Forward This E-mail | Edit Email Preferences | Advertise | Contact | Privacy | Help

  • Text size:

    • A
    • A
    • A

The all-time piston single speed record was set Saturday when Steve Hinton Jr. flew Voodoo, a highly modified P-51 Mustang, at an average speed of 531.53 mph over four runs at Clarks Ranch in remote central Idaho. His fastest run was 554.69 mph. His average speed beat Lyle Shelton’s record of 528.3 mph set in 1989 in Rare Bear, a tricked-out Grumman Bearcat. His father, a legendary race and test pilot, also set the speed record in the P-51 Red Baron in 1979.

Hinton Jr. had been trying to beat the record since early last week but weather and technical issues delayed the flight until Saturday. Hinton has flown the same aircraft to three successive Unlimited titles at the World Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada, but there were even more modifications made to the Mustang for the record attempt. Even the distinctive purple paint job was removed to reduce drag and weight. Below is a Facebook video of the record run but better quality video is expected in the next few days. 

Airbus’ Perlan II glider set the altitude record for soaring on Sunday by riding a mountain wave in Argentina. According to the Argentinian online news site clarin.com, the glider reached at least 52,172 feet on a flight from El Calafate Airport in Tierra del Fuego, near the southern tip of South America. There was some irony in that the flight beat the previous record set by Einar Enevoldson and copilot Steve Fossett in 2006 (50,727 feet) and occurred on the 10th anniversary of Fossett’s death in a crash in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.

The Perlan II was flown by Jim Payne and Morgan Sandercock and occurred on the last day of a window of atmospheric conditions needed to push the glider to that height. It was the 38th flight of the campaign to beat the record in the raucous conditions of the extreme southern end of the continent. Sunday dawned clear with the winds sweeping across the mountains on the spine of the continent. Airbus’ next goal is to take the glider to the edge of space at 90,000 feet.

Continental 'Factory new CM Magnetos at near-rebuilt pricing'

One Aviation has announced the first flight of the wing that will hold up its EA700, known as the Eclipse Canada until recently. The wing was attached to a modified legacy airframe for the testing. Details of the flight are unavailable because of technical issues with their news release but the company's Facebook post says the first flight lasted about 80 minutes and went well. “The aircraft felt very solid, a testament to the engineering and build teams,” said test pilot Jerry Chambers.

The EA700, known until June as the Canada Project, is an enlarged version of the original Eclipse 500/550 with a bigger wing, bigger engines and a fuselage extended by 14 inches, including the addition of a third cabin window. The result is a significantly more capable Eclipse that can climb directly to 43,000 feet, has a range of around 1500 NM and can service high and hot locations more reliably.

The British-designed but now Bentonville, Arkansas-manufactured GameBird GB1 received its FAA Part 23 type certificate on Wednesday. The GB1 is certified for unlimited aerobatics—plus or minus 10G. To be certified to that staggering load factor, a GB1 airframe was tested repeatedly to plus then minus 11.7G, with three trips to plus and minus 16G, culminating in a test to 19G with the airframe heated to 160 degrees to soften the carbon fiber—all without failure. Despite the hardcore aerobatic strength Game Composites is pitching the aircraft as an all-around performer.

By removing a 25-pound weight from the tail, pilots can move the aircraft center of gravity forward enough to make the GB1 a stable cross-country aircraft capable of 200-knot cruise with a 1,000-NM range—though with precious little space for luggage. The baggage compartment is rated for a maximum of 30 pounds. When operated as an aerobatic category aircraft (plus or minus 6G, rather than the 10G for unlimited aerobatics), the maximum takeoff weight is increased by 260 pounds to give a full-fuel useful load of 418 pounds in a two-seat airplane. With a base price of $400,000, the company is hoping the GameBird will find wide adoption, from initial tailwheel and aerobatic training up through unlimited competitive aerobatics. 

