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Volume 25, Number 6c
February 9, 2018
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Piper Lands Its Biggest Trainer Order Ever
Mary Grady

Piper Aircraft accepted an order for 152 airplanes this week from a flight school in China, the largest single trainer order ever for the company. “This is a wonderful opportunity for both organizations as we work collectively to help address the global pilot shortage,” said Piper CEO Simon Caldecott. The seven-year, $74 million order came from Fanmei Aviation Technologies, a subsidiary of Sichuan Fanmei Education Group, a leading provider of aviation education in China. "The agreement and cooperation with Piper Aircraft is the key element for our general aviation roadmap," said Don Li, president of Fanmei. The announcement was made at the Singapore Air Show.

The flight school will take delivery of 100 Archer TX single-engine trainers, 50 Seminole twins, one Seneca twin and one Piper M350, a pressurized piston single. Deliveries will begin next month. Piper CEO Simon Caldecott told CNBC that demand for pilots is growing in Asia. "One of the things I've been looking at, and constantly monitoring, is the global shortage of new pilots," Caldecott said. CNBC added that Boeing’s analysis from 2017 predicts the Asia-Pacific region will need 253,000 new pilots by 2036, about 40 percent of the global demand.

Video Tour GE H80 Turboprop
AVweb Staff
With the new ATP engine still in development, GE continues to market its line of H80 turboprop engines meant to compete with Pratt & Whitney's PT6. GE's Matt Garas gave AVweb a tour of the new engines at the NBAA show in Last Vegas in 2015. 


Friday Foibles: Hey, Who Needs a License?
Paul Berge

The further one gets from the regulated lower 48, the less those pesky rules get in the way. That necessariy leads to some really interesting accidents. Alaskans fly a helluva lot more than most humans and operate off some mind-bogglingly rough terrain, such as hillsides, glaciers, remote gravel bars or other unlikely surfaces. 

To fully grasp this mishap, mentally play the Northern Exposure theme music as you consider the pilot “attempting to takeoff from a public street” in Wasilla, where he couldn’t get any climb going before smacking into a light pole. Fortunately, we do have rules for Friday Fobles and one is that we consider accidents only if no one was hurt. And no one was. The pilot later admitted he’d “failed to remove heavy frost from the airplane prior to the takeoff attempt.” We're pretty sure there's a mention of this in the POH.

Texas is a lot like Alaska—big, has some oil, and regulations tend to be interpreted as advisory-only. Witness this Texan in his two-seat Rans Coyote. Even the name says Don’t Mess With Texas, so the non-certificated pilot, who “had not held any kind of pilot certificate since his student pilot certificate expired about 40 years ago” and had “no record of ever having had any instruction,” displayed lone-star confidence and took a friend for a ride. Everything went smoothly until the wheels left the ground, after which the wily Coyote stalled, crashed and burst into flames. Yes, he walked away, so no harm done, and probably no lessons learned. Bleep-Bleep!

For years, our sister magazine, IFR, has offered The Bent Prop Award for accidents that top the list for, ummm, shallow thinking. In 2013, it went to a Comanche pilot in Ohio who, without setting the hand brake, started the 250-HP engine, felt the aircraft unexpectedly (Really?) moving forward and took immediate action to ensure spectacular defeat by advancing the throttle, while reaching for the hand brake. Too little brake with too much power, and the Comanche collided with a hangar. You know those things called checklists? It's been proven that they actually work.

First PC-24 Goes To PlaneSense
Russ Niles

The first Pilatus PC-24 business jet has been delivered to New Hampshire-based PlaneSense. The fractional company has ordered 10 of what Pilatus has termed its “super versatile jet” for its ability to use unimproved runways. It already has 34 PC-12 turboprops so its relationship with Pilatus is substantial. The company bought four Nextant XTI jets to get all the operating certificates for jet operations and will eventually replace those aircraft when it has enough PC-24s to meet jet demand, according to Robb Report. 

PlaneSense CEO George Antoniadis told the magazine that the PC-12s will continue to be the foundation of the company’s business but it was missing a market segment with the turboprop. “Some people just straight out prefer to be in a jet, or some people need to cover longer distances more quickly,” he told Robb Report. The PC-24 was built in Switzerland and was prepared for delivery by Pilatus’s Broomfield, Colorado, facility. The PC-24 seats up to eight passengers, has a top speed of 500 mph and a range of 1,900 miles and needs only 2,700 feet of runway.

