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Volume 25, Number 16a
April 16, 2018
 
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Volocopter Starts Serial Production
 
Mary Grady
 
 

DG Flugzeugbau, a sailplane manufacturer in Germany, said recently it got an order to “manufacture a large number of Volocopters from Volocopter GmbH,” but nobody is saying exactly how many a “large number” is. A Volocopter spokesperson told AVweb, “Unfortunately, I am not able to provide you with more details than this,” and Flugzeubau did not respond to AVweb’s inquiry. DG Flugzeubau did say at its website that it will be manufacturing the 2X version of the Volcopter, and noted it will be the first aircraft of its kind to enter serial production. “Thanks to huge investors like the Daimler AG, many engineers and technicians work hard to implement this new technology,” says the post at Flugzeubau’s website. “Getting this project into the stage of a serial production is the next big step which keeps Volocopter and DG in the market lead.”

The Volocopter 2X, an electric-powered, multi-rotor VTOL, can fly autonomously or “be easily operated using a joystick,” according to the company website. It aims to be safe, quiet and reliable. It’s also the world’s first multicopter that has been certified for manned flight. Volocopter flew an unmanned 2X in Dubai last September, which the company said was the “first-ever public flight of an autonomous urban air taxi.” The company is working to verity the feasibility and safety of airborne taxis as a means of public transportation.

Personal Flight Simulators: FlyThisSim TouchTrainers
 
Rick Durden
 
 

Last month we began our occasional series on personal flight simulators with an introduction to the world of flight simulators and, more specifically, the ones that a pilot might reasonably have at home that are capable of doing a good job of simulating the airplane the sim owner usually flies—which means matching the cockpit, including switches, avionics, autopilot, systems and performance. Further, with an instructor present, we think the sim should be the sort that can be used for credit for time toward a rating or keeping an instrument rating current. These are Aviation Training Devices (ATD), a group of sims broken into two further categories of Basic Aviation Training Device (BATD) and Advanced Aviation Training Device (AATD). From a cost standpoint, we think that a desktop (not floor mount or motion based) BATD is more likely to be used as a personal flight simulator than an AATD, while both can be used for credit toward flying time requirements (with an instructor present) and both do an excellent job of reproducing the flight characteristics, panel and controls of a wide variety of selected airplanes.

Cost to Fly

We think it’s a reasonable rule of thumb that minimum operating costs for an IFR-capable airplane start at $150 an hour and escalate from there. We also think that a reasonable target number of hours an instrument pilot should fly annually to maintain a healthy level of proficiency—VFR and IFR—is on the order of 150 (yes, we know people will disagree, but we reached that opinion after extensive conversations with aviation professionals and accident research). That works out to an annual flying budget of $22,500. We also think that—whether simulator hours can be logged or not—an hour in an ATD-level simulator giving oneself an IFR workout is more valuable from a safety of flight standpoint than an hour in the airplane under the hood with a safety pilot. If a pilot can knock 20 in-airplane hours off of her annual flying budget—at least $3,000—a home, personal flight simulator makes a lot of sense in terms of keeping one’s skills honed. After all, a simulator is an environment that is more conducive to learning than an airplane cockpit in flight.

We admit there is a downside to owning a BATD home simulator—currently the FAA requires that a flight instructor be present for a pilot to get credit for time in a BATD toward IFR recency of experience. That’s an inconvenience for a pilot who has an airplane and a BATD unless he or she is lucky enough to be married to a CFII or have one who is a neighbor. Frankly, we think that the rule is stupid, arbitrary and contrary to any goal of enhancing safety of flight. After all, an instrument pilot with a safety pilot who is a private pilot who is clueless about instrument flight operations can log time under the hood in flight that counts toward recent instrument flight time required by the regulations. The FAA lets that pilot choreograph his own recurrent training program when in an airplane—it makes no sense that the same pilot cannot do so in a BATD that allows her to reposition to shoot multiple approaches in a short time and simulate emergencies that it would be foolish to do in the airplane. We’re hoping the reg is changed.

