July 29, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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"I knew I couldn't come back unless we had this rule out. This is going to be an important advance in aviation -- it will encourage people to come into aviation." -- FAA Administrator, Marion Blakey. Blakey is no stranger to AirVenture, (she visited Oshkosh in '03) but this trip will likely stand out as a highlight -- at least for the gang down on the farm. The "Farm" is the ultralight encampment; an area that's a stretch of the legs or a puttering shuttle ride away from the activities of AeroShell Square and show center. Blakey arrived in the FAA's Gulfstream at nine a.m. Oshkosh time Thursday, and was greeted in true AirVenture style -- ATC waved her pilot off when a plane that had just landed on Runway 9 couldn't vacate fast enough. Regardless, her first stop was the EAA Sport Pilot Headquarters. The tent was filled with EAA and industry officials and a few sport pilot-hopefuls, all with welcoming words and glad tidings. There, Blakey gave the first of many comments and compliments about the new Sport Pilot/Light Sport Aircraft category. I'm delighted to be back at Oshkosh, she said. Blakey repeated her Sport Pilot mantra often during the day. The new rule, she says, will make flying "available, affordable, accessible."
After slipping away from the media throng at the Sport Pilot center, Blakey and crew made a beeline for the ultralight area, where 2,000-hour instructor Kenley Snyder and his green and orange Quicksilver Sport 2S steed were waiting. Blakey strapped into the Quicksilver to the admiring comments of the ultralight faithful, winning minds and hearts in a way Harrison Ford should note. The day before Blakey's visit, Ford refused to consider a ride in an ultralight, telling media he had "a strong desire to keep living." Word of the comments made it back to the Farm quickly. "Blakey has bigger [hand]s than Harrison Ford," said one EAA-er who asked to remain unnamed (probably because, aside from the plurality of the noun, that's not exactly what he said). According to another, she certainly had little to worry about. Ultralight/Light Plane Convention Chairman Bart Gaffney said Blakey's pilot was one of the "best of the best." But even the best skills can't overcome weather, and it wasn't a great day to be flying in an ultralight, certainly not for the first time.
"We had a lot of mechanical winds over the trees," Snyder told AVweb. "So we kept the speeds down to 35-45 mph. She was a real trouper." On a flyby, Blakey waved and smiled to the cheering crowd lining the runway below. "I loved it," she said after landing. "It was the neatest experience I've ever had, just fantastic! It's the first time I've been up in a plane and been able to look through my legs and see the ground." "She mentioned that up in the air," said Snyder. "She thought it was great. She kept saying, 'look at this, look at this!'" Frank Beagle is the voice down on the farm -- the announcer there for years. He talked to Blakey after her flight. "It gives us a sense that yes, they (FAA) really do like fun flying, and are willing to come down and experience it," he told AVweb. "For the average ultralight pilot, it's reassurance that our rights won't be revoked. I'm just tremendously happy with all her comments." Responding to the chief's example, a number of Blakey's top lieutenants grabbed ultralight rides down on the farm as well.
Aside from wandering into the wrong airspace at the wrong time (TFRs), being able to wander in it at all under the LSA rules (and with what medical conditions) was a hot topic generating concern, questions ... and confusion. Blakey settled down to an hour of AirVenture's annual question-fest in her best effort to clear things up (or at least to be communicative). Nearly one thousand AirVenture visitors attended. "The second century [of flight] is beginning with Sport Pilot-Light Sport Aircraft." ... "I believe the rule will have a profound effect on local and national economies." Then came the questions... ranging from making Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) more accessible and up to the minute -- which the FAA is doing (says Blakey) -- to LSA and medical history. If you haven't already, click through to see what happened.
Multiple questions focused on the medical licensing for Sport Pilot, most specifically, the direction pilots who have been denied medicals in the past will need to go. During the administrator session, the FAA seemed to indicate that special medical exemptions would be handled for Sport Pilot in much the same way as they are currently handled for private pilots. Not so, says EAA Communications Director David Berkeley.
