AVwebFlash - Volume 12, Number 31a AirVenture 2006 Wrap-Up
July 31, 2006
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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The natural assumption is that two engines must be better than one in terms of safety and performance but reality
often gets in the way of such broad notions. Sure, the cushion of an extra engine is comforting on an IFR flight over the mountains but keeping two props spinning comes at a premium, not only in cost,
but in the extra skill necessary to manage and handle the aircraft. Putting the engines one in front of the other eliminates many of those concerns, as we discovered on a demonstration flight in the
Adam A500 during EAA AirVenture last week. The A500 was designed by Burt Rutan for Adam as an everyman's twin that combines the power and redundancy of a twin with the flying qualities of a single. In
development for more than five years, the aircraft has a provisional type certificate that limits it to VFR operations below 18,000 feet. Testing continues toward the final type certificate but Adam
officials no longer make predictions on how long that will take. For now, the A500 is a clear-weather, dawn-to-dusk airplane.
Since one of the A500's selling points is ease of transition from singles, AVweb sent writer (and Cessna
140 pilot) Russ Niles to test that claim. The biggest difference Niles found was in speeds. Take the 140 figures and almost double them for everything, notably the landing speed of 95 knots, pretty
much the top speed of the Cessna. "Twins go faster," said Adam's chief pilot Butch Allen, who kept a relaxed but ready watch from the right seat during the flight. But if the speeds seem scary to the
pilot of a slow single, they are entirely appropriate for something as big as an A500. Because the plane is so much bigger, the speeds become relative and it doesn't feel like it's going any faster
during critical flight phases than a smaller plane. All that heft and speed makes it much more stable in the wind, too.
We set the altitude bug on the big Avidyne display at 4,500 feet, dodging the remnants of a late afternoon storm,
and went through the usual routine of steep turns, slow flight and general goofing around. Allen chopped power to the rear engine and there was a sag in performance that was felt more than observed.
No rudder adjustment, no yaw or roll issues, just a minor pitch adjustment through the big stick-mounted trim button. The side-stick controllers are surprisingly light and responsive and very
intuitive, even for someone coming off a yoke arrangement. Allan had to intervene to steepen our final approach a tad but other than that the landing was all ours and resulted in no damage to aircraft
or ego. Startup and run-up are conventional, times two. With a few seconds of boost pump, the TIO-550s started and ran smoothly (and with considerable authority). The twin-boom design spreads the main
gear wider than most aircraft and that translates to excellent ground-handling qualities. Despite an 8-knot crosswind, the A500 was a snap to keep on the centerline until rotation at 90 knots, and
ditto for the touchdown and rollout. Shutdown is also conventional, except for waiting a minute or two at idle while the turbos cool.
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It may seem strange that when a very light jet has made it to FAA certification for the very first time this
week, so many people already are working on "next-generation" designs, but that's what AirVenture is all about -- the spirit of innovation. Maverick Jet,
which had an experimental VLJ flying back in 1999, this week said it will build two new jet aircraft the single-engine Solo Jet, which they say will fly 472 knots at 31,000 feet, and an
"economy" version, the twin-engine SmartJet, which will go 290 knots at 22,000 feet, at half the operating cost. Both will have five seats. Target prices are $899,000 for the SmartJet, which will be
certified, and $1.25 million for the single-engine experimental Solo Jet, which offers an optional BRS full-airplane parachute. The company wasn't saying yet what kind of engines the Smart Jet will
use, but the Solo Jet will have a single Pratt & Whitney.
