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AOPA says the FAA is about to approve more liberalization of aircraft certification by relaxing some requirements for GA aircraft. In a story on its website, AOPA says the agency is ready to adopt less stringent standards for software, electromagnetic protection and lightning strike survival for equipment in light aircraft. Current standards apply to all aircraft uniformly, whether they’re Boeing 777s or Cessna 172s. Building and demonstrating gear to that level of compliance isn’t feasible for many companies focused on supplying the light end of the market and seriously drives up the costs for those that do. AOPA said the change is “nothing short of monumental” and “a banner moment that we’ve been advocating for years.”

“The FAA is striving to apply risk-based decision making to the certification process,” Mel Johnson, acting manager at the Small Airplane Directorate in Kansas City, told AOPA. “As we review some of our past policies we see areas where the policy may have been appropriate for high-risk situations but not appropriate for lower-risk applications. By applying a risk-based approach we can ensure compliance while scaling the approach to certification. We anticipate that this will translate into more products being certified for the general aviation fleet that in turn will improve safety.” Last year, the FAA agreed to allow Dynon and Garmin avionics originally designed for experimental aircraft to be installed in certified airplanes and two companies are at work getting similar approval for two-axis autopilots.

Garmin has received Supplemental Type Certificate approval for use of the G5 flight instrument in the heading indicator position for over 600 aircraft types when installed with a Garmin magnetometer. “Furthering our commitment to bring affordable, safety-enhancing and certified solutions to general aviation, the G5 electronic flight instrument that was initially developed for experimental aircraft may now be used to replace a DG or HSI in certificated aircraft and represents another industry-first by Garmin,” said Carl Wolf, Garmin vice president of aviation sales and marketing. With this STC, Garmin G5 solid-state instruments can replace any of the three common gyroscopic instruments found in general aviation aircraft—the turn indicator, attitude indicator (AI) and horizontal situation indicator (DG/HSI). If the G5 is installed as a rate of turn indicator, the original attitude indicator approved in the type design must remain in place, preventing the G5 from replacing all three instruments in a single aircraft. Additionally, although the G5 in AI mode can display airspeed, vertical speed and altitude information when connected to the aircraft’s pitot-static system, the G5 is not approved for use as a primary instrument for any of the pitot-static instruments. The G5 can be used as the primary course deviation indicator in an HSI configuration when paired with an approved GPS or VHF nav radio.

The certified version of the G5 sells for $2,149, which is significantly less than the cost of a new gyroscopic instrument and comparable, in some cases, to the cost to overhaul of a failed gyroscopic instrument. The Garmin G5 3.5-inch LCD fits in a standard 3-1/8 inch instrument cutout and comes with its own ADAHRS and 4-hour backup battery. In dual G5 installations, the G5 can reconfigure in flight from HSI mode to AI mode in the event of a AI failure. A total loss of attitude information would require failure of both ADAHRS modules or failure of aircraft electrical power and both backup batteries. Garmin expects to start shipping the G5 as a DG/HSI kit with the magnetometer starting in May.

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The Air Force is moving ahead with plans to allow its pilots to interrupt military service to fly with airlines. It’s one of the measures being considered to stem the exodus of experienced military aviators to commercial aviation. “Our senior leaders are going to start collaborating with the airlines in May to see if we can get a public-private partnership and what that might look like, so I think that’s where you’ll see we are going,” Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, the Air Force deputy chief of staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services, told Federal News Radio. She said the goal is to keep the ranks of military pilots strong while at the same time ensuring a steady supply of military-trained aviators for the airlines. The Air Force is currently short about 1500 pilots because airlines are on a hiring spree and military pilots are the most sought-after candidates.

The Air Force is also considering increasing retention bonuses to keep military pilots in longer. It’s looking at increasing the $25,000 cap on annual bonuses to a maximum of $35,000 for those who agree to stay 13 years. That totals $455,000 in bonus pay over the 13 years. It’s also looking at allowing one- or two-year extensions in addition to the five- and nine-year engagements it currently offers. More lucrative plans will be available for the pilots in most demand, currently fighter pilots. Of the 1,555 vacancies at the end of 2016, 1,211 were fighter jobs.

