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After many years pushing their own electronic flight bag solution, Jeppesen has reached a deal with ForeFlight to make Jeppesen chart and flight data available on the ForeFlight app. “The number-one question I’ve gotten from pilots around the world is ‘when can I get Jeppesen charts on ForeFlight?’” says Ken Sain, Jeppesen COO. A Jeppesen data module will soon be an in-app purchase option in ForeFlight. Adding Jeppesen data for the United States will be a $199 per year ForeFlight option. Existing Jeppesen general aviation customers will be able to access the data they already pay for through ForeFlight.

On the airline side, Jeppesen’s Flight Deck Pro is going to begin to incorporate ForeFlight’s technology features and user interface design. Jeppesen will continue to offer its Mobile FliteDeck VFR app, which failed to gain significant market share against the much more popular ForeFlight and, to a lesser degree, Garmin Pilot, though they expect most pilots will continue to choose ForeFlight. Jeppesen and ForeFlight have been working together to integrate their respective technology for four to five months.

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On Thursday, the Senate Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security grilled United Airlines President Scott Kirby and Chicago Department of Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans about the dismal state of commercial air travel generally—at least for economy class passengers—and in specific the incident on April 9 in which Dr. David Dao refused to be bumped from his United flight and was forcibly removed by Chicago Department of Aviation security personnel. Ranking Member Bill Nelson, D-Fla., made no secret of the fact that United had been brought before the Subcommittee for a dressing down, lamenting to Mr. Kirby that he had been sent “as a sacrificial lamb,” when the CEO, Oscar Munoz, should have come himself. Mr. Munoz and Mr. Kirby both testified before a House Committee earlier in the week.

Mr. Kirby rose to his appointed role as sacrificial lamb and whipping boy, telling the subcommittee, “On April 9, our airline broke the public trust.” Kirby continued, “I’m sorry for our company’s inadequate response to the initial incident.” Ms. Evans confirmed for the subcommittee that the Dao incident was not handled in accordance with the Chicago Department of Aviation’s use of force policy, saying “force should only be used when absolutely necessary to protect the safety and security of passengers.” All parties to that incident concede that Dr. Dao did not pose a threat to passengers by remaining in his seat. Democratic members of the subcommittee made clear they did not believe changes put in place by airlines voluntarily, such as ending overbooking, was going to be sufficient to protect the flying public. Senator Cantwell, D-Wash., told Kirby rules on booking of passengers and repositioning of crew are “going to end up in a passenger bill of rights. We’re going to tell you how you can and can’t operate to protect consumers and the traveling public.”á

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Virgin Galactic has successfully tested its feather re-entry system in flight for the first time, the company said this week. The system, which is designed to enable VSS Unity to safely return to Earth after carrying tourists to the edge of space, reconfigures the vehicle by folding up its twin tail booms. The structure acts as a brake, allowing supersonic speeds to be safely dissipated so the vehicle can descend to a slow and safe runway landing. The flight test followed extensive testing of the feather system on the ground. In upcoming flight tests, VSS Unity will activate its feather system shortly after release from the carrier aircraft,áVMS Eve, to test how the feather system functions under flight conditions and to evaluate the flying qualities of VSS Unity while the feather is raised.á

During tests, the feather will be raised at lower altitudes, where the atmosphere is thicker, than would be the case during a full mission to space, Virgin Galactic said, to provide a rigorous test of the feather in the air. The feather system was a key innovation in Burt Rutan’s original spaceship design. A Virgin Galactic test pilot was killed in a 2014 crash, in an earlier version of the spaceship, when the feather mechanism was engaged too early. The latest version of the spaceship, VSS Unity, includes an automated lock mechanism for the tail.

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A Cherokee Six that had, according to the local Seattle Times, just departed Paine Field made a forced landing on a nearby street after striking a power line pole then a traffic light Tuesday afternoon. Both the pilot, believed to be the owner of the airplane, Justin Dunaway, and his passenger were uninjured. Two people on the ground were reported to have minor injuries. The pilot reported losing power shortly after takeoff.

The incident was caught on the dashcam of a car driving near the airport. In the video, N3457W seems to tear open a fuel tank when striking the power line pole. The escaping fuel then ignites in spectacular fashion as the plane skips off the traffic light. In addition to the Piper, which was destroyed in the crash, one car was destroyed in a fire ignited by the spilled fuel.

