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On Monday morning at EAA AirVenture, Eclipse Aviation President and CEO Vern Raburn stunned the press corps when he taxied up to the company's exhibit in the V-tail, single-engine Eclipse Concept Jet
(ECJ) prototype just minutes after the airplane project itself was announced by COO Peg Bilson. The four-set very light jet single, which shares about 60-percent commonality with its larger Eclipse
500 sibling, was built in complete secrecy at the NASA Wallops Island facility in Virginia by contractors Swift Engineering and Basis. It features a V-tail and pod-mounted Pratt & Whitney Canada
PW610F, along with the Avio NG integrated avionics suite. According to the company, the all-aluminum ECJ prototype has logged about 30 hours since its first flight on July 2, and the airplane has
reached speeds of 250 knots and altitudes up to 25,000 feet. Ultimately, the small jet is expected to attain 345 knots and FL410 during testing; NBAA IFR range is predicted to be 1,250 nm. Preliminary
weights include a 4,800-pound mtow, 2,480-pound empty weight, 2,000-pound useful load and 1,261-pound fuel capacity. Eclipse stresses, however, that the airplane is only a concept model and is not a
"The Eclipse Jet will allow us to obtain real, quantifiable data that looks at this developing category," notes Raburn. "While today we have no production plans for the ECJ, we are constantly
evaluating markets for future Eclipse products we are anxious to reveal the potential of this emerging category, and out opportunity to add real value to it." Raburn says that his company will
make a go/no-go decision for the ECJ's official launch in the next 12 months, and he notes that the VLJ does not yet have a model number. While Eclipse did not issue any pricing for the ECJ (nor is it
taking any deposits at this time), Raburn estimates that it would probably cost about $1 million.
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Cirrus Design on Monday at EAA AirVenture announced a partnership with Fk Lightplanes of Speyer, Germany to produce the Cirrus SRS (or SR Sport) light sport aircraft. According to Duluth, Minn.-based
Cirrus, the SRS will be an extension of the company's current product line for people who would like a Cirrus but are more interested in sporty, recreational or entry-level missions. Cirrus said the
all-composite SRS will be equipped with the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System and glass avionics (system to be determined). First deliveries are expected next summer, but the pricing has not yet been
firmed up but should be in the neighborhood of $100,000. "For years we have talked about how we, as an industry, needed to introduce more people to flying," said Cirrus Chairman and CEO Alan
Klapmeier. "The SRS is yet another example of [us] providing a high customer value product that is easier to fly, more comfortable, loaded with safety features all at an extremely affordable
cost." The company said the SRS is based on the Fk14 Polaris, which is "the best in class."
Cirrus is donating the first production SRS to the EAA Young Eagles, and the airplane will be auctioned off on Thursday night at the Young Eagles dinner at AirVenture, with the proceeds benefiting
the young pilot outreach program.
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Diamond Aircraft formally introduced its DA50 SuperStar at EAA AirVenture on Monday, saying it's intended to fill the niche between the plethora of four-place high-performance singles and the
in-development personal jets. The SuperStar will fit three on its rear bench seat, allowing the whole family to fly. "We saw a gap in the market," said company spokeswoman Heike Larson. "This is
different from what's out there." With a 52-inch-wide cabin and a full range of creature comforts, including seatback entertainment screens for the backseat passengers, Larson said the SuperStar is
aimed at those that want a big, high-performance load hauler. Ice protection and a BRS parachute will be available options. First versions will be powered by a Continental TSIOF-550J engine with
FADEC, with a 200-knot cruise (true) and a 900-nm range. The aircraft is projected to cost in the $600,000 range.
The plane was unveiled at a Christmas party in Austria in December and had its first flight in April. Larson said current Diamond owners will get first crack at the first 50 positions, which began
selling Monday at $15,000 apiece. They're refundable up until certification, which is expected in 2009. As the design matures, alternative engines, including diesels, are expected to be introduced.