A California flight school’s financial woes are threatening the training futures of dozens of foreign flight students. Mazzei Flying Service, of Fresno, is out of money and is suspending almost all training effective immediately. Students from Taiwan, Indonesia and India who are training to become airline pilots back home have an uncertain future. “As of Monday, we met with the students and told them we were ceasing all full-time flight training,” Mazzei President Mark Addis told the Fresno Bee. “We are finishing training for a small number of students … who are close to the end of the program.”

The students paid tens of thousands of dollars up front for training and some have filed formal complaints. But Addis said resuming the regular tempo of training “is not feasible at the moment.” He said the school is not closed but other than finishing off those relatively few students it’s not flying. The exact number of students, foreign and American, was not released but there are about 40 Taiwanese alone. Addis said the decision was a difficult one precipitated by the collapse of an investment deal last week.

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Airbus is dropping plans to produce the electric E-Fan 2.0 and E-Fan 4.0, planned as two-seat trainer and tour-seat touring aircraft. The company had announced in 2014 that it expected to bring the E-Fan 2.0 to market in 2018 as a joint venture with Daher-Socata, the French airframe maker best known for its TBM turboprops. The new plan is to move away from pure electric propulsion and produce a hybrid-electric, regional jet-sized aircraft that would enter service over a decade from now—2030. Stephan Schaffrath, head of media relations for Airbus Commercial Aircraft, told AVweb, “We are setting ourselves an ambition which goes well beyond E-Fan. We are excited developing next steps in our electrification roadmap, and particularly demonstrating much greater power levels in flight demonstrators in the near future. And we believe that electric and hybrid-electric propulsion is a key part of the future of flight.”

Airbus has set as its goal increasing power output of electric or hybrid-electric aircraft by a factor of ten every three years. The 2014 E-Fan 1.0 had a total output of 60 kW from two ducted fans each producing 30 kW. The German-made electric Extra 330 flew in 2016 with a power output of 300 kW—comparable to the peak output of a single drive motor from a Tesla Model S. Airbus told AVweb they aim to fly a 2-MW technology demonstrator within three years, but using a hybrid-electric powerplant rather than a pure electric system.

Airbus estimates getting the regional jet-sized project in the air will require another factor of ten power output boost—up to 20 MW. For comparison, Pratt & Whitney Canada’s largest all-electric auxiliary power unit (APU), designed for the Boeing 787, produces the alternating current equivalent of only 450 kW. Siemens, the powertrain partner for the electric Extra 330, also manufactures extremely large industrial generators and motors, which Airbus may be eyeing for future hybrid E-Fan projects. 

Boeing’s newest super stretch wide-body, the 787-10, took its first flight this morning from Charleston International Airport (KCHS). The airplane, call sign Boeing One, toured around South Carolina between 15,000 and 20,000 feet for five hours, according to Boeing, testing flap and gear operation, and briefly accelerated as fast at 380 knots. A Lockheed T-33, a 1950s-era jet trainer owned by Boeing, flew chase.

This is the second extension of the composite-construction, dual-aisle jet with a maximum seating capacity of 330 passengers, up 36% from the 242 passengers in the original 787-8. Although stretched 18 feet from the 787-9, the maximum takeoff weight is unchanged, trading range for passenger and cargo capacity. Boeing reports orders of 1,207 787s of which already 149 are for the new 787-10. The two biggest customers for the “Dash 10,” Etihad Airways and Singapore Airlines, each have open orders for 30 airplanes.

Readers might be able to relate to four kids skipping school to hang around the airport but some South African truants got a lot more than they bargained for last week. According to news24.com, the kids, aged seven to 11 (gender mix unknown) snuck into a hangar at the local airport near their homes in Plettenberg Bay, about 400 miles east of Cape Town, as the owner was putting his Jabiru 430 to bed after a local flight. After helping themselves to a few drinks from the fridge of a boat also stored in the hangar, the youngsters found the aircraft’s keys under a floor mat and the rest is insurance history.

They got the engine started, firewalled it and it plowed through the hangar wall where the engine kept screaming at full throttle, the aircraft held back by its wings. A nearby pilot saw it all and managed to shut the Jabiru down before it self-destructed. Authorities are inspecting the airplane and engine to see what can be salvaged. None of the kids was hurt, at least not by the airplane accident. They were rounded up by their parents and the school principal. Authorities have talked to them and are investigating but they’re likely too young to be prosecuted or to be held responsible for the damage.

