May 18, 2006
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
GA's Next Great Engine Manufacturer?
The Next Space Age
Monday, Thielert Aircraft Engines announced at the Berlin Air Show intent to produce a new liquid-cooled turbocharged diesel-burning, FADEC-controlled single-lever-power 230 bhp engine, the Centurion 3.2. The engine is targeted for air-time in late 2007. Frank Thielert, CEO and founder of Thielert Aircraft Engines GmbH, said his goal was to offer a complete piston engine product line with, "New engines and engine integrations [that] will enable us in [the] future to cover the entire spectrum of piston aircraft engine technology." Those products -- the 135 bhp Centurion 1.7 (powering many Diamond DA42 Twin Star aircraft and burning 5.6 gph in economy cruise), the coming 230 bhp Centurion 3.2, and a 350 bhp Centurion 4.0 -- are supported by 111 service centers currently spanning 97 countries. The addition of more service centers is a company priority, as is Thielert's intent to make its 350 hp 4.0 available for multiple Cessnas. The existing Centurion 4.0 350 bhp jet fuel powered piston engine will be "integrated ... into further popular aircraft..." said Thielert. Specifically, the company seeks to acquire STC's for service in Cessna 206, 340, 414 and 421-series aircraft. See the full text of the company's release, here.
Although a passenger-carrying commercial spaceship has yet to fly, four serious proposals to develop spaceports for the tourist trade in New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas are under review by the FAA, The Associated Press reported on Sunday. New Mexico already has a deal with Virgin Galactic to build a spaceport, expected to open in 2009. Texas has submitted two proposals -- Blue Origin, a space-tourism company, plans to develop a 165,000-acre site near El Paso and begin flight tests around 2012. A second Texas port would be on the Gulf Coast. The Oklahoma proposal, also pending FAA approval, would be sited at a former Air Force base that already has a 13,500-foot runway. New Mexico is expected to choose an architectural design from six entries on June 2 for its $225 million spaceport on 27 square miles of desert. Spaceport sites in Wisconsin, Alabama and Washington also have been proposed. Virgin Galactic and Rocketplane have said they will start test flights next year.
States have plenty of economic incentive to push for the ports, according to the AP. Most are sited in desolate regions with little competition for development and a desperate need for jobs. A study commissioned by New Mexico predicted that its proposed port could bring in $750 million and create up to 5,800 jobs by 2020. Besides the launch infrastructure, the ports will require training facilities, luxury hotels and other services for passengers. The spaceports also can be designed to attract tourists beyond the few well-heeled flyers, generating even more jobs and revenue. In an effort to compete, the Mojave, Calif., airport recently asked the state for an $11 million loan to help build a hangar complex and terminal for space tourism -- a proposal that met with some resistance. "We have to be competitive with other states to maintain this unique business opportunity in California," state Sen. George Runner, a spaceport proponent, told the Daily News. "For now, we have an advantage over these other locations -- we have existing infrastructure in place ... But if we want to continue to be the leader in this new industry, California must invest in the airport." Opponents labeled the loan request "millions for a billionaire," saying Virgin Galactic CEO Richard Branson, who plans to use the Mojave site until the New Mexico spaceport is ready, doesn't need financial help from the state.
Although most of the proposed spaceports are in remote areas, AOPA has expressed concerns about airspace being closed down for frequent launches, especially at the Oklahoma site, which is currently used as a municipal airport. "For three hours during each launch ... 16 Victor airways could be closed. When combined with the two nearby military operations areas, a launch could severely limit the options for GA aircraft transiting across the entire state of Oklahoma," said Heidi Williams, AOPA director of air traffic services. The New Mexico site is also a concern, AOPA said. That site is adjacent to the White Sands Missile Range. AOPA said the FAA should use the existing large restricted areas over the missile range to protect commercial launches and not take any more airspace away from general aviation use. AOPA told the FAA that a "complete assessment of the impacts on all airspace routes, both VFR and IFR routes, must be incorporated in the final environmental assessment before full consideration is given to the establishment of the commercial spaceport at Clinton-Sherman Airport [in Oklahoma]."
