May 1, 2006
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
Happy Days Are Here Again
Ah, it's great to be in the aviation business ... at least for now. Virtually every economic indicator is soaring out of sight as companies revel in record numbers of orders and shipments. "All segments of the general aviation manufacturing industry are continuing to increase at strong levels," said Pete Bunce, president of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, in a news release announcing that billings hit $4 billion in the first quarter of 2006, up a staggering 40 percent over the $2.9 billion recorded in the same period last year which prompted dancing in the streets at that time. "Based on the encouraging market activity throughout the industry in this first quarter, and the exciting new technologies and products on the horizon, it is hard to not get excited about the future of general aviation," said Bunce. Far be it from us to pluck the bloom from this particular rose but it's worth mentioning that when times are a little tougher the industry folks hasten to mention that aviation is cyclical and recent history adds credence to that perspective. In fact it was a scant three years ago, practically to the day, that GAMA was pouring red ink all over its news releases. In the April 28, 2003, edition of AVweb's NewsWire, then-President Ed Bolen sang a much more somber tune. "These are very tough times," Bolen said at the time. "Lost in all the noise about the troubles of the airlines has been the fact that, since 9/11, many general aviation manufacturers have had to lay off workers and slow or even temporarily halt production lines." Even mighty Gulfstream was bleeding badly. Shipments of its mega-dollar bizjets were down by more than 40 percent.
Through the sine-wave track of change in the industry's fortunes in recent years, sales of piston singles have traditionally been the bright spot (sometimes more of a glimmer) and 2006 is no exception. The total number of piston single shipments in the first three months of the year was 597, up from 434 in 2005 for a whopping increase of 37.6 percent. Bizjets weren't far behind, percentage-wise. There were 189 shipments in January, February and March, up 36 percent over Q1 in 2005. Only turboprop shipments were stagnant. There were 59 compared to 57 in the same period last year. If you're adding this in your head, the total number of GA shipments in the first quarter of this year was 845, up from 630 in 2005. In 2003, there were just 444 aircraft shipments in Q1, down 33 percent from the 531 shipments in the first quarter of 2002. Bizjets took the biggest bath in that quarter, with sales dropping 42 percent from 169 to 98.
New Jet Development
Cirrus was once again at the head of the pack and, as with virtually all of its competitors, it's moving more high-priced models than economy versions of its aircraft. Cirrus shipped 124 of its top-of-the-line SR22 aircraft compared to just 35 of its (relatively speaking) more plain SR20. The company didn't ship any of its bottom-of-the-line SRV models. Cessna shipped more four-place aircraft in total than Cirrus (169) but shipments were divided into four models. The 172S was the most popular with 53 shipments while the 172 was a close second at 51. Turbo 182s out-shipped the normally aspirated version 37-28. Columbia shipped 46 of its speedy 400 models but none of the 350. And while Diamond's DA40 continues to lead its shipments (46), the twin-diesel DA42 showed strongly with 27 deliveries. On the bizjet side, Cessna shipped 66 aircraft while Gulfstream shipped 25 (worth $926 million) and Raytheon 22. Dassault shipped nine Falcon Jets.
The graphite-epoxy structured 10-seater design-prototype Spectrum 33 is in early flight-testing and aiming for a 415-knot cruise at 45,000 feet. It intends to provide range capabilities reaching 2,000 nautical miles. In a complicated process like certification, it may be helpful for all involved to know the basic ground rules and that was the impetus behind a workshop held by Spectrum Aeronautical recently. The Utah company hopes to certify its Spectrum 33 business jet, which it claims is lighter and more fuel-efficient than comparable aircraft in the next couple of years, and invited certification experts from the FAA to conduct the seminar, which focused on achieving Part 21 standards. In a news release, Jon Adams, the company's director of certification, said Spectrum views the FAA "as a partner" in the certification process. The workshop gave about 25 staff members from all facets of the company a chance to hear from the agency directly on what it likes to see. FAA staffer David McGhee said such sessions are a good idea. "This type of event is a great way to maintain open lines of communication between everyone working on certification projects," he said. While Spectrum was the focus of the gathering, other local companies, including parts manufacturers and some aircraft builders, also attended. Meanwhile, the company is also getting ready to forge relationships with the European Aviation Safety Agency and the cooperation with the FAA will help with that, said Spectrum's European CEO Dr. Stefano Sturlese. Europe is expected to be a major market for the jet.