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For over 70 years general aviation pilots have volunteered their time, skills and airplanes to help others in need by giving free flights for everything from search and rescue through medical transport, environmental survey and research to disaster relief, animal transport and exposing kids to the world of flight. What has been termed Public Benefit Flying (PBF) has saved lives, exposed toxic polluters, allowed collection of valuable scientific data, saved pets from euthanasia and generally enriched the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Volunteer pilots have spent thousands of dollars of their own money providing free flights to help others.

Most pilots make their volunteer flights in conjunction with a volunteer pilot organization (VPO) that functions as a clearinghouse to match those who need a free flight with pilots who are willing to make such flights.

Those who have made volunteer flights say that those flights have been some of the most personally rewarding flying they have ever done. However, a volunteer flight cannot be financially rewarding—the pilot cannot be reimbursed for any of the cost of the flight or receive free flight time.

Because there has been some confusion within the community of dedicated pilots who make volunteer flights and VPOs that support them regarding how volunteer flights are paid for, the Air Care Alliance (ACA)—the umbrella organization that supports the activities of VPOs and volunteer pilots—recently sent out a Guidance Letter to VPOs and their pilots on the subject. Because of the interest of general aviation pilots in donating flights to help others, I am reproducing the letter here. Full disclosure: I have been a volunteer pilot doing Public Benefit Flying for over 25 years, am on the board of the Air Care Alliance and was heavily involved in drafting the guidance letter—which went out over my name.

Volunteer Pilot Flight or Illegal Part 135: Where is the Line?

Information Letter from the Air Care Alliance, March 2017

As an organization formed to function as the umbrella group to support all forms of Public Benefit Flying (PBF) and Volunteer Pilot Organizations (VPOs), one of the tasks of the Air Care Alliance (ACA) is to provide assistance and guidance to VPOs in carrying out their various missions benefiting the public. In trying to help individual VPOs avoid “reinventing the wheel,” the ACA passes along information it has that may be of interest to all VPOs and their pilots to assist with best practices, routine operating issues, and regulatory compliance.

This letter to VPOs will address what we observe to be some confusion regarding which operations are legal for a VPO and Volunteer Pilot (VP) to perform under FAR Part 91 when providing free flights to members of the public. The contents of this letter are based on work and research into the FARs, FAA enforcement actions, and FAA letters of interpretation of the FARs. The research is the result of work performed by the members of the Board of Directors of the ACA, material provided to the Board by VPOs, aviation attorneys and insurance brokers, as well as in meetings between Board members and FAA personnel and attorneys.

Pilots have been volunteering their aircraft, time, and expenses to help others since not long after the first flight of a balloon. Save for a green creature who dwelt in a cave on Mount Crumpit and reportedly had a heart that was two sizes too small, everyone agrees that VPs who donate their skills and aircraft to help others are doing a good thing.

Once the word got out that pilots and airplanes were available to provide free lift for those in need, the demand for that lift greatly exceeded the supply. Soon, volunteer pilot organizations were formed to provide clearinghouses to match VPs with people in need of lift, be it medical transport, environmental research and support, exposing youth to aviation, pet transport, or the many other reasons that VPs can use aircraft to help others.

One of the major reasons that demand far exceeds supply in the VP and VPO world is that operating aircraft is expensive and VPs are generally resource limited, so they cannot give away as many free flights as they would like. Naturally, that led to efforts to find ways to provide funding to VPs so that they could afford to make more flights. Funding the VPs created a divergence between the desire to do good for others by providing as many flights as possible and the FAA’s obligation under law to provide protection to innocent aircraft passengers through safety requirements—the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs)—that must be complied with by pilots who carry passengers.

A Clear Line

In creating FARs to protect innocent passengers the FAA drew a very clear line in the sand: a passenger who is not paying for a flight (public benefit flights are free for the passengers) is only entitled to the lowest level of safety provided by the FARs—called Part 91 operations. Those passengers are only entitled to be flown by a pilot who must hold only the lowest level of passenger-carrying pilot certification (private, light sport, or recreational pilot) and who meets the lowest level of medical certification (light sport medical requirements, third class medical or, now, what is being referred to as BasicMed). If the pilot is being compensated in any fashion for the flight, the passenger is entitled to a higher level of safety of flight. Any compensation to the pilot means the flight may not be conducted under Part 91—it falls under either Part 135 or Part 121 air carrier standards. The FAA partially defines what is and what isn’t an air carrier or commercial operator in Part 119 of the FARs.

