April 12, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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General aviation needs to be less intimidating, more accessible and stop shooting itself in the foot to help fuel the growth needed to return it to strength according to the CEO of a company that's defied convention on the way to becoming the second largest builder of single-engine piston aircraft (all in less than a decade). Cirrus CEO Alan Klapmeier again defied convention at Sun 'n Fun on Tuesday when, instead of using his news conference slot to promote new products or changes to the Cirrus line, he lectured the assembled reporters on the need to get GA's message "to the outside world" and chastened those within the industry for creating illogical barriers to those who might want to learn to fly. And while Klapmeier has never lacked the confidence to speak his mind, the undeniable success of the upstart start-up that's arguably pushed more change in the shape, form and function of GA aircraft in the last five years than had occurred in the previous 50, may have given him the clout to pontificate a little. And it's time, he says, for a little enlightened self interest in the way GA perceives, and most importantly, presents itself.
Klapmeier said the whole training system needs to be revamped and new pilots should be trained to fly the aircraft they intend to fly in the real world. "I think the SR22 should be a training aircraft," he said. "I think we should stop talking about getting your license and start talking about learning how to operate the airplane safely. Why not have [new pilots] start in the aircraft that [they're] going to fly?" He said an ab initio student on a Cirrus might need 50 hours of dual before soloing but he said that makes more sense than training on another type of aircraft and then switching to the Cirrus or other higher performance, more complex aircraft that they really want. Klapmeier said insurance is the biggest obstacle -- premiums for inexperienced pilots on the Cirrus are triple those of high-time owners. "Insurance does become the de facto regulator," he said. But he noted that's often an artificial barrier because the new owners generally have the money to cover the extra $10,000 for first-year premiums and essentially waste a year learning to fly aircraft they'll probably never get in again.
Klapmeier said he believes Cirrus aircraft are safe but he also acknowledged that the full airplane parachute might give pilots the confidence to fly in conditions that would otherwise keep them on the ground. However, he said, the same could be said for any number of other safety innovations like TAWS or cockpit weather and pilots are always weighing the risks of flight. "We will make tradeoffs," he said. Klapmeier said that because his company does stress safety as a selling point, he acknowledges that makes Cirrus crashes more likely to attract attention. Twice, he said, there have been spates of accidents over relatively short periods of time that have raised the question of the airplanes' safety. It's also fair to say that parachute deployments get much more attention than the safe emergency landings of other types of aircraft. While safety is an important issue, it's no less important to boat builders and snowmobile manufacturers, neither of which seem to come under the media spotlight when one of their products is in an accident. "Accidents are going to happen," he said. "But we shouldn't be focusing on safety to the point that we scare people away from the industry."
OREGON AERO'S PAINLESS SEATING SOLUTION AWAITS YOU AT SUN 'N FUN
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While petroleum pundits forecast $3.00 per gallon at the pumps, headlines claim demand and immediate gratification have outpaced production of hybrid autos (used models are selling for more than spots on a waiting list). In aviation, we have fuel-sipping and generally less-expensive to operate LSA aircraft spilling over the horizon -- but proving there is no cure for horsepower kit aircraft manufacturers have embraced the SUV. At Sun 'n Fun 2005, a collection of high-wing heavy-hauling fast-flying fixed-gear kit aircraft aim to offer everything even a Lycoming IO-720 (at 400 hp) has to offer. In one case, that translates to a 2300lb useful load and cruise of 206 mph for the price of a used 206 ... plus countless hours of build time. There are more modest offerings -- and both save cost and performance ... if not so much fuel. Barr Aircraft's BARR6 may sit in (or near) the piston power throne posting the previously listed numbers with a guppy-like fuselage slung below a 35-foot span that will lift the beast's 4500 lb gross weight in 900 feet. The aircraft claims a stall at 62 mph and gross-weight landing run of 750 feet. The build is fiberglass.
Four Winds Aircraft (craftsmanship required), the NewGlasair (craftsmanship required) company, and Canadian Foundair (the company has been around since 1996 and you can buy its FAR 23 certified product, finished) are all offering aircraft designed to get you from here to some remote paradise in high-winged piston powered glory. The Four Winds kit mates a very strong (plus nine, minus four) composite wing to a robust structural steel box hidden in a streamlined fuselage. Behind 310 hp, the four to six-seater will haul 1200 pounds for 1300 (statute) miles or shrink those miles down a bit for a 175 knot cruise. Foundair's 5-seat or utility BushHawkSP loads 1525 pounds (useful) behind a 300 hp IO-540 for an 880 nautical mile trip at or near 145 knots for $325,000. That follows the 750-foot ground roll. We expect to fly NewGlasair's Sportsman 2+2 this morning. Weather permitting, expect better insight, Friday. While Foundair offers the only finished product of this group, Four Winds adds individualized style to its mix -- or an interior designed by the same folks who did so for Cirrus. Expected to weigh in near $200,000 ... fancy avionics and time spent notwithstanding. Company representatives say that four almost-finished customer aircraft (the company has a comprehensive builder-assist program) are about to prove it ... while they churn out continuous improvement through a "C" model (on display was the very sleek "B" model).