NASA Aims For 2020 Dream Chaser Launch
Mary Grady

NASA has approved a mission using Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser spacecraft, in late 2020, the company announced on Wednesday. The mission will carry 6 tons of supplies to the International Space Station. “The Dream Chaser is going to be a tremendous help to the critical science and research happening on the space station,” Mark Sirangelo, an executive with Sierra Nevada Corp., said in a news release. “Receiving NASA’s Authority to Proceed is a big step for the program. We can’t wait to see the vehicle return to Kennedy Space Center to a runway landing, allowing immediate access to the science payloads being returned from the station.”

The autonomous spacecraft is able to attach itself to the space station and remain there for extended periods, Sierra Nevada said, giving the crew plenty of time to transfer cargo and perform laboratory duties. An onboard lab can support space experiments while en route. The spacecraft will return to a runway landing at NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida. SpaceX and Orbital ATK also have been providing resupply missions to the ISS. SpaceX is expected to start flying NASA astronauts to the ISS later this year, NASA has said.

Ehang Announces VTOL Passenger Flights
Mary Grady

Ehang said this week they have flown “40 or so” passengers in their autonomous VTOL, the Ehang 184, and a video of the flights is now posted online. "Performing manned test flights enables us to demonstrate the safety and stability of our vehicles," said Ehang founder and CEO, Huazhi Hu. "What we're doing isn't an extreme sport, so the safety of each passenger always comes first. Now that we've successfully tested the Ehang 184, I'm really excited to see what the future holds for us in terms of air mobility." Hu was among the passengers who flew in the drone, as well as local officials and company employees. The video shows both a single-seat version and a two-seater flying. The video also shows a cockpit equipped with a control stick and rudder pedals.

Ehang’s staff of more than 150 engineers have conducted thousands of unmanned test flights, the company said, including a vertical climbing test reaching up to nearly 1,000 feet, a load test carrying about 500 pounds, a routed test covering more than 9 miles and a high-speed cruising test that reached about 70 knots. "We've been developing and testing aerial vehicle technology for some time now, and we're finally at the test flight stage for the AAV [autonomous aerial vehicle],” said Hu. “It's been a huge success.” The company is still working to improve the AAV, and plans to add an optional manual control for those who prefer to operate the vehicle themselves. The company also is developing a two-seat version with a payload of more than 600 pounds. “Our dreams of the future are real,” says Hu. “Fantasy has now become reality.”

United Offers New Pilot Career Track
Mary Grady

United Airlines has created a new program with Metropolitan State University of Denver to identify talented student pilots and place them on a path to flying for United, the airline announced on Tuesday. Regional carriers have offered similar programs in recent years, but this will be the first time a major U.S. airline has established a partnership with a university aviation department, according to United. “The career path program helps us to operate our fleet efficiently and continue to provide great service to our customers,” said Capt. Mike McCasky, director of flight training for United, and a graduate of MSU Denver. “Students get a great start on their careers and the airline gets access to a talented pipeline of pilots.”

United will begin accepting applicants for consideration into the career-path program in August. To be considered for the interview process, students must have completed at least two semesters in the professional flight officer program, hold a commercial pilot certificate and instrument rating, and maintain full-time status with a 3.0 cumulative GPA in aviation courses. The partnership doesn’t guarantee students a future job, but if they meet a checklist of requirements over several years, they will be in line for an opportunity. Among those requirements is working for a United Express partner, where they must meet service and performance requirements and accumulate flight hours before having an opportunity to fly for United. McCasky said the pilot shortage has not yet affected United, but it’s critical that the airline be proactive.

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Picture of the Week
Winter flying has its charms and Robbie Wannenburg and his friends know how to have fun at any time of the year. Nice shot, Robbie.

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Alaska Floats 'Alaska Live the dream...'
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Short Final

Flying back from St. Augustine Fl (SGJ) to Stennis International (KHSA) just before Christmas, my destination was very low IFR.  The whole region and surrounding airports were either very low IFR or Zero Zero.  Planes were going missed at Gulfport (KGPT) and surrounding airports and tensions were high with the controllers.  I was cleared for the ILS 18 into Stennis and he advised he did not have radar this way.

