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Icon Aircraft told deposit holders yesterday that prices for the closely watched light sport would be going up about 30% for a base model and more than 50% for a fully loaded aircraft. A new 2018 Icon A5 with all the bells and whistles is going to set buyers back $389,000. While Icon has published a 2018 base price of $269,000, the company warns deposit holders that “only fully loaded A5 models will be delivered in 2018,” so those hoping for a basic model will have to wait until at least 2019. Tesla Motors has used a similar manufacturing strategy when rolling out its new cars. In 2008, Icon told buyers they expected to sell the two-seater for $139,000 with inflation at the CPI rate.

While some would-be buyers may wish to skip certain add-ons, many of the “options” will be hard to pass up. The base aircraft will lack folding wings for trailering and storage, retractable gear, a VHF radio, a transponder, removable windows and copilot side flight controls. The absence of “retractable landing gear” renders the A5 a seaplane (not a fixed-gear landplane). Lights for night operation, a fuel-injected version of the Rotax 912 and the electronic attitude indicator are also among the options for 2019 models. Icon tells Avweb they haven't decided which options will be bundled together, so buyers can choose the full-loaded A5 or wait to see whether there is a cheaper package that meets their needs.

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The F-16C that crashed on April 5, 2017, shortly after departure from Joint Base Andrews, was brought down by faulty reassembly of the main engine control (MEC) unit during overhaul, according to the Air Force Accident Investigation Board assigned to the mishap. The absence of a retaining ring and associated anti-rotation pin led to malfunction of a pilot valve, which caused a massive excess of fuel to be delivered to the engine. The excess fuel first manifested as uncommanded acceleration, but rapidly progressed to engine overspeed and “a severe in-flight engine fire that extended 20 to 30 feet aft of the aircraft,” according to the Air Force. No one was killed in the accident. The pilot ejected at 2000 feet after pointing the aircraft toward a wooded area 4 miles southwest of the departure airport.

This was the first flight for the single-engine fighter following installation of the overhauled MEC, which was conducted at the Air Force 552d Commodities Maintenance Squadron, Oklahoma City. During disassembly of the MEC, Air Force forensic specialists found two pieces missing, which led to the failure, along with an extra backing ring found lodged against a sealing gasket. An O-ring made of a material other than the one specified was also found in the MEC. The extra part and incorrect O-ring did not contribute to the accident, but were further evidence of a lack of parts control in the overhaul shop, according to the board. Air Force Col. David Cochran, who was the president of the Accident Investigation Board, wrote, “It is critically important to ensure that all small washers, shims, pins, clips, and retaining rings are accounted for during the MEC overhaul process, in accordance with the applicable technical order guidance. Omitting or improperly installing any of these items, as stated in the technical order, did result in failure of the MEC and aircraft loss.”

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The kingdom of Saudi Arabia will invest $1 billion in three of Richard Branson’s space/aviation companies — Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company and Virgin Orbit, Branson announced on Thursday. “This investment will enable us to develop the next generation of satellite launches and accelerate our program for point-to-point supersonic space travel,” Branson said in a news release. The funding also will support the companies’ space-tourism plans, accelerate Virgin Orbit’s manufacturing and operational capabilities, aid the development of next-generation low-cost small-satellite launch systems and also may help to develop a “space-centric entertainment industry” in Saudi Arabia. Virgin will remain the majority shareholder in all three companies.

In a blog post, Branson noted that “change is happening on a number of fronts in Saudi Arabia.” The royal family has begun to “loosen societal restrictions and encourage a more progressive stance on areas such as women’s rights,” he said. Branson says these have been “small steps to date” but he believes the crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman Al-Saud, is “committed to bringing about these modern changes.” The kingdom also has an option to invest an additional $480 million in “space services.” The deal is subject to regulatory approval. Virgin Galactic aims to fly tourists to space, and The Spaceship Company is building the airplanes that will carry them. Virgin Orbit is working to develop a repurposed 747 to carry a rocket launcher aloft and deliver satellites to orbit. All three companies are based in California, and Virgin Galactic plans to operate from a spaceport in New Mexico.

A concept for a Saudi space-tourism facility.

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The FAA and Chinese regulators signed an implementation agreement for the U.S.–China Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement (BASA) late last week. Although the two countries signed BASA in 2005, generally agreeing to facilitate mutual acceptance of parts and aircraft certified by the other, it has taken 12 years for the countries to get to agreement on a concrete implementation plan. The U.S. has similar agreements with Canada and Europe to facilitate mutual aircraft certification acceptance. President Trump is scheduled to travel to China on a trade mission in early November, which is expected to include representatives from Boeing.

U.S. and Chinese aerospace companies both hope to gain from the agreement. Although the Chinese-made C919 lacks the performance to compete with the Boeing 737MAX and Airbus A320neo, its narrow-body peers, other than for the business of state-subsidized Chinese carriers, COMAC, maker of the C919, has bold aspirations to compete with the big two. The ability to certify the aircraft for use by U.S. air carriers would lend significant credibility to the business. Boeing, conversely, wants to make sure they’re not shut out of the Chinese market, which was the biggest buyer of transport category jets in 2015. Richard Aboulafia, a leading commercial aviation market analyst, sums up the accord by saying, “This is diplomatically important. It shows that the U.S. takes China’s aviation industry seriously and that it regards their civil-aviation officials as reliable partners.”

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“Charm” or “character” are words sometimes used to describe old airplanes and maybe not even airplanes that old. A drafty cabin in an old Tri-Pacer is an example of character and the fact that a pre-war J-3 has but a passing nod to pitch stability is charming until you fly the thing on a 100-mile cross country and then it’s just a pain in the ass. Charm has its limits.

That’s another way of saying that airplanes of the 1920s and 1930s were built at a time when aeronautical design and manufacturing were emerging arts and just as much was unknown as was known. An airplane was just as likely to be significantly compromised across a range of design considerations as it was to be completely sorted. The Waco line may be an exception to this and I was reminded of it yesterday when I met Waco’s Peter Bowers to fly the company’s new amphibious version of the hulking YMF-5D, which they call the YMF-5F, for floats.

As you probably know, these are new production airplanes, essentially resurrected from the original designs produced during the golden age of biplanes in the 1930s. In the mid-1980s, the YMF got a makeover, but it’s essentially the same airplane designed and certified even before CAR 3, which didn’t appear until after World War II.

I’d flown the land version of the YMF a few years ago and my impression of it must have been dulled by time. For what it is, the Waco is a surprisingly nice flying airplane. It’s not too heavy in roll or pitch and although it has adverse yaw and you need to use the rudder, it’s not so bad as to bounce your noggin off the cockpit combing if you get lazy of foot. When Bowers threw me into the rear hole, I was a little apprehensive about what those two big Aerocet tubs were going to do to performance and handling. At 3200 pounds, this ain’t no LSA.

Cruise speed does take a 10 MPH or so hit and power off, the airplane is between an anvil and a brick. But trimmed up with power—the trim is one of the 1930s window cranks like we have in the Cub—the airplane is stunningly stable in pitch and roll. I’d say fingertip control, but it almost doesn’t need even that in cruise flight. (That’s about 100 MPH on 14 GPH.) For a water landing, I set the power and trimmed it to 75 MPH and essentially did nothing else. It alights gracefully and without drama. The same was true on a hard runway landing with the floats. It does require a power-on approach, but without even looking at the MP gauge, you can just feel through the airframe when the power setting is exactly right and you’ll have to work to screw up the landing. I’m not so sure a student couldn’t solo in the YMF-5. (At nearly $600,000, the lessons would be a tad expensive.)

The point is, before wind tunnels for every little design tweak and computational fluid dynamics became a thing, those old guys with slide rules and lofting sticks were capable of producing remarkably nice flying airplanes. Maybe not all of them, but some of them. The YMF-5, even on floats, is one.

I originally posted this blog on Friday afternoon because Waco is showing the airplane this weekend at AOPA’s regional fly-in in Tampa.  I’ll have a video on it later in the week. I think you’ll be impressed with the execution. Of course, the market for this type of airplane is almost nil. It's but a unique toy for the very rich or collectors, maybe. But that doesn't make it any less cool.

And here's a shout out for Peter O. Knight Airport, where the fly-in was held. This is one of country’s remarkable airports and set in what I find to be the most interesting neighborhood. It was built by the Works Progress Administration in the same era that Wacos were to aviation what Cirruses are today. At one time, Peter O, as everyone calls it, was Tampa’s main airport. And short of landing on the city’s streets, the location couldn’t be any closer. It’s hard by the Port of Tampa and there’s a nice little yacht basin opposite the port. Nothing like sitting on the airport veranda watching airplanes, ships and sloops come and go, as Peter Bowers and I did on Thursday in perfect weather. 

The market may be flooded with ADS-B weather receivers, but the market is also seeing a new generation of subscription-based portable SiriusXM weather receivers. The latest one comes from Garmin—the GDL51—which finally completes the weather interface on the company's aera660 portable GPS, plus it works with the Garmin Pilot tablet app. In this video, Aviation Consumer magazine Editor Larry Anglisano takes a close look at the new receiver on the bench and in the air.

Lightspeed || Meet Zulu 3 A new and better choice in headsets
Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

'Tis the season for fall colors photos and this is the best we got this week. Thanks to Eric Swanberg for a really good one.

As I approached Sarasota Airport on the downwind there was a Cessna 172 ahead of me who asked the tower clearance for landing. 

Tower: "State your intentions." 

The pilot said that he planned to have dinner with his brother-in-law that evening. 

Tower: "Roger, cleared to land."


Tom Wilson

 

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