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The CEO of Icon Aircraft says he believes his company has moved past the controversy that resulted from its initial stab at a purchase agreement for the Icon A5. Kirk Hawkins told AVweb in an interview at AirVenture 2016 that a revised agreement released in June has been generally well-accepted. The first document, a 43-page litany of legalese that appeared to limit the rights of and impose responsibilities on owners raised eyebrows among customers and the general aviation industry as a whole.

The revised document eased many of those concerns and Hawkins admits the introduction of such a different owner/OEM was mishandled. He said he still believes fundamentally that the relationship between customer and manufacturer is “partnership” that requires respect and responsibility on both sides but the points have been made and the controversy has died down. “I think we’ve moved through the worst of that,” he said.

The company is now fully focused on creating its training program and on getting its production issues ironed out. Hawkins said that some deposit holders cancelled their orders but others filled the void. “Net, net we’re about the same, about 1850 orders,” he said. It will be some time before most of those position holders will see their airplanes as Icon refreshes its approach to tackling that backlog. The plan to build 200 aircraft in 2016 was unrealistic and the company will spend the year getting ready for full production. “You have to build the machine that builds the machine,” he said. 

Instead of 200, the company intends to build 20 A5s this year and distribute them among at least three training centers in Florida, Texas and at its home base in Vacaville, California. The facility at Vacaville headquarters is operating and training pilots, including some who are not buyers. “Customers have the priority but we’ll train [others],” he said. The goal, he said, is to get people flying in a simple regime that will fill the pipeline for the future aviation market.

Hawkins said becoming a competent all-weather pilot is a huge undertaking and what most aspiring pilots want to do is simply put 1,000 feet between themselves and the ground. He said most new pilots have no practical purpose for flying. They just want to. “Let’s get you flying,” he said. The company has designed new training materials aimed at creating safe, responsible pilots who fly for fun. Since the airplane is an amphib and will naturally be used away from aviation infrastructure, pilots will have to be resourceful and self-reliant and the training covers that.

Hawkins said his investors have committed to fully funding the program and they are a diverse bunch from North America, Europe and Asia. He said they see huge market potential for a resurgence in recreational flying. “There is massive latent market demand,” he said.

You most likely received a second copy of Tuesday's AirVenture show coverage early Wednesday and we apologize for cluttering your inbox. The second mailing was the result of a major technical glitch with the server that runs the administrative side of AVweb. We're up and running again and ready to get you up-to-date coverage of the big show, one day at a time. Thanks for your patience.

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The ADS-B market seems to be in the season for discounts and rebates and at AirVenture 2016 this week, Aspen Avionics announced its own program. The company will offer a $1000 discount off the purchase of an Evolution Pro 1000 primary flight display if it’s purchased with an Aspen or Aspen-compatible ADS-B system through the end of July.

Aspen says it has partnered with L-3 Avionics, FreeFlight Systems and Garmin to give owners and pilots several options for ADS-Out compliance. The list of ADS-B products is long and includes Aspen's ATX100 UAT, the ATX100G UAT with included GPS, the L-3 Lynx NGT-9000, the NGT-2500, Garmin’s GDL 88 UAT and the new GTX 345 transponder that’s expected later this year. FreeFlight’s RANGR FDL-978-XVR is also on the compatible list, according to Aspen.

In addition to the ADS-B compatibility, Aspen also announced new display capability for the Evolution 500/1000 products. The latest software revisions include support for textual METARS, TFRs, AIRMETs and SIGMETs, winds and temps aloft and TAFs.

Aspen also announced that certification is pending to interface its Evolution 1000 Pro PFD with System 55X from Genesys Aerosystems (formerly S-TEC.) Final approval is expected later this year. For more, see Aspen in Hangar B, booth 2145 at AirVenture.

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The just-introduced CubCrafter's XCub has enjoyed strong initial sales success, with the first 20 aircraft already sold, the company said this week at AirVenture 2016. It also announced a new factory training program for buyers that will allow them to get the most of their new airplanes, especially if they're coming from nosegear aircraft.

"CubCrafters has looked for a long, long time for a training partner, someone to refer our customers to where they can get quality training in our particular aircraft," said John Whitish, CubCrafter's marketing director. "The airplanes we sell are tailwheel aircraft and many of the customers who come to us are already flying a Bonanza or a Baron or whatever, and they need to get comfortable in a tailwheel airplane, preferably our tailwheel airplane," he added.

The program will be provided by TacAero. Whitish said it was "fantastic for us" that TacAero has agreed to provide transition training for all of the CubCrafters' line. In this exclusive AirVenture podcast, TacAero's Jeremy Young explains the five-day certified program the company developed specifically for CubCrafters. For a view reivew of the XCub, see AVweb's coverage here.