The FARs allow a pilot and passengers to share the direct expenses of a flight. However, since public benefit flights are, by definition, free to passengers, this provision does not come into play. Moreover, such cost sharing applies only when the pilot and passenger share a common purpose for a flight. The FAA has clearly stated that a pilot providing transportation to, for example, a medical patient does not share a common purpose with that patient. Therefore, a VP cannot accept even one penny paid by, or on behalf of, passengers and conduct the flight legally under Part 91.

The Regs Are To Protect Passengers

The FAA did not draw up the regulations to make things always fair or easy for pilots—it was directed by Congress and the President to protect aircraft passengers. When considering compliance with the FARs, look at them from the perspective of passenger protection, not from our view as to what is best for pilots.

The FAA long ago defined “compensation” for the pilot as anything of value—and that includes free flying time. If the pilot pays one cent less than his or her pro rata share of the cost of the flight, then the pilot is receiving compensation. If the pilot owns the airplane, her or his pro rata share of the cost of the flight is generally based on the cost of fuel and oil; if the pilot has rented the airplane the cost of the flight is the cost of the rental.

It should be noted that it is the FAA’s position that VPs receive compensation if they log flight time and take a tax deduction. However, and luckily, because of the FAA’s support for public benefit flying, it permits that form of compensation —and only that form—for a pilot as a matter of policy.

Naturally, VPs and VPOs have tried all sorts of creative ways to get around the FARs so that they can provide more free flights. It should be kept in mind that the FAA knows about VPs and VPOs and the world of volunteer flying and has publicly come out in favor of it. However, it and the NTSB have also repeatedly expressed their concern for the safety of passengers, so making life cheaper and easier for pilots is not high on their list of priorities when that is balanced with flight safety.

With all of that as background, where is the line between legal volunteer flying and illegal Part 135 operations? The good news is that the line is very clearly drawn—no gray areas—the bad news is, bluntly, that a lot of VPs and VPOs who want to provide more flights either don’t know or don’t like where it’s drawn and may have crossed it. By doing so, they are putting themselves, those they serve, and the world of volunteer flying at risk.

Here are the basic guidelines:

Fuel reimbursement: For many years, the FAA has granted Exemptions to VPOs allowing them to provide fuel reimbursement to pilots provided that a litany of higher safety standards for the pilot, his or her airplane, and the VPO were implemented and followed.

Yes, Congress passed a law requiring that VPOs be allowed to reimburse their VPs for fuel used on volunteer flights if the VPO and VP comply with any regulations on the subject that the FAA establishes. The FAA never did issue regs. Instead, it issued a statement that the FAA was complying with the law by continuing to grant Exemptions to VPOs that meet the higher standards. Therefore, for a VP to get reimbursed for fuel used on a flight the VPO must have obtained an Exemption from the FAA and the VPO and VP must both fully comply with the terms of the Exemption. We note that the Exemptions are onerous, thus most pilots have found it’s cheaper to pay for the fuel than comply. Bottom line: no fuel reimbursement unless the VPO and VP both jump through the Exemption hoops.

VPOs paying part or all of the cost of flights by their VPs: Bottom line: this is absolutely illegal. The VP is being compensated, so the flight is for hire and must be conducted under Part 135 of the FARs.

VPO-owned, leased or rented aircraft flown by VPs: Bottom line: if the airplane is owned, leased or rented by the VPO for the purpose of carrying out the VPO’s mission in life and that mission involves transportation of people, pets or things, it’s illegal under Part 91. The FARs are absolutely clear—it’s not a corporate aircraft used incidentally to further the purpose of the company; it’s an airplane being used to further the public benefit purpose of the company, which is transportation of people, pets or things. That falls under either Part 135 or 121. (FAR Parts 61.113 and 91.501 provide the framework.) The only way for a VPO that owns, leases or rents an aircraft to make flights using VPs legally is for the aircraft to be on a Part 135 operating certificate and for the pilots to also be on that Part 135 certificate, hold a commercial rating or higher, have a second class medical certificate, and have passed the appropriate checkride(s).