North American CEO Peter Maurer said there's a 170-hp turbo diesel now under development that might find its way under the cowl and others are being considered.
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The so-called angel investor whose money funded the second incarnation of Symphony Aircraft vows the slick two-seater will have a third chance at a market that has become increasingly crowded and less
defined than it was when the plane was first produced early in this century. The aircraft was first made in Germany by OMF. It restructured in Canada with American investor Lou Simons providing most
of the capital, but it went under again earlier this year. Simons, speaking at a news conference at EAA AirVenture said the combination of a weak American dollar, delays in certifying the Symphony's
glass cockpit model and higher-than-expected start-up costs all led to the second bankruptcy. The third incarnation will be in the U.S., Simons said, and he predicted resuming production in 2008.
Simons said he believes there's a big market for Part 91 trainers even though both Cessna and Cirrus have put their money on light sport aircraft to be the ab initio trainers of choice starting
now. Both companies unveiled LSA aircraft this week and both said their two-seat airplanes will be aimed primarily at the training market. Before he can relaunch the company, Simons has to
successfully bid for the assets of the Canadian company, a process that has been slow and frustrating, he said. There is currently at least one other bidder, but Simons predicted he would withdraw.
The bankruptcy mess should be cleared up by the end of September, and Simons is hoping the glass cockpit certification will also be in hand by then.
On Sunday, a World War II-era North American T-6G made an emergency landing on a Wisconsin highway on the way to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis. Engine problems forced the airplane to land on Highway
41 near Fond du Lac Airport, and a state trooper caught the off-field touchdown on video. Neither pilot William J. Leff of Dayton, Ohio, nor his son suffered injuries, but the right wing of their
airplane suffered damage after hitting highway signs.
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Epic unveiled two prototype jets at EAA AirVenture on Monday, proving its development schedule is as agressive as its marketing campaign. Not only did the Victory single and Elite twin arrive as
scheduled for a 10:30 a.m. press conference, but they took to the air a few hours later in demo flights for the airshow crowd. Not bad considering the Victory wasn't even on the virtual drawing board
until last December. Epic President Rick Schrameck told the assembled media the approximately 200-day timeline from the first autocad entry to a flying jet is a tribute to the design and production
team. The jets are officially kits for now and at least five Victories will be built in the coming year, according to the script read by the airshow announcer as the Victory was landing.
The aircraft, announced at Sun 'n Fun a few months ago in April, are all composite and have Williams FJ33 engines. The four-five-seat Victory, as a certified aircraft, will cost between $1.3 and
$1.5 million. The twin-engine Elite will be about $1 million more. The Victory will have a BRS parachute recovery system.
Comp Air owner and president Ron Lueck provided an update on his latest project, the Comp Air 12 turboprop, at AirVenture. He is now working on
a conforming prototype, which has evolved a bit from the earlier version that was shown at Sun 'n Fun back in April. According to Lueck, the cabin of the current Model 12 is 42 inches longer than the
earlier version and about four inches wider. The tail surfaces have been made larger to accommodate the power of the Honeywell TPE331-14GR turboprop engine, he said. It will have a ceiling of 29,000
feet, a 310 knot cruise, 2,800-fpm climb and an NBAA IFR range of 2,535 nm. "It can go nonstop anywhere in North America," he said. The eight to 10-seat Comp Air 12 will have a lavatory on board to
ensure comfort on longer flights. Lueck expects the design to achieve certification in the first quarter of 2010 and sell for under $3 million.
He said the company is looking for a site to build a production facility, and he is open to offers. Lueck would like to stay in Florida, he said, but is willing to locate wherever he finds the best
deal. He said there has been a lot of interest in the design because it offers a useful combination of speed, range and comfort.