Just after the conclusion of Meet the Admin, Berkeley made the rounds, alerting media that statements made during the session might not have been quite accurate. "We're still trying to get clarification" on that, Berkeley told AVweb. "The comments made today [by the FAA] were a concern to me. There are some inconsistencies on the FAA Web site." Berkeley hopes a meeting scheduled to take place between the feds and EAA during AirVenture will iron out the "inconsistencies" and give potential Sport Pilots who have been denied medicals the information they need. Pilots never officially denied a medical would be able to apply for a Sport Pilot license the same as anyone else.
One questioner was a CFI, asking what he needed to cut out of the private pilot training (40 flight hours) to still ensure safety for a pilot who will only need 20 hours under Sport Pilot. "What don't I teach?" to get there, he asked. It's going to be "less complicated, planes will be simpler to fly," responded the FAA's Sue Gardner. "We feel that the training required will be appropriate for the type of aircraft and the privileges the pilot will get."
Sport Pilot/Light Sport Aircraft is still a rule in flux. Says EAA chief Poberezny, "We're involved in proactive advocacy. We won't always agree [with the FAA] but we will work together. It's not perfect. There's a lot to do. But it won't work if there's an adversarial relationship." Blakey takes in more of Wittman Field on Friday, spending time in the warbirds area, meeting with flight instructors and aviation legend Burt Rutan, and shoveling a spade of dirt at the new Oshkosh air traffic control tower before heading home. But no matter what else happens, Blakey has made new friends and fans down on the farm.
As for TFRs... The FAA Web site now offers updated TFR information, easily accessible (cough) in real English (hack), said Blakey. And, in fairness, presentation and accessibility have greatly improved. On the issue of the future of the management of Flight Service Stations, Blakey told the crowd that the feds are looking to improve the service in a number of ways that includes the best service for the best value. Proposals on FSS are due in August; a decision will come from Washington in March of next year. "We are committed to first-rate service," says Blakey. She stressed that the service is solid and safe, but says it doesn't make sense to spend millions more on FSS technology until it becomes certain in which direction (public, private or a variation thereof) the service will go. On the flap over a proposed new Air Tour Rule, Blakey could add little, saying that the decision on the changes have not yet been made. "We are evaluating all the comments now and hope to get it right," she said.
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Diamond Aircraft arrived in style with the DA-42 Twinstar, powered by dual 135-hp Thielert Centurion turbodiesels. The FADEC-controlled, four-cylinder, double-overhead-cam engine promises amazing fuel specifics: 4.5 gph in cruise, making the Twinstar less thirsty than many singles. Diamond has received type approval in Europe and is working toward certification in the U.S. The Thielerts fit into slim nacelles on the Twinstar partly because the engine is laid over on its side, with water and oil radiators on top. In the Twinstar installation, the engine breathes through a single large scoop beneath the propeller. Thanks to its small displacement (1.7 liters), the Centurion engine must spin to 3800 rpm. A reduction drive brings prop speed down to an environmentally friendly 2300 rpm for takeoff. Dry weight is listed as 295 pounds.
...Slightly incestuous, but for the greater good. A version of Thielert's electronic engine controls appeared on a Superior O-360 engine (a modified Lycoming) intended for homebuilts. The fully electronic, throttle-by-wire system uses many off-the-shelf automotive components and is, in this application, boosted by a small turbocharger. The installation includes a single throttle lever and full engine-status instrumentation. Superior has no plans to certify the system.