The folks from Excel Jet in Colorado planned to fly their
Sport-Jet at Oshkosh for the first time this week, but instead they were telling the story of how the prototype cartwheeled down the runway after apparently hitting wake turbulence on takeoff, proving
the hardiness of the cabin. Test pilot James Stewart (who tells his story in today's AVweb audio news) and mechanic John Welty survived without injury, and the company brought the damaged cabin
to the show, minus its wings, tail and nosecone, and put it on display. Other than a few scratches, and a few square feet of sod jammed into the underbelly (visible thanks to mirrors laid on the
Oshkosh grass), the cabin looks good to go. The aircraft was in late flight tests. It had proved that it could meet 95 percent of its projected performance parameters, the company said, and they
already are at work on copy number two. Sport-Jet will sell for about $1.2 million, cruise at 340 knots at 25,000 feet, and can carry four people. Certification is still projected for the end of 2008.
AVweb's Monday podcast will feature an interview with test pilot Stewart.
Socata's TBM 850 is not a VLJ, but the company says its performance is pretty
darn close, and given the lower acquisition and operating costs, the difference is negligible. "No need for a VLJ," says the company's brochure. "Fly smarter with a VFT!" as in, Very Fast Turboprop.
The 850 will climb to 26,000 feet in 15 minutes and cruise there at 320 knots. It can carry six people, and will fly 1,500 nm nonstop with four adults on board. The company says it's an easier
transition for the owner-pilot than moving into a jet, and saves on insurance. The powerplant of the TBM 850 is Pratt & Whitney Canada's PT6A-66D, which delivers 1,825 eshp flat-rated to 850 shp. Its
single-crystal compressor blades enable higher turbine temperatures and that coupled with a new first-stage compressor design gives the TBM 850 its enhanced high-altitude performance, Socata says. The
company already has delivered 20 copies of the 850 and has about 50 orders in hand.
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Cessna was not the only big player to bring a new "proof-of-concept LSA" to this year's show. Van's Aircraft, which has sold thousands of kit airplanes (and has thousands flying), brought out its RV-12, a work in progress that it expects to fly later this year. It has two side-by-side seats, an all-metal airframe, and a Rotax 912S 100-hp
engine. Van's said it won't offer the kits for sale until flight testing is complete and they are satisfied with the performance and handling characteristics, which would be late 2007, at the
earliest. The LSA would most likely be offered as a standard kit, with a quick-build version to come later. An LSA kit, which allows for the airplane to be completed to greater than 49 percent, might
come later. What about a factory-built version? "The possibility of a fly-away airplane (permitted by the standards of the category) is so remote that we can't even discuss it at this time," says
Van's Web site. The cost should be similar to other RV kits, the company said. For more about Light Sport Aircraft at AirVenture, check out AVweb's audio news interview with Dan Johnson, who
was there running the LSA Mall.
Builders of experimental aircraft will be paying close attention in the coming months as the FAA begins its review of
the rules that govern amateur-built airplanes. EAA's Joe Norris said a lot of issues have arisen with various aspects of the 51-percent rule, which was crafted back in the 1950s. A lot has changed
since then, with more complex and higher-performance aircraft being built, which were never envisioned when the rule was written. Also, custom builders and owner-assist consultants sometimes operate
in a grayish area. "The regulation maybe hasn't kept up with what is happening in the aviation community, so the FAA is going to take a look at some of these issues," Norris said. The revamping of the
rule is likely to be a complex undertaking that will take quite a while, Norris said. Hear more from Norris's discussion of the issues in AVweb's audio news.
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General Electric, which has partnered with Honda to squire the engine through the FAA certification maze, says
Honda did things differently when it developed its engines. In GE's large fanjets, such as the giant GE90-115B found in the Boeing 777, TBOs of 20,000 to 30,000 hours are common, with 5000 hours "on
wing" not unusual. In Honda's 400-pound package, the 2000-pound thrust HF118, Honda and GE are aiming for a 5000-hour TBO, with no interim hot section overhaul, something that's predicted to reduce
operating costs and downtime. Like the Pratt 600-series used on the Eclipse and Cessna Mustang, the HF118s have drastically reduced parts counts compared to small jet engines of even a decade ago.
