May 25, 2006
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
Outlook Bright For BizJet Sales, Analysts Say
"These are great times," according to the Teal Group, a research firm that released its annual business-aviation outlook last week at the Berlin Air Show. "High corporate profits and high commodity prices, coupled with emerging market growth, have produced a likely all-time market high this year -- 901 planes worth $13.6 billion -- with further growth likely into 2007," said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst for the group. Over the next decade, 10,087 bizjets worth $141.1 billion will be sold, the group said. By comparison, in the last 10 years, that total was 5,857 jets. The analysis also foresaw an 85-percent likelihood that a supersonic business jet will reach the market before 2020. The Aerion supersonic jet could be at a disadvantage because of its sonic boom, which limits its ability to fly over land, the group said. Supersonic Aerospace International is working with a design with a suppressed sonic boom, which Teal says is more marketable. Still, it's impossible to say which project will succeed in the end, or if either will. Teal's analysts are realistic about the uncertainties of trying to see into the future. "If you don't like our numbers, make up your own," they say. "We did."
"We remain air-taxi agnostics," said Aboulafia, "although we do forecast a market for 2,310 very light jets [over the next 10 years], including 620 Cessna Citation Mustangs." The arguments against mass adaptation of VLJs are "daunting," says the report. They're too small for business flyers and too expensive for piston pilots who want to upgrade. The success of the air-taxi concept is "unlikely," the report says, because it depends on the emergence of a market that is too thin, and faces the logistical hurdles of scheduling point-to-point service without excessive deadhead legs that would eat up any profits. The VLJ market isn't likely to exceed 250 airplanes per year, says Teal. Eclipse alone needs to produce 500 per year just to break even, the report says. Adam Aircraft has projected a 50-per-year production rate, which Teal says is "reasonable." Others, of course, including Eclipse, think the market does exist, and the air-taxi model will be profitable. The next few years should show who was right.
The Future of Sport Aircraft
Despite those "daunting" obstacles to the success of the VLJ sector, millions of dollars have been invested and thousands of aircraft are on order. The faithful are abundant, and next month, they will gather in St. Petersburg, Fla., to examine the industry as it is poised for launch. A day-long "Flight School" will be hosted by Esther Dyson, an emerging-technologies analyst and the organizer of PC Forum. The event will bring together start-up air-taxi operators, established charter carriers, aircraft makers, regulators, financiers and others to explore the emerging air-taxi marketplace. Speakers will include Eclipse Aviation CEO Vern Raburn, NASA's Bruce Holmes, Rick Adam of Adam Aircraft, DayJet CEO Ed Iacobucci, Cirrus CEO Alan Klapmeier and more. The agenda will cover topics such as business models, regulatory issues, marketing, financing and infrastructure. If it sounds like an interesting day, get out your checkbook: You can register to attend for just $1,995. The forum will be held June 16, with an opening reception the night before. Dyson is planning a similar forum for next year on the emerging commercial space sector.
For the great-big bizjet world, 901 airplanes is a lot, but the newly emerging Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) sector could flit right past there by next year. "I'm forecasting at least 1,000 unit sales during 2007," LSA marketing consultant Dan Johnson told AVweb yesterday. "That would be deliveries." Many manufacturers have been ramping up to meet demand, and that effort should begin to start showing up in a greater supply by late this year. Then buyers can get them quicker, flight schools can get them online for training, and the sector can continue to grow, Johnson said. Hear more of our discussion with Johnson about the maturing of the LSA sector, and what's ahead for Oshkosh and beyond, in AVweb's Friday podcast. Johnson also talks about the ongoing review process in place for the LSA regulations, the growth of U.S. manufacturers, and consolidation of efforts among manufacturers and distributors.
At least a few new LSA models will be on display at EAA AirVenture in late July. The Nexaer may be flying by then, Johnson said. Also, the Ion aircraft will be there, Steve Schultz, of Minnesota, told AVweb on Tuesday. "We've had the engine on and off the plane a few times -- we should be doing the (hopefully) final install up in Arlington [Wash.] in a few weeks. We'll be at Oshkosh with the plane whether it's flying or not. It would just be a lot easier to fly it there instead of pulling it cross country." The Ion is a sleek little two-seat composite twin-boom pusher designed to LSA specs. Its two-level tandem seating arrangement gives an unobstructed view to both pilot and passenger. Schultz developed the design on computers, and for the last year has been sleeping on floors in Oregon, working to finish up the actual prototype. "We expected to fly about three months ago, so anytime in the next few months will be really, really good," he said. The Ion will be available in several forms, according to the company's plan: The Ion 100 is a kit aircraft designed to be LSA-compliant. The Ion 105 is a non-LSA variant of the 100, with better cruise performance. The 105 version is meant for the U.S. Experimental category. The Ion 110 is an export version, intended to comply with European rules. All versions feature removable wings for trailer storage and two sets of interchangeable wings to meet differing performance requirements. And all three are suitable for "training, sightseeing, cross-country cruising, making your neighbors weep with jealousy, and generally having fun," according to Ion's Web site.