OREGON AERO HAS A PAINLESS SOLUTION FOR EVERY AIRCRAFT AT OSHKOSH
The French-built SR305-230 is currently flying in several testbed aircraft, including a Cessna 182, Maule MX-9, and Piper Arrow. SMA expects to have STC approval for installation in the Cessna by fall. Including engine, prop, new cowling, engine mount and instruments, the update will sell for $77,000. SMA predicts traditional Skylane speeds on just 9 gallons per hour of Jet A. Current TBO is 2000 hours, but the company plans to expand that to 3000 hours with a predicted overhaul cost of $20,000 to $25,000. What's more, SMA is developing a higher-horsepower of the same engine--without changing the displacement or number of cylinders--to produce 310 horsepower at 2400 engine rpm. The 230-hp version tops out at 2200 rpm.
Now part of the BRP group (which we think stands for Bombardier Recreational Products). Bombardier's liquid-cooled, V300 engine debuted last year with fanfare at OSH ... then mysteriously missed Sun 'n Fun a few months back, and re-appeared at OSH this year on the nose of the massive Murphy Moose utility kitbuilt. (The company offered no news conferences, no press releases, no beautiful people in tight V300 T-shirts, no balloons ... you get the drift.) The company says it is working on certification for production aircraft. The double-overhead-cam, turbocharged engine is rated for 300 horsepower at 6000 engine rpm. A 3:1 gear reduction drive helps keep prop noise down. The engine is fully FADEC controlled.
THE CESSNA SKYHAWK GOES GLASS
Mistral's two-rotor turbocharged G-230-TS Wankel engine was on display in the Piper Arrow airframe it pulled to the show. The Swiss-built 230-hp, liquid-cooled is being developed in Daytona Beach, FL, with the assistance of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. The installation amassed more than 30 flights before arriving in OSH. Testing for FAA certification is underway. Although the engine itself, which displaces just 654cc from the twin rotors, is little bigger than a beer keg, it requires considerable ancillary equipment, including a radiator and plumbing for the turbocharger. Wankels traditionally use dual spark plugs, so it's no surprise to see the Mistral's redundant ignition systems. Using a planetary gear prop reduction unit, the engine can turn ... 6500 rpm ... for a prop speed of just 2300 rpm. Weighing 328 pounds dry, the G-230 is intended to burn 100LL or unleaded auto gas.
Alas, the hot-rodder's adage that more engine displacement is always better is borne out by Lycoming's two new engine models. Based on the IO-360 angle-valve engine, the IO-390-X produces 210 horsepower. A six-cylinder version tapes out to a whopping 580 cubic-inches version capable of 315 horsepower. Both engines are currently offered only for experimental applications, but don't be surprised to see the next-generation original-equipment engines grow into these displacement classes. And the experimental Lycomings may now come with the company's own version of FADEC. The product, EPiC, is on the shelf (for now), but that means it's now okay to offer it as a special cylinder kit for experimentals. Designed to accept 14mm, automotive-style spark plugs used with the Lightspeed electronic ignition, the new cylinders are otherwise identical to the parts they replace. This dovetails with the development of the O-390 series engines for experimentals.
HOW TO MAKE THE RIGHT WEATHER DECISIONS QUICKLY AND WITH CONFIDENCE!
The CEO of Eclipse says he wouldn't be surprised to see some heavy hitters in the industry join the fun. Vern Raburn, the affable and voluble head of Eclipse Aviation told AVweb he's heard that Brazil's Embraer, Europe's Airbus and even the grandaddy of them all, Boeing, are poking around with the idea of entering the market. "There's lots of talk," said Raburn. During his presentation Raburn noted that VLJ is now "a very mature segment" of the industry, adding the 500's development schedule is pretty much being met, with the goal to have a test airplane in the air with the new Pratt and Whitney Canada 610 F engines by the end of the year. Although there hasn't been a peep to confirm Raburn's speculation about the looming competition, it would be hard for the large companies to ignore the numbers. Eclipse alone has orders for 2,111 of its jets and, although its chief rivals in the market -- Adam Aircraft, Cessna and Diamond -- are far behind, there are billions of dollars in orders accumulated so far. It's also important to note where a lot of those planes are destined. More than two-thirds of Eclipse's orders are from future air taxi operators who will be competing directly against airlines by providing more convenient service at prices that are said to rival full fare business class seats. It seems likely the airlines, and the companies that now supply them with airplanes, must respond to the attack on their bread and butter.