Nevertheless, even if the regs remain as they are, we think a desktop personal flight simulator of BATD capabilities makes sense economically and practically for a pilot who wants to maintain a high level of instrument competency.

FlyThisSim

As we said when we started this series, we’ll be looking at individual makers of ATDs. In this installment, we’re reporting on FlyThisSim line of TouchTrainer simulators. (www.flythissim.com).

FlyThisSim was formed in 2006 with the intention of providing reasonably priced software simulations of Avidyne, Garmin and other avionics for inclusion into flight simulators targeted at general aviation pilots. We spoke with co-founder Carl Suttle, who came from the military flight simulator world, and first focused on designing simulators for general aviation after buying a Cirrus and being concerned about the line’s early accident rate. He designed and developed SimAVIO software, an instrumentation modeling system and interface to flight simulators.

Suttle told us that he then reverse-engineered Garmin and Avidyne avionics and MFD and PFD displays as well as autopilot functions to create the company’s first TouchTrainer (the name is derived from its use of touchscreens) simulator for Cirrus aircraft. Once the underlying software was developed it allowed expanding the simulator line to replicate other aircraft models—currently it does so for some 147 different cockpits.

Motion

In pursuing its goal of creating inexpensive simulators for general aviation, FlyThisSim concentrated on creating powerful, accurate visuals even though it anticipated that most of its users would be concentrating on instrument flight operations. Suttle said that creating a decent motion base for a simulator costs $1 million while current technology allows creating compelling visual displays for a few thousand dollars, and that 80 percent of the cues that humans rely upon for motion sensing come from the eyes. Accordingly, the TouchTrainer line is designed to create the effect and sensation of motion from its visual displays. As users of various flight simulators over the years we have found that when it came to value for the money, we have ranked motion fairly low in our scale of priorities. We place accurate instrument displays, accurate control response and good visuals above motion. We don’t think motion is necessary for a personal flight simulator—both from a quality of training/recurrent training perspective as well as that of cost.

TouchTrainer VX

All FlyThisSim models are currently approved as BATDs, although they are sophisticated enough that we would not be the least bit surprised to see at least the top-end ones achieve AATD certification.

In speaking with Suttle we found that the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) is using FlyThisSim simulators for its proficiency training programs. We think that COPA’s recurrent training efforts, and those of the manufacturer, Cirrus, were responsible for the dramatic improvement in the accident record of the Cirrus line after its initial problems—and it appears that Suttle and TouchTrainer simulators played a role in the success story.

In looking at the FlyThisSim product line we observed that each TouchTrainer is designed in a fashion that it can be upgraded to the any of the more capable products in the line. They are also set up to allow rapid switching of power controls and yokes/sticks to match other cockpits. Suttle pointed out that a person who buys a TouchTrainer unit that duplicates the airplane he or she has, owns a simulator for life. When he or she buys a different airplane, it’s a simple matter to reconfigure the sim to match the new cockpit and avionics—helping speed the transition into the new airplane.

All TouchTrainer models connect with Electronic Flight Bags (EFB) on iPads. They will feed real-time data, including weather, from ForeFlight to make simulation time more realistic. TouchTrainers run on SimAVIO simulator framework software and utilize X-Planes’s simulation engine for the visual system, flight and engine model. X-Plane allows upgradeable features and add-ons—which FlyThisSim will assist its customers in finding and installing on their TouchTrainers.

TouchTrainer SD

At $5400, the TouchTrainer SD is an entry-level BATD that is reconfigurable and upgradeable. It has two touchscreens and aircraft specific instrumentation for 45 different aircraft packages and a 45-degree-wide out of the window view that can be used for taxi, takeoff and landing. It has two 24-inch by 10-inch touchscreens. The autopilot allows the same button selection as on the replicated aircraft. This is the model used in the Cirrus Pilot Performance Program. As with other simulators in the TouchTrainer line, the SD is a turnkey system with avionics, autopilot and systems replication to allow the owner to use the same button selections and sequences in his or her airplane.