Fuel specifics in small engines are difficult because critical internal tolerances represent a larger percentage of overall size than they do in a high-thrust engine and the small aircraft these tiny
engines power have less room to carry fuel. GE told us the HF118s will burn about 40 gallons per hour at typical high-altitude cruise speeds, making for a specific fuel consumption of .7 pounds per
hour per pound of thrust and a thrust-to-engine-weight ratio of five to one. Compared to a large, high-bypass ratio turbofan, those numbers aren't especially impressive. But given the difficulty of
scaling jet engines down to VLJ-suitable size and weight, says GE, they're an incremental leap forward.
Among all the would-be suitors to the very light jet market, only one proposes to make both the engine and the airframe: Honda. Despite having little direct-to-the-customer aviation experience, Honda
plans to do it all, with the possible exception of avionics, an arena in which Garmin seems to have an inside track, since the test article is G1000 equipped. But, as always, it's the engines that are
the predominant driver of how a design evolves and Honda tells us the HF118s on the prototype are the fruit of a 20-year development effort that few people in the industry knew about. Small size and
low cost were the most important considerations, but durability is critical, too.
Prowling the grounds at AirVenture, we couldn't help but notice that Frank Thielert,
the Germany-based entrepreneur responsible for the engines in Diamond's brisk-selling aerodiesel-powered Star and Twin Star, was in intense discussions with Cessna officials. Is a Thielert diesel
about to find its way into a new Cessna? Cessna CEO Jack Pelton said earlier this week that diesel may be an option in the new next-gen
high-performance single Cessna shown in a low-key flyby on Monday. But it could just as well be a Lycoming diesel, a mock-up of which we saw in Lycoming's tent. Nonetheless, Thielert has a Cessna
diesel program of its own in Europe and announced this week that U.S. approval for an STC to convert the Cessna 172 to the 135-hp Centurion 1.7 has just been granted. And there's more. Thielert has
also developed diesel conversions using its 350-hp Centurion 4.0 for the Cessna 414, 421 and 340, although these aren't approved in the U.S. yet. For the Skyhawk, Thielert says it will offer these
only to fleet operators and schools initially, until its service network is built out later this year, after which it will sell to all comers. Cost of the Skyhawk conversion -- firewall-forward
complete -- is $57,000 to $63,000, variable by Cessna model. Specific models of the Piper PA-28 series have also been approved for U.S. STC conversions, says Thielert. Visit Thielert for the details.
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Some of you who went out to catch a movie over the weekend may have noticed that a distinctive GA airplane made
its Hollywood debut in "Miami Vice." An Adam A500 flew to Florida and the Dominican Republic -- the first international flight for an Adam aircraft and
took part in the filming of the Michael Mann picture. Some segments were shot from the cabin, and many of the movie crew, including Mann and stars Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell, took the opportunity to
fly in the airplane. Also this week at Oshkosh, a screening was held of the movie "Flyboys," which tells the story of the Lafayette Escadrille -- the
American pilots who volunteered to fly for the French in the early stages of World War I, before the U.S. entered the fray. That film will debut in theaters Sept. 29. And also, the producers of the
documentary "One Six Right" held a showing on Friday night at Oshkosh. That film was recently released on DVD. It's about Van Nuys Airport, in California.
Of all the warbirds that appear every year at AirVenture, a perennial favorite is the North American P-51
Mustang, examples of which arrive at OSH in the dozens each July. But that's a pale shadow of a gathering of P-51s planned for September 2007 at Rickenbacker International Airport in Columbus, Ohio.