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When proposals for a custom paint job on my second-generation Cirrus came in as high as $25,000—with up to 10 weeks of down time—I considered stepping up to a newer model. But my investment in numerous upgrades and my comfort with the aircraft in a variety of missions and weather convinced me to keep my ham and stop looking for rye bread.

Still, logic dictated that it was time to personalize and customize the paint work. Why? Because it didn’t need it. N233WZ has always been pampered inside and out and is stored in a heated hangar. However, it was born in a time where Cirrus’ ho-hum graphics make it look like every other G2 on the ramp.

I looked at aftermarket graphics, and while I wanted an aggressive design with custom colors, I never found what I was conceptualizing. That is until I saw some cutting-edge graphics and paint work on the Generation 5 Cirrus models. This clearly seemed like a radical change in appearances from the earlier models. Once I got pointed in the right direction, I decided to pull the trigger on an owner-assisted vinyl graphics project. Here is a firsthand account.

Design It Once

The first step in this process was finding a company to design and provide the graphics. The company I chose to work with was Air Graphics from Fitchburg, Wisconsin. Air Graphics works with OEMs, including Cirrus, which was a plus. From my initial email to the delivery of the graphics, I was impressed with the customer service, design work, speed of renderings and the many samples that were sent to me overnight.

Air Graphics will move at the pace you set through the design process. The actual building of the vinyl material requires roughly two weeks. Air Graphics has three jumping-off points for the project: Semi-custom, Custom and the more basic process of reproducing the original design with custom colors.

Semi-custom designs can be rendered with your registration number in any color. A Semi-custom package means Air Graphics will change the color to your preference; however, the original design does not change. The price range for these predesigned renderings is $2200-$4400 (all prices are from 2015). The sizable price spread is due to the specific type of vinyl that is provided. The lower end of the price range is the plain, opaque materials. The cost becomes more expensive through the personal choice use of metallic and ultra-metallic vinyl, while the higher end of the price range is for textured vinyl, print-to-match colors and reflective films. An outline or gradient print added to any vinyl will make the graphic more expensive as well. Ultimately, the final cost is dependent upon the vinyl colors and design selected.

The Custom product requires a design fee of $495, which includes a minimum of three unique designs which are editable until you are satisfied with the final product. I dealt directly with Air Graphics designer Angel Adams. Most of the Custom design products average $3200-$3600, plus the $495 design fee.

Do It Yourself, Maybe

Like anything in life, experience is priceless. Jim Markey, my A&P, has it. I did the installation with him at his Certified Cirrus shop, Private Flight, at Sullivan County Airport in New York. The labor cost was about $1500 and the downtime was three days.

The FAA does not restrict who can do this project. You do not need a paint shop, there is no required sign-off and you won’t need to recalculate the aircraft weight and balance.

It is acceptable to apply the vinyl to control surfaces. However, only a few grams of weight are acceptable to add, plus movement and travel must not be affected. This is where the oversight of an A&P is invaluable.á

I was clearly an Indian and not a chief on my project. My advice is to honestly assess your own abilities or the project might not go well. Of note, Air Graphics partners with a shop in Wisconsin that will perform the install at $100 per hour. One interesting point: If you have a Cirrus and want to refresh the exact original scheme, Air Graphics can’t do that. Duplicating the original must come directly from Cirrus.

The vinyl application process on my Cirrus took three days, with three people helping, three deliveries of Chinese food, three Crud Thugs (more on that in a minute) and a lot of on-the-fly planning.

First, the layout and inspection of the vinyl components. It is important to compare all of the pieces with master layout sheets that Air Graphics will include. Decide where to begin, based on overlap and how the design flows on the airframe. You’ll need a large working space that is both warm and dry.

Next is the most labor-intensive portion of the project—removing the factory graphics. A Crud Thug wheel is attached to a Snap-On Tools accessory mount on an air gun. The device is much like a wire wheel and if used incorrectly, can remove paint from the airframe.

Once the old graphics are removed, you’ll need to use a glue solvent to remove any glue residue that remains on the surface.

When the surface is clean of all glue residue, it’s time to polish the base paint. It is critical to remove oxidation and any ghosts left from the original decals. We used a 3M product that produced excellent results—the aircraft looked as if it just rolled out of a paint shop.