TouchTrainer VX

The next step up in the TouchTrainer line, the VX, is also a desktop BATD but includes a 100-degree-wide visual system. It consists of five screens—three 24-inch, high-definition monitors for visual and two for instrumentation. According to personnel at FlyThisSim, a continuous horizon is created in the visual display by accounting for the thickness of the monitor bezels, so that they come across as window posts in the aircraft rather than blocking a substantial portion of the out of the window view. Priced at $8100, the VX can simulate more than 125 individual aircraft, avionics, autopilot and systems combinations.

TouchTrainer VM

TouchTrainer VM

FlyThisSim’s top of the line desktop BATD is the TouchTrainer VM. Priced at $12,500, the VM can host all of the more than 400 aircraft FlyThisSim simulates. It has two touchscreens devoted to aircraft-specific instrumentation and a 100-degree-wide by 70-degree-deep visual system on three 55-inch HD monitors, giving 32 square feet of visual display.

Conclusion

With the quality of the simulation and visuals and the ability to duplicate a large number of specific airplane cockpits, we think the FlyThisSim line of TouchTrainers can help that pilot who wants to stay instrument proficient and/or train for an additional rating do so at a price that is attractive.

Rick Durden is a CFII, holds and ATP with type ratings in the Douglas DC-3 and Cessna Citation and is 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.

Taildraggers + Freshly Cut Grass = Party!
 
Paul Bertorelli
 

Evidently, I’m either a recovering taildragger guy or one who’s in denial, according to John Whitish, the marketing guy at CubCrafters. I suppose I could be both. This was revealed Friday evening when I was speeding away from Sun ‘n Fun in the Millennium Nissan and Whitish invited me down to South Lakeland for a spin in the Carbon Cub FX3, which is the company’s fast-build kit version of the wildly popular Carbon Cub. Hear a podcast about it here.

When I arrived, there was a yawning hangar door with tables set up, plus cold drinks and pizza. Outside, three CubCrafters airplanes were neatly lined up, free for the flying. At 6 p.m., it was a soft Florida spring day and the runway’s grass had been clipped enough just to throw a little scent into the air. I’m not given to gauzy, romantic paeans about tailwheel airplanes and grass runways, but on a scale of gauziness, it was a solid nine. For connoisseurs of the proper party-time-customer-relations interface, this is pretty much the modern exemplar. Believe it or not, CubCrafters exists in the same universe with companies that don’t even reply to repeated entreaties to write about their products, much less actually let you fly one.

Chip Allen and I went for a spin in the FX3. First, a word about Mr. Allen. Do not go near this man unless you’re willing to write a very large check for an airplane you didn’t know you wanted. Allen owns CubCrafters’ southern sales area, a place rich with both buyers and freshly mowed turf strips. Allen graduated magna cum laude from the Acme School of Aircraft Sales and he plies his trade like Bocelli sings arias.

And with that piercing segue, let me talk about the Acme landing gear. When Allen told me about this, I thought it was the setup for a Roadrunner joke. But it’s a real thing. The Acme Aero Fab company adapted automotive racing technology and applied it to the traditional Cub x-brace structure between the wheels. I’ll skip the details for now, but the effect is astonishing.

Allen told me the Acme gear will absorb hard touchdowns and completely suppress the bounce. I didn’t believe him. Now, even though I fly taildraggers a lot, when I get into a new one, it takes a landing or two to sort out a three pointer, so I usually bounce the first one a little. In the FX3 with Acme gear, I touched down a little hard and a little fast and the thing stuck like a fly in a molasses spill. Huh? I could hear Allen laughing in the back. But I still don’t believe it. So I’ll have to do some more flying of this airplane to gain further working knowledge.

Now, about the taildragger thing. Ahead of my being a pilot or a journalist, I am an iconoclastic contrarian. So I don’t subscribe to the notion that in order to be a real pilot, you have to fly taildraggers or that pilots who fly taildraggers are somehow more skilled. Now if you don’t fly them, I might think of you as a ham-fisted lummox with feet of granite, but I would never say that.