Aviat Aircraft has improved its standard of short field heavy hauling utility -- the Aviat Husky will soon (June-ish) be available with a 200-hp engine behind a composite prop. It also has longer span (but still) semi-Fowler slotted flaps that give an extra 300-fpm down when circumstance or desires conspire and will roll better (50-percent better with half the effort) with shorter-span deeper-chord aerodynamically (they're hinged far behind their leading edge) and mass-balanced ailerons The weight gain associated with the coming higher horsepower option is (almost) balanced by swapping in an 82-inch composite propeller courtesy of MT. Continuous improvement in action from a company working to make one of their very good things that much better. For current owners, an STC is available to get them the new prop at $9,480 that option combined with a new aircraft tacks a mere $5,600 on to the purchase price (along with better climb performance and a slightly heavier baggage load).
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UNDERSTANDING DATALINK WEATHER AT SUN 'N FUN
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For those pilots who dread hot sweaty summer cockpits, Lancair is promising no more discomfort and no more fiddling around with heat and A/C controls. Soon a "set-and-forget" climate-control system will be available factory-installed on the Columbia 350 and 400 aircraft. Set and forget means you can select 72 degrees on the ground in California on a hot day and the cabin stays at 72 as you climb on up to chilly air at FL250. The system is "designed in," Lancair VP Tom Bowen said, for maximum effectiveness and minimum intrusion. "You've got [this system] in your Audi, BMW, Lexus or Mercedes-Benz," according to Lancair, "so why not your airplane?" Lancair execs also announced that they are adding 100 positions at their Bend, Ore., factory. Veterans returning from Iraq will be given preference and will be trained to build airplanes. They're also adding another 41,000 square feet of hangars and manufacturing space. "Orders for our Columbia 350 and 400 are very strong," said CEO Bing Lantis. "We're increasing our production rate as quickly as possible.... We're very pleased to be in a position to give back to the men and women who volunteered to serve our country."
Williams International will supply its certified FJ33-4A small jet engine to Excel Jet for its single-engine four-seat Sport-Jet now in development, the two companies announced here yesterday. Excel Jet President Bob Bornhofen, who also developed the Maverick TwinJet, said the Williams engine is the only one that's appropriately sized and FAA certified. Since he expects to move quickly to produce the Sport Jet, he wants an engine that's ready to go, he said. The Sport-Jet has been designed for single-pilot operation by pilots with no prior turbine experience, Bornhofen said. It will be FAA Part-23 certified and cost about $1 million. Sport-Jet was designed from the start to be insurable for the typical single-pilot general aviation operator, the company added.
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The FAA has agreed that pilots flying aircraft with a new electronic chart display don't have to carry paper charts as an alternative source of navigation information. However, even the folks promoting the new system say they'll likely continue to carry the charts. This tempest in a teapot arose with the certification of the Avidyne CMAX system in Cirrus aircraft. CMAX stores Jeppesen charts (the same you'd get with your paper subscription) in a database for cockpit display via the Entegra flat panel system that is standard on Cirruses. Cirrus CEO Alan Klapmeier told reporters at Sun 'n Fun on Tuesday that the FAA never required paper charts be carried. He said overly conservative staff at Avidyne and Cirrus thought it would be a good idea to be on the safe side and the notation was included in the Cirrus pilot operating handbook. When the book was approved by the FAA, it became a requirement, but it won't be for long. Klapmeier said the FAA has agreed the POH can be amended to delete that reference but it will take some time to complete the process and send out new pages to all the owners. Klapmeier said that once pilots have used the electronic charts they'll never go back to paper but he admits he's not ready to dispense with the tried and true and carries paper charts when he flies.
First there was enhanced vision, then synthetic vision and now there's Forward Vision's forward looking infrared (FLIR) system. As AVwebtold you last fall, Forward Vision, which is a subsidiary of Florida-based Aerocomp, introduced the system (for experimental aircraft only) at the 2004 AOPA Expo in Long Beach. Since then, the company has been looking at the long-term potential and is now working on a certified version. The experimental system, which includes a mounting pod, costs about $18,000 but certified models will likely cost about 40 percent more. FLIR gathers infrared light and presents it in a black and white image on a television or computer screen. Because most objects and terrain have different temperatures, they show up in contrast on the screen. The result is a remarkably clear picture of the world ahead through darkness, smoke, fog, rain and snow.
