August 1, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
This issue of AVweb's AVflash is brought to you by ... Cessna Aircraft Single EngineTHE CESSNA SKYHAWK GOES GLASS
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Aw, it's probably nothing. But, then again, it must be something. Unarmed Civil Air Patrol (yes, CAP) sentries sprouted around the control tower at Wittman Regional Airport Sunday in response to some kind of increased security posture at EAA AirVenture. EAA media relations man, Dick Knapinski later told reporters a threat of some kind had specifically named Oshkosh. And so, the grassy compound that surrounds the tower and is a favorite vantage point for air show spectators Sunday was off limits. AVweb staff were also told of security dog patrols going through the hangars and exhibits and there were definitely more federal folks (TSA, Customs, FAA security) patrolling the grounds in ATVs and on foot (at least it sure looked that way to us). At any rate, an FAA special agent declined to discuss the situation as did a TSA representative but they left little doubt that something was up. The show itself was not visibly altered, however. Even the big, noisy pyrotechnics display went ahead.
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Alan Klapmeier is the first to admit it's probably a temporary thing (there are significant technicalities involved), but the CEO of Cirrus Design also doesn't mind enjoying the distinction of running the top selling GA aircraft company in the world. Cirrus knocked off Cessna for top spot in sales in the second quarter according to stats compiled by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. This week, Cirrus sold its 350th new plane of '04, pushing the company to an average of 40 planes produced per month. Those numbers are more than 200% better than the same period in 2003 and more than 100 aircraft over the company's year-to-date target. "We think the aviation world is looking pretty good," said Klapmeier, whose company sold 129 airplanes in the second quarter. Cessna sold a total of 114 airplanes (including bizjets and Caravans). However, Klapmeier acknowledges a technicality likely launched Cirrus into first place and he's not expecting to be there long. Cessna and Diamond Aircraft both saw sales of their higher-end piston-singles shrink in the second quarter because they were waiting for FAA certification of the dozens of Garmin G1000 glass cockpit versions that had been ordered. Finished airplanes sat on the ramp for weeks and months waiting for that all-important paperwork and the planes didn't start heading to customers until after the end of June. Klapmeier said it's doubtful he could keep up with Cessna for the rest of the year, anyway, because his production of 542 aircraft is already sold out for the year and Cessna is predicting it will build about 600 planes.
What's more, if storm clouds are coming, Cirrus plans to fly around them. At some point in the near future, date and time unsure, Cirrus plans to offer customers satellite broadcast datalink weather. The XMWX option will be a package that will include satellite weather information from XM and instant lightning detection from StormScope. Weather updates will include NEXRAD, METAR, AIRMET, SIGMET, TFR and possibly other capitalized acronyms...
Meanwhile, GAMA is calling the miserable slump the industry has experienced over the past two years, "over." Although piston sales dropped by about four percent overall (again, likely attributable to the G1000 certification issue) GAMA President Ed Bolen said all segments should end the year on the plus side. "The recovery is well under way and should continue through the balance of the year," he said. A key factor in the recovery will go before Congress in the fall. Bonus depreciation on capital assets purchased by companies ends at the end of the year but a bill to extend the time limit for aircraft (because of their long build time) for a year has been passed by the Senate and House. It needs passage by a joint conference committee and then the conference version must be passed by both to become law. Congress is recessed for August but GAMA will be lobbying for a quick turnaround on the bill. "Prompt passage of the tax bill is GAMA's top legislative priority," said a GAMA press release.
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Speaking of different, awesome and amazing (choose your adjective), AirVenture 2004 visitors have been willing spectators to an airshow routine that can only be described as NASCAR on steroids with (intentional) explosions. In August of 2002, airshow veterans Jimmy Franklin, Jim LeRoy, and Bobby Younkin came up with a concept called the "X-Team Masters of Disaster." We do not know whether large quantities of beer were involved in this brainstorming session, but the Masters of Disaster seems like something dreamed up by good friends who also happen to be great sticks with a tremendous history of air show performances. The routine opens with the warning that 90% of the act is unchoreographed, and is followed with a recorded message talking of the time when "machines roamed the earth unencumbered... opposed only by the annihilation known as the FAA." What comes next is pure, unadulterated, stand-up-and-scream mayhem ... even for the normally been-there, seen-that Oshkosh crowd.
Younkin in his big biplane Samson, LeRoy in his Pitts and Franklin in his jet-powered Waco all take off together and fill the sky with noise and smoke as pyrotechnics blow on the ground below. The unplanned acrobatics in the sky seem to bring the planes heart-stoppingly close to each other, and the sky soon goes IFR from the smoke. After several minutes, one or more of the Shockley jet trucks appear out of the wall of smoke, adding more noise, heat and flames. If Masters of Disaster comes to an airshow near you, pay whatever the admission charge is. If they appear at AirVenture '05, drop anything you are doing and come to see them. We promise you that the Masters of Disaster will rock your world, and may change the way you look at airshows in the future.