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As the single-engine turboprop market grows ever more competitive, Daher will try to keep ahead of the competition with a quick-change interior lavatory option for the TBM line. Daher announced the option at AirVenture 2016 and said it would be available next year on new-production aircraft.

Daher calls the option the “Elite Privacy” configuration and it integrates a small lav into the very rear of the aircraft cabin. When not in use, it functions as a bench-type seat, according to the company. Although we didn’t see it operate at the show, the Elite Privacy option appears to be a bit of a transformer. A pair of electric motors drives a multi-segment partition that enclose the lav seat at the touch of button. A second touch restores it to the bench seat. The lav can be removed and installed by a mechanic in about 30 minutes, Daher said. It weighs about 90 pounds (45 kg) according to Daher specs. The bench seat is aligned along the cabin’s right aft wall, so it’s out of the way when passengers are boarding. Find out more at Daher's website.

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Innova Aerospace has two new upgrades available for King Air 90 series aircraft owners, the company announced this week at EAA AirVenture. Those in need of a cockpit overhaul can choose a full avionics retrofit with the AeroVue integrated flight deck by BendixKing. Replacing the old engines with two new GE H80s brings a “significant reduction” in operating costs, Innova says, while also reducing the required maintenance. “Our focus is really on performance enhancement,” Innova spokesman David Meske told AVweb this week in a podcast interview.

The new engines deliver better performance and easier maintenance, Meske said, and the new all-glass cockpit “gives you everything you could want, and adds value to the airplane.” The modifications are available now for many models, and for all of the fleet by the end of the year, Meske said. The upgrades are on display all this week at EAA AirVenture, with one King Air, with the new engines, displayed near the Textron pavilion, and another one, with the AeroVue flight deck, parked close to BendixKing.

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Eclipse has major modifications in the works for its E550 jet, the company announced at EAA AirVenture this week, including a bigger wing, an engine upgrade and the option to install a Garmin G3000 avionics suite. The new model, dubbed “Canada,” will carry more fuel, extending the range to 1400 nm, and payload will increase by 475 pounds. The twin-engine jet will be powered by a flat-rated version of Pratt & Whitney’s PW615, adding an extra boost to performance.

The new version will have a 24 percent shorter takeoff requirement, and will climb to FL400 in 47 percent less time, the company says. The new wing will retain most of its current structure, but a new section will be added at the root, and the tip tanks will be eliminated and replaced with upswept tips, reducing drag. The tail surface also will be slightly larger. The Canada is expected to fly in 2018 and start deliveries the following year. It will sell for about $3.5 million.

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With the flight school market showing signs of life, Piper is having a good year with its popular Archer and at AirVenture 2016 this week, the company says the airplane will be available with a new engine option. Piper is planning to certify the Lycoming IO-360-B4M for the Archer, making it the only GA airplane we know of with three engine choices.

Heretofore, the airplane has sold well with the 180-HP Lycoming O-360-A4M, an engine with a reputation for good service dispatch reliability. With the B4M option, fuel injection will be available for buyers who prefer it for more accurate leaning and, in very hot and cold climates, easier starting. The new model will be called the Archer TX and will join the Archer DX, the Continental diesel model Piper announced in 2014. All new Archers are equipped with Garmin’s G1000 suites. Piper said the first customer for the TX is the University of North Dakota. 

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In a new video posted online this week, eVolo shows the latest unmanned flight tests of its VTOL electric-powered Volocopter. The tests, which took place in Germany last month, demonstrated various dynamic flight maneuvers at higher speeds for the first time. “These test flights did not only serve as a presentation of possible flight dynamics,” the company said in a news release. “The actual goal was to gain important knowledge in order to optimize the current developments of the new prototype for serial production. This included determining the VC200’s power requirements during different flight maneuvers and at different speed levels.”

The flight characteristics of the aircraft can be predetermined by altering the parameters in the control software, the company said. “The goal is to program the future series-produced Volocopter as a sporty and agile aircraft while also preventing unsafe flight maneuvers, no matter how aggressively the pilot operates the joystick,” according to the news release. Based on the evaluation of the data gained during the flight tests, eVolo said, they can now optimally decide on the next steps for further development and test flights of the Volocopter.

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When the FAA changed its certification process in April to include TSA security vetting, one unintended consequence was that the tradition of student pilots flying their first solo on their birthday fell by the wayside — until today. Acting on a request from GA advocates including AOPA and EAA, the FAA said today it has adjusted the application process so pilots in training can apply for a temporary certificate that will allow them to fly as soon as they turn 14, for gliders or balloons, or 16, for all other aircraft.

“Soloing on their birthday is a huge milestone for many young pilots, the same way getting a driver’s license on their birthday is for many American teenagers,” said Justin Barkowski, AOPA's director of regulatory affairs. “We asked the FAA to restore this rite of passage, and we appreciate the agency’s willingness to accept many of our recommendations.”

