March 16, 2006
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
Aviation insiders are abuzz about what may become one of the most significant developments in the U.S. aircraft engine industry in decades. German-based Thielert AG has announced it has taken over Superior Air Parts, of Coppell, Texas. The $10 million deal gives Thielert, which makes two Jet A-powered diesel engines, an instant manufacturing, distribution and service foothold in North America, something needed to support a sales campaign for the fuel-efficient mills in the world's largest aviation market. "With its outstanding products and established brand name, Superior Air Parts is the ideal acquisition to help us enhance our market position," said CEO Frank Thielert in a news release. "Our acquisition of Superior Air Parts marks our final step along the road into the U.S.-American market for engines and engine components and the expansion of our presence there." In the March 14 news release, Thielert says the deal was reached the previous evening, which means it probably hadn't been to the lawyers yet. So, Superior spokeswoman Ana Fontes said she would decline comment until the deal was finalized. Although Superior is a small company (50 employees), it has a long reach. It's the biggest manufacturer of after-market aircraft engine parts and has, for some time, built Lycoming clone engines for the experimental market. Last year, it gained full certification for its version of the venerable Lycoming IO-360.
The announcement came as Diamond Aircraft, of London, Ont., is getting ready to ramp up production and sales of its DA42 TwinStar, which is powered by Thielert 135-hp diesels. "Obviously, Diamond is delighted that [Thielert] is taking this very significant step," Diamond CEO Peter Maurer told AVweb. "The timing coincides perfectly with our ramp-up of deliveries of the DA42 Twin Star to our U.S. customers." Diamond delivered its first diesel twin in the U.S. last summer and interest has been strong in the innovative aircraft, which sips 12.5 gph at 172 knots TAS. And while support for the TwinStar and other aircraft that have supplementary type certificates for the diesel is crucial for the success of this Jet A engine, there is open speculation (as Lycoming retires active crankshafts) that the step might be only the beginning. While Lycoming struggles with the operational and public-relation realities (read: nightmares) of a vexing problem with crankshafts in some of its most popular engines, there are some who say Lycoming is vulnerable to a well-choreographed assault on its market share. Thielert's aviation business is part of a much larger engine and parts enterprise that specializes in leading-edge technology development. The company recently went public and, with the fresh infusion of cash ($166 million), is "now heading to conquer the U.S. market," according to the Hamburg Business Development Association newsletter.
In an interview with AVweb, Thielert said the diesel engine training center will be established in Dallas and parts will be stocked there -- but there's no immediate intention to distribute diesel engines and parts through the existing Superior network. In the meantime, Diamond, which is basically the only current and sizeable North American customer for the engines, is creating its own service network among its 54 dealers, with support and parts from Thielert. Thielert also downplayed any speculation about going head to head with Lycoming and Continental. "This is not our core business. We like that Superior has the IO-360 and we support them by making parts for this engine, but we have not planned to make further models," he said. "They will absolutely continue with the certified engine and the experimental engines. Where we see the advantage is to support them on the manufacturing side." What is planned for Superior is a 30-percent annual increase in parts production, likely in concert with manufacturing facilities in Germany. Thielert said he intends to leave Superior alone in the distribution and service ends of the existing business and concentrate on boosting production. All the current staff will keep their jobs and more engineers and technical personnel will be added to bolster the manufacturing side. "We want to concentrate on the manufacturing side," Thielert said. "We are absolutely in line with decisions they have made in service and distribution."
If you believe that it's best to learn from the mistakes of others, Troy Martin has a deal for you. If the name rings a bell it's because the 37-year-old was at the center of one of the most infamous navigational miscues in general aviation history. He was in the left seat of a Cessna 150 when he and Hayden L. "Jim" Scheaffer came within a mile or so of the White House in May 2005. Martin, a student pilot at the time, said the incident showed him that there are big holes in pilot training, holes his company, Martin Aviation Group, hopes to fill with what he says is his new approach to teaching people to fly. "There's just not a lot of structure today with how people learn to fly," he told the Lancaster, Penn., Sunday News, adding that there should be more government oversight to ensure pilots stay sharp. Now, let's see. Despite pages of NOTAMs, almost nonstop publicity and industry chatter about the Washington Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), Martin and Scheaffer plotted a course that took them directly over downtown Washington. If cooler heads hadn't prevailed, the flight could have made an even greater impact, if you know what we mean. As it was, thousands of terrified workers, residents and tourists ran for their lives when the alert was sounded. AOPA spokesman Chris Dancy told the Sunday News he's not sure how different training or government oversight in addition to the hundreds of pages of regulations that already exist might have prevented the incident. "One of those regulations states in no uncertain terms that a pilot must be familiar with every aspect of a given flight," Dancy said. (Airspace included.)