Tower: “…and I can’t see you” 

Comanche XXXX: “I can’t see you either!”  

We both laughed and it changed his stressed tone, and I did make the landing.

Charlie Horton


Buying Utility STOL: Ignore the Ad Hype
Rick Durden

Whether for work or a heck of a lot of fun, if you’re in the market for a STOL/utility airplane—one that will let you commune with nature in the most rugged of backcountry airstrips as well as cruise at a reasonable speed and carry a little something—what’s out there and how do you choose among them?

We looked at what’s available in the production Part 23 (and CAR3) world for airplanes that are purposefully built for short takeoffs and landings, yet also have respectable cruise speeds—a tough combination, as serious STOL usually means snail-like cruise—to see how they stack up. We did not include LSAs in the mix for a number of reasons, including useful load and trying to keep the sample size reasonable. We did, due to the exploding refurb market, include one machine that is the result of a modification of a production airplane because of its cruise speed and backcountry/STOL capabilities.

The group that made the cut are, in no particular order: Maules (tailwheel and nosewheel), Aviat Husky series, American Champion Scout series and the Peterson 260/King Katmai series.

New, most of the airplanes fall into a $250,000 to $350,000 price range, depending on engine selection and options. As refurbs, the Peterson 260/King Katmai mods fall into the low end of the range, depending on the cost and condition of the Cessna 182 that is to be modified and whether the full mod is carried out.

All of the airplanes meet the old DoD/NATO definition of STOL—able to land or take off within 1500 feet over an obstacle on a standard day, at sea level. Beyond that, which one is best?

Our conclusion is that while the Scout has slightly better handling than the Husky and the King Katmai than the Maules, the question boils down to the needs and wants of the prospective buyer.

All are extraordinarily capable—if the pilot is willing to take a thorough checkout from a knowledgeable instructor. While often bought as second or third airplane by wealthy pilots, they are not toys and require serious respect. Each has particular features/quirks that must be learned in to obtain the performance of which they are capable—or they can eat your lunch.

As the prices are in the same ballpark, the needs of the buyer for useful load, seats and space become a consideration. Do you want a two-seater that you’ll use for fun or hauling a bit of stuff to your cabin, or do you want to take some friends along with you? All of the airplanes do pretty well when it comes to the fuel versus payload tradeoff (although watch it on older models).


In any discussion of utility STOL airplanes, it’s absolutely necessary to talk about the elephant in the room—safety. The combination of operating very near stall speed, in and out of backcountry airstrips or no airstrip at all, means the risk of things going south starts going up fast. When a tailwheel is added to the mix, the accident rate skyrockets.

Marketing of these airplanes is targeted at pilots who want to be able to land anywhere. That’s appropriate—but off-airport operations have a very high “Oh $#&@!” factor due to any number of things waiting to bite a pilot who lands where the deer and antelope play.

The advertising for these is classic macho—pure 1960s Marlboro Man, tough-guy-in-the-backwoods schtick. Hmm, nearly all of the Marlboro Man models died from using their product. Backcountry flying is incredibly enjoyable, but it requires a high degree of skill and judgment. Buying the airplane from the ad doesn’t make you a backcountry pilot any more than ski clothes make you a giant slalom competitor.

We strongly urge anyone considering a utility/STOL airplane to look beyond the advertisements and any performance numbers in them.

We constantly hear that nosewheel airplanes aren’t macho and one shouldn’t take them into backcountry airstrips because they can’t handle the rough terrain. We haven’t seen any data that supports the notion that a purpose-built nosewheel STOL airplane can’t go anywhere a tailwheel airplane can. We’ve looked at accident reports for years and have yet to see a report of a nosewheel breaking off due to terrain on a backwoods airstrip. While nosewheel pilots may generally self-select away from those strips, backwoods airstrips are regularly used by Cessna 182s, 205s, 206s, 207s and 208s as well as Cherokee 6s. If there were a problem with fragile nosewheels, the data would show it.