There is an important caveat here. The base paint on my aircraft was in excellent condition. My A&P had discussed this before I began the design of the graphics. If the paint was in questionable condition, we would not have started the project. This is perhaps the most important aspect of this project and a reason why a vinyl graphics project won’t be a fit-all solution.

The last critical step in the prep process is a final cleaning of the base paint. We used ethyl alcohol to remove all wax, oil and dirt from the existing finish.

Application of the new design starts with a dry masking tape application to check for actual fit. The vinyl is applied with a solution of water with 5 percent soap and 5 percent alcohol. This process requires extra hands and good coordination. As long as the vinyl is wet, it’s workable, but when it dries it becomes fixed, and there it stays. There is a learning curve here—see one, do one, teach one.

Once the vinyl has set for 24 hours, it’s time to make it pretty with microfiber cleaning and waxing. Carnauba wax works, but use caution not to use a cleaner-wax.

It’s said that vinyl graphics require little if any maintenance. Most cleaner, soap and wax that is safe for a paint is also safe for the vinyl.

There are widely conflicting opinions on the typical life of the vinyl material (that is, how long it will maintain its resilience before cracking, peeling and generally looking shabby.) Obviously, storage and climate is a huge factor, just as it is with paint. Its location on the airframe is also a factor, as described in the sidebar above.

So far, the vinyl seems to be nonreactive with the deicing fluid that spews from the leading edges.

Other Options

Air Graphics isn’t the only source for vinyl graphics, but it does offer one of the most comprehensive design services and is well regarded by many paint shops.

Still, there are other choices, including Aero Graphics in Loveland, Colorado. In addition to offering OEM replacement decals for exterior and interior use, it creates custom registration numbers, logos, military markings and custom striping in a variety of vinyl colors and for its StripeRite paint mask. Its graphics are popular in the Warbird community and are found on a variety of aircraft—from the Quick Silver P51D Mustang—to aircraft on display at popular museums.

Aero Graphics striping is provided in three layers, including a single sheet of wax paper. The top layer is a protective tape which is used during the application process, while the middle layer is the vinyl stripe decal.

Plane Vinyl in Kennesaw, Georgia, specializes in printed vinyl wrap using 3M products to create flying billboards, but can design custom schemes or work with your design.

Plane Vinyl’s Bud Newton stressed that the company is careful not to infringe on OEM trademarks and copyrighted designs. Instead, Newton told us his company can make custom changes to these designs for a fraction of the cost of the competition.

Newton also stressed the importance of applying vinyl graphics in a manner that doesn’t interfere with airworthiness. While he notes there aren’t official FAA regulations that address vinyl graphics (other than registration numbers), he always suggests that control surfaces are rebalanced (should any vinyl cover them) and the aircraft is weighed—no matter how minimum the job is.

“We follow the same regulatory guidelines that apply to aircraft painting, whether the aircraft is experimental or certified. While we know the vinyl is lightweight, it could change the characteristics of a control surface,“ Newton said.

It’s worth noting that Plane Vinyl specializes and works with aircraft only. While it may contract with graphic installers around the country to do the work, it ensures that there is an experienced aviation technician overseeing the project. The key to a vinyl graphics is to know who is doing the application. While there may be installers skilled with working on motorcycles, trailers and boats, working with aircraft is another matter.

Wrap It Up

My results with Air Graphics were impressive and I think the cost was modest in the world of aircraft refinishing. The takeaway is that it offered a cost-effective alternative to a custom paint job, with less .

Combined paint and graphics projects can create limitless results, but require a large budget and downtime.

Contributor Kenneth Newman, MD is a commercial pilot and owns a Cirrus SR22 based in Western New York.

This article originally appeared in the May 2015 issue ofáAviation Consumerámagazine.

For more great content like this, subscribe toáAviation Consumer!

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Companies like Boeing, Cessna, Piper, Garmin and a handful of others rarely complain openly about the cost and delays of FAA certification. One reason is that through decades of experience, they understand the process and have in-house staff who know how the game has to be played. And they still spend a lot of money on certification work.

And then there are the drone guys who have, perhaps, not had the benefit of having their eyes de-scaled. The reason I think this is because of an article I read in The New York Times headlined, Silicon Valley Takes on the Flying Car. It appeared just as Uber was launching its airborne taxi conference last week. My colleague Mary Grady wrote about it here.

One of the quotes in that report caused me to nearly spew my morning coffee on my keyboard. It was from Sebastian Thrun, a technologist and self-driving car pioneer. He said this: “We have been in contact with the FAA and we see the regulators as friends.” You don’t need me to explain the na´vetÚ in that statement, but I’ll offer an observation or two anyway.

To think of regulators as friends is to fundamentally misconstrue the purpose and reality of the process. It’s not that the individuals in the FAA are enemies bent on destruction of whatever certification project you place before them, although comments on these pages have occasionally suggested that. What causes certification to spiral into the black vortex of frustration and maddening delay is the process itself, when those well-meaning FAA technocrats interact with each other, with higher headquarters and with the applicant to produce test requirements and data collection that seem patently unnecessary and unreasonable. Sometimes that’s true; often it is not.

While the industry could and should expect a cooperative attitude from regulators, that’s not the same as being a “friend.” Regulation is, by its nature, somewhat adversarial. If it weren’t, there would be no reason to have it. Certifying aircraft to carry people for hire has always been a steep hill to climb and at least partially for that reason, modern commercial aircraft might be the safest machines man has ever built to convey himself from Point A to Point B. Certifying autonomous electric aircraft, despite what the Silicon Valley techies may think, will be far more difficult because there’s no paradigm on which to draw and complexities of software and control with the outside world will be challenging to certify. The valley dwellers know how to write the code. They will be surprised that even though they think they understand the hoops they’ll have to jump through for certification, the FAA will be far more creative than they might imagine.

I’ve heard this spiel before. I once interviewed Vern Raburn when Eclipse was coming out of the ground around 2003. At the time, the VLJ—remember that term?—was the next big thing and it was going to darken the sky with airplanes in just the way autonomous air taxis are promised to do now. I can’t remember the words to this song, but the melody is familiar.

I remember Raburn saying the company had hired a highly experienced certification engineering lead and that it intended to view the FAA as its most important customer. At the time, I thought this clever, but rather odd. Customers are the people who buy what you make; regulators have another job. Eclipse obviously went the way the flying car or autonomous air taxi might very well go. But it wasn’t really certification that did Eclipse in, at least not entirely. In the end, it was poor management and a grandiose view of the market that didn’t comport with reality.

I think it could be same with the air taxi idea. There are definite parallels here. Recall that a core part of demand for the Eclipse jet was to be DayJet, an on-demand, short-range air-taxi service for people with more money than time. Sometime around 2006, I interviewed DayJet’s principal, the late Ed Iacobucci, and he laid it all out for me. As a software guy, he had a sophisticated model that showed how a network of efficient little jets would shuttle people around on short routes, generating economic activity and profits. DayJet was to buy 1400 Eclipse jets. When I asked how he was so sure this could work, Iacobucci said it was because his model said it would. I replied with a query to the effect that, what if the assumptions are crap? He smiled and acknowledged the point.

DayJet failed in 2008 after 11 months of operation. Iacobucci said at the time that it depended on certain traffic, demand and aircraft density. Eclipse couldn’t deliver the airplanes and DayJet couldn’t raise the $40 million in capital it needed to carry on. In September 2008, finding capital was all but impossible. But Iacobucci felt the concept had been proven and his projections validated.

I prefer to think it was neither proven nor disproven. It simply failed prematurely. Air taxi with multi-rotors will face the same challenge and many more related to certifying new things, convincing communities to allow them, planning routes and landing points and on ad infinitum.

The technology is essentially there, or will be. If enough patience and money is thrown at these things, I really think they can be certified. It may take quite a while, but I think it’s figure-outable. But as Eclipse and a handful of others discovered with the self-constructed mirage of the VLJ, there was no there there. The demand they imagined never reached the minimum critical mass because people have an annoying way of concluding that ideas you think are great really aren’t. Fifty-fifty the same thing happens with the autonomous air taxi.

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Hey, admit it: You'd own a P-51 Mustang if you could. In this AVweb video shot at Sun 'n Fun, P-51 owner Louis Horschel explains what's involved in P-51 ownership. If you think it involves money, you're right.


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Picture of the Week

A nice red airplane looks good just about anytime but Mike Bargman worked a little magic with this image of Jason Noll's Pitts S-2B to make a spectacular image. Noll owns Dream Scheme Designs so the airplane is a beauty, all right.


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