Piper Saratogas and fixed gear 6X series aircraft are now being offered with an emergency deicing system for use in unforecast icing conditions. The Piper Inadvertent Icing Protection System (PIIPS) is not certified for known icing but it could be an added measure of safety for pilots who get into unexpected icing problems. The TKS weeping wing system seeps a glycol solution over the leading edge of the wings, horizontal stabilizer and prop to remove small amounts of ice and prevent further buildup while the pilot retreats from the icing conditions. The system costs $28,000. Piper also announced that its flagship Meridian will join the rest of the fleet in offering the Avidyne Entegra glass panel as an option. The Meridian version will have three screens, one primary flight display each for the pilot and co-pilot and a multifunction display. The two systems will cross reference each other to ensure consistency and accuracy. Meanwhile, Piper CEO Chuck Suma told reporters that things are almost back to normal at the Vero Beach plant after cleanup from four hurricanes last fall. There are now 920 employees working and full production is expected in May or June.
The diesel engine has been making steady, if slow, inroads into the world of general aviation, with Diamond leading the way with its DA-42tdi and DA-42 Twin Star, parking the twin in the grounds at Sun 'n Fun. We see lots of interest in these airplanes from European buyers but Diamond is delaying their introduction in the U.S. Market demand has something to do with that but so does the lack of a proper service network for the Thielert diesels found in these models. While we're awaiting further developments, our sister publication, Aviation Consumer, would like to know what you think of aero diesels. Click this link to send the magazine your thoughts. It'll take about three minutes to answer the questions.
IN PRINT AND ONLINE, TRADE-A-PLANE GIVES YOU THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
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Symphony Aircraft joined the glass panel club on Tuesday and became the least expensive certified aircraft to offer the feature and the only one priced at less than $200,000. The two-place SA60, as it is now called, with the Glass IFR package, which includes the Avidyne Entegra primary and multi-function displays, the Avidyne Emax Engine Indication System plus Garmin GNS 430 and GNC 420 GPS systems will set you back just shy of $190,000. But that's not the most you can spend on the composite high-wing, thanks to agreements with two other high-profile aircraft system suppliers. An SA60 with all the bells and whistles will approach $250,000 but it will be a much more capable aircraft than the Cessna 152 it vaguely resembles and is aimed at replacing. "This is the way the next generation of pilots is going to learn how to fly," said CEO Paul Costanzo at a Sun 'n Fun press conference. For an extra $18,500, the factory, in Trois Rivieres, Quebec, will install a BRS whole plane parachute. Another $19,600 will put in an STEC System 55X Autopilot with GPS steering. Options on the glass panel system (electronic charts, weather, text messaging and tracking) can add more than $10,000. At the other end of the scale, a VFR SA60 can be had for as little as $139,900. Costanzo said establishing the two-place model as the leader in its field is the current focus but the future may hold a four-place design. "We have a great concept on paper," he said.
Glass panels have always been good at showing pilots what lay ahead but a new system created by Avidyne shows people on the ground what's going on with planes in the air. FlightCenter, available on Avidyne's Web site, allows anyone with the correct password to track any airplane equipped with the Multilink option on the Entegra or FlightMax 500 or 5000 series multifunction displays. The feature also permits two-way text messaging between the aircraft and the ground. "Flight schools just love it because now they know where all their planes are," said Avidyne spokesman Mark Sandeen. "And if there's a thunderstorm in the area they can call them all back in," he said. There's a one-time subscription fee of $99 and small user fees for accessing the system. The onboard equipment sends and receives signals via satellite through an operations center which people on the ground access through the Internet. Sandeen said the system adds another measure of safety and convenience. "FlightCenter offers fleet operators, aircraft owners, business associates and family members a convenient and affordable way to monitor an aircraft's position progress and to deliver information to the pilot during a flight."
IF YOUR CELL PHONE CAN SURF THE NET, IT CAN RECEIVE AVIATION WEATHER
Have a walk around the grounds -- in still images. Click into image gallery number one.
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AVEMCO CONTINUES TO OFFER COVERAGE FOR PILOTS AT ALL AGES!
Visit Avemco at Sun 'n Fun Booths #C-055-056
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DON'T BLINDLY RENEW YOUR AIRCRAFT'S INSURANCE WITHOUT SHOPPING!
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, in anticipation of Sun 'n Fun, AVweb asked how much money you typically spend at a fly-in. Excepting the unavoidable expenses (fuel, travel accommodations, and admission), AVweb readers are keeping their spending grounded during this year's shows.
33% of respondents said they spend the bare minimum (enough for two hot dogs and a bottle of sunscreen) but not much else.
Slightly fewer readers (22% of our respondents) said they spend no more than $200 max, while another 23% said they spend in the $200-500 range.
14% of AVweb readers spend around $1,000 at fly-ins, and the remaining 8% make big-ticket purchases at fly-ins. (5% fell into the "over $1,500" range, while 3% told us they've bought airplanes or comparably expensive equipment at fly-ins.)
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
Fight! This week, AVweb is pitting glass-panel against analog, and we'd like you to referee.
Which do you prefer?
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Visit AeroShell at Sun 'n Fun Booths #A-085-089
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