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Sun ’n Fun has been scheduling its show early in the season in recent years, in search of the best possible weather window, and if their luck holds, this week could work out pretty well. According to The Weather Channel, Tuesday and Wednesday will be hot in Lakeland, Florida, with high humidity and temperatures above 90, but Thursday thunderstorms bring in cool, dry weather for the rest of the week, with highs in the 70s and lots of sunshine. Temps creep into the low 80s for Sunday. Gates open at 8 a.m. every day, with general admission set at $37 for adults, $15 for ages 11 to 17, and free for age 10 and younger. Parking is $10. Pilots flying in to the show can find the Notam posted here.

Advance ticket sales have been brisk, show CEO John “Lites” Leenhouts said, with 30 percent more sold than last year. Sun ’n Fun, which operates as a nonprofit, is the largest donor to the Aerospace Center for Excellence, a 25-acre, 11-building campus dedicated to education in aerospace and STEM subjects. The AVweb team will be at the show all week, bringing daily reports, videos and podcasts to our website and direct to your inbox.

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The FAA has concluded its investigation into Harrison Ford’s recent landing on a taxiway and said he will not be fined and can keep all of his certificates, according to a statement from the actor’s lawyer. “The FAA conducted a full investigation into the matter, including an interview with Mr. Ford, and determined that no administrative or enforcement action was warranted,” lawyer Stephen Hofer wrote. Ford flew above an American Airlines 737 that was waiting for takeoff at John Wayne Airport in Orange County on Feb. 13, then landed his Aviat Husky on Taxiway Charlie instead of the runway he’d been cleared for, 20 Left.

Hofer added that the FAA had required Ford to complete some training, which already has been done. Neither Hofer nor the FAA would elaborate on the details of the training. “Mr. Ford retains his pilot’s certificate without restriction,” Hofer said. “In closing the matter, the agency acknowledged Mr. Ford’s long history of compliance with the Federal Aviation Regulations and his cooperative attitude during the investigation.” Ford, 74, has been a pilot for more than 20 years, and has logged more than 5,000 hours, Hofer said, and he has never been subject to an FAA administrative or enforcement action.

image: Miami-Dade Fire Rescue

An Icon A5 light sport aircraft partially sank into the ocean off Biscayne National Park in Miami on Saturday afternoon after a landing mishap, according to the Flight Safety Foundation's Aviation Safety Network. Both the pilot and passenger escaped unhurt and did not require medical attention, fire officials told the local ABC-10 News. The aircraft sustained substantial damage, according to ASN. An Icon pilot was flying the airplane, with a customer on board for a demo ride, CEO Kirk Hawkins told AVweb on Monday morning. "They had a very hard landing and suffered some hull damage," Hawkins said. "The airplane was submerged up to the wings."

The aircraft remained afloat and was towed approximately 8 miles to a marina where it was loaded onto an A5 trailer and taken to Icon's base in Tampa, Hawkins said. "The situation is still under thorough review by Icon, but all initial information suggests pilot error," he added. Hawkins said this is the first incident with an A5. "After more than 3,500 A5 flight hours in 20+ aircraft over many years, including an extensive development program, this is the first situation like this we’ve experienced," he said. He said the extent of the damage to the airplane has not yet been assessed.

image: Icon

 

 

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The Antonov 132, a twin turboprop developed for multipurpose military and civil use by a Saudi-Ukrainian partnership, flew for the first time on Friday. The airplane took off from Kiev, Ukraine, and flew for 1 hour and 45 minutes. The aircraft is intended for operation on short- and medium−haul routes, the company said, and will perform various tasks including cargo transport, emergency response and evacuation, and air-dropping paratrooper rescue teams. Oleksandr Kotsiuba, president of Antonov, said testing will continue, and then the aircraft will be flown to Saudi Arabia for demonstrations.

The airplane can carry up to 9.2 tons, and fly at speeds up to 300 knots for 690 NM, at altitudes up to 28,000 feet. The program was launched in May 2015.

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The Sunwing Airlines pilot who passed out in the cockpit of the Boeing 737 he was supposed to fly on Dec. 31 has been sentenced to eight months in jail by a Canadian court. As we reported earlier, Capt. Miroslav Gronych, a Slovak flying on a work permit in Canada, had to be woken up by flight crew members before being taken off the aircraft in Calgary. He pleaded guilty to having care and control of an aircraft while impaired earlier this month and was sentenced Monday in Calgary. At the earlier hearing, he admitted to drinking a full bottle of vodka between 1 a.m. and about 6 a.m. when a dispatcher called him to inquire why he hadn’t reported for his 7 a.m. flight. He got to the aircraft at 7.05 a.m. and promptly passed out in the left seat after first losing his way in the airport.

In sentencing, Provincial Court Judge Anne Brown noted the he didn’t actually manage to move the airplane and complied with all those who removed him from the plane. He has also expressed remorse and gone to rehab since the incident. But Brown also said she had a hard time finding legal precedents for the case since the instances of drunk pilots actually making it to the cockpit are so rare. In addition to the jail time, she barred him from flying for a year but also said that’s probably a moot point since the publicity surrounding the case has made it unlikely he’ll ever fly again.

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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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.

The U.S. Army brought its very latest reconnaissance platform, the King Air-based MC-12S, to Sun 'n Fun and we spoke with pilot CW3 Jereme Leason. He told us what he could about the technology onboard.

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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