Martin, a "business consultant" from Akron, Ohio, says the fundamental problem with flight training is that it's carried out independently by hundreds of "mom and pop" schools scattered at small airports all over the country. His answer is a chain of up to 250 franchised schools all teaching the same comprehensive curriculum. Martin claims that economies of scale will make his model more efficient and reduce instruction and insurance costs. In a nutshell, his plan is to give students 49 lessons over the course of a year as they simultaneously earn their private certificate and instrument rating. His plans came to light in Lancaster because he plans to build the company's $5 million "world headquarters" at the Lancaster Airport and he needs the approval of local authorities. By our deadline, Martin hadn't answered our e-mail request for an interview. The company Web site doesn't give any insight into just how the enterprise will be funded. So far, the company appears to have two principals, Martin and his brother Darin. Most of the pages on the Web site are still under construction and the only way to contact the company is via an e-mail response form.
For a company that came out of nowhere at last year's National Business Aviation Association convention, Spectrum Aeronautical LLC seems to be going places fast. Details are slowly starting to emerge about the company's all-composite Spectrum 33 prototype but the fundamental question of how the company can build a 400-knot, 45,000-foot-ceiling, eight-passenger airplane that weighs two and a half tons less than a CJ2 at maximum takeoff weight and gets off the ground in 800 feet (which the prototype does) will remain unanswered for now. "It's a proprietary process," says Mark Jones, the jet's project manager, of the aircraft's construction. In a strange combination of circumspectness and unbridled enthusiasm, Jones says he's aware of the implications of this kind of technological achievement, assuming it comes true. "I know it can accomplish things that no other aircraft has ever achieved," Jones said. Composite airplanes have a reputation of gaining weight, serious weight, in the journey from drawing board to production. Jones says he's confident the production aircraft will be close to its target empty weight of 3,700 lbs. although he won't say how much the prototype, built on production tooling, weighs. Jones said the (eight-passenger) fuselage weighs less than 400 lbs.
At the heart of Spectrum process is a composite material and fabrication process called fibeX. Rocky Mountain Composites (RMC), of Spanish Fork, Utah, has been developing the material for 15 years and all Jones will say is that it combines the attributes of hand lay-up with those of pre-impregnated materials and cancels most of their drawbacks. The result, according to Spectrum, has greater strength per pound than any material used for the main structure of any other airplane. "fibeX is a very remarkable material and it's taken an enormous amount of expertise to develop it," Jones said. Spectrum Aeronautical liked it so much they bought RMC (51 percent of it) and the development of the aircraft is very much a partnership between the two. fibeX involves a blending of material and process that's ideally suited to aircraft production, Jones said. The fuselage and wings are each molded as a single piece and, once production ramps up, that should make the building process very efficient. The rest of the airplane is mainly off-the-shelf technology that is common in aircraft of this type. Development of the aircraft is being financed from "several sources" that Jones declined to specify.
The FAA is looking for private-sector partners to develop new avionics for use with satellite-based navigation, particularly the Wide Area Augmentation System. In a bid to spur interest from companies in developing the new devices, the agency is invoking a rarely used procurement method called other transaction authority (OTA). Under an OTA, the private company works hand-in-glove with the agency in developing new products and, once they're ready for use, the company retains all the intellectual property rights and can take the devices to market. The agency issued a request for information (RFI) targeting avionics manufacturers earlier this month. "The intent of the RFI is to solicit information from the targeted market to determine interest in partnering with the government to achieve these objectives," FAA spokesman Ted Urda told Federal Computer Week. Only a few government agencies have the ability to use the direct partnership route to acquire new technology and it's a departure for the FAA, which has relied, with mixed success, on the traditional tendering process to date. One of the main advantages is that small, innovative companies that would be overshadowed by the huge companies that normally bid on such projects can get the opportunity to work directly with the agency, rather than as a subcontractor to one of the large firms.