"Gathering of Mustangs and Legends" is next year expected to attract at least 100 of the famed World War II fighters. As important as the airplanes may be, however, it's the guys who flew them -- the
legends -- who are more interesting. GML 2007 says of the 1279 aces in World War II, 274 were Mustang pilots. Sadly, only about 80 of those pilots are still living and GML 2007 hopes to get as many of
them as possible to the Columbus event, which will take place at an airport with a rich World War II history. Many of the B-17 crews the Mustangs escorted into Germany were trained in Columbus, then
known as Lockbourne Army Air Base. Post-war, Lockbourne served as the home of the 332nd Fighter Wing, the famed Red Tail Mustangs flown by graduates of the Tuskegee training program. The base remained
a Strategic Air Command facility until its closure in 1980, after which it was renamed for Eddie Rickenbacker, the highest-scoring American ace of World War I. The Gathering of Mustangs and Legends
will take place between Sept. 27 and Sept. 30, 2007. For more information, contact Angela West at www.Stallion51.com and see the airport's press
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Tough as it was to live up to last year's spectacular lineup, opening day at EAA AirVenture
this year was the biggest ever, EAA spokesman Dick Knapinski told AVweb on Saturday, with the Beach Boys and the B-1 bomber helping to draw that crowd. This year's show also had huge breaking
news announcements, with the Eclipse certification, the unveiling of two new Cessna piston airplanes, and the Honda decision to move into jet production and partner with Piper Aircraft. "We had more
news conferences than ever, almost 50," Knapinski said. What's in the works for next year? "It's the 60th anniversary of the Air Force, so we may see a lot of great Air Force planes out there next
year," Knapinski said. Also, two airplanes that couldn't make it this year due to engine problems will try again -- the Constellation, Star of America, and the Commemorative Air Force B-29. And,
Knapinski said, the industry is sure to have plenty of new developments and a few surprises to unveil by then. For more from our interview with Knapinski, go to AVweb's audio news.
So, there it is, then...
AVweb's no-iPod-required audio news -- index. If you want to hear it straight from the horse's mouth, this is for you. Just click and listen, it will
play right on your computer.
AVweb's print coverage -- Monday's, Wednesday's, and Friday's.
The galleries ... pages and pages worth, with a new page added today.
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COLUMNSAs the Beacon Turns #103: It's a Tribal Thing
Airplane type club can be a great place to learn more about the quirks and habits of your favorite steed -- and other owners too. AVWeb's Michael Maya Charles has a Cessna 185 and a great gang to hang
COLUMNSCEO of the Cockpit #60: The Rebel Alliance
There is a certain rebelious streak among pilots; anti-authoritarian attitudes are admired if not quite encouraged. But among airline pilots? No one, least of all AVweb's CEO of the Cockpit, wants to
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Online Now: Click through to listen to, or download today's interviews with you.
Find exclusive interviews featuring Cessna's Jack Pelton, TCM president Bryan Lewis, NATCA president John Carr, New Piper CEO Jim Bass, Hal Shevers for Sporty's Pilot Shop, Light Sport guru Dan
Johnson, 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 online, now. You'll hear things you won't find anywhere else.
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AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Franklin Municipal Airport, at
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Offering up Franklin, Ben Jamey" Duffey" told us, "Franklin VA's airport (FKN) has the nicest staff (Jimmy Gray - Manager, in particular), Lowest fuel prices around, 24 hour weather, pilot briefing
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Cessna Single & Twin Owners: Learn to Save Thousands on Maintenance!
Aircraft maintenance expert Mike Busch will be offering his acclaimed weekend Savvy Owner Seminar in cities throughout the U.S., including a location within easy flying distance of you.
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On the return home Saturday I heard the following exchange as I headed southbound passing Madison, WI. Warrior 98765 was heading north and already receiving a Flight Following Service from Madison
Warrior 123: Madison, Warrior 123. Can you tell me if there is a NOTAM or anything for getting into Oshkosh?
Madison Approach: Say Again ...
Warrior 765: Yeah. Can you tell me if there is any kind of special NOTAM for getting into Oshkosh today?
Madison Approach: You're kidding, right?
Warrior 765: No, my [garbled] was out and I couldn't get anything before I took off. Can you tell me what the arrival procedure is?
Madison Approach: (speaking slowly) I suggest you land before you get there and get a copy. There's one here at Wisconsin Aviation ... or Middleton is in your 10 o'clock.
Warrior 765: Standby ...
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