Sponsor Announcement
AirFleet Capital || Contact Us for a Quote - Click Here or Call (800) 390-4324

Water landings in amphibious aircraft are no cause for alarm, but that’s a message still making its way to the general public. An aircraft reported to local police as having crashed off the coast of Maine last week was just an Icon A5 setting down in a routine water landing. Derek Tam-Scott, Icon Aircraft’s head of communications, tells AVweb that calls to police reporting A5 water landings are not uncommon. “It happened several times in New York City in 2015 when people driving on the George Washington Bridge saw the plane landing on the Hudson River.”

Tam-Scott told AVweb the aircraft causing a stir last week was serial number 20, delivered to a customer in July. The customer is basing the aircraft off their yacht and making their way up the East Coast. Photos suggest the ship in question is the Axis Yacht Support vessel (formerly christened the Fast & Furious), which is designed to carry helicopters or watercraft as a support ship for a passenger-carrying yacht. The ship’s crane, designed to lift vessels up to 12 tons onto the aft deck, appears to have no problem with the roughly 1,100-pound A5.

Our best stories start with you. If you've heard something the flying world might want to know about, tell us. Submit news tips via e-mail here. (Or send them direct to Newstips at AVweb.com.)

Sponsor Announcement
Wings for Humanity || Call (414) 763-5781 to Help
Give the Gift of Life!
Wings for Humanity is a non-profit humanitarian aid organization working in areas of the world where traditional transportation is unavailable. WFH regularly flies medical workers, medications, and supplies into areas where medical assistance and supplies are needed.

Through your donation-in-kind (airplane, car, land, or other items of value), you can help save a life. For more information, call (414) 763-5781 or go to Wings4Humanity.org.

The Icon A5 has been, for years, a press darling. Experienced journalists fresh off assignments flying multi-million dollar jets gushed over a pre-production light sport airplanes. Seriously? Icon said I could try to answer that question for myself, but only if I really flew the airplane and understood the customer experience. “Spend four days at the Icon training center doing the transition course that a new owner would do, then write whatever you want,” Icon told me.

Fair enough. What I was just as interested in as the airplane itself is how Icon is approaching training new owners. Faced with the huge challenge of bringing a new aircraft design to market, Icon has become a flight training company to boot. The flight training business provides an even worse customer experience than today’s general aviation airplanes, says Icon CEO Kirk Hawkins.

Built for Adventure

Like everything else at Icon, training is a clean-slate design. They made their own syllabus and wrote their own textbooks. Flight Operations Manager and my instructor for the week, Mike “Tina” Turner tells me that’s partly because Icon expects pilots will fly the airplane differently. Icon wants to teach pilots to safely operate out of lakes and rivers. It’s built for adventure, not for travel. That means more time on reading the wind in an off-airport environment and less on Class C radio procedures.

Transition from landplanes is the most common Icon training program, and they have the formula dialed in. Six flights including the final checkout is about what it takes to get a single engine sea, sport pilot endorsement in the A5. Every flight includes at least one takeoff and landing at the home airport, plus a handful of water takeoffs and landings. Each flight introduces a new skill, which will generally be included on all subsequent flights. Flight two adds water taxiing and emergency procedures. Flight three adds glassy water landings and beaching. Flight four adds rough water operations and sailing and flight six is a practice for the proficiency check. That last flight, six, is the proficiency check itself, hopefully ending in a Sport Pilot ASES endorsement.

Icon built its ab initio sport pilot training program with a specific number of flights and weeks, in the mold of military flight training. But it quickly found variation in student aptitude, preparation and the weather made it hard to set a fixed schedule. That’s a problem, because people who can afford airplanes tend to have fixed schedules. Icon is working on ways to allow pilots to continue their training closer to home while maintaining a tight grip on quality control.

Training Materials

Icon’s in-house training materials come several weeks in advance of training as a spiral bound four-volume set. Volume 1, Course Guide, is the syllabus for each of the three Icon training programs—full sport pilot, land transition, sea transition. Volume 2, Sport Flying Academics, fills the role of a traditional sport or private pilot ground training textbook, except that it includes the necessary seaplane knowledge and emphasizes Icon-specific features like AoA indications. Volume 3, Sport Flying Operations, is the manual on how to fly the airplane, and most useful of the set for a pilot transitioning to the A5 who is current on aeronautical knowledge. Volume 4, Sport Flying Supplement, is essentially the extras-for-nerds  volume—derivation of performance formulae, knot tying diagrams and appendices.