The only exception to the VPO-owned, leased or rented aircraft flown by a VP and not on a Part 135 certificate is if the flight originates and ends from the same airport and has the same occupants in the aircraft throughout the flight—essentially a sightseeing flight. There are some VPOs that fall under this exception and can own and have VPs fly their aircraft—primarily search, photo, research, surveillance or observation missions. (Those pilots have to hold a commercial certificate or better and a second class medical or better.) Transportation flights—medical, animal relocation or cargo/equipment/relief supplies—never fall under this exception.

Putting Yourself and Others at Risk

We note that we periodically see VPOs, especially those carrying out medical transport or religious missions, that raise money to buy and/or operate airplanes in furtherance of their missions and attempt to conduct the operations under Part 91 because they assert that because they are engaged in some form of “good works” that they can do so. This is absolutely incorrect. No matter how righteous the VPO feels it is in carrying out its mission with aircraft, it is required to do so in compliance with the FARs. While it sounds great to raise money for your organization to own an airplane that you can fly, on other people’s money, to carry out your mission to help others—it’s not legal unless you jump through the Part 135 hoops. There’s no such thing as free flying time for a pilot—it is compensation, and that means Part 135.

We note that the above guidance for operation of aircraft applies to all “N” registered aircraft no matter in which country the aircraft is being operated. The FAA has specifically stated that while an N-registered aircraft is being operated in a foreign country and must comply with the aviation regulations of that country, it must also comply with the FARs.

Finally, we express our extreme concern with the actions of VPOs that are reimbursing their VPs for some or all of the costs of flights, reimbursing VPs for fuel without complying with the fuel reimbursement Exemption requirements, and/or providing transportation flights in VPO-owned aircraft flown by VPs. These actions present a real and extraordinarily high risk to those served by the VPOs—the passengers and loved ones—as well as to the VPs and the VPOs themselves.

We acknowledge that the risk of the FAA seeking out and filing violation actions against VPOs and VPs is low. However, should there be any sort of incident or accident that triggers FAA involvement, we believe it is likely that the FAA will immediately recognize the fact that the flight was being conducted in violation of the requirements of Part 91 and was actually “for hire” and should have been operating under the stricter rules of Part 135. That finding could expose the VP to a certificate action and the VPO to significant fines under the civil penalty procedures of the FARs. In addition there is also, in our opinion after consulting with attorneys and insurance professionals, a significant risk that the insurers for the VPO and VP would refuse to pay any claims because the flight met the FAA’s definition of “for hire” rather than being conducted under Part 91. It would be a terrible situation if a passenger on a flight were hurt in an accident and it turned out no insurance was available to pay for her or his medical costs or other claims. Finally, we believe that directors and officers of those VPOs could find themselves facing legal action regarding their fiduciary responsibility.

While the risks of fines, pilot violation actions, and no insurance coverage are bad enough, what we consider may be worse is the risk to public benefit flying as a whole should there be an accident of a volunteer flight being operated in violation of Part 91. The FAA has expressed broad support for public benefit flying; yet it has also expressed concern for the safety of innocent passengers not fully aware of the risks of general aviation aircraft flown by amateur pilots who are not required to take regular checkrides.

In addition, in 2010, the NTSB expressed its high concern for the safety of public benefit flying and came to the Air Care Alliance demanding that it act to increase the level of safety. Over the course of six years the Air Care Alliance, working with AOPA and many VPOs, created an interactive, online VP training course and has recommended best practices to VPOs—many of which have been adopted. Last year, the NTSB formally found the Air Care Alliance’s actions to be satisfactory; however, it is still carefully scrutinizing public benefit flying. We are concerned that the notoriety that would be generated by an accident involving a VPO-owned aircraft flown by a VP on a religious or medical transport mission will cause the FAA to enact regulations controlling public benefit flying. Because the FAA’s regulations on fuel reimbursement for public benefit flying are so onerous, we believe public benefit flying regulations could also be so onerous as to effectively destroy it.

We urge you, your VPs and your VPOs to ensure that they are in compliance with the FARs and not let the egos of organizers or the good faith desire to “do good” cause you or them to ignore the FARs and put yourself, those you serve, and public benefit flying at risk. Above and beyond the FARs—which are just minimum standards for VPs and VPOs to meet—we also urge you to consider your ethical responsibility to passengers, their families and public benefit flying as a whole.

And, we’ll put the following as bluntly as we can: if you run a VPO or charity involved in providing free transportation flights under Part 91 and it either owns an airplane or receives one as a donation—sell it. It’s not legal for your group or its volunteer pilots to operate it under Part 91 to transport people, animals, or things. Use the money from the sale to further your mission in other ways—through outreach, pilot recruitment, and staffing to coordinate missions. Please don’t put public benefit flying at risk.

Guidance from the Air Care Alliance evolves as regulations and interpretations change and as VPOs provide feedback regarding their experience in the field. If you have comments or suggestions regarding the issues discussed in this letter please forward them to mail@aircareall.org.

Sincerely Yours,

For the Board and the Legal and Regulations Committee

Rick Durden

Member of the Board

AIR CARE ALLIANCE

www.aircarealliance.org

Rick Durden is an aviation attorney, holds an ATP with type ratings in the Douglas DC-3 and Cessna Citation and is the author of The Thinking Pilot’s Flight Manual or, How to Survive Flying Little Airplanes and Have a Ball Doing It, Vols. 1 and 2.

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Americans love competition, or say that they do. A fundamental assumption of American business is that capital will find the most efficient way to reproduce itself and companies that fail deserve to fail. Plain and simple, it’s economic Darwinism. It’s a universal principle until, that is, it’s your own ox getting gored or you’re subjected to distorted competitive forces with unknown long-term outcomes.

In Tuesday’s blog on Continental’s Chinese-funded expansion in Mobile, I didn’t delve into these specific details about how AVIC’s investment could affect the competitive environment for a critical part of GA in the U.S.: aftermarket parts and services. It’s worth a look.

In the U.S., the GA market is flat at best, but really in decline with regard to OEM manufacturing and overall flight activity. In real dollars and in units shipped, recent trend lines have been downward and sharply downward since 2008. GAMA data shows that 2016 saw $20.7 billion in new aircraft against $24.8 in 2008. There’s no point in sugarcoating the fact that the pie is shrinking. Continental’s business strategy, which has animated its opportunistic purchases of two companies, is to grow by expanding its share of the pie.

In buying Danbury Aerospace/ECI, Continental creates something that existed only in the margins before: direct competition between Continental and Lycoming. In the old order, these two engine companies competed to the extent that they tried to entice OEMs to select their engines, but once that was done, they left overhauls to independent field shops and were satisfied to provide the necessary parts. As the industry declined, both companies aggressively entered the overhaul markets and the field shop universe declined.

More competition arrived in the form of companies like ECI and Superior, which competed with the engine manufacturers in supplying overhaul parts, especially cylinders but eventually major assemblies like crankshafts and crankcases and even entire engines based on PMA parts. If there was a golden age of this PMA competition, I would peg it between 1995 and 2005, when Superior’s Millennium cylinders were a thing and ECI was finally figuring out nickel-treated cylinders. These gave meaningful competition to both Lycoming and Continental and kept prices in check, at least on popular cylinders.

As the market has declined, both of those companies got into trouble. Superior went down with the Thielert bankruptcy in 2007, not so much as a result of market trends but of mismanagement. ECI got caught short after 2008, probably squeezed between soft sales and high internal costs. With U.S. investors uninterested, AVIC saw an opportunity and snapped it up. I suspect the decision was animated by both a longer term view that looks past short-term returns and the overarching goal to build Chinese expertise at all levels of aerospace. That’s another way of saying Textron’s version of the numbers is very different from AVIC’s.

And that gets us to the significance of Monday’s new factory announcement by Continental. As I said Tuesday, $40 million isn’t a huge investment but if it’s huge enough to fundamentally reset the economics of manufacturing parts like cylinders, crankshafts, pistons and the like, it changes the competitive landscape. Continental is now is a position to compete directly against Lycoming on everything, up to and including complete engines if it certifies and expands the Titan line. With a state-of-the-art factory, it may have internal cost advantages that give it a powerful edge.

Of course, Textron could easily write a check to fund similar reinvestment at Lycoming, but is unlikely to do so because it wouldn’t see the return on investment. Heretofore, Lycoming has largely funded reinvestment with its own internally generated capital with the expectation of certain returns. AVIC isn’t concerned about quarterly earnings in quite the way Textron is so if it sounds like Lycoming is competing on a tilted playing field against a state-owned enterprise, that’s exactly what’s happening.