NTSB Says Wreckage Suggests In-Flight Breakup
Adam Aircraft is no stranger to the certification process and it continues to make progress with its six-seat, plus lavatory, A700. Test pilots took an A700 to 41,000 feet and accelerated briefly to 340 knots true last week. 41,000 is the jet's planned maximum operating altitude. The company says the plane was still climbing at 1,000 fpm through 39,000 feet. According to the company news release, the plane performed flawlessly. Other tests toward certification, including inflation of the fuselage to 26.7 psi and other static component tests, have been accelerated. They're slated for completion June 30. Meanwhile, rumor has it that the latest homebuilt jet may fly to Oshkosh. Unconfirmed reports suggest the Epic Jet, which was unveiled as a mockup at last year's EAA AirVenture, may be part of the flight activity. The company has a track record of getting things done. Its turboprop aircraft went from clean-sheet design to flying prototype in a year and the jet shares many of the turboprop's parts. Customers will build their seven-seat jet at a build center in Bend, Ore. There's at least one customer-built Epic LT turboprop flying now.
An NTSB early report says most of the lifting surfaces on Scott Crossfield's Cessna 210A were found about a mile away from the wreckage of the rest of the plane, suggesting the Category 6 thunderstorm the veteran test pilot had the misfortune of encountering on April 19 was just too much for the aircraft. Moments after Crossfield asked air traffic control for a diversion around weather, the plane disappeared from radar screens. The body of the 84-year-old aviation icon, who was the first to fly at Mach 2, was found with the main wreckage about four miles from Ludville, Ga. The slight damage to nearby trees suggests the main wreckage fell almost vertically and created a crater four feet deep. The main wreckage consisted of cockpit, engine, propeller, left and right main wing spars, nose and main landing gear, left and right flap, and portions of the empennage, according to the NTSB. Everything else was either found in the other debris field or hasn't been recovered. The NTSB didn't find any evidence of mechanical, instrument or control failure. Crossfield was on a flight from Prattville, Ala., to Manassas, Va., when he encountered the storm and asked for the diversion. A family-only funeral service was scheduled for today but there's no word on any public memorials being planned.
AOPA President Phil Boyer says the FAA's justification for imposing user fees is just hot air. Boyer told the American Association of Airport Executives meeting in San Diego last week that, far from going broke, the Airport and Airways Trust Fund is awash in cash and will have billions in the bank in coming years. AOPA says it crunched the numbers using White House estimates and, using its most conservative forecast, predicts the trust fund will have a $4.3 billion surplus by 2011. By its most liberal interpretation, the surplus could reach $9.3 billion. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey says the trust fund, which is derived from a percentage tax on airline tickets, is a declining source of revenue and she wants a revenue stream that's based on the cost of services provided (definition: user fees). But AOPA maintains that, contrary to FAA statements, airfares are on the increase and more people are traveling (hence the trust fund must be getting more money, too). Boyer says the real issue is control and the airlines want it. As the largest contributors to a user-fee system, the airlines would carry most of the clout in decisions regarding function of the air traffic control system. Congress would no longer have oversight because taxes would not be used to fund the system. Boyer said the airlines have proven they can't run their own businesses and they shouldn't be allowed to control the airspace. He also noted that ATC costs in the U.S. are the lowest in the world and the U.S. system is the safest.
The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) and the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) say legislation aimed at solving a mythical problem has caused some real concerns for fuel dealers and, believe it or not, has resulted in taxes on jet fuel being pumped into a trust fund for highway improvements. New legislation (S.2666, which has not yet been posted on the Library of Congress Web site) has been proposed by Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) that will put a stop to the bizarre arrangement until 2007 when all aviation fuel taxes expire and must be reauthorized, anyway. Last October, new rules went into effect that were designed to discourage the use of jet fuel, with its slightly lower taxes, in car and truck engines. The fuel tax on airplane fuel is 2.5 cents per gallon less than it is for truck-stop diesel. To prevent the diversion of the slightly cheaper jet fuel to cars and trucks, the government decided to make aviation fuelers charge the full tax rate and then apply for reimbursement of the difference. Not only that, the taxes on the jet fuel are deposited to the highway trust fund until the aircraft fuelers applied for their rebates. It gets worse. According to NATA, few, if any aircraft fuelers have been qualified to get the tax rebate so most have given up trying. That means they're passing the higher taxes to their customers and all that tax money is piling up for highway projects. NATA President Jim Coyne urged quick passage of Burns' bill to keep the mess from getting any worse. "The longer Congress waits, the more aviation businesses suffer while more money drains from the Airport and Airway Trust Fund," Coyne said.