Excel-Jet, of Colorado Springs, Colo., flew its single-engine Sport-Jet for the first time last weekend, logging almost four hours in the air. "The Sport-Jet is proving to be very stable, quiet, and with excellent control harmony and feel," according to test pilot Ron McElroy. Takeoff rolls were less than 1,800 feet from the 6,000-foot-elevation airfield, designer Bob Bornhofen said. "Rotations are smooth at 65 knots, and Sport-Jet literally flies off the runway around 70 knots. Climb rates are almost 2,000 fpm," Bornhofen said. The tests were flown at less than full power, "so the real performance is still to come," he added. The company took delivery on the FJ-33 Williams engine less than two weeks before the first flight. "We expect to move through flight testing and into certification with the same speed as initial development," Bornhofen said, adding that working with a small team will help to keep the cost of certification dramatically less than for other VLJs. The Sport-Jet is a four-seat, all-glass aircraft aimed at the general aviation owner-pilot moving up from piston flying. It will cruise at 340 knots at 25,000 feet. Market price is expected to be about $1 million.
Every so often we're reminded that there's nothing new under the sun -- or in the sky. A four-seat jet was developed by the French back in the 1950s. Refurbished models of the MS760x Paris Jet, complete with Chelton glass cockpits, now are being offered on the fractional market in Canada. JetSet Fractions, based in Burlington, Ontario, has 20 of them on order, and is selling shares at $60,000 for 25 hours per year -- monthly fees and hourly operating costs, of course, are extra. The twin-engine jets will cruise at 400 mph at 25,000 feet, JetSet says. A few of these jets have been trickling into the U.S. market in recent years, sometimes marketed as time-builders for VLJ owners who can't wait to take delivery on their new jets. The jets are imported to Calhoun, Ga. , where they are refurbished and upgraded. The result is a fully certified aircraft.
The Berlin Air Show opened Tuesday at Schoenefeld airfield, featuring what has become Europe's biggest exhibition of GA aircraft. General Aviation Avenue continues to expand its space for corporate, personal, and sport planes, and this year over 1,000 exhibitors from 40-plus countries will show 300 airplanes. The show also attracts commercial and military exhibitors, as well as rotorcraft. Just prior to the air show, an international conference was held on the situation of GA in Europe. Topics included navigation and air traffic control, new technologies, and the economic impact of the GA sector. A record crowd of 230,000 visitors is expected, with the huge Airbus 380 as the star attraction. The show ends on Sunday.
People who live in Alaska are accustomed to paying more for lots of things, but the price of avgas has been rising so steeply that it's having an impact on operations. Some fuel prices at Anchorage have almost doubled already this year, the Kenai Peninsula Clarion reported this week. "This is going to change the landscape of who is flying and who is not," Tim LaPorte, of Iliamna Air Service, told the newspaper. Prices of 100LL vary widely across the state, with some remote areas actually selling at some of the lowest prices. In isolated Homer, for example, fuel arrives on a barge just once a year, so 100LL was selling there recently at $3.93 while Anchorage was charging $4.49. Other airports, where fuel arrives weekly, have seen price hikes up to 20 cents per week. "When avgas gets to $6 a gallon, you aren't going to see many general aviation pilots flying their planes just for fun," Will Johnson, a flight school operator at Bethel, told the Clarion.
Twenty-nine teams competed last week in the National Collegiate Flying Association's annual Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference, hosted at Ohio State University. More than 400 students and 100 single-engine airplanes converged in Columbus to test their skills with short-field and power-off landings, message drops, E6B calculations and more. First-place honors went to the University of North Dakota. Embry-Riddle Prescott placed second and Western Michigan University finished third. The competition consists of 11 events -- four flying and seven on the ground -- that test a variety of piloting skills, with a special emphasis on safety. To assess their navigation skills, the pilots must plot a course with three to five legs, 70 to 120 nm long. Each contestant submits a flight plan before takeoff. They are then evaluated by comparing the actual flight data with their estimated data. They also must take written tests, identify aircraft from around the world, catch rigged problems during a preflight inspection and more.
The list of famous musicians killed in airplanes is a familiar one -- from Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper to John Denver -- but it seems politicians also have an unlucky record with GA flying. "It's push, push, push. We think we're so important and this admiring throng is waiting for us, we fly through thunderstorms and fog and whatever, thinking we can get there," former Sen. Lauch Faircloth, of North Carolina, a crash survivor, told The Twin Cities Pioneer Press. The list of politicians who have survived small-airplane crashes includes Senators Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and Ted Stevens of Alaska. Among those who died are Sen. John Heinz of Pennsylvania, in 1991, Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan in 2000, and Sen. Paul Wellstone, of Minnesota, in 2002. "Statewide races are very frantic, very intense," said Connie Schultz, who asked her husband, an Ohio politician, to stay out of small airplanes on the campaign trail. "They're so rushed, and the staff takes over and nobody looks up at the sky and says this is not a good idea." This year is likely to be a busy one for politicians and GA, according to The Pioneer Press -- 33 Senate seats, 36 governorships and all 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for election.