While the VLJ market generated a lot of excitement at last year's AirVenture, the various companies are having search for "news" to talk about this year. Eclipse's news conference was called to unveil the four interior design schemes being offered on the 500. Adam Aircraft, which stole last year's show by flying the prototype A700 to Oshkosh only a few days after its first flight, brought the same airplane this year, although it now has an interior and some spiffy paint. It's also sporting a new price tag that pushes it above the $2 million threshold to $2.1 million. Adam spokesman John Hamilton said the addition of weather and traffic detection equipment as standard equipment (stuff he says most customers would order anyway) will help mitigate the $135,000 price hike, which takes effect after Oshkosh. Over at Cessna, spokeswoman Jessica Myers told AVweb development of the Mustang VLJ "is just plugging along. Everything is on schedule." Cessna is testing the PWC 615F (a slightly larger version of the engine that will power Eclipse) on a CJ1, the first time PWC has let a customer do the initial testing on a new design. Myers said the engine is performing well after 80 hours of testing and, with tooling and parts production for the airframe under way, everything looks set for a first flight in 2005. Development of Diamond's D-Jet continues on schedule according to an on-site rep. That means first flight sometime in 2005 and certification in 2006.
Perhaps the only significant news out of the VLJ market in recent weeks were the initial flights of Aerocomp's CompAir Jet. The eight-passenger, single engine kit jet first flew on July 21 and is, shall we say, a more grass-roots approach to the market. "I'd never flown a jet before," said test pilot Ron Lueck. "I'd never even started a jet before." Aw shucks aside, the company, which builds highly-regarded turboprop STOL aircraft kits, estimates there's a market for 2,500 kit jets over the next 10 years. It's overcome the biggest hurdle to building a jet (either at the factory or in the garage)by finding serviceable engines that cost only $60,000 for a factory rebuild. The AI-25 bypass engine is built by Nanchanko in Russia and is used in the L39 Albatross and Yak 40. It will produce up to 3,400 lbs. of thrust. The engine choice results in some interesting design features. Because it's a fairly large engine (24-inch outlet) the airframe must match proportionately. The result is the only stand-up cabin (70 inches) in this class of jets. There's a kind of workmanlike feel to the jet's sort of blocky shape but spokesman Stephen Young said they don't mind sacrificing a little speed for the safety and docile flight characteristics gained by the thick wing and other conservative design approaches. "We're trying to keep it as simple as possible," he said. Still, building a jet is not for those unwilling to make a commitment. Even with the builder assist program being planned, it will take eight months and 2,500 hours to put the aircraft together. Finished cost, including engine, will be between $600,000 and $800,000. The company is considering certifying the plane in Russia, but Young said it's unlikely to seek U.S. certification unless a reasonably priced certifiable engine becomes available.
|LIGHTSPEED SELLS RECORD NUMBER OF XL SERIES HEADSETS AT AIRVENTURE|
"The new cell/satellite phone feature was the kicker," said LightSPEED's marketing director. "Last year, that was the number one requested feature, so we added it to all our models even the passives. That, combined with our patented auto shut-off, makes this headset series extremely desirable in its price range." To order or learn more about the XL series headsets by LightSPEED, visit their AirVenture booth (#2023 in Hangar B) or their website, http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/litspeed/avflash.
Within a few weeks, all flight-school operators will be required to take an online tutorial developed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Security Specialist Steven Calabro told AVweb yesterday at Oshkosh. The tutorial, called "Flight School Security Awareness," is on display at the TSA's booth in the Federal Pavilion. "It will go online in about a month," Calabro said. "Flight-school operators can take the test online and print out a certificate to show they've met the requirement." Calabro said a similar program is in development for airport managers, and it may be extended to FBOs and corporate flight departments. At present, there is no plan to require a test from individual pilots, Calabro said. The tutorial is followed by an online multiple-choice test, which consists of "scenarios." For example, if someone is observed taking pictures of aircraft through the airport fence, or a student seems uncomfortable about taking a background check, what should you do? We know the right answer, but that would be cheating.