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RotorWay debuted the prototype of its new A600 Talon two-seat helicopter at EAA AirVenture on Monday morning. Company CEO Grant Norwitz
said the new model is a top-to-bottom upgrade of the company's previous design, incorporating a glass cockpit, FADEC, a wider and taller cabin and a new drive system. "It's a quantum leap forward," he
said. The kit version of the aircraft will sell for $95,700, with everything, in a quick-build kit that the company says can be completed in 450 hours. "I know it's too cheap," Norwitz said, but he
then added that a ready-to-fly version can be imported from a South African factory for $135,000, prompting more than a few gasps and wows even from the press corps attending the event. "One of our
goals is to provide affordable rotary-wing flying," Norwitz said. He added that the company will work toward certification of the A600, first in Europe and then in the U.S., and plans to develop a
Norwitz also announced a new partnership with EAA, promising to donate two helicopters for the EAA's annual fundraiser. According to Norwitz, RotorWay intends to fly more Young Eagles than anyone else in the world. He also said the company is working to develop an online community of helicopter enthusiasts via its
Web site, RotorWay.com.
Aviat Aircraft said it will offer Forward Vision's EVS-100 both as a
factory-installed option on new Huskies and as a retrofit on older models. The company said it is the first GA manufacturer to offer the infrared enhanced-vision system. Stu Horn, president of Aviat,
said the EVS-100 "turns night into day" and can see through light fog and clouds. "This is not a virtual image, but actual," he said. That is, the pilot sees a real-time image derived from the actual
landscape, not from a database. The EVS-100 can reveal obstacles on a dark runway, aid emergency night landings and prevent midair collisions in low visibility conditions, Horn said. The system
includes an infrared sensor weighing 1.2 pounds that is installed on the fuselage like an antenna and a cockpit display. Cost for the system, whether as a new option or a retrofit, is $22,000, Horn
"This system has applications for wildlife tracking, search and rescue, fire patrol and law enforcement," he added. The system is not to be used for navigation but as an advisory system
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Eclipse CEO Vern Raburn talks with AVweb's Mary Grady about the new Eclipse single-engine "concept jet," which made its surprise debut on Monday at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh. He talks about
his opinions regarding composite versus aluminum; the advantages of a "go-home button" versus a parachute; his take on the safety of flying at 41,000 or 25,000 feet; and more.
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Too many problems with this one (Question of the Week, Jul. 12). Since DUAT/DUATS are due to be eliminated, with
Lockheed-Martin (LM) taking over those functions, asking if FSS should be shut down in favor of DUATS really makes no sense. Any such service provided by LM would be a highly questionable venture in
light of their current performance.
Unlike most opinion polls, you did a good job of providing a variety of responses but you still missed the complexity of the problem and all the services other than weather briefing and flight plan
filing that that FSS provides. Who do you call to open a VFR flight plan after take off? And who would provide Flight Watch? I agree that weather briefings and flight-plan filing could be self-service
(that's what I do), but if the staff is already there for Flight Watch as well as opening and closing flight plans, you really aren't saving money to discontinue the services you suggest. Some folks
would rather talk to a live person who can translate and condense the abundance of information that is delivered in less-than-user-friendly formats.
I work for the FAA at the Kenai AFSS in Alaska. It would have been nice if in your poll you would have specified Lockheed-Martin FSSs. The way I read your poll you have included those of us who are
still employed by the FAA working at the FSS in Alaska -- still maintaining call-wait-time averages of less than 10 seconds, and still receiving thank you's from the pilots who use our services.
Mary Ellen Cunningham
In response to Terry Blumenthal's comment on the state of the FSS system (AVmail, Jun. 25), it sure does show that he
doesn't use the system much. Since October 3, 2005, the FSS has been a private company competing for your business. A little-known, frequent government contractor called Lockheed-Martin continues to
try to make it work. With employees queuing up to put in their two-weeks notice, and only newbie, full of P&V students coming on board, I don't see it getting any better. It takes years to
season a briefing specialist with the anomalies of local terrain and local flyers.