If you think there is nothing new under the sun in air racing, time to think again. Red Bull (the energy drink) is putting some new fizz in the fun. The company has announced the debut of the new Red Bull Air Race -- a race combining low and fast racing with aerobatic manuevers -- during the Reno Air Races in September (apparently hundreds of miles per hour sixty feet off the ground wasn't interesting enough). Four American pilots, with aerobatic ace Kirby Chambliss taking the lead, will square off against four European champions with the goal of being the fastest to make it through a tight, pylon-marked course ... while completing a set of pre-determined aerobatic maneuvers such as vertical rolls, knife-edge passes, half rolls and a spot touch-and-go landings.
Skipping maneuvers, dangerous flying, and hitting a pylon results in time lost. "It's a style of racing that's never been seen before in the U.S.," says Chambliss, who won a U.K. event this year by .03 second. "We're right up in your face." The race was developed in 2003 by Hungarian aerobatic champ Peter Besenyei, also a former race winner and a member of this years' European flying contingent. "Combining racing and aerobatics makes this an extremely dynamic race," says Red Bull's Steve Pegram. No doubt. The second round of the '04 series will be flown August 20 in Budapest, Hungary, over the Danube River. Red Bull will be webcasting the race live in the U.S. at 1:30 p.m. EST. The World Champion will be crowned at Reno. Be there -- either in person or via the web -- or be de-energized. www.redbullairrace.com
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Aircraft designer Burt Rutan and his lead astronaut, Mike Melvill, arrived on the field Thursday in a Beech Starship, and drew an overflow crowd that night to AirVenture's Theater in the Woods, where they showed for the first time the cockpit video from Melvill's SpaceShipOne flight in June. The two told the story of their spectacular supersonic flight above the atmosphere, showing clips from a Discovery Channel documentary that will be released later this year. The 18-minute video featured shots from cameras attached to the tails of both the spaceship and the White Knight carrier aircraft, and inside the cockpit with Melvill.
"Be quiet during this part," Rutan advised the audience at a forum the next day, "and you can hear the sound of the M&Ms bouncing against the interior of the fuselage." The audience got a glimpse of the incredible view from the top of the spaceship's flight, to a curving horizon 950 miles away, beneath a deep black sky. The scene of an FAA official presenting astronaut wings to Melvill brought the crowd to their feet for a rousing ovation.
Rutan said his plans are in place to win the $10 million Ansari X Prize in early October. He will launch on Septermber 29, and fly again five days later, allowing enough time to make three attempts if necessary within the required two-week time frame. The X Prize Foundation is selling tickets to the event for $20 each, at their Web site. "We expect 100,000 people at Mojave," X Prize director Peter Diamandis said at a Saturday press conference at Oshkosh. Diamandis said the launch will be broadcast live on the Internet, around the world. He also said that Rutan's team has left open the possibility of taking passengers on their second flight. There is a list of prospective passengers.
"There is a list," Rutan said at his Friday forum. "Paul Allen [the project's financial backer] and I are very close to the top of that list." The only modification the ship would need to be passenger-ready is to unbolt the video equipment from the back seat. Safety belts are already in place.
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Bruce Bohannon figures he missed setting an altitude record by about three feet on Saturday ... that's how much the tall Texan plans to add to the wingspan of his already highly modified RV-4 to take another crack at the absolute altitude record for piston aircraft, likely in October. Bohannon coaxed the Flyin' Tiger to 45,500 feet over EAA AirVenture, 4,500 feet of his goal of 50,000 feet and half a mile shy of the current record, held by an Air Force B-29. It was also more than 2,000 feet lower than Flyin' Tiger's own best performance and that had Bohannon perplexed. "I was more shocked than anyone," he said. "We had more power and a lighter airplane." In addition to adding some wing area, Bohannon plans to further shave the weight of the airplane but not until every bolt and fitting on the engine is checked to see if there was some kind of leak or adjustment that threw the big Lycoming out of whack.
Bohannon's technical crew spent most of Thursday and Friday replacing a broken turbocharger that had, in turn, damaged some exhaust parts. Famed test pilot Scott Crossfield stopped by Sunday to offer his advice (get the weight down) and to steer Bohannon away from spending too much time exploring some meteorological theories about the failed attempt. Bohannon had been told that the troposphere is thinner in the north than in the south and that might have starved his engine sooner. Just in case, the next attempt will be from Texas and if he makes it Bohannon says he'll take a year off from "the record-setting business." Instead, he wants to see if he can make the Flyin' Tiger go ballistic and be able to climb straight up. "There are a lot of reasons to think it's possible," he said.