National Air Traffic Controllers Association President John Carr has offered to meet personally with FAA Administrator Marion Blakey to try to achieve a negotiated settlement in the current contract impasse. Last week, Blakey rejected the union's call for a return to the bargaining table, saying the two sides are too far apart on money issues. In a letter to Blakey on Friday, Carr says he'll deliver on earlier promises to get the talks moving on key issues. "I am offering to meet you unconditionally at the bargaining table, and at that meeting I will direct my negotiating team to bring you real and significant progress," he wrote. The text of Carr's letter was released shortly after a NATCA news release claimed majority support in the House for bill that would virtually disarm the FAA's impasse strategy. Under current legislation, after the FAA declares an impasse, as it did on April 5, Congress has 60 days to rule on a settlement. If it fails to come up with a ruling (or simply ignores it) then the last best offer made by the agency is automatically imposed. There are now bills before the House and Senate that would radically change the impasse process and require binding arbitration as a last resort. NATCA says 229 house members, including 59 Republicans, now support what it calls the "Fair FAA" Act. The union is lobbying feverishly to get the bill passed by both houses before the June 5 impasse deadline but Carr insists a negotiated settlement is his first choice.
The "only" airworthy example of a World War II workhorse is being sold by a broker that specializes in warbirds. More than 2,800 Douglas A-20G Havocs were built but the only one in flying condition has been part of a private collection since 1991. The collection is being split up and Courtesy Aircraft is in charge of the sale. This aircraft was owned at one time by Paul Mantz, a movie and racing pilot. According to Courtesy Aircraft's press release, Howard Hughes is believed to have flown the plane. The company is also selling a Grumman 8F-2 Bearcat and a Grumman FM-2 Wildcat from the same collection. The Havoc is a twin-engine light bomber and attack aircraft that saw service in every major theatre during the World War II. It was the first American aircraft to conduct a daylight bombing raid in Europe. It could carry 4,000 pounds of bombs and had eight .50-caliber machine guns.
The Irish Aviation Authority is investigating complaints that several airplanes owned by budget carrier Ryanair landed at Stansted Airport near London when visibility was below minimums. According to the Scotsman newspaper, dozens of flights diverted from Stansted when thick fog settled on the airport and the runway lights went out. However several flights (the number isn't specified) "landed anyway to avoid costly delays," the newspaper reported. The newspaper also quotes an anonymous "insider" as saying the complaint was lodged by a rival carrier, also unnamed. Ryanair denied any safety breaches. An unnamed spokesman for the airport is quoted as saying that visibility was changing constantly and there's no way of knowing whether the airport was below minimums when the landings occurred. The National Air Traffic Service, which handles air traffic control, says it won't get involved. A spokesman said the final decision on whether to land always rests with pilot.
News in Brief
A Pennsylvania man is planning an epic transcontinental journey by powered parachute that includes a carrier takeoff and landing. Baron Tayler plans to take off from the deck of the USS Midway in San Diego on May 10 for a two-month trip to Charleston Harbor, S.C., where he'll land on the deck of the USS Yorktown. He'll cover 3,600 miles and stop at least 53 times on the trip. Tayler was the first to get a sport pilot certificate for powered parachutes and part of the reason for the trip is to educate the public on some of their unique capabilities. Tayler is founder of the PowerChute Education Foundation, which promotes the use of powered chutes for search-and-rescue operations. Their low-and-slow capabilities allow searchers to have a long, detailed look at the terrain below and their minimal landing-field requirements can often allow them to get into spots while other aircraft have to circle overhead. Operating costs are a fraction of many other aircraft. Tayler will be shadowed by a film crew and other powered chutists are invited to join him on legs of the journey.
Teledyne Continental Motors is giving away a free engine to someone who registers for its Aviator Services plan. Registrants qualify to win either a Continental or Lycoming certified IO-360 engine or one of four experimental engine models...
Eight of 16 surviving members of the Doolittle Raiders gathered at Wright Patterson Air Force Base last week for the 64th anniversary reunion of the raid. A total of 80 volunteers, under Jimmy Doolittle's command, launched a surprise attack on Japan in 1942 in 16 B-25s launched from the carrier Hornet...
A Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) patrolling the Mexican border crashed April 25 while conducting surveillance. The ground station lost contact with the $6.8 million drone just before 3 a.m. as it flew about 12,000 feet above the border between Arizona and Mexico...
Seawind says its amphib has cleared a major certification hurdle with the successful completion of crash tests on the seats. The seats have to absorb a 26g forward load and 19g vertical load at a 60-degree crash angle...
OurPLANE, a New York fractional ownership company, says it will be among the first to get Eclipse 500s. First delivery is expected in October and fractions start at $329,900, fixed costs are $3,500 and operating costs are $469 an hour.