Is this unfair? Probably, but what about real competition is? Any company will quite naturally leverage whatever assets it can bring to bear to beat the other guy in the market. That’s capitalism 101. The short-term effects of this aren’t necessarily predictable. In purchasing ECI, Continental removed one competitor from the market. Less competition almost always means fewer choices and higher prices. On the other hand, an anemic market will tolerate only so much price escalation before it really heads south. We’re already well into the era of cannibalistic competition. The long-term effects are equally uncertain. If AVIC’s acquisitions eventually force more competitors from the market, it becomes the dominant player and can set prices at will. This would be true whether the investment comes from China, India, the U.S. or Japan.

In aviation, we tend to focus on our narrow universe without regard to broader geopolitics. There’s a tradeoff here. Chinese aerospace investments in the U.S. clearly benefit China and serve its goal to become a dominant economic player on the world stage. But the investment has also at least preserved and probably created jobs in the U.S. that might have otherwise gone the way of the textile industry.

So, take your pick. Chinese investments in Europe are nearly double what they are in the U.S., but the U.S. may be unique for less regulation and oversight of such investments. Why don’t we, by government fiat, stop these acquisitions? Wouldn’t that be in the long-term best interest of the country? Perhaps. And perhaps this will be a topic of conversation when President Trump meets China’s Xi Jenping this week. Then again, circle back to the first line: Americans love competition.

Dueling Idiocy

On the way to the gym Friday morning, I heard this report on NPR. I found it dispiriting that western civilization has declined to the point that we consider the idiocy described in this report as sane enough to merit five minutes of radio time. I kept waiting for the reporter to just burst out and say … seriously?

The story is about TFR violations on Florida’s east coast, where the government throws up a 30-mile restricted area when President Trump is at Mar-a-Lago. He’ll be there this week, by the way, just as Sun ‘n Fun gets fired up.

I’ve already opined about this in a VLOG. The dueling idiocy part is that these TFRs are so large and that the security edifice feels so threatened by an errant Skyhawk that they feel the need to intercept with an armed fighter. At least one has exceeded Mach 1 during the intercept. I get the we’re-not-taking-any-chances approach to this, but by now they have plugged enough data into the security algorithm to realize these incidents have a low probability of threat. I’ve argued to make the TFRs smaller and/or provide the airports impacted by them, especially Lantana, with some relief.

On the other hand, there have been 38 TFR violations. For as excessive as I might argue that TFRs are, that’s a degree of cluelessness that stuns even me. It’s not like these TFRs aren’t publicized for anyone who looks even casually. AOPA sends out an email alert on them. There’s really no excuse for busting one and with Sun ‘n Fun coming, the opportunities expand.

So if you do nothing else before flying in Florida, where the weather rarely requires a detailed briefing, at least check the NOTAMs for TFRs. There’s enough idiocy out there without adding to it.

Bristell Aircraft is aiming at the fast crowd with its NG5 LSA. Ahead of Sun 'n Fun, AVweb tried the airplane over a couple of flights and prepared this detailed video. 

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A million bucks doesn't buy what it used to, unless you're buying five new axis machining cells, in which case it buys a lot more than it ever has. As Continental announces a major new investment in a new factory in Mobile, it will be building what we simply don't see very often: a new, clean-sheet aircraft engine manufacturing plant. In this podcast, Continental's production chief, Michael Skolnik, explains the significance of that investment on the factory's efficiency. 

At Continental's Mobile, Alabama, HQ this week, the company announced that it's building a clean-sheet factory on new ground near the existing plant. It plans to install $40 million in new equipment to improve production efficiency. In this long-form podcast, Continental CEO Rhett Ross explains the company's business plan and marketing philosophy. 

Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

The West has been disproportionately represented in recent weeks and wins again with this gorgeous image of colour and stark beauty. The desert after all the recent rains isn't bad either. Flying season is upon us. Exercise those shutter fingers and show AVweb readers where you've been having fun.

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On a routine day of bad weather flying me and the Captain overheard center calling

ATC: "Cargo 244 Heavy descend to one seven thousand and hurry through flight level one nine zero."

Heavy: " Roger, descend to one seven thousand and what rate would you like?"

 ATC: "HURRY"

 Heavy: "Were hurrying!, cargo 244!"

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