On my first flight in the A5, we head north and start with stalls and steep turns. A full departure stall in the A5 is impossible by some definitions. The elevator won’t produce enough downforce to get the angle of attack high enough to stall the outboard portion of the wing, so under most CG, weight and density altitude conditions, the A5 will continue to climb with the stick full aft while maintaining good roll control through aileron use alone. While Icon is confident in the airplane’s spin resistance, they’re not encouraging customers to attempt intentional spins, so I didn’t do any high angle-of-attack rudder mashing.

From there, Turner and I head west to approach Lake Berryessa over the dam. Once past the last set of power lines, Turner had me point the nose at the water and I couldn’t stop smiling for 15 minutes. Smiled until my cheeks hurt. Smiled like a circus clown. My only comparable aviation experience was my first exposure to aerobatics. I flew over the water along the hills at 50 feet. Because there’s no engine or prop in front of you, the visibility is much better than any other piston single I’ve seen.

Water Handling

Unexpectedly, the safety feature that permits low-level flying is the A5’s water handling. An emergency landing can be made from extremely low altitudes on the water without heroics in the A5. We practiced them again and again and again. Icon’s instructors don’t advocate flying low over anything other than water, because without an ejection seat, post-engine failure options are limited and unpleasant.

When it comes to hiring instructors, Icon has a type. Of the four instructors at the Icon West training center, one flew the Tomcat, another the Super Hornet, a third the Harrier, and one the Strike Eagle. Turner, my instructor for the week, formerly the Super Hornet pilot, is still in the Navy Reserve, teaching air-to-air combat as an F-5 adversary pilot. Icon says they’re not seeking military aviators per se.

Derek Tam-Scott, Icon’s Head of Communications, told me, “It’s very important that our instructors are extremely comfortable with low-level dynamic contact flying. This is consistently available in certain types of military pilots, but we are enthusiastic to hire any instructor with this profile.” Tam-Scott also says referrals have played a big role in the composition of the Icon instructor corps. Military pilots tend to know military pilots, so diversification into other aviation backgrounds happens slowly.

Turner doesn’t dwell with me on his time at Top Gun, which has precious little applicability to flying the A5. One military technique he does want new A5 pilots to adopt is “chumming the chart” for obstacles. Icon expects owners will want to fly the A5 close to the ground. The Icon’s well-marketed, docile stall behavior will help with ham-fisted flying, but won’t do much for power lines or box canyons. Flying safely down low requires slavish review of VFR charts for obstacles and mid-altitude observation passes. The A5 may only go 90 knots at full power, but that’s plenty fast for unexpected obstacles or terrain to sneak up on the unprepared or distracted.

While we discussed the importance of preparation for low-level flying, we never actually practiced by inspecting the chart, planning a route, surveying the route from above, then flying it. Each flight to Berryessa followed the same entry and departure procedures, which probably maximizes the safety of training and rental operations, but doesn’t leave new owners as well equipped as they could be for exploring new bodies of water on their own, in my view.  

It's an Amphibian

New students in the A5 will perform their first landings on the water, generally on their first lesson. Unlike an amphibian on floats, the flying-boat hull tolerates a wide range of landing attitudes and sideslip without skipping, slapping or other scary behavior. With a hilariously wide and long touchdown target, it’s hard to go wrong, assuming you don’t put the gear down. Turner held firm on making me do different pre-landing flow checks for land and water every landing, because there’s no practical way to fit a gear position alert in an amphibian without either sophisticated avionics or near constant nuisance alerts. Avionics in the A5 are basic by design, so pilots will have to get it right on their own. Flying boat designs are inherently less prone to flipping than amphibians on floats, because the gear is located closer to the center of mass, so this may be a survivable mistake in the A5. Icon hasn’t tested whether the A5 would flip if landed gear down, and declined to speculate.