The FAA said that starting today, a student pilot can submit a paper application up to 90 days before his or her eligible birthday, allowing time for the application to be processed and the student to be vetted by TSA before their birthday. Once approved, the FAA will provide the student with a temporary authorization to exercise the privileges of a student pilot certificate, through the Airmen Online Services section of its website. The temporary authorization will be available on the student’s birthday and remain valid for 60 days. The FAA will mail a permanent certificate to the student pilot within that 60-day window.

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Maybe it was just the madhouse of arrivals Sunday afternoon when we landed, or maybe it’s that I skipped working the show last year, but this show feels busy—in a good way. Here’s an interesting observation: Jim Alpiser of Garmin told me how he usually gets to the show at 7:30 a.m. and expects a short wait in traffic. It took him 30 minutes to get into the show Monday. That’s before most of the public comes to the show and there was nothing unusual about the traffic flow. EAA has that dialed down to a science.

I had a similar experience an hour later. Who are all these people? It would be interesting to know if there was an uptick in vendors, or the staff they brought. Or is it an upswing in visitors? Alpiser said the Garmin booth was packed all day. GA camping in the North 40 had wrapped around the approach end of Runway 9, which is indicative of healthy fly-ins. We're told Fond du Lac is similarly packed. I’ll say from the swivel-head, tight-knuckle seat I had on the FISKE arrival there were plenty of people heading in — all at the same time. The image is the ADS-B display on ForeFlight. 

Pilot Proficiency Center

It warms my heart to see the EAA Pilot Proficiency Center hopping with pilots as I did the times I poked my head in. If you’re at the show and have a pilot certificate in your pocket, you owe yourself the favor of hitting the PPC. Where else can you get free instruction from experienced CFIs on 30 different scenarios ranging from canyon flying to IFR—with live ATC no less? You can see the full list here.

Real proficiency training is still a gaping hole in the light GA world and there needs to be more of it in a way that’s accessible to all pilots. I was recently talking with Paul Ratte of USAIG about a program for corporate flight departments that pays in full for the pilots to attend additional scenario-based training beyond their six-month aircraft work. The insurance company does it because saving even one claim per year in cabin-class turbine aircraft would pay for the entire program. What can we do in GA?

At its heart, this is a cultural thing, which means changing mindsets is key. (I wouldn’t object to tying training to airplane insurance premiums, but I’d call it paying a surcharge for not training rather than a discount to train.) However, there’s a simple accessibility problem as well. Cirrus has the right idea with integrated, online training that includes a follow-up flight syllabus. Pilot Workshops also has their IFR Mastery program of you-are-there scenarios that work the mental juices each month. (Full disclosure: I help develop the Mastery scenarios.)

This isn’t enough, though. We need programs like the PPC that pilots can do at home. That means pilots need access to presentations, simulators and instructors in real time. Those simulators need realistic avionics that accurately represent equipment we use in our cockpits and systems for the instructors to analyze their client’s performance.

Some of this exists today; some is still wanting. However, I have yet to see a serious program targeting GA pilots in general for ongoing proficiency using scenarios and simulation. This would be a monthly, “proficiency in pieces” as my friend Frank Robinson calls it. Each month a digestible chunk is handled on a Saturday morning. Over the course of a year, all the key points get addressed. It’s like a phase inspection program replacing an aircraft annual for those who are familiar. It would involve both automated and live—if remotely located—instruction. Any takers?

There’s one more component that’s critical: It needs to be fun. People build habits around things that reinforce the behavior. The carrot of some cash savings only goes so far. The yoke of “it’s good for you” never works in the long run. But make it fun, generate some competition, reward involvement with enjoyment and recognition, and now you’ve got a chance of building a habit. And a safety habit is really what we mean when we talk about building a safety culture.

In the meantime, come have some fun at the PPC if you’re in Central Wisconsin this week. We'll have a video on the PPC tomorrow.

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Sun Flyer brought the prototype of its electric trainer to AirVenture. CEO George Bye took us through the airplane.

Follow Me || TBM 900

Amid the rapid growth of China’s aviation industry, there’s a movement afoot to bring personal flying, including homebuilding, into the general public. Among its advocates is aviation business consultant Francis Chao. His company, Uniworld, recently expanded its North American partnerships to include kitplane maker Sonex Aircraft. Chao talked to AVweb's Elaine Kauh during AirVenture 2016 about GA’s start in the country and how the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) is beginning to embrace the idea of public flying.

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AirVenture 2016 Photo Gallery

The AVweb staff is prowling the AirVenture 2016 grounds with cameras in hand. Here's the first haul.

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Perhaps it's cooler in the southern hemisphere, but here at North 41 degrees 17 minutes / West 93 degrees 6 minutes, it's hot enough to fry an egg on the hangar roof, which will be easier to swallow when you ace this quiz. (Includes results of last month's reader survey on favorite airshow performers.)

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