 

iFly GPS Adds Synthetic Vision And 3-D Traffic Alerts To Your Tablet
 
Tim Cole
 
 

iFly GPS has added synthetic vision and a three-dimensional traffic alerter to its aviation app for Apple, Android and Windows. The tablet-based system is designed so "everything is just a couple of touches away," according to sales manager Brian Rutherford. 

We caught up with Brian at Sun 'n Fun, and you can listen to our podcast interview here.

While the iFly GPS tablet app boasts the charting features, airport, en route and other information tools pilots expect, the upgrade allows users to also access 3-D terrain features, obstacles and airport environments relating directly to the sectional or IFR chart side of the screen. In addition, iFly GPS links via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to ADS-B In, so it becomes a traffic alert as well. The next generation of iFly GPS will show N-number, speed, course and altitude of nearby traffic. A depiction of three-dimensional airspace structure is in the works. 

"It's a situational awareness tool," said Rutherford. "And we've made it easy to use in a busy cockpit environment. As we like to say, 'Stop flying the GPS and start flying the airplane.'"

Price for all this capability comes in at $69.99 per year for the VFR version, and $109.99 for the VFR/IFR product. You can learn more at www.iFlyGPS.com.

Terrafugia Adds 125 Jobs
 
Mary Grady
 
 

Terrafugia, the Massachusetts-based “flying-car” company, said on Tuesday it has created 75 new jobs in the last year and plans to add 50 more by December. The company was recently acquired by Zhejiang Geely, a Chinese conglomerate, which provided the resources for the company to expand its operations and hire new workers. “The recent jump in staff shows our commitment to breaking ground in the emerging flying-car market,” said Chris Jaran, CEO of Terrafugia. “One year ago, we had less than 20 employees.” The company has added staff at its headquarters in Woburn, with positions in engineering, accounting, human resources, marketing and operations. Also, a new R&D division has launched in Petaluma, California. All new engineering designs and concepts will be created at the California site.

Terrafugia was founded in 2006 by five MIT graduates. Their first product, the Transition, first flew in 2013, and is scheduled to enter the market in 2019. Terrafugia’s next-generation concept is the TF-2, a VTOL aircraft that will carry both cargo and passenger loads. Its third product under development is the TF-X, a design that would provide door-to-door VTOL operations, a “flying car for the masses.” The new job openings are posted at the company’s website.

Podcast: Sun 'n Fun's Multi-Role 727
 
Kate O'Connor
 
 

If you've seen that Boeing 727 parked outside Sun 'n Fun's aeronautical education center, you may have wondered what it's used for. In this AVweb podcast, Jayme Jamison tells us all about this unique combination classroom and event facility. And yes, the engines still run.

BendixKing Brings To Market New Integrated Flight Deck For Experimentals
 
Larry Anglisano
 
 

With little fanfare, at Sun 'n Fun 2018 BendixKing was showing its new XVue Touch integrated flight deck for experimental aircraft. Priced at $5499, the XVue Touch system has a high-resolution (near 4K graphics) 10.1-inch WUXGA color display with split-screen capability. The coated glass used on the display is anti-scratch, anti-glare and anti-smudge. The tech trickles down, in part, from hardware used in the F-16 fighter aircraft's avionics, according to BendixKing.

Able to display a full-screen PFD, an MFD and a combination of both, the 7.59-pound XVue Touch display has Honeywell’s SmartView synthetic vision and a wide 80-degree viewing angle. The MFD has a moving map, VFR and IFR charting and can display ADS-B weather and traffic data. The system has a shallow feature set, as all critical functions can be accessed in two touches or less.

The XVue uses a 1.48 by 6.25 by 3.67-inch control panel that houses four rotary knobs for commonly used functions like setting the heading bug (the system will have third-party autopilot compatibility), setting the baro, course select and altitude bug. It also has built-in Wi-Fi (for database and software loads) and a USB-C port. The touch display has no bezel knobs or buttons. Flight data is derived from a solid-state ADAHRS, of course, plus a magnetometer and OAT sensor.

BendixKing says