One handling characteristic that new pilots may find annoying is hard surface taxiing. To make the A5 spin-resistant, Icon gave the light sport a big vertical stabilizer. In flight, the big tail keeps the airplane decently coordinated even with sloppy rudder use. On the ground, the big tail and free-castering nosewheel make the A5 eager to weathervane. Pilots who have flown the free-castering Cirrus or Diamond aircraft won’t find it particularly bothersome, but most everyone else will need to adjust to using a high power setting and differential braking to keep the A5 on the yellow line around tight downwind turns. Icon says nose gear on the production aircraft will have easier ground handling, so if I get invited back to fly the final production aircraft, we’ll report back on the changes.

I came to Icon to answer why the press who have flown the plane think it’s so good. I left thinking there was a different question needing an answer. “At what is it good?” It’s not better or worse than something like a Cirrus or even a Carbon Cub on floats. CEO Kirk Hawkins is adamant that this is a totally different type of machine. Like the first dirt bikes presented to the motorcycle world or snowboards to the skiing world, the A5 is of a different breed, says Hawkins. Asking whether the A5 is a good airplane is like comparing a jet ski to fishing boats. It’s not a good fishing boat, but that misses the point.

Whether you’ll like the A5 comes down to your reason for flying. If you fly as a way to travel with your family between distant airports, the A5 is terrible. As a way to get out of town for the long weekend, fly low over the water, then camp by the lake, particularly for a seaplane newbie, it’s without peer.

Icon's Kirk Hawkins and Consumer Delight

It’s hard to understand the A5—or its production delays—without some understanding of Icon’s CEO, Kirk Hawkins. My first afternoon at Icon, I spent an hour with Derek Tam-Scott, Icon’s Head of Communications. Tam-Scott has been with the company since 2011. “Kirk doesn’t really believe in the 80/20 rule,” Tam-Scott told me. Hawkins is a former F-16 pilot, Stanford Business School graduate, and makes no apologies for a culture of aggressive goals and expectations. “Every start-up worth a damn is aggressive,” says Hawkins. If something can be improved, Hawkins wants it done.

For example, the tie down rings on the A5 are fitted with a quick release pin that mates to a receptacle on the wing, so they’re removable when not in use. It probably costs 50 times as much as the cast steel tie-down ring you’re used to, but it does make for a more elegant airplane. Most any cost-benefit analysis would point to the cast steel tie-down, but that’s not how the A5 was built.

There’s a term in the consumer research field to describe when a customer gets their hands on a product for which they have positive expectations and those expectations are exceeded—consumer delight. “It’s not any one thing with this airplane. It’s the high density of thought that went into this product,” says Tam-Scott. Icon’s engineers and designers have put a staggering amount of time and energy into making the A5 equal parts airplane and objet d’arte. It’s a good-looking airplane, and that matters. The A5 is meant to be a toy, so design that evokes an emotional response is a must-have design criterion.

If you really put the hammer down, the A5 can get up to about 90 knots. It is not meant to go far, fast or carry much load. If that’s what you need, Icon will happily give you the number for your local Cirrus dealer—or Southwest Airlines. The A5 was designed for fun—and to qualify as a light-sport aircraft, which it barely did by getting a waiver to increase its maximum takeoff weight. There are other new airplanes designed principally for fun, mostly other light sports, but in comparison to the A5, they sometimes feel like really nice kitplanes.

Forward this email to a friend
Tailor your alerts!
Click here to update alerts preferences.
AVweb Insider

Pilots complain—and have always complained—about ramp and parking fees, those annoying gotchas that so bespoil what would otherwise be a magic moment between man and machine. That’s at the core of the current misalignment between AOPA and NATA and the former’s general complaint against three Signature-owned FBOs.

But as far as pilots go, this is a complaint by degree. If you sit the complainant down and ask if he or she wants a well-equipped FBO, friendly line people, clean bathrooms, free coffee and a crew car, you find … acquiescence. That’s because pilots generally realize that running businesses entails costs and they can reasonably be expected to pay a fair share of those costs, plus a margin. Sounds like user fees, no? They are.