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Online Now: Take today's news with you via AVweb's downloadable podcasts. Find exclusive interviews featuring Scott Crossfield, Cirrus Design's Alan Klapmeier, FAA administrator Marion Blakey, and more. AVweb's Podcast index, is available online -- pick and choose your particular interets, or subscribe free to AVweb's podcasts and receive them automatically for listening on your computer, iPod, or while traveling with any MP3 player. You'll hear things you won't find anywhere else.
Probable Cause #5: Improper Procedure
A pilot salvaging an approach ended up in a stall and spin when turning from base to final. Did good IFR conditions cause him to drop his guard? This week's Probable Cause column presents some ideas. This report first appeared in AVweb's sister publication, IFR Refresher.
What's New For May 2006
This month AVweb's survey of the latest products and services for pilots, mechanics and aircraft owners brings you logbook software, an airspace & weather review DVD, virtual radar and much more.
Reader mail this week about Nav Canada user fees and the Alaska midair collision, plus many about Chuck Yeager and Scott Crossfield.
ASO -- A Better Way to Sell Your Aircraft Share
HAVE YOU SIGNED UP yet for AVwebs NO-COST twice monthly Business AVflash? Reporting on breaking news, Business AVflash also focuses on the companies, the products and the industry leaders that make headlines in the Business of Aviation. Business AVflash is a must read. Watch for a Business AVflash regular feature, TSA WATCH: GA IN THE "SPOTLIGHT". Sign up today at http://www.avweb.com/profile/
Nominate an FBO | Rules | Tips | Questions | Winning FBOs
AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to SILVER WINGS at KLEW, Auburn, Maine.
SCOTT D HIGGINS wrote in to say, "SILVER WINGS IS BRAND NEW AND REALLY STRIVING TO BUILD A CUSTOMER BASE. OWNER AND PILOT DOUG POHL HAS PULLED OUT ALL THE STOPS TO MAKE THIS THE FINEST IN THE STATE. NOT ONLY THE NICEST FACILITIES BUT THE FUEL PRICES ARE THE LOWEST IN MAINE."
Keep those nominations coming.
Click here to nominate your favorite FBO and here for complete contest rules
AVweb is actively seeking out the best FBO's in the country and another one, submitted by you, will be spotlighted here next Monday!
Aeromedix Introduces Safe Escape Smoke Hoods That Can Save Your Life
The Safe Escape smoke hood will protect you from smoke inhalation and many other toxic gases. This technology is licensed by NASA and guaranteed to give you 30 minutes of breathable air. The hood/mask is flame-resistant aluminum foil cloth to withstand 1400 °F. Portable in a sealed, soft plastic carry bag to take anywhere, the unit has a five-year warranty. Inexpensively priced at $69.95 with volume discounts available. This is a replacement for the Evac U8 hoods that were recalled. Call Aeromedix at (888) 362-7123, or order online.
Order a CO Guardian CO Detector in the Hope You'll Never Have to Use It!
Models from portable to panel-mount units. Order online.
See What ATC Sees & Then See What They Do with the Information
The AVweb Edition of Flight Explorer is the PC-based graphical aircraft situation display that gives you a real-time picture of all IFR aircraft in-flight over the U.S. and Canada. Whether you're tracking a friend or want to learn more about the system in action, Flight Explorer has the information you want for just $9.95 a month. Subscribe online
Husband in Trouble; Wakes Wife While Reading & Laughing!
Pilots and students can't put down Rod Machado's Private Pilot Handbook. This is a far cry from those of us who fell asleep studying older books. Students convert their instructors to this handbook after showing their understanding of systems and aerodynamics. Learning, refreshing, and reviewing don't have to be difficult. Let Rod Machado's Private Pilot Handbook show how much fun learning can be. Order online.
IFR Refresher's May Issue Highlights:
"Birth of a T-Storm" -- technology has done much in the battle to conquer weather, but with thunderstorms, pilots are still at Mother Nature's mercy; "Performance Procedures" -- with Required Navigation Performance (RNP) standards, GPS approaches are taken to the next level; "RNAV (RNP) to Palm Springs" -- weaving your way through requires special training and equipment; "Beyond the Rules" -- a Part 135 Caravan pilot tries the approach, breaking more than just regulations; "Filing the Proper Plan" -- there's a right way and a wrong way to file IFR; and "Finding the Runway Quiz: Visibility." Don't miss an issue; order your IFR Refresher subscription online.
Names Behind The News
Oh, the years gone by...
Many years ago when I was a student pilot flying a C-120, (if you can remember when flight schools used C-120s, you may be older than I am), I groundlooped in front of the tower at BFI. Here's the exchange, as I remember it:
Tower: Cessna triple 7, are you experiencing difficulties?
...not now that I've got the sonofa**** stopped.
Tower: [Through laughter] Triple seven, taxi to the ramp.
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