The real problem with nosewheels on unpaved airstrips is prop clearance. Plus, tailwheels aren’t perfect when it comes to dealing with rough terrain. We’ve broken one off, and know of others who have (although unless you've also done a lot of damage to the bottom of the rudder, you can usually fly home, something probably not possible if you break off a nosewheel).

Runway Loss of Control

The biggest part of the safety elephant for utility STOL airplanes is the rate at which pilots lose control of the tailwheel machines on landing (and, sadly, takeoff). Just above, we reproduced the accident summaries from our most recent Used Aircraft Guides for tailwheel Maules and the Aviat Husky series. At least 60 percent of the reported accidents in those airplanes were landing-related.

We did an informal review of Scout-series accidents and found that its landing accident rate is comparable. By comparison, nosewheel landing-related accident rates tend to be one-third to one-half that of tailwheel airplanes.

We recommend that any prospective buyer of a tailwheel, utility STOL airplane go in with eyes wide open to the significant increase in landing accident risk, get a thorough checkout and understand viscerally that touchdown on a backcountry landing must be made with minimal energy—meaning either three-point or with the tailwheel only inches above the ground if there is concern about damaging it.

We also recommend following any manufacturer’s guidelines—such as Aviat’s call for tailwheel-first landings with full flaps in crosswinds—and respecting the maximum demonstrated crosswind speed.

STOLest of the STOL

It’s really the burning question in this world—which one will get in and out the shortest? The answer is, just about any of them with a big engine. On any given day nearly any of these airplanes can win a short takeoff and landing competition. YouTube is rife with videos of them getting in and out in only a few airplane lengths. If any of the big-engine versions of these airplanes is stripped of every possible bit of weight, flown by a skinny pilot who knows what she or he is doing and carries minimal fuel, they have takeoff and landing runs akin to a gyrocopter.

For the real world, at gross weight, at sea level, based on AFM numbers and our flight reviews, other than the King Katmai, the airplanes are almost so close from the standpoint of takeoff and landing performance that slight differences in pilot technique can cancel out the differences between the machines.

American Champion publishes a 417-foot takeoff roll on pavement for the 180-HP Scout; Aviat’s AFM for the 180-HP Husky shows 580 feet (the Husky AFM says no max performance takeoffs in crosswinds) and Peterson says 270 feet for the 300-HP King Katmai.

Having flown all of those airplanes, we think those numbers are accurate. The King Katmai is so short because its 31-knot stall speed is about 10 knots slower than anyone else.

Maule does not publish takeoff and landing distances. We disagree with that decision. Nevertheless, a number of recent takeoffs and landings in a 235-HP Maule M-7-235C and experience in other models indicate to us that the Maule-series performance is consistent with the Husky and Scout.

With corrections for temperature and runway elevation, we would be comfortable regularly operating any of the airplanes from unpaved strips of less than 1,000 feet (no obstructions) on a standard day, at sea level—after a thorough checkout.


The procedure for a max performance takeoff varies among the aircraft.

The King Katmai uses 20 degrees of flap for takeoff and lifts off at 35 knots due to influence of the canard. It requires pitching down after liftoff to a nearly level attitude with a climb speed of 45 knots. The ailerons are effective even at 35 knots, although we would be cautious about a 35-knot liftoff in a gusting crosswind until we knew the airplane well. We observed very good roll control at 45 knots.

The Maule M-7-235C uses 24 degrees of flap on takeoff, but no liftoff speed is published. We have lifted off from three-point attitude with good control authority in all axes. The Scout calls for just 14 degrees of flap and liftoff at 50 MPH, so the tail has to be lifted to keep the airplane on the ground to the published liftoff speed. It has good aileron authority down through stall speed.

The Husky manual calls for full flaps on a max-performance takeoff. It then presents a quandary—it says to hold the tailwheel on the ground, but liftoff at 53 MPH, which is impossible. The tail has to be raised to keep the airplane on the ground to 53 MPH.

If the tail is kept on the ground, the rate of acceleration is reduced, but a 180-HP Husky will lift off as low as 40 MPH in three-point attitude. That’s at or below the power-on stall speed—it flies because it’s in ground effect.

In a series of flights we conducted with Jeff Welch, a high-time Husky instructor who provides type-specific checkouts, we observed that there is about a 100-foot reduction in takeoff roll when the airplane lifts off three-point versus holding it on the ground to the recommended 53 MPH.

At altitude, Welch had us fly the airplane just above stall speed, with full flaps and full power and observe the sluggish aileron response and effectiveness, and high adverse yaw, when moving the stick stop to stop for roll command.

Of the airplanes we flew for this review, we observed the Husky to have the slowest roll rate and least effective ailerons at speeds close to the stall with full flaps. It was also the most difficult to coordinate when rolling, slightly edging out the Scout—although none, except the King Katmai, were anywhere close to easy to coordinate.  

Welch explained that in 2005 the span of the Husky’s flaps was increased, which reduced the span of the ailerons. The ailerons were redesigned with a longer chord, but he observed a reduction in roll rate in what he referred to as the new wing airplanes. We contacted Aviat and asked about the roll rates of the two wings, but did not get an answer.

Welch expressed concern about uncommanded roll of the airplane following a full-flap takeoff in three-point attitude in a crosswind (a procedure contrary to the Husky AFM). Lifting off at or below the power-on stall speed makes the airplane vulnerable to one wing stalling. Application of aileron to counteract the roll may not be productive due to the high adverse aileron yaw rate, which can aggravate the rolling tendency.

Welch referenced six shortly-after-takeoff accidents that he believes were due to uncommanded roll. He teaches his students to follow the Husky AFM by making all crosswind takeoffs with the flaps up and to keep the airplane on the ground to 53 MPH when making a full-flap, max-performance takeoff.


The Husky, Scout and Maule all have very high adverse aileron yaw when maneuvering at low speed. The Maule line has an interconnect between the ailerons and rudders (simplified explanation) that assists with coordinating the controls.

All require dedicated effort by the pilot to learn how to keep the airplane coordinated and to do so in low-speed operations, especially in turbulence on a short field takeoff or landing.

The Husky and Scout—except the Denali—have flat (no airfoil) horizontal stabilizers. The effect is to increase the airplane’s tendency to roll off abruptly in a cross-control stall. A cross-control stall in those airplanes can mean a loss of several hundred feet even if the recovery is done precisely right.

The Husky’s trim system requires a new pilot to spend a little time getting used to its operation and how to recover from an out-of-trim event such as a go-around.

Some of the airplanes have fuel systems require education—on many Maules a transfer pump is used to get fuel from the aux tanks into the mains. On most Scouts two wing tanks are interconnected, which means using care when filling the tanks to assure they are actually full. We like the Husky's fuel system because the 100 Husky accident reports we reviewed reflected no fuel-related accidents due to the system itself (one pilot lost track of time on a survey flight and ran out of fuel; the other accident involved a pilot who left one fuel cap off and siphoned the fuel out of that tank, leading to fuel exhaustion).

Cabin comfort varies, even though all offer high-end interiors. The Husky is more difficult to board than the Scout and has slightly less room once inside. Maules and the Petersons have much more room to carry people and things, although the 182 conversion is roomier for occupants. We particularly like the door arrangement on the Maules—it seems like the entire side of the airplane opens up, making loading large items easy.

It still boils down to landing—and that a new pilot become comfortable with the very low approach speeds required for the backcountry. That requires training so that low-speed flying and rudder coordination become second nature. It means understanding that it’s never appropriate to tack on extra speed on approach or touching down at the speed of heat if making a wheel landing.


We treasure the time we have flying utility/STOL airplanes off unimproved airstrips. For sheer fun, nothing beats a Husky with the door open. We think that open door beats out the Scout’s slightly better handling when it comes to sales.

Nevertheless, in the two-place, utility/STOL market, we lean toward the Scout for its low-speed handling, slightly easier entry, easier trim use and cabin comfort.

While the two-seaters win the fun battle, for the price per seat, overall utility and short-field performance, we favor the Maule and Peterson/Katmai lines. Between the two, we like the amazing STOL ability and roomy cabin of the King Katmai.

Rick Durden holds an ATP with type ratings in the Douglas DC-3 and Cessna Citation, is a CFII and the author of The Thinking Pilot’s Flight Manual or, How to Survive Flying Little Airplanes and Have a Ball Doing It, Vols. 1 & 2.

This article originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of Aviation Consumer magazine.

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Geoff Rapoport

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