While it used to be the conventional wisdom that if you build it, they will come, the sport aviation industry isn't buying it ... they are already hard at work behind the scenes to develop a marketing plan to let the "great unwashed" know all about sport flying. "Preaching to the choir just won't get us where we need to go," said Dan Johnson, EAA's sport-pilot guru, who is spearheading the so-far-informal LSA Industry Promotional Board. The group held its second meeting yesterday, at Oshkosh. Johnson said he believes the FAA's estimate of 12,000 new pilots over 10 years is not enough. "That's only 100 new pilots a month," he said. "We think we can triple or quadruple the current market." The group yesterday brainstormed a variety of ideas, from creating a traveling exhibit for boat shows and motorsport expos, to showcasing sport aircraft at local shopping malls and county fairs, to following the Be-A-Pilot model that has brought tens of thousands of new pilots into the GA fold, to staging unusual stunts that would attract the public's attention. Johnson also said FAA Administrator Marion Blakey's estimate for the cost of becoming a Sport Pilot, which she mentioned at yesterday's Meet the Administrator session, seems too high. "I don't know how the FAA came up with the cost of $2,600," he said. "We think a lot of sport pilots, in powered parachutes for example, can get certified for much less than that." The group plans to meet again in Sebring, Fla., in October, during the first U.S. Sport Aviation Expo.
NON-OWNER (RENTER) PILOTS EXPOSED: PILOTS ARE HELD FINANCIALLY LIABLE
Garmin -- actually GarminAT -- began contacting dealers and owners of the sophisticated CNX80 GPS navigator on Thursday to fix a potential transformer failure that could blank the display screen as cause minor smoke in the cockpit. Garmin told AVweb on Thursday that there have been three known failures of the transformer and that the condition has been reproduced on the test bench. Although further failures are unlikely, Garmin says it will replace transformers and a small resistor wired into the same circuit. An unknown number of units are affected and owners should contact dealers or Garmin at www.garmin.com for more information before removing and returning the unit for a repair covered by warranty.
One of the neat things about the really big shows is the airplane stuff that's either new or just new to us. Here are a few things members of the AVweb staff noticed while poking about the show grounds and found interesting. We hope you do, too.
A new high intensity Xenon landing light that gives off six times more light than standard incandescent or halogen bulbs burns a lot cooler and is guaranteed for the rest of your natural life. OK, so the light costs $550.00, but according to Tom O'Neill at Wag-Aero, it's the "last light you'll ever need." The light is STC-ed for most airplanes. The light is # B-226-000 in the latest Wag-Aero Catalog. By the way, the company is also developing a new tailwheel towbar that they say will be a much improved method of towing your tailwheel aircraft
Pilot-friendly GPS manuals from ZD Publishing. (My gosh, you can read them, you can actually read them!) The type is larger and the pages are task-oriented in plain English. Who would have guessed that common sense and larger type could make such a difference? Not all GPS models are available, but those that are in manual form cost between $34.95 and $39.95.
Even if you've never cared about designing an airplane, it might be a fun project to tackle. Don't do it with graph paper and a slide rule because now there is an easier way. DaVinci Technologies is offering an AirplanePDQ computer package to help you build an airplane that could carry your name. Choose your type, high-wing, low-wing, trike or taildragger, and you're off! Price of this package is $99. (www.davinci.aero.)
ATTENTION, CESSNA PILOTS & OWNERS! THIS IS THE BEST $45 YOU CAN SPEND
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AVIDYNE'S NEW CMAX APPROACH CHARTS TAKE SITUATIONAL AWARENESS TO THE NEXT LEVEL
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