Narco is high on a new digital transponder that they say is better and cheaper than a popular manual unit sold by a major competitor named after royalty. Narco's new AT165 Transponder was TSOed by the FAA just last week. It all happened so fast that the company had no time to issue a press release or do the manufacturer dog-and-pony at AirVenture. But word is getting around and the new transponder is featured prominently on the company's Web site. The unit features a one-touch code entry knob, multiple timers with alarm output, and altitude display with visual and audible altitude hold warning. The new unit will be sold by both NARCO and its dealers and will retail for $1450-$1475.
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"We have already taken more orders this year than we sold last year," Mooney Airplane Company (MAC) Managing Director Tom Gray told the media. For those who don't make it to OSH but are still interested in a Mooney, the new Garmin G1000 panel and a list of comfort and performance upgrades will be available even after the show has ended. Anyone who buys a plane during the show will reap the reward of up to two years of free fuel. There are currently five Mooney models available, ranging from fast to faster -- the Ovation, Bravo DX and GX and the Ovation 2 DX and GX. A stock Ovation DX flew 978 nautical miles from Kerrville to Oshkosh non-stop at an average speed of 191.5 knots. A new Bravo DX was faster. The DX flew from Olathe, Kan., to OSH at an average speed of 200 knots. The first delivery of G1000-equipped Mooneys will take place in September.
The Avidyne FlightMax Entegra Integrated Flight Deck, a system that comes chock full of workload-reducing items will now be available to you and your new Piper. The new glass cockpit is an option in the entire PA-28 line, which includes the Warrior, Archer and Arrow, making cockpits in the smaller birds as advanced as those in the much pricier Saratogas and Piper 6X and 6XT. The FlightMax Entegra system contains two 10.4-inch displays, including an EXP5000 primary flight display (air data and altitude/heading reference) and an EX5000 multi-function display (moving map, flight plan info, terrain contours and engine indication system). The EMax Engine Indicating System and Datalink Weather systems are available options. Plan to spend $32,000 in your new Piper for your Avidyne FlightMax, $4,985 for the engine indication center, and round it out with $3,880 for the Weather Data Link. www.newpiper.com
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Gippsland Aeronautics officials are seriously considering shifting some of the manufacturing on their Oz-built GA8 Airvan to the U.S. Right now the company is spending $20 -- $30 thousand dollars to ship the "virtually 100% American parts" to Australia where they are put together, then take the plane apart, containerize it and send it back to customers in the U.S. "Just doesn't make economic sense to do it that way," Gippsland CEO George Morgan told AVweb. Gippsland is pushing the plane as the intelligent (and FAA certified) alternative to a big Cessna, claiming double the useful load and space as the Cessna 182 and 206, but the same operational cost. Morgan hopes a lot will start happening now that the company has the official FAA certification for the GA8 AirVan firmly in hand. Though Morgan and company were presented with the official production certificate at AirVenture, they actually earned it in 2003. "All the years of design and development, and the end result was the fax machine spits out a long piece of paper [the FAA certification]." says Morgan. Oshkosh was the first place the two sides could meet face-to- face for the official paper pushoff. The big thing about certification, obviously, is that the GA8 can be sold and operated commercially in the States. Several have already been sold to the Civil Air Patrol and are being delivered now. Market-driven options such as a cargo pod and possibly an autopilot, a turbocharged version, floats and a winterization kit with tundra tires will be offered in the future. www.gippsaero.com
The scariest moment -- so far -- for round-the-world flyer Matevz Lenarcic was when he looked out from the cockpit of his little Pipistrel Sinus motorglider to see a pair of Russian MiGs. "The communications are not so good in Russia," he told AVweb at Oshkosh on Saturday, in a bit of polite understatement. Despite two years of preparation, Lenarcic has been dealing with lots of paperwork hassles and various communication glitches as he travels around the globe from his home country of Slovenia. "But the world is very beautiful," he said, "and flying in a little airplane is the way to see it." The little motorglider, built in Slovenia, has been modified for the trip, but in its standard form would qualify as a Light Sport Aircraft.
Lenarcic, a photographer and author, said the trip is his own personal project, and will take him about two and a half months. Everywhere he's gone, people have been very kind. "The world is not so terrible, not so ugly as some people might want to show us," he said. "It makes you wonder why all the wars are necessary." From Oshkosh, Lenarcic plans to head south toward Brazil, and then decide whether to head for home via the South Atlantic and Africa, or head back north and cross from Canada. For your own taste of Lenarcic's view of the beautiful world from his Pipistrel, check out his online photo galleries.
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