So it devolves to a discussion of what’s a fair fee, if one is charged at all. In my view, in the absolute, I’ll pay $20 to $25 for a single-engine airplane without blinking and maybe up to $40 for a twin. But my—and probably your—idea of what’s fair isn’t the same as what’s realistic unless we can see the FBO’s P&L. You have probably noticed that FBOs come and go like the weather. If they were reliably profitable entities, why would they change hands so often?

At big-city FBOs, overhead expenses paid to the airport owner may be higher and have to be recovered through fees and fuel sales margin if the FBO is to keep the lights on. Hence, higher fees and fuel prices. But maybe those big-city operations are actually making a killing because we only think they’re more expensive to operate. Show me the P&L and I could have a more informed opinion.

AOPA’s complaint is against three Signature operations at Key West, Florida; Asheville, North Carolina; and Waukegan, Illinois, where Signature is an effective monopoly on the field. Seven aircraft owners joined the complaint. The basis of the complaint is FAR 13, which allows aggrieved parties to complain to the FAA that high fees discriminate against some users at airports where federal AIP funds are spent for improvements.

Just for the record, at Key West, Signature charges $6.71 for 100LL, at Waukegan $6.60 ($5.90 self-serve) and at Asheville $6.97. According to airnav.com, the current national average for 100LL is $4.74.  Collateral fees seem to be all over the map. At Key West, according to the comment section on AirNav, sometimes the fee is waived with fuel purchase, sometimes not. Said one commenter: “Called two days ago to check fees, was told $20 facility fee and $20/night parking. Then I read the AirNav comments and thought can this be the same place? Called back yesterday to recheck and was told $140 facility fee and $140/ night parking. With a planned four-night stay, we obviously ended up landing KMTH instead. It's only an hour drive. This is the most outrageously expensive airport I've ever checked fees at. No reason to go here.” But that comment occurred before Signature took over last year.

I reviewed all the comments for Key West and found 28 favorable, 20 unfavorable, but sentiment was split evenly since Signature took over early last year. In any case, when I called to check fees on Sunday, Signature said the single-engine handling fee is $25, waived with a fuel purchase of 7 gallons. Overnight parking is $23.65, but seems to vary by model. These fees aren’t published, so you have to call to get them. Those fees are on the high side for me, but not outrageous and not, in my view, “egregious” as AOPA insists. Up the road in Marathon, fuel is $5.98, the $15 ramp fee is waived with fuel purchase and tiedown is $15 a night. It’s about an hour drive down to Key West from Marathon.

If you do even the minimal math and you bought 50 gallons of fuel, by flying into Marathon, you’d save $35 on gas and $8 a night on tiedown, so call it $60 for a three-day stay. Lunch for two on Duval Street. Throw in the rental car and you’re spending more than just landing in Key West in the first place. That’s the size of the difference we’re talking about here. If it’s the principle of the thing, I get it. Be my guest. Not sure I would bother, even as cheap as I am. I’m no fan of Signature either and routinely avoided this franchise because of high fees and fuel prices. But that’s not the same as wanting government intervention to lower them. I’m not going to plug all this into a spreadsheet, but I will stipulate the cost delta for a twin or a turbine might be more. Comments about Asheville or Waukegan were similarly negative and similarly mixed. AOPA says it has gotten many complaints about these airports.

But does this rise to the level of exclusionary pricing? Are pilots discriminated against to the extent they can’t come to Key West for lack of competitive pricing? Is a Part 13 complaint justified? I don’t see a convincing argument here. There are other exclusive places where it’s just more expensive to fly. Take Teterboro, for instance. (Yeah, take it.) Avgas is between $7.44 and $8.10 and at Meridian, the top-rated FBO, the ramp fee for a single is $55, waived with a fuel purchase. (They’ve got the cheapest gas, at $7.44) Yet … the AirNav comments are almost uniformly positive for two reasons: People probably expect to pay more because of the location and the service gets raves. Said one customer: “As per many previous reviews. I showed up in a ratty old C-172 and was treated as well as everyone else. They arranged a car service to make a lunch in Manhattan, had the best fuel prices, and were thoroughly professional.”