I won't go into the "smoke and mirrors" of the selection process, that is another story. I will comment on what I was told and have observed. I've been told the computer systems they use are not
state-of-the art like Phil Boyer was exposed to, but a refit of an older airline-dispatch configuration. Sure, new flat-screen monitors, the fastest processors, etc. but there must be a reason the
specialists are calling it FS-64 (Commodore?) Does it do the job? Not from what some of the folks at the Hubs are saying. Frequent crashes, two and three backup systems to supplement the data required
to complete a full, legal, pilot weather briefing. Pages of workarounds and back-door solutions. Non-compatibility with ARTCC HOST computers (perhaps why so many flight plans are not getting to the
I can go on but it is all old news now. I will say, however, Lockheed-Martin FSS specialists can (and have) been fired for poor performance. It is an "at will" position. No union (for now). The FAA
pours fuel on the flames by performing daily "spot" checks on the briefings. A pilot weather brief can be failed in the eyes of the "secret shopper" evaluator if it turns out that the specialist
recorded Joe Pilot in the name data of the flight plan form instead of Joe D. Pilot.
As much as I despise this hostile, underhanded takeover by Lockheed-Martin, I feel for the former FAA FSS specialists. No longer are they able to provide quality, tailored, pilot weather and flight
planning services the pilot deserves as they are being forced to literally cross all their 'T's and dot their 'I's.
Now Congress is getting involved, stating in the Revitalization Act that the FAA is to provide all these new quality checks and safeguards. If the FAA reads the contract they awarded Lockheed-Martin,
they will see they are already there. It's failing folks. As for the other options (Towers, Approach Control, etc.), stay tuned. Grant Thorton, Inc., has been visiting some ATCTs ... that is how it
all started with FSS. They were "just doing a study."
Former FSS Briefer
For what it is worth, I have had no problem with Flight Service. Each time I have called I have gotten through. I have been able to open and close IFR flight plans easily, and have gotten the
information I have requested while on the phone. I fly about 175 hours a year. Just for another perspective.
You forgot one option: Cancel Lock-Mart's contract and return the FSS to the FAA. It may not have been perfect, but it was much better than what we have now, or are likely to get in the future.
Regarding the article on the Ohio sales tax issue (AVwebFlash, Jul. 15), be aware that both Massachusetts and
Connecticut exempt aircraft and aircraft parts from state sales taxes.
No need to travel to New Hampshire, which also boasts among the highest property taxes in the nation.
Losing Jobs To India
I was talking to an engineer a few weeks ago -- they design the fuel system for an airliner -- and he said that they have been directed to use 16 engineers located in India to the maximum extent
possible. That even includes training them. He said they were told that there was about a pool of 400 to 500 engineers that could be used for the design of aerospace parts and systems and that they
work for way less than a U.S. engineer. This is something that does not get much press but I thing is going to really hurt our industry down the road. A job shop firm located in Dallas is using and
training Indian engineers. There are three airframe companies in a 10-mile radius and they can't get people? Oh, wait a minute ... they can't get someone for 30 to 40 percent less money.
Michael K. Baker
Just a thought. I'm old and maybe cranky, but Congress has a dismal record of oversight. The FAA directors have way too little knowledge of general aviation. Politics and greed have won the day
over good sense. The FAA seems to have lost its ability to plan and control. We have 'till 2012 to get it together. I'll not be holding my breath.
I want to thank you for this wonderful publication I enjoy scanning and reading every issue!
Read AVmail from other weeks here, and submit your own Letter to the Editor with this form.
Columbia Introduces 2007 Models
The 2007 Columbias have arrived. Fresh for this year are new, dynamic paint schemes for both the Columbia 350 and 400, as well as a host of thoughtful and unique features for the
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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 Contributing Editors Glenn Pew (bio)
, Mary Grady (bio) , and Russ
Niles (bio) and Editor-in-Chief
Chad Trautvetter (bio)
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