Light sport aircraft were designed to provide easy, fun flying for the masses, but inevitably, creative thinkers are finding other ways to put them to use. In California, police chief Jim Bueermann is trying to convince the city of Redlands that a Flight Design CTSW would be an asset to his department. The aircraft could be bought using department funds and would be flown by volunteers, Bueermann said. Aerial support could mean the difference between "suspects being captured or escaping, vehicular pursuits ending successfully or tragically ... or officers engaged in foot pursuits avoiding injury or death," he told the Redlands Daily Facts. City officials were interested but wary. "They're going to have to make a convincing case ... that budget-wise it's going to fit into the picture of the whole city," Mayor Jon Harrison said.
More private investment is needed to maintain the nation's transportation infrastructure, including airports, Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta said Tuesday at the NASDAQ market in New York. Airline delays are robbing the economy of $9.7 billion each year, Mineta said, and congestion represents "a looming threat to our economic prosperity." Mineta's plan does not propose any changes in federally owned and operated facilities such as towers, FAA spokesman Geoffrey Basye told AVweb. "However, some states and local governments have considered accepting private-sector investments in airports," Basye said. Mineta's plan focuses mainly on surface congestion, but does propose several ways to enhance aviation capacity. According to the plan, the government needs to move forward with deploying the Next Generation Air Transportation System, improve efficiency and reduce delays at New York City's LaGuardia Airport, and streamline environmental reviews for aviation capacity projects. The plan also supports "the use of market-based tools to manage congestion at our most crowded airports," but it gives no specifics as to the nature of those tools.
The NTSB says that fatigued air traffic controllers caused two near misses at O'Hare International Airport, The Associated Press reported on Tuesday. The incidents reveal a recurring pattern of fatigue, and officials should "emphasize the importance of sleep management," the NTSB said. On March 21, two airliners were cleared to take off from intersecting runways, and came within 100 feet of each other before stopping. Two days later, an airplane was cleared to taxi across a runway where another jet was on its takeoff roll. They missed by 600 feet. In one case, the controller had just four hours of sleep the night before, and in the other case, a trainee controller had an untreated sleep disorder, authorities said. A union rep told the AP that controllers will call in sick if they feel they haven't had enough rest to work safely.
The NTSB determined on Tuesday that errors by the flight crew and an air traffic controller led to the crash of a Learjet 35A near San Diego in October 2004. The jet was being operated as an air ambulance. Both pilots and all three medical crewmembers were killed. The board determined that the probable cause of the accident was the flight crew's failure to maintain terrain clearance during a VFR departure at night, which resulted in controlled flight into terrain. But the air traffic controller shared the blame, the NTSB said. The controller provided the flight crew with a heading and told them to maintain VFR and expect an IFR clearance above 5,000 feet. The captain acknowledged the heading instructions; however, the heading issued by the controller resulted in a flight track that allowed the airplane to continue directly toward the mountains. Further, the controller's computer system generated aural and visual alerts on the display, yet the controller took no action to warn the flight crew. "The Board has seen too often in its investigations where the flight crew and/or controllers are not performing their duties as they should," said NTSB Acting Chairman Mark Rosenker. "We cannot emphasize enough the importance of following the appropriate procedures to help ensure safety." Contributing to the accident was the pilots' fatigue, the NTSB said.