You could argue that competition on the field hones their performance, but I’d also argue that it’s more than that. Businesses with a customer-centric focus usually benefit from management that’s customer focused. And that gets me back to Signature and perhaps the real value of AOPA’s complaint. If I were a Signature manager and saw that many complaints against my business, I’d consider it a five-alarm fire and I’d figure out how to fix it. FBOs like Meridian clearly do it in a high-cost market and Signature ought to as well.

As for the FAA complaint, what’s the agency going to do, wade in and set fuel and ramp fee prices? Should the cities at these three airports do that? They do have a say. Clearly, the airport hosts are allowed and even required by the FAA to produce revenue through hangar rentals and other fees. At my home airport, the city was actually dinged for not charging enough for leased ground to private businesses. Can they similarly determine a business is charging too much? I suppose. I just don’t think Signature’s fees cross that threshold.

Perhaps what the FAA should do is determine that the fees are consistent. Judging from the AirNav comments, they are not. Some pilots were clearly charged more than others. Increasingly, airports are levying “security” and “infrastructure” fees that are tacked on to ramp and parking fees. Key West has one of these, at $5. Other airports not named in the complaint are also adding on these fees. Again, these are user fees or taxes by another name. Second, why can’t these public-access airports have a parking area for which there is no charge and no services? Walk yourself to the fence exit and carry your own bags. That would address the denial of access for pilots who just don’t want to pay the FBO’s bathroom cleaning bill. High fuel prices aren’t denial of access; you can get gas elsewhere.

Electronics International 'Aviation Alert! Short video on how EI saved this pilot's life

Composite props may be the latest shiny object to make airplanes go, but most of them have wood cores, and the basic wooden prop is enjoying somewhat of a resurgence.  AVweb's Paul Bertorelli took a tour of Sensenich's prop factory in Plant City, Florida to see how these products are made.

Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

Not a single sunset but there is a rainbow in this batch. The AVweb hat goes to Bob Shaw who caught this BAE 146 converted to an air tanker that we're sure the manufacturer never envisioned in this attitude and role when it designed the regional airliner. Nice shot, Bob.

Discover the Exciting World of Today's Homebuilt Aircraft! Take to the Air with a Subscription to 'Kitplanes' Magazine and Receive the Annual Homebuilt Buyers Guide as a Gift

Fostering a good pilot/examiner relationship is essential to overcoming test-day jitters, and knowing a little about aerodynamics, FARs and weather forecasts will help you ace any checkride and this quiz.

Click here to take the quiz.

Controller: Cessna 123, traffic, opposition direction, five miles, at 4,000 feet

Cessna 123: Looking for traffic, Cessna 123

Controller: Cessna 123, Love Field, six miles, 12 o'clock.

Cessna 123: Cessna 123 looking for Love.

Pause

Cessna123: That didn't come out right, did it.

Controller: No but we hope you find Love, ... and the airport.


Allen Werner

 

AVweb is the world's premier independent aviation news resource, online since 1995. Our reporting, features, and newsletters are brought to you by:

Publisher
Tom Bliss

Editorial Director, Aviation Publications
Paul Bertorelli

Editor-in-Chief
Russ Niles

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Geoff Rapoport

Contributors
Rick Durden
Kevin Lane-Cummings
Paul Berge
Larry Anglisano

Ad Coordinator
Karen Lund

Click here to send a letter to the editor. (Please let us know if your letter is not intended for publication.)

Comments or questions about the news should be sent here.

Have a product or service to advertise on AVweb? Your advertising can reach over 225,000 loyal AVwebFlash, AVwebBiz, and AVweb web site readers every week. Over 80% of our readers are active pilots and aircraft owners. That's why our advertisers grow with us, year after year. For ad rates and scheduling, click here or contact Tom Bliss: