Oshkosh 1998 Coverage:
Day Five – Saturday, August 1

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AVweb's OSH '98 Coverage - Day 5

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From EAA AirVenture ’98

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News & Highlights

Mooney Looks To The Future

MooneyThings are looking brighter for the Mooney Aircraft Corporation. Last month the company posted a profit-it’s first in 72 months. “We made $6,000 dollars,” says Bill Kolloff, Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “It was very exciting.” Kolloff says that with a smile on his face but the knowledge that this is deadly serious. He knows full well how close to the brink Mooney has been recently, and how slippery the climb to profitability will be.

AVweb told you in June about the big changes in Mooneyville. The company announced it was discontinuing its short-bodied birds-the M20J Allegro and M20K Encore-and putting its efforts into its longer-bodied models, the new M20S “Eagle” and yet-unnamed 4-place pressurized model.

Bill KolloffAVweb sat down with Kolloff again at Oshkosh to talk about reaction the company has been getting since the big announcement. Kolloff tells us the initial reaction to the changes was “sort of kneejerk” but he expected it because “change is always tough.” It definitely has been, even for Mooney…even though the changes were made to drag the company’s bottom line out of the red where it’s been swimming for years. Converting all production to a single longer fuselage will streamline the factory and improve productivity. Getting rid of nearly 100 unprofitable contracts will help even more.

Kolloff tells AVweb in an exclusive interview that his single biggest challenge so far has been getting Mooney out of “long-term debilitating contracts.” Those contracts ranged from making plastic widgits to door panels for dozens of different companies. Prior management had brought most of the contracts in below cost, apparently hoping the contracts would pay the overhead, which would then put the company in the black. It didn’t work that way. One contract alone has cost Mooney six million dollars over the last three years. Kolloff went through six grueling weeks of re-negotiations, finally getting the company to work at Mooney’s price and schedule. While Mooney still isn’t making a profit on its contracts, at least now it’s breaking even.

“It was scary, it really was.”

Bravo tailIt had gotten so bad down in Kerrville that even as recently as May and June Kolloff worried whether the company would survive. “It was scary, it really was. There was a period of time…that I just didn’t know.” Kolloff says Mooney got so behind on contracts, several of the companies could have taken over Mooney or forced them into bankruptcy. In fact, one of those companies did call in a government auditor to try to prove negligence, none of which was found.

In the period after the unprofitable contracts were dropped, Mooney laid off over 200 people, and the company was thrown into a gut-wrenching period of low morale and self-doubt. In the wake of the layoffs, 17 other employees quit outright. Since then, the workforce has stabilized. Kolloff, however, knows it will take a hit-like the new Eagle-and some other positive changes to turn the low morale around. Re-tooling and updated machines will improve quality and productivity-by helping produce each airplane hundreds of hours faster. Almost any improvement should help. Losses on the short-body Allegro and Encore line have been a quarter of a million dollars a month because the planes were priced below cost. “Once we get those planes out of the house,” says Kolloff, “we can bring the hours down on the other airplanes. I would say by the beginning of ’99 we’ll be producing an airplane at cost and then towards the end of ’99, somewhere near profits you can grow a company on.”

Mooney’s Future

Mooney hatchMooney is also looking for a potential merger partner or acquisition to help in the development of their new pressurized plane. They’re currently talking to three or four different companies, all of which they call “innovators.” Kolloff says Mooney should form some type of “strategic partnership” by the end of the year. The company wants to make a big bang with the new bird. “It will be a completely clean-sheet-of-paper airplane,” says Marketing Coordinator Susan Harrison. “It may not look like a Mooney. It may even not have the distinctive Mooney tail.” According to Kollof, “It all depends if the aerodynamics make sense.”

Mooney hopes to have one final ace up its sleeve: military contracts. A couple of different countries’ militaries are interested in the Mooney M20T Predator, and possibly even a utility-category M20S Eagle. Kolloff is also optimistic the U.S. Air Force will decide to fly Mooney instead of continuing on with the problem-ridden T-3 Slingsby. If the military contracts come through, Mooney will be smiling broadly and looking at some well-deserved light at the end of the tunnel. In and case, Kolloff says the worst of the bleeding is over and the turnaround is here, although he admits it will take visible changes to make naysayers believe. For all who would count Mooney out, it is now up Kolloff and the company to prove them wrong.

When Domination Isnt Enough

What do you do when you hold the current world speed record, and have won every race youve ever entered? If youre Jon Sharp and his Team Nemesis, you start all over with a new project called Nemesis NXT. Sharp announced the new venture at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh on Saturday morning.

Like the original Nemesis, Nemesis NXT will be a Formula One racer, powered by a “stock” Continental O-200 engine. Thats about all that will be run-of-the-mill. The airframe will be constructed of elevated temperature epoxy carbon, which, besides its strength, allows the aircraft to be painted any color. Remember pink is the team’s favorite color. Team Nemesis plans to go directly from computer-aided design to creation of the lay-up molds. Sharp estimated this would save five to six months off the total construction time.

Sharp declined to talk about the specifics of the design, and even performed a mock unveiling of an obviously bogus concept drawing of Nemesis NXT, complete with a large “classified” banner splashed across it. He did say that the team plans a tractor configuration with a mid wing.

Sharp estimated an immediate 20 mph increase in lap speed by Nemesis NXT over the original Nemesis, or speeds in the mid-270s. The teams goal is a 300 mph lap speed. Sharp said he estimates Nemesis NXT will be capable of 325 to 330 mph over a 3 km. record course.

Team Nemesis timeline calls for assembly to begin in the first quarter of 1999 and flight testing to take place by the third quarter of 99. A Web site will allow visitors to see the aircraft taking shape in theconstruction hanger by virtue of a live camera link.

Center, How Old Is That PIREP?

ARNAV weather displayIt started at the top. The White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security askedNASA to address the fact that an average of 17 people a month are killed in aviationaccidents attributable to weather. NASA responded by establishing WxLink to supplyreal-time text and graphical weather products for the Aviation Weather Information Network(AWIN). ARNAV has been selected from over 40 proposals to provide the data for theprogram. Cockpits equipped with the ARNAV DR-100 VHF radio will receive METARS andreal-time NEXRAD images. The systems architecture is open and will feed displaysfrom numerous manufacturers, not just ARNAV. Pilots can choose from local, enroute andnational images. The next phase will be to broadcast real-time icing and turbulencereports. There are currently 57 sites in the U.S., with the remaining 53 sites to come online later this year. Three sites have come on line since Wednesday, the opening day ofAirVenture Oshkosh.

Chevron Deja Vu…How Come My Gas Isn’t Blue?

Mark WagnerThe fuel scare that ruffled a lot of pilots feathers at AirVenture Oshkosh isover. Mark Wagner of Phillips 66 announced Saturday at 1600 that after running the fullrange of 17 ASTM specification tests on 18 gallons of fuel collected from each of 14trucks, the empirical evidence is that the gas is not contaminated and meets everystandard for avgas. The tests were run at Phillips primary fuels lab. Pilots hadreported a kerosene-type smell, odd feel and an absence or variation of thestandard blue color in 100LL avgas they received from Basler Flight Service, AirVenture’sofficial fuel supplier. There were less than 20 people attending the meeting, indicativeof the considerably increased confidence in the fuel supply after two days of flyingwithout any incidents.

Superior Clones Lycoming O-360…

XP 360-1Superior Air Parts tells AVweb it is out of itsslump. They already have twenty five customers ready to place orders forsomething Superior doesn’t even build yet. That’s good news for achange for a company that had a rough 1987. Years of raiding the profitablecylinder side of the business to fund the R&D-heavy turbine side of thebusiness finally caught up with them. They declared Chapter 11 bankruptcyearly in the year, reorganized, and appointed Bernie Coleman President andCEO last December 12th. Since then they’ve made more profit than theprevious two years combined, and they’re excited about a new product that’sstill in development…the XP 360-1.

Superior thinks it has found a hole in the marketplace. Until now, kitplane and experimental builders who wanted to hang Superior Milleniumcylinders on their Lycoming 360 series engines often had a problem findinga worthy crankcase to bolt them onto. And, until now, their only otherzero-time option has been a Lycoming factory re-man. Superior realized itcould sell a lot more cylinders if it offered customers some options forcases, too. So they developed the XP 360-1.

The XP 360-1 is a Lycoming O-360 kit for experimental airplanes that you can buy assembled or as a build-it-yourself box of parts. Theproduct is still under development and they’re using AirVenture Oshkosh 98 to gather information about what options customersmight want. Some want fuel injection, others want carbs. Some want analternator, others don’t. Some want a constant speed prop, others wantfixed pitch. Some are content with the stock 180 horsepower, others want tokick it up closer to 250.

Kits Or Preassembled

XP 360-1They’ll offer the O-360 both as a kit and pre-assembled. They’re notsure exactly what they’re selling yet so it’s hard to quote prices to thedollar. But round numbers are going to be $16,000 for the kit version ofthe O-360 and $18,000 for the assembled version. That compares with are-man from Van Bortel priced at about $19,900. Superior estimates that anexperienced mechanic can assemble the kit in about 10 hours. Your mileagemay vary.

Even the kit will come with some parts assembled. Torque on theconnecting rod bolts, for instance, can be tricky for the first-timer.Details like this are why they decided to preview the product to customersat this year’s show. They hope to walk away with info feedback to make some final decisions on which options to offer.