The clock is ticking for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), which is facing a June 5 deadline for Congress to take action, or else the FAA's contract will be unilaterally imposed on air traffic controllers. The union already has taken its case to the public via TV ads, but last week the union started a face-to-face campaign. At airports around the country, controllers handed out leaflets to the flying public, asking them to lobby their congressional representatives to support bills that would help NATCA's cause. The union told flyers that if Congress doesn't act, one in four controllers -- nearly 4,000 total -- could retire next year upon reaching their eligibility date, leading to staffing shortages and flight delays. "The FAA has a big staffing problem on its hands already; it's more than 1,000 controllers short nationally from 2003 workforce totals," NATCA President John Carr said. "This new round of retirements would create safety and delay problems." FAA spokesman Geoffrey Basye told the New York Daily News that NATCA was distributing propaganda. "Whatever the current retirement outlook, whether at Kennedy or LaGuardia, we have the pipeline in place to guarantee smooth transitions as retirements occur," Basye told the newspaper.
News in Brief
Flight Explorer, the popular flight-tracking software company, announced an upgrade in capabilities this week with the release of Professional Edition 6.1. The new version offers extended route analysis and display capabilities and additional weather information, the company said in a news release. Beyond flight tracking, the system incorporates multiple data feeds, dynamic weather overlays, situational alerts and predictive weather and air traffic tools. For IFR flight planning, Standard Instrument Departures (SIDs) and Standard Terminal Arrival Routes (STARs) can be displayed. Decoded Terminal Forecasts are now available. Also, users can now attach formatted text notes to any aircraft or airport. "With Release 6.1 we are continuing to add key features and enhancements that improve the decision-support capability of our Aircraft Situational Display," said Flight Explorer CEO Jim Kelly. "These new tools make Flight Explorer an even more valuable component of our customers' flight operations centers."
A Cessna pilot caused a security scare in Florida on Saturday when he accidentally set his transponder to a hijack code...
The FAA has revoked the air-carrier operating certificate of American Air Network, of Chesterfield, Mo....
A firefighting airplane that crashed on Sunday in Saskatchewan had just been bought a month ago, province officials said. One pilot died and two others were hurt when the refurbished Convair 580A crashed into trees while on approach to an airport during a training flight...
Parts of F-16s from both the Navy and Air Force were cobbled together over five years at Hill Air Force Base in Utah to salvage a $30 million jet that was damaged in a landing accident...
Boeing denies that it has any interest in taking part in Japan's SST project...
Time is running short to nominate candidates for the NAA's Public Benefit Flying Awards. Deadline is May 31.
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Your Favorite FBO's
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Nominate an FBO | Rules | Tips | Questions | Winning FBOs
AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to MARTINSVILLE AIRPORT AUTHORITY at KMTV, Martinsville, VA.
TED GULLIA wrote in to say, "FOR THE LAST 3-4 YEARS, I PLAN MY N-S TRIPS WITH A STOP AT MTV. ALTHOUGH I STOP 4-6 TIMES A YEAR (2-3 TRIPS, ONCE EACH WAY) I AM GREETED AS IF I WAS THEIR BEST CUSTOMER. I FLY A CHEROKEE ARROW SO MY FUEL PURCHASES HARDLY COMPARE WITH THE HEAVY IRON."
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!
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb asked whether or not you believe the "secret" report from the U.K. that UFOs are mainly terrestrial aircraft and mundane (if unidentifiable) weather phenomena.
Votes were split nearly evenly:
29% of you agreed with the down-to-earth assessment of UFOs
another 29% said "there might be something to this UFO thing"
only slightly more of you (33%) are straddling the fence and reserving judgement on UFOs
A small (but notable) 9% of you said no way to the U.K. report, citing personal experiences that couldn't be explained away so easily.
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
Engines: With the rising cost of fuel, fears (founded or not) that 100LL may one day dry up, and production problems hitting long-established manufacturers, how do you feel about diesel piston-engines?
Click here to answer
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DA40 Diamond Star a Fleet Favorite
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Stop Wondering -- Or Worrying -- Where Your Friends and Family Are!