An Ohio flight instructor says the NTSB is wrong to assume that just because he was the only one aboard a plane with the proper credentials that he was the pilot in command. Matthew Sullivan, 24, of Dublin, Ohio, was sitting in the right front seat of a Bonanza when it crashed a mile short of Rock Hill/York County Airport in South Carolina in July. "I was strictly a passenger," Sullivan told the Rock Hill Herald. There were two other pilots on board, including the owner of the plane, and both died in the crash. The owner, Dr. Bill Coulman, sat in the back and Eric Johnson, whom Sullivan understood to be an experienced ex-military pilot, was in the left seat. But it was an IFR flight and only Sullivan held the instrument rating. He's also an instructor. And the story could be much more complicated. In a letter to the NTSB, quoted in the Herald, Sullivan said he had no idea he was the only one with an instrument ticket and he wasn't acting as an instructor. "Dr. Coulman owned the plane, filed the flight plan and made the decision as to who would fly the aircraft," Sullivan wrote. "Mr. Johnson actually flew the plane knowing he did not have the certification or authority to do so. It would be an injustice to blame me (as an invited guest) for their errors." The crash had nothing to do with the weather. Fuel mismanagement led to a loss of power, according to the NTSB. The question of who was flying is, of course, important in determining liability and could have an impact on Sullivan's future flying career.
If Lockheed Martin's experience is typical, don't expect private companies to be lining up in droves to take over any future government aviation work through the so-called A-76 outsourcing process. More than a year after winning the $1.9 billion contract to run the flight service station system, company spokesman Joe Cipriano said it's only recently cleared the bureaucratic, legislative and labor-relations hurdles that have dogged implementation of its administration of the system. "It was somewhat disappointing to have all the protests filed after the award," Cipriano told Washington Technology. "But it should not be unexpected, since this was the largest A-76 ever awarded by the government. It was a milestone." Immediately after the award, the National Association of Air Traffic Specialists, which had also bid on the job in conjunction with Harris Corp., filed a protest. The protest didn't get anywhere bureaucratically but it did catch the ear of Congress, which briefly withheld $150 million in transition funding. It's not just the rocky reception that can greet private companies that is discouraging them from bidding. Only 9 percent of A-76 bids are awarded to private firms. The rest revert to the existing agency carrying out the work based on their bid to protect their jobs. The in-house bidder is called the Most Efficient Organization.
Building an airplane is often a years-long commitment but Marc Cook took less than three weeks to take a Glasair Sportsman from the crate to the sky. The editor in chief of our sister publication Kitplanes was the prototype builder for Glasair's new "Two Weeks To Taxi" program that will be introduced at Sun 'n Fun next month. First customers will go through starting next fall. Cook, who took three years to build his last plane, a Pulsar, said the Sportsman process was "an eye-opener." Working eight hours a day, five days a week, Cook started on the four-place plane on Jan. 9, finished it Jan. 27 and flew it for the first time Jan. 31. "It flies beautifully," he told AVweb. Perhaps more important, Cook says he knows it's perfectly straight, properly built and safe. Cook will chronicle the building process in a series of stories in Kitplanes that starts in the August issue. Cook said the key to the speedy build time and keeping the process within the 51-percent rule is putting the resources of a factory setting at the disposal of the builder. "This program is designed to maximize the builder's time," he said. That means all preparation work, such as organizing the tools and laying out the parts, is done for the builder by factory staff. The builder need only concern him- or herself with the actual assembly of the aircraft. "It's dramatically distilled time," he said. Two staff members, each very experienced in construction of this airplane, helped through the whole process. Cook said he learned in fine detail what makes his plane work and flies it with "a very high confidence level." FAA inspectors reviewed the process and said it meets the 51-percent rule.
Growing up poor on the streets of Miami, Barrington Irving had no reason to expect to set an aviation record. Later this year, however, he hopes to be the youngest pilot to fly solo around the world. ''A part of me is like there's no way I'm about to do this -- a kid with nothing, on an airplane worth $600,000,'' he told the Miami Herald. "Then a part of me feels like you waited long enough, you busted your butt. I've paid the price for this.'' For a couple of years Irving, who paid for his private certificate by washing airplanes and mowing lawns, has been hitting up anyone and everyone he could think of in aviation to fund his record bid, which he estimates will cost $1 million (including a brand-new Columbia 400 being supplied by Columbia at a "significant discount." The sponsorship drive is paying off and he's now about $350,000 shy of his goal. He expects to have the full amount in time for a September launch. He expects the trip to take about a month and the longest flight will be a seven-hour trip from Alaska to Japan. Another 22-year-old has circled the earth but that was in 1929 and his plane was shipped over the oceans.
Ever see a plane on standard floats at an airport and wonder how it got there? Or, even better, how it's going to leave? Well, it takes a combination of common sense and air show bravado but, as the video shows, getting a water-equipped Beaver back to work in the spring is a fact of life for bush pilots. Hill Aviation, of Prince George, British Columbia, shot the sequence of the Beaver heading back to its natural habitat. When lakes start to freeze over in the winter, many operators want their planes hangared for the duration of winter -- for maintenance and to keep them out of the weather. The alternative to disassembling the planes and trucking them to their winter home is a visually compelling but relatively common practice. (See NewsWire for the video.) Before the ice seals the lake or river in late fall, the plane is flown out and then landed, on the floats, on the grass median at the chosen airport. As dangerous as it sounds, it's most often accomplished without incident. Then, in spring, the plane is hoisted onto a dolly and pulled down the runway by a truck. At takeoff speed, the pilot lifts off the dolly and heads for the water. A Hill Aviation spokesman said the company has received calls from all over the world since the video hit the Internet.
The former host of a game show called Press Your Luck died Monday when the Bonanza he was flying on an Angel Flight mission in California went down in Santa Monica Bay. Peter Tomarken, 63, and his wife Kathleen were killed on their way to pick up a patient in San Diego who needed treatment at UCLA Medical Center...
A man and his wife died and their 12- and 13-year-old children were seriously injured when the Seneca they were in went down in heavy fog near a private airport near Old Bridge, N.J. Pilot Steve Ben Hanania, 57, and his wife, Shirri were killed...
A Phoenix company that builds ejection seats was heavily damaged after about 250 lbs. of ammonia-based explosives went off, blowing the roof off the Universal Propulsion building. There were no reported injuries, however...
The Chinese government is being urged to encourage the growth of general aviation. Liu Daxiang, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said GA is lagging behind the general economic growth of the country and could be put to many beneficial uses.
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The Savvy Aviator #29: Fix It Now!
If something isn't quite right with your aircraft, don't just live with it; fix it now. Deferred maintenance often winds up being more expensive, and sometimes it's downright dangerous.
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*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb asked a simple question bound to generate a flurry of responses: On the whole, are unions good or bad for the aviation industry?
The majority of AVweb readers (71% of those who responded) found unions good for the industry, pointing out that only unions can stand against the deep pockets and enormous resources of corporate giants.
But a significant 29% of you thought unions have done more harm than good for aviation. No wonder the entire industry is bankrupt, you said.
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
This week, AVweb wants to know how much maintenance you're willing to do yourself. Do you take advantage of provisions that allow pilots to peform certain maintenance tasks on their own aircraft?
Click here to answer
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Attention, CFIs! Renew Your Certificate at Home with ASA!
Flight Instructors, wouldn't it be nice to renew your flight instructor certificate from the comfort of home? ASA's FAA-approved Flight Instructor Refresher Clinic (FIRC) provides everything you need to renew your flight instructor certificate for two more years. Features over 11 hours of professional DVD presentations, supported with internet-based evaluation and course tracking. You don't need to be online for the entire duration of the course. For complete details, visit ASA's web site.
Pilots Know They Need to Protect & Improve Their Eyes
As a pilot, Brian Grote knows that visual acuity is an asset he can't afford to lose. After years of declining vision, he's finally found an all-natural supplement that may help protect and improve the health of his eyes for years to come. Click here to find out more about Claroxan, an all-natural supplement for your eyes.
Low-Cost Digital Replacement Transponders!
Narco Avionics proudly announces the availability of their all-new Value Series plug & play line of digital transponders. The Value Series is designed for the cost-conscious owner. Narco's Value Series plug & play transponders include the AT165/VS (a replacement for the AT50 through AT155), the AT165/KA/VS (a replacement for the KT76A/78A), and the AT165/K/VS (a replacement for the KT76/78). Coming Soon: Narco's AT165/C and AT165/C/VS, plug & play replacements for the ARC (Cessna) RT359A/RT459A. For more information, visit Narco Avionics online.
See What ATC Sees & Then See What They Do with the Information
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Pilots Comment After Reading IFR: A Structured Approach:
"The GPS chapter alone is worth getting the book. It's the best instrument flying book I have ever read," states Fred Scott. "If one book could help you make the leap from a bit player to a skilled conductor of instrument flight, this is probably it," reads a November 2003 AOPA Pilot review. With the help of this book, you will establish your personal standard of IFR operating practices, including incorporation of checklists, flows, callouts, briefings, and the "fly by the numbers" method of aircraft control. Order online.
Power Flow's Short Stack Approved for Pipers & Grummans
Power Flow Systems, manufacturers of FAA-certified tuned exhaust systems, have introduced a new "short stack" exhaust pipe for Piper PA-28 and Grumman AA5 series aircraft. The new STC'd short stack looks better while still providing up to 23 more available horsepower. For more information on this, and the right tuned exhaust system for your aircraft, go online.