Airplanes, of course, aren't the only ways to get aloft, and creative minds are always inventing new ways to defy gravity. One of the stranger flight modes we've seen is the one chosen by John Ninomiya, who gathers a cluster of small helium balloons together, straps himself in, and takes off. To ascend, he drops sand or water ballast; to descend, the balloons are cut away or popped, one by one. "Even after you've done it many times before, there's still something a bit unreal to it," Ninomiya says. "You wonder: Am I really doing this?" He'll be flying the colorful balloons at festivals around the country this summer. Another ancient way to fly that persists around the edges of aviation today is with wings that flap. Ornithopters of various shapes and sizes have managed to get aloft, and even to carry humans, though their uses are limited. Recently, the 10th annual Micro Air Vehicle Competition was held in Utah, where teams from universities around the country flew radio-controlled miniature ornithopters. The tiny aircraft, most with a wingspan less than a foot across, ran various tests of endurance and maneuverability. They could have many practical applications, their builders say, such as detecting toxic gases or spying. Recently, Nathan Chronister brought an ornithopter to Kill Devil Hills and flew it along the path the Wright Brothers first flew. Whether this was any kind of first is unclear, but a nice video of the flight is posted online. Other interesting videos are posted of an X-wing ornithopter in test flight, and an imaginary flight on Mars.
Excel-Jet president and aircraft designer Bob Bornhofen said on Monday that the first eight hours of flight tests for the Sport-Jet validate his preliminary performance estimates, and he believes the jet may exceed initial projections. "Even at lower altitudes, we are indicating 195 KIAS," Bornhofen said. "This figure comes while there is still plenty of available thrust left." Based on these results, the airplane should easily reach its target of 340 knots TAS at 25,000 feet, he said. On takeoff, ground rolls have been less than 1,800 feet, with rotation in under 12 seconds, Bornhofen said, even at the Colorado Springs airport, with a density altitude of nearly 7,000 feet. The jet is climbing at over 2,000 fpm at 150 KIAS, he said. "The aircraft continues to exhibit excellent stability and flight handling and is just a joy to fly," said test pilot Ron McElroy. The landing gear and flaps have been cycled and tested. The four-seat Sport-Jet will sell for about $1 million.
News in Brief
In India, airlines are finding it difficult not only to find experienced captains for their jets -- even low-time pilots straight out of school, to fill the right seat, are scarce. A recent effort to fill 239 vacancies turned up only 31 qualified candidates, according to the Times of India. In Oklahoma, a growing aerospace industry can't find skilled workers to drive rivets and repair aircraft. "What we have here is somewhat of an epidemic," Victor Bird, director of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission, told The Daily Oklahoman. "But it's a man-made epidemic that can be solved." In India, the growing civil aviation sector is draining experienced pilots from the military, but that supply is not enough. Expatriate pilots are helping fill the slots, but regulations require that at least one crewmember must be Indian, so that resource is limited.
Two F-16s, one from Greece and one from Turkey, collided in midair above the Aegean Sea on Tuesday. The Turkish pilot was rescued, but the Greek pilot has not been found...
The FAA says controllers would be out $700 million if they retire early, as NATCA has warned they will if the FAA's offer is imposed on them...
The crew's loss of control for unknown reasons caused a Learjet crash in California in 2003, the NTSB said Tuesday. Both pilots died. No cockpit recorders were required on the aircraft, and would have greatly helped investigators, the NTSB said...
A P-51 lost its glass canopy in flight over Germany last week. It hit a roadside food stand, destroying it, and narrowly missed hitting a woman. The airplane was found parked at an airfield, the pilot is being sought for questioning...
Dozens of people said they saw an unidentified flying object crash into the sea off the coast of South Africa on Saturday. Officials say they have no reports of missing aircraft and suspect a waterspout created the illusion...
Both cockpit data recorders from the Armenian A320 that crashed into the Black Sea on May 3 have been recovered by a remotely operated underwater robot....
Australians are paying $28 million to fix a runway that was damaged by a U.S. Air Force One landing in 2003...
National Geographic News last week wrote about Lighthawk, the volunteer pilots group that supports conservation.
Coming, Friday: Interested in Sport Pilot and Light Sport Aircraft? Check AVweb.com tomorrow.
Online Now: You'll hear things you won't find anywhere else. Find exclusive interviews featuring Excel Jet's Bob Bornhofen, Adam Aircraft's Joe Walker, FAA administrator Marion Blakey, Cirrus Design's Alan Klapmeier and more. AVweb's Podcast index, is available online -- pick and choose your 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.
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Say Again? #63: A Phrase That Fits
The FAA is trying to be a "customer service" organization -- which is all well and good unless some customers get quick service and others get 40-mile backtrack because of how they filed their flight plan. AVweb's Don Brown worries about this and other safety issues in his Say Again column.
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AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to AIATC at KAAF, Apalachicola, Fla.
BILL JOHNSON wrote in to say, "I HAVE BEEN GOING TO APALACHICOLA FOR SEVERAL YEARS. THE AVWEB FBO OF THE WEEK PROGRAM PROMPTED ME TO REALIZE JUST HOW WELL WE ARE TREATED AT AIATC. BILL RUIC AND HIS STAFF ARE FRIENDLY, EAGER TO HELP WITH ANYTHING AND PROVIDE AN EXCELLENT OVERALL EXPERIENCE."
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!
Isn't It About Time You Chose Something Extra?
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb asked if the future of airplane engines could be diesel.
Over 500 AVweb readers seem to think so. At press time 289 of you have called diesel the "best idea short of affordable turbines," and another 279 say "it's good to see alternatives are building foundations" in the engine manufacturing market. Collectively, that accounts for 84% of those who have responded to date.
As for our other readers:
6% of you were largely indifferent to the development of diesel engines;
7% said diesel would have no bearing on your flying;
and a mere 3% (22 readers) thought this was "a step in the wrong direction" for engine manufacturers.
*** THIS WEEK'S QUESTION ***
According to the manufacturers, thousands of Very Light Jets have already been ordered. This week, we invite you to speculate on what that means: Does the market really exist for thousands of Very Light Jets?
Click here to answer
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Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions | Past POTW Winners
Summer is just around the corner, and "Picture of the Week" submissions are on the rise! Of the several dozen photos we received from AVweb readers this week, we've managed to whittle the list down to eight favorites headlined by a spectacular photo from Austrian reader Florian Trojer.
As usual, we'll be sending Florian an official AVweb baseball cap for submitting this week's number one photo. Our other top contributors won't receive hats (alas!), but they do get a hearty "thank you" for brightening our day.
If you'd like to see your photo here and maybe get a shot at one of those coveted AVweb ball caps remember to submit your aviation photos. Each week, we'll choose one first-place winner and show you the best runners-up, right here on AVweb.
*** THIS WEEK'S WINNERS ***
"Nature at Its Best"
Florian Trojer of Innsbruck, Tyrol (Austria) got this amazing shot from Runway 8 at the Innsbruck Kranebitten Airport. "A beautiful day for flying," writes Florian. "Nature at its best: Water, earth, snow and aviation!"
|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.|
No filters or flash were used in this gorgeously stark night-time photo from Lee Wonnacott of Kannapolis, North Carolina. According to Lee, the chopper was descending "from pitch dark into the well-lit bowl of the [Lowe's Motor] Speedway," which allowed him the opportunity for such a terrific shot.
"Fire and Air"
Bob Perkins of Sherrills Ford, North Carolina brings the excitement this week, with an explosive fireball from the Mid-Atlantic Fly-In in Lumberton, North Carolina.
"Put Your Icons on the Left for Great Wallpaper!"
We couldn't agree more with Jim Shelton of Independence, Missouri. Click through to the large-size image, and you'll find a great desktop wallpaper image for your PC or Mac. (Heck, we put six of this week's top eight photos into our wallpaper rotation immediately!)
For the photo buffs: Jim used the Canon Digital Rebel XT. And for the plane enthusiasts (surely there are some of you out there reading AVweb): The aircraft is the Northrop N9MB Flying Wing from Chino, California's Planes of Fame Museum.
We know we just ran a tanker shot last week but can you really blame us for running this one from Michael A. Jasumback of Redding, California?
Even after using it as your desktop image?
"Now That's ... A Propeller"
This, ah interesting-looking prop caught the eye of Robert C. Abbaticchio of New Smyrna Beach, Florida at Sun 'n Fun a few weeks back. Can't say as we blame him it's piqued our curiosity, too.
"Fox Trotting on Bravo"
W. Charles Read of Madison, Wisconsin writes:
"Taken 5/19/2006 at Easton, Maryland (ESN) from the right front seat of a CE-172P. We had just crossed runway 4-22 on Taxiway Bravo and were heading for 33 for departure when we were obliged to pause for these two foxes. As you can see, they were exhibiting gross disregard for the Runway Safety Area marking."
Looks like the cub is expressing an early interest in aviation ... .
Finally, Joe Horenkamp of Novi, Michigan occasionally sends us a fun touch-up photo and while we know how many of you feel about digitally-altered photos here in "POTW," we thinks it's fun to share one from time to time. So enjoy Joe's filter effects on this Corsair and don't forget to send us your own pics!
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 r send us an e-mail.