroud that mixes cool air with the exhaust gases to prevent the canopy (and bystanders) from melting. Now, don't expect jet-powered chutes to show up in Powrachute's catalog. For one thing, with an endurance of 15 minutes (burning roughly a gallon a minute), it lacks the economy associated with powered chutes and it's not likely to be popular with the neighbors. Like most of Les Shockley's creations (the jet truck, Jimmy Franklin's jet Waco) the jet chute is headed for the air show circuit. It may also head for some altitude records ... if they can find a mountain tall (and smooth) enough to launch it from (recall the 15 minutes of fuel).
As of yesterday, pilots wanting to fly airplanes they don't own have access to insurance coverage through EAA Aircraft Insurance. The plan, a venture of EAA, Falcon Insurance Agency and Global Aerospace, is called the EAA Non-Owned Insurance Plan. "EAA is committed to protecting the freedom of flight for its members, and the right insurance coverage is a part of that," said EAA President Tom Poberezny. The new offering includes liability insurance of $1,000 to $100,000 for operations and damage to non-owned birds as well as medical coverage of up to $100,000 per person. Planes in both the Standard Category and Experimental Amateur-Built category, as well as the new Light Sport Aircraft, are covered. At the present, the insurance is only available in the U.S.
HOW WOULD YOU LIKE AN INSURANCE POLICY THAT PAYS YOU BACK YOUR PREMIUMS?
Less than one year after the plane was announced and just over a year since the company was formed, the epic tale of the Epic LT 6-place jetprop is turning out to be more of a short story with the possibility of a very happy ending. It was announced at OSH '03, flown just days before OSH '04, and is sitting on the grounds of AirVenture now attracting admiring looky-loos ... proof, says company officials, that the sleek plane is much more than a dream on a piece of paper. The Epic business plan is unique. The first 17 aircraft will be sold in the experimental category. Buyers will come to the Epic manufacturing facility, currently located in Bend, Ore., and work side-by-side with the Epic team to satisfy the FAA's 51% rule for amateur-built aircraft. "Understand that this will be happening in a VERY controlled environment," says CEO Rick Shrameck. Not only will skilled professionals be assisting in the build, the "kit" itself is totally C and C'ed with tolerances of 5 to 6-thousandths. Customers can expect a build time of around 300 hours at the Epic facility, and will have the choice of the $1.2 million configuration that sports a 1200-hp Pratt & Whitney PT-6 or the $775,000 version powered by a Walther Lom 771. Those prices are for a ready-to-fly aircraft, the first of which will be customer-completed by January of '05.
In addition to the ease of build, Shrameck is also pleased with the flight parameters. "So far, every test has been optimum," a visibly emotional Shrameck told the media at AirVenture. Epic believes 350 knots is attainable at Flight Levels up to 310 (which puts this turbine in the same ballpark as the freshly flown Aerocomp Comp Air kit jet). But the big selling point is that the plane will be able to fly full of fuel, full of passengers and with lots of luggage ... at the same time. Empty weight is 3308 lbs and gross is 7040, giving the Epic a payload of 3600 lbs. Epic will use the information gathered during the building of the 17 experimental aircraft to push forward with its production certificate and eventual manufacture and certification, which is some $28+ million and a number of months down the road. "We're not trying to be rocket scientists," says Shrameck. "This plane has wings, an engine in the front and technology that everyone is familiar with. We believe there is a niche for a plane like this and we would like to fill it." The 6-place turboprop, available with either a PT 6-67 or Walter Lom 771 engine, flew for the first time just days prior to AirVenture. Thirty hours later, the plane is attracting looky-loos on the AirVenture site.
|POWERLINK FADEC CERTIFIED ON LIBERTY XL-2; IS IT RIGHT FOR YOUR
Congratulations to Liberty Aerospace on becoming the first certified piston-powered aircraft with PowerLink FADEC as standard equipment. PowerLink FADEC is now also available for several additional certified and experimental aircraft, including the A-36 Bonanza and VANS RV series. Talk to the TCM pros at AirVenture Booths #3110-3112 and #96-102 to find out how you can bring your aircraft into the state-of-the-art, or go to http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/tcm/fadec/avflash.
For those in a big rush to pass the 407 miles between Dayton, Ohio, and AirVenture... The Unlimited Class was won by Jack Watson flying a Glasair II RG to the tune of 185.25 miles per hour. The Sport Class saw Keith Phillips' SX-300 streak past at an average speed of 244.43 miles per hour, edging Rog Logan in a Lancair Legacy at 241.65 miles per hour. Formula RG Class was ruled by Richard Keyt in the Polen Special Class at 233.19 miles per hour followed by a very tight group of five aircraft each running faster than 205 and slower than 209.1 miles per hour. Click through for full 2004 AirVenture Cup race results.
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AEROSHELL EXCITES OSHKOSH CROWD & HELPS YOUNG EAGLES PROGRAM
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