…Improves On Weak Points Of Original

New engine incorporates Superior cylindersThey’re also trying to improve on the O-360’s design. Years of overhaulexperience shows camshaft spalling is a common problem as the stock engines approach TBO. The stock Lycoming has oil galleys on one side only. The XP will have them on both sides.They’ve beefed up some ot the bosses in the case, and even managed to savea few pounds in the process. The XP-360-1’s dry weight is 289 lbs.Superior’s also planning to offer an IO-360, a TIO-360, and eventually to offer the 540 series as well.

Superior thinks it sees a niche in providing a new level of safety,reliability and service for the kit plane market. They’re hoping brighterdays are ahead as they face the new Millenium.

FedEx Heros Honored

FedEx herosWhat began as a routine flight by a FedEx DC-10 on April 7, 1994 turned into anightmare for the crew about 15 minutes into the flight. A FedEx flight engineer facingimminent firing from the company was deadheading in a jump seat and attacked the crew witha 20 oz. framing hammer. Although all three of the flight crew were seriously injured,they managed to subdue the attacker and land the DC-10 back at MEM safely. The crew,Captain David Sanders, First Officer Jim Tucker, and Flight Engineer Andy Peterson arebeing honored at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh as Heroes of Aviation. The trio, and Memphisreporter Dave Hirschman, who wrote Hijacked, The True Story of the Heroes of Flight705, appeared at a press conference Saturday afternoon at Oshkosh, and made a movingpresentation at the Theater in the Woods. All three of the crew have undergone extensivephysical and cognitive rehabilitation. None has regained an FAA medical, but several ofthem said that their trip to Oshkosh had rekindled a desire to fly again. Prior to theattack, Sanders was partner in a Beech Baron and Tucker had a Luscombe.

The Industry Needs Technicians Now!

AEAPaula Derks, president of the Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA) said today thatthe most urgent need in the aviation industry is certified avionics technicians. To helpfill this need the AEA has produced a video on avionics careers, Avionics-Are YouUp To The Challenge? It is FREE to anyone who will use it to address students andpromote avionics as a career. Contact AEA by calling 816 373-6565, email paulad@aea.net.

A Tribute To John Denver

John DenverAttending entertainment programs in the Theater of the Woods is usually just a verynice end to a long walking day. However, on Saturday evening Ken Dravis did more than justentertain his audience. He took them on a special tribute tour of John Denver-his musicand Kens personal remembrances of this gentle man. Ken said that his inspiration totake music as a hobby came from hearing John Denvers Annies Song.He continued his pursuit of music as an entertainer and songwriter writing songs aboutaviation and for children. The EAA audience are the first to hear this tribute and gaveKen a standing ovation.

Koranda Named New NAA President

NAAThe National Aeronautics Association (NAA) has selected Donald J. Koranda as their newpresident replacing Steve Brown who has accepted a position with the FAA. Koranda comesfrom the AOPA Air Safety Foundation where he was vice president of training. Stevehas left a great legacy. I will do everything in my power to continue to lead NAA into thenext century, stated Koranda.

ICOMAVweb’s OSH ’98 communications radios provided courtesy of ICOM America.

OSH ’98 Articles and Features

Martin 404 to OSH!

Martin 404AVweb columnist John Deakin flew a Martin 404 to EAA AirVenture this year. Onerejected takeoff, two precautionary engine shutdowns, a lost tire tread, along with a fewother less serious events, and they finally made it to OSH with this lovely vintageairliner. Join John, the rest of the crew, and 16 passengers on this crosscountry odyssey told in the inimitable Deakin style. Youll learn a lot about whatits like to support an old transport these days and even more about what it was liketo travel way back when flying on an airliner was an adventure for all involved.

Now I Understand Why It’s Called An Albatross!

AlbatrossWhat a monster. What a behemoth. What a ride! Walter Atkinson was given an opportunityto fly in a Grumman Albatross at OSH, the biggest in the line of a fleet of fabulousflying boats, and hes taking you along for the ride. If unabashed fun, power,freedom, and a mega-dose of nostalgia are of interest to you, climb aboard. Walt shareshis experience of takeoff and landings from both OSH and from adjoining Lake Winnebago.

OSH ’98 Photo Gallery – Day Five

Yet another several dozen new photos(captioned in AVwebs signature tongue-in-cheek style) capturingtodays most interesting sights at EAA AirVenture. A slew of gorgeous photos fromtodays airshow, more shots of aircraft ranging from ultralights to helos andgyrocopters to amphibians to aircraft that defy categorization, plus assorted pix of howlife goes on in the tent city that is Wittman Field.

Don’t forget to visit AVweb again tomorrow for more OSH ’98 coverage!