Flying Flies the New Falcon 900DX
Flying magazine's March issue includes: A flight in Dassault's new Falcon 900DX with its revolutionary cockpit design; a datalink weather cockpit overview; a look at Beech's G36 Bonanza with Garmin's complete G1000 flight guidance system; plus all the columnists and writers you've come to know and respect. Save by ordering online.
Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions | Past POTW Winners
Wow! Last week, we mentioned that photo submissions had dropped a bit to less that 50 submissions for the first time in many months and you responded with a deluge of new photos! We haven't had time to run an official check, but this is the first time we can remember "POTW" submissions tripling from one week to the next! We're so excited about this influx of new pictures that we're going to run a couple more photos than usual. So settle into your most comfortable chair and break out the reading glasses.
This week's winning photo is from Carl B. Jordan of Port Charlotte, Florida. Carl's photo transports us back in time to 1927 for a 90-year-old lady's first flight. Good job, Carl you (and your dad's photo collection) have managed to top a very significant stack of entries this week. As a reward, we're sending you one of our official AVweb baseball caps. Watch your mailbox!
To win one of these hats for yourself, you'll have to submit your own aviation photos. Each week, we award a hat to our first-place winner and share it (and the top runners-up) with our readership right here on AVweb.
*** THIS WEEK'S WINNERS ***
"Days Gone By"
Carl B. Jordan of Port Charlotte, Florida went to his personal archives this week and sent us this image of his father getting ready to take a pipe-smoking 90-year-old lady on her first airplane ride. The passenger (who reminded Carl of Li'l Abner's pipe-smoking Mammy Yokum) takes a moment to pose on the wing of the plane an Alexander "Long Wing" Eaglerock.
As for Carl's father, he went on to serve a 33-year stint as a pilot for American Airlines. Having soloed in a Curtiss Jenny, he "literally went from Jennys to jets" a distinction we thought worth mentioning.
|AVweb continues to receive a large number of excellent images for our POTW contest. Here are some of the runners-up. Due to privacy issues, AVweb does not publish e-mail addresses of readers who submit photos.|
Dan Valentine of London, England (U.K.) is back again this week, with one of our favorite heavy iron photos from recent months.
Jakob Adolf of Herten, Germany takes us off the beaten path to the island republic of Madagascar, where the Ankìzy Fund has opened four new airstrips to help with their educational and humanitarian efforts.
"I Love Being a Grandfather"
It's all a question of scale in this photo from Jim Tompkins of Lawrenceville, Georgia. The lad in the photo is Jim's grandson, Addison Nash, and the event is the Joe Nall Giant Scale Model Fly-In.
"Over and Out"
Another semi-regular "POTW" contributor, Max Haynes of Maple Grove, Minnesota steps up to the plate in our time of need. This vertigo-inducing shot was taken by Max while flying in an AT-6 piloted by Tim Barzen. That's the B-25 Miss Mitchell soaring beneath/above Max's camera. You can see more of Max's pictures of her here.
Ryan Lunde of Laramie, Wyoming kicks off the "stranded rotorcraft" section of our feature this week. This U.S. Army Apache helicopter was stranded at Laramie Regional Airport by winter weather.
"Engine Failure at 21,000 Feet AMSL"
Squadron Leader Anand Lulay of the Air Force Academy at Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh (India) faces a worse predicament in this photo. Anand recounts "a hair-raising experience I had while on assignment in the Karakoram Mountains. The tail boom of the helicopter is hanging over a precipice, a vertical drop of more than 2,000 feet." The helipad itself sat at 21,000 feet above sea level!
Whew. Makes us nervous just looking at the photos!
"Going Back Home with My Dream"
We have to confess in an effort to trim this week's entries, we almost dropped this photo from Renee Gerez of Don Torcuato, Buenos Aires (Argentina). But then we read the comments Renee snapped this shot on her way home from an EAA Chapter 722 fly-in ... on her Sony W800 cell phone!
As the best cell phone photo we've received to date, this one made it back into the runners-up circle. Ain't technology grand?
"Bet You Can't Identify This Aircraft"
Douglas Stead of Port Coquitlam, British Columbia (Canada) challenges us to a game we haven't played in a while: Name That Aircraft. We don't like to make this a regular feature, but it's fun from time to time so, to close out this week's edition of "POTW," here are Doug's hints:
"Don't cheat and look up the registration now."
(Sorry, Doug we already did. But we won't spoil everyone else's fun!)
To enter next week's contest, click here.
A Reminder About Copyrights: Please take a moment to consider the source of your image before submitting to our "Picture of the Week" contest. If you did not take the photo yourself, ask yourself if you are indeed authorized to release publication rights to AVweb. If you're uncertain, consult the POTW Rules or send us an e-mail.
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