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For many Mooney owners -- and a few would-be buyers -- a second cabin door has always been on the wish list and on Tuesday at Sun 'n Fun, Mooney delivered just that. The company rolled out the fully certified Acclaim Ultra, sporting both the new left-side cabin door and a lighter, spiffed-up interior. Mooney first announced two new models in the M20 line as part of a major retooling just over a year ago. The revised airframe has a new composite plug section and redesigned fuselage cage to accomodate the new door. 

Mooney CEO Vivek Saxena told AVweb in this video interview on Tuesday that with the fresh certification approval, the company is poised to resume modest sales, which he estimates could rise to about 80 aircraft a year, mostly in North America. The turbocharged M20V Acclaim Ultra is priced at $769,000 while the stablemate M20U Ovation Ultra is set at $689,000. Both aircraft are equipped with Garmin's new G1000 NXi glass panel suite. Production is underway at the company's overhauled Kerrville, Texas, factory with initial deliveries scheduled for later this year. As we reported in early 2016, Mooney has invested significantly in factory and production improvements at the Kerrville facility.

Meanwhile, at Mooney's Chino, California, engineering and design center, the company is evidently rethinking the M10 series, which was annouced two years ago this month. The diesel-powered M10 was first revealed at the big airshow in Zhuhai and featured at Sun 'n Fun two years ago. It was orginally intended as a trainer model, but without going into much detail, Saxena told us the airplane's design is now being nudged toward a next-generation piston product. "What I can tell you is that we are very seriously engaged in developing the next-generation piston aircraft," Saxena said. "It's time for a new airframe for this market segment because there hasn't been one for 20 years," he added. Details of the project's new direction will be revealed later.


Never one to stand still, French aircraft maker Daher unveiled the TBM 910 at Sun 'n Fun this week. Although it’s not a complete revision of the popular TBM 900, the 910 features new avionics in the form of the Garmin G1000 NXi, the follow-on to the G1000 suite that has become the de facto standard for light piston and turboprop aircraft.

Daher’s Nicolas Chabbert said the 910 was given EASA certification last week and first deliveries of the new aircraft are scheduled for later this month. The aircraft also has an improved interior and paint options, plus Daher's unique automatic lavatory privacy unit.

The NXi was announced by Garmin earlier this year. It includes faster processors for rapid data refreshing and improved screens over the G1000 it replaces and in the TBM version, it also has a new keyboard and joystick control. For backup instrumentation, the TBM 910 has a Mid-Continent Instruments and Avionics MD301. Standard equipment also includes the Garmin Flight Stream 510, an in-cockpit wireless network that permits the avionics to communicate with tablets and other devices.

Although most of Daher’s sales are of the TBM 930, which features the Garmin G3000 touchscreen system, Chabbert says about a third of its new-airplane customers prefer to stick with the G1000 platform because they’re familiar and comfortable with it.

Daher also announced that in conjunction with Lakeland's Central Florida Aerospace Academy, it's sponsoring two maintenance internships at its Pompano Beach, Florida, service center.

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As the 43rd iteration of Sun 'n Fun opened on Tuesday morning, the show’s management reports that vendor attendance is the highest in the show’s history and is up 25 percent from the 2016 numbers. Sun 'n Fun director John "Lites" Leenhouts told reporters Tuesday morning that he sees increased participation as a sign the economy has turned a corner.

“This is a huge boost,” he said. Of the 510 total exhibitors, 85 are new to Sun ‘n Fun, according to Leenhouts, and all are aviation related and not the housewares and hardware vendors we’ve seen at some shows in the past.

On the negative side, an intense line of weather blanketed northern Florida on Tuesday morning and isn’t expected to reach Lakeland until sometime Wednesday or early Thursday. That will delay the arrival of pilots flying from just about anywhere in the U.S. “If they aren’t south of Ocala now, they ain’t coming,” Leenhouts said. As a promising indication of attendance, traffic into the show was backed up to County Line Road. So if you’re attending Sun 'n Fun, plan on arriving in the early a.m. 


Embraer Executive Jets delivered the first Phenom 100 EV to an undisclosed U.S. customer last Friday, the company announced this week. The new aircraft model has been certified both in Brazil and the U.S. An evolution of the Phenom 100, which entered service in 2008, the Phenom 100EV delivers enhanced performance, with new avionics and upgraded engines. The 100 EV features the Prodigy Touch flight deck, which is standard for the Phenom 300 light jet, plus new Pratt & Whitney Canada (PW617F1-E) engines that offer more speed and better performance in hot-and-high operations.

The 100 EV can reach up to 405 knots in high-speed cruise, and can fly up to 1,178 NM. The cockpit is designed for single-pilot operation. The new flight deck, based on the Garmin G3000, has larger HD displays, split-screen capability and a new weather radar. AVweb’s editorial director Paul Bertorelli toured the airplane last year in Orlando; click here for his video report.

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The pilot of a Piper Cherokee was arrested and charged with operating an aircraft while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, after he landed in the parking lot of a warehouse in Whittier, California, a suburb of Los Angeles, according to the Pasadena Star-News. Darrel Roberts, 58, apparently had planned to fly south from Temecula to San Diego, a distance of about 60 miles, on Monday, but got lost and was running low on fuel. “He was headed in the wrong direction and somehow ended up here in L.A. County,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Lt. Alex Villanueva told The Associated Press. Whittier is about 70 miles north of Temecula.

As deputies talked to Roberts, they suspected he might be intoxicated and took him into custody, Villanueva told the AP. “A DUI involving an airplane, that doesn’t happen very often,” he said. One wing of the Cherokee clipped a stop sign and was damaged, but the airplane remained upright and Roberts was unhurt. Roberts was held in lieu of $1,000 bail, and is scheduled to appear in court July 5. The 1973 Piper PA-28-140 is registered in Roberts’ name, according to news reports.

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Some FBOs are charging too much for minimal services to general aviation pilots, AOPA said in a report posted online last week. “No one is watching,” said AOPA general counsel Ken Mead. "There’s a fox in the henhouse and no one is paying attention.” AOPA has complained to the FAA, citing incidents of transient pilots being charged exorbitant rates for parking or even just stopping on a ramp, and argued that some kind of free access should be allowed since airports are publicly funded. AOPA also singled out Signature Flight Support, which they said frequently buys out competitors and then raises prices. On Monday, NATA (the National Air Transportation Association, representing aviation businesses) responded with a report defending the industry practices.

“[AOPA’s] presentation to the FAA likens FBOs to public utilities and requests the agency examine oversight mechanisms in other industries as possible models,” said NATA President Martin Hiller. “That is a pure and straightforward move toward economic regulation.” FBOs already are regulated by the FAA, Hiller said. “There are existing FAA mechanisms to address situations where an FBO or airport is violating grant assurance requirements to furnish services on a 'reasonable, and not unjustly discriminatory, basis,'” Hiller said. AOPA President Mark Baker disagrees. “Essentially the FBOs are a concessionaire,” he said. “The problem is, pilots don’t have a choice of purchasing services or not. They are charged just for showing up—held hostage, if you will … This is an area where we are not going to give up.”

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The first Airbus A319neo flew for the first time, on Friday, the company has announced. The airplane took off from Hamburg, Germany, and landed in Toulouse, France, five hours later. The crew used that flight time to assess the general handling of the aircraft and check the main systems, the company said. The airplane now will be based in Toulouse to complete its flight-test program. The A320neo family of jets is the top seller in its niche, according to Airbus, with more than 5,000 orders in hand from 90+ customers. New-generation engines from Pratt & Whitney and CFM, plus large Sharklet wingtip devices, produce fuel savings of 15 to 20 percent, according to Airbus.

The A319neo is the smallest member of the A320neo family; it offers superior short-field performance in hot and high conditions, Airbus says. It can accommodate up to 160 passengers. It has a range of 3,750 NM and a top cruising speed of Mach 0.82.

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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.

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The Patrouille de France added some color to Sun 'n Fun 2017 with a display of precision formation and individual aerobatics Tuesday. AVweb spoke with the future Team Lead of the team, Commandant Nicolas Lieumont.


At Sun 'n Fun 2017 this week, Mooney International flew in the newly certified Acclaim Ultra, the first long-body Mooney with two cabin doors. Mooney says it has a small backlog of orders and expects to deliver the first airplanes later this year. AVweb interviewed Mooney CEO Vivek Saxena for this video report.


When Continental acquired ECI in 2015, it also acquired the budding Titan engine line. The company has moved production of that engine to its Fairhope, Alabama facility and has capacity to ramp up production. You can find out more about the Titan engines -- which Continental hopes to certify -- at Sun 'n Fun this week.


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