Do you have friends or family flying in tonight? A business colleague coming in for a meeting? Will your partner get back before you need the airplane? Find out where in the air they are with the AVweb Edition of Flight Explorer. AVweb subscribers can sign up for Flight Explorer at the special price of $9.95 a month. Sign up.
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Aviation Consumer's May Issue Springs With:
"Three-Way Trainer Flyoff" -- Diamond's Katana is still the one to beat; "Why 100LL Won't Go Away"; "Scratched Glass a Problem?" -- don't expect miracles with glass-restoring products; "Garmin's GMA347" -- a new replacement box; "Piper Super Cub" -- best utility aircraft going; "X-Plane Flight Sim" -- computer geeks will get the most out of it. Plus: A wrap-up of all the flight sims Aviation Consumer has reviewed. Don't spend money without the unbiased truth. Order your subscription online.
Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions | Past POTW Winners
One of our favorite mathematical principles is starting to kick in this week: As time approaches summer in the U.S., the number of submissions to our "Picture of the Week" contest increases dramatically. The number tipped back over 100 this week with the most variety we've seen in "POTW" entries all year long. In fact, there were surprisingly few sunset photos or air show photos (our two most popular types of entries) this week. And that explains why we couldn't resist naming Frank Santoro of Missouri this week's top winner. Frank's clever captioning would've made him a contender on any week, but in this batch of light-hearted and widely-varied photos, his "portable autopilot" seemed to sum up the fun-filled spring fever that's making the rounds on many airstrips and here in our own offices. Congratulations, Frank we'll be sending you an official AVweb baseball cap in the next couple of days. (Your autopilot will have to get his own.)
Join in the fun! We accept reader submissions for "Picture of the Week" 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Each week, we'll pick a few of our favorites and run them right here, sending the top photographer an official AVweb baseball hat for his contribution. Click here to submit your photos. Remember: Even if you don't see your name here, we do enjoy looking at your photos. (Hey, it beats work.)
*** THIS WEEK'S WINNERS ***
Frank Santoro of Columbia, Missouri is in the process of upgrading his systems glass cockpit, the whole works. Take, for example, this portable autopilot he picked up for a song.
Frank cautions, "This is the economy version: Two-axis (no rudder control) and VFR-only (the head is fixed to look outside)."
|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.|
"F-4U Corsair on Display"
William Rexer of Perrysburg, Ohio contributes several great photos of the Smithsonian Museum this week. This one was our favorite, but all of them reminded us that this a trip we haven't made recently. Maybe it's time to pay another visit to the National Air & Space Museum ... .
In a week with very few air show photos, we were beginning to wonder what would get our hearts racing and blood pumping during the selection process. (Sadly, that's about all the cardio exercise we get these days.) Fortunately, Peter Schultz of the U.S. Armed Forces stepped up to the plate and delivered this photo of Steve Appleton is his Hawker Hunter in the Edge 540.
Whew. Time for some Gatorade ...
"Helitanker Pit Stop"
We've seen the name Pete Dobbins in our submissions list a couple of times now and with photos like this shot of a helitanker readying itself for fire-fighting duty, we're glad he keeps cropping up.
(Pete's home town, by the way, is McKinney, Texas.)
"The Modern Boy Album of Up-to-Date Aeroplanes"
We almost didn't run these scans from Karen Gurney of St. Andrews, Victoria (Australia). Thankfully, common sense (and the fact that we couldn't stop staring at them and showing them around) won out in the end. The images are from her late father's album and include some gorgeous airplane art.
We don't want to run the entire album, but Karen if you do have more scans and a few minutes to kill sometime, we'd love to see more!
"The Golden Gate from an RV-7"
Kevin Hester of Belmont, California writes: "[It was] a beautiful day in San Francisco, so we had to leave work and take a picture."
It's good to be Kevin Hester of Belmont, California, apparently.
"Turning Final for the Grass at 3SQ"
Like Robert D. Filter of Chesterfield, Missouri, this week's edition of "POTW" is coming in for a landing.
Only it's sunnier where Robert is.
And he's in a Stearman.
And we've still got to finish up tomorrow's news items.
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.Names Behind The News
AVwebFlash is a twice-weekly summary of the latest news, articles, products, features, and events featured on AVweb, the internet's aviation magazine and news service.
Today's issue was written by news writer Mary Grady (bio).
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