Will Dynon's Skyview HDX Be A Market Shifter?
I heard a comment the other day from a researcher at one of the big flight academies: “Cessna competes with Cessna, not with Piper or Diamond.” He was directly referring to the $400,000-plus price tag for the new Skyhawks that still constitute the mainstay of the training fleet.
Consider that stratospheric number against a good used model that can be had for $50,000, with no penalty in performance and probably not much in reliability if the older model is refurbished. In that context, he figured Dynon’s newly announced soon-to-be approvals for its Skyview HDX in certified airplanes could be market shifters. (I am constitutionally restrained from using the phrase “game changer.”)
Well, maybe. But in order for this to be true, the big academies will have to show interest, as will the smaller schools that form the backbone of Part 61 training. A smattering of interest from private owners would help.
Let’s look at some numbers. Bluebook values for mid-1980s Skyhawks (P-models) are in the mid-$50,000 range. Mid to late-70s versions are a little less. Add to that a thorough refurb to include an engine, paint, rewiring, upholstery and upgrades like LED lighting and improved panel lighting and you’ll spend another $60,000 to $70,000. Dynon says the Skyview HDX will come in around the mid-$20s, so not to cheap it, call it $30,000. That yields a range of $135,000 to $155,000 or right in the $150,000 sweet spot flight schools tell me they’re willing to spend.
That’s less than half the price of a new Skyhawk. Conversely, if you’re willing to spend $150,000, what else can you buy? How about a mid-2000s pre-G1000 Skyhawk, or maybe even a high-timer with early glass? That budget will also buy a Piper Archer III of similar vintage or a Diamond DA40 with some change back. But those models will be either pre-glass or original G1000 airplanes. Modern avionics may have more appeal. (Or not. I don’t pretend to know what buyers really want and they often don’t either until the market options are presented.)
There is a test case here and it’s Redbird’s Redhawk 172 introduced in 2013. It’s a ground-up remanufacture of the Skyhawk, converting it to a Continental CD-135 diesel with Garmin’s G500 and digital comms, plus an autopilot. At $250,000, it has achieved modest but not spectacular market success. I think there are several reasons for this and one is that North American buyers don’t see compelling advantage in the diesel engine’s fuel economy traded for less payload and slower climb.
I keep hearing that U.S. buyers are warming to diesel and I keep not seeing significant sales numbers to support this. The backdrop of diesel trending out of favor for cars might not help. The upward diesel trend in aviation, such that it is, is a trickle, not a torrent. It’s not lost on me that Diamond, the diesel pioneer, acknowledged this by announcing the Lycoming TEO-540 as an option for its planned DA50-VII. That airplane is aimed at North America.
You probably noticed that AEA reported a massive increase in retrofit sales among its members. The data lacks the granularity to show if this is due to ADS-B installations or upgrades of other types, but it does show owners are again willing to spend money. The appearance of six new retrofit autopilots suggests that manufacturers are sensing demand out there. Then again, demand is often indistinguishable from blind hope.
So the intriguing question of the day is this: Will a downward trend in the cost of full glass panels coupled with an upswing in training demand ignite refurb demand greater than what Redhawk has seen? And the follow-up question: Does a $25,000 glass panel upgrade appeal to you enough to actually order one? You can answer that in today’s question of the week.
And while you’re contemplating that, consider this: CubCrafters announced that Garmin’s non-certified G3X Touch will be an option in the XCub. (Except that putting it into a Part 23 airplane is certification, after a fashion. A fine point.) This further substantiates the trend toward less expensive major avionics suites. It also raises the question of whether Garmin will offer the G3X as a retrofit for certified aircraft.
I asked and the answer was a noncommittal statement about Garmin always looking for ways to leverage its products into additional markets. That’s what the late Ben Bradlee would have called a non-denial denial. It’s not a no, so I take it as a probably. I think Garmin will have little choice but to offer the G3X to compete with Dynon. Little did we know what far-reaching effects would transpire when Jack Pelton announced the D10A STC in conjunction with Dynon last year.
Today’s Important Date
Although you might not read this until August 7, it’s being posted on August 6. Any student of World War II history will remember that date for the Enola Gay’s historic mission to bomb Hiroshima with the first nuclear bomb used in combat. Today is the 72nd anniversary of that event.
With B-29s making such a high-profile appearance at AirVenture this year, I thought the date was worthy of mention. Here’s a brief interview with Paul Tibbets, who commanded the Enola Gay, on his thoughts at the time. Some who had the pleasure of not living through World War II, much less fighting in it, often seem to fault Tibbets as being cruel and thoughtless of his role that day. He was anything but. Like all World II vets, he deserves commemoration.