A Big Show Or A Busy Show?
People keep asking me what the big thing is at this year’s AirVenture and I keep not having an answer. From a news coverage point of view, it has been a very busy year for us, but I feel like we’re just doing a lot of wheel spinning without gaining much traction.
I think part of that has to do with how many events EAA has stuffed into the show. In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned the many anniversary events and the unusual number of intriguing aircraft displays and activities in Boeing Square. One B-29 is an eye catcher, two is a show stopper.
The press conference schedule has been busy but other than avionics, nothing of significance has emerged. Continental promised “multiple major product announcements,” but my fellow journalists were grumbling as only journalists can that incremental reports on engine certs and new roller tappets aren’t exactly major. Hear the podcast here and decide for yourself. The least significant part of that presser—roller tappets from Continental—may actually be the most impactful. More on that later. As we mentioned in our preview video, I was hoping for a rollout of the electronic ignition I know Continental has been working on. Well, maybe next year.
On the other hand, I don’t know why we continue to torture ourselves with the notion that something revolutionary is going to appear at AirVenture, thus launching general aviation into a new golden age. The aviation age we’re in now is one of reduced expectations and incrementalism but it is at least propelled along by some really cool autopilots.
Southwest Pilots Hate Privatization
As I’ve mentioned in the blog recently, Southwest Airlines is leading the charge among the major carriers in supporting ATC privatization. Delta, once an opponent, has now caved and is in the pro-privatization camp. For the life of me, I can’t see what they think they’re going to get out of this deal.
A Southwest pilot stopped me in one of the vendor buildings Tuesday and said because many of them are involved in general aviation, they oppose the privatization bill. His estimate was about 80 percent of SW pilots would retain the current ATC structure. I suspect the percentage is the same among the other major airlines and these guys fly in the system every day.
The Eternal Cub
When I was shooting today’s video on the CubCrafter’s Xcub, Jim Richmond mentioned to me that the company can’t build the things fast enough. He figured the sustainable market is probably around 100 airplanes a year. In the year or so since the airplane launched, they’ve delivered about 30.
CubCrafters has the capacity at its Yakima, Washington, factory, but it’s not readily available. They’ll need to ramp up the facility and, more challenging, find the workers with the necessary skills. With Boeing in the same state if not necessarily nearby, the pickings shouldn’t be too slim but that skill won’t come cheap, I suspect.
The Cub idea is just about a century old—the J-3 is celebrating its 80th anniversary at AirVenture—and it continues to endure. When I reviewed the XCub a year ago, I concluded that it’s not really in the Cub mold. I could make predictable observations about airplane DNA and the durability of tradition, but in the end, I think the XCub sells because it’s just an exceptionally well-executed airplane that happens to be a taildragger. It handles beautifully and has great performance and a modern, nicely appointed interior. And the fact is, CubCrafters can probably find 100 people a year willing to spend north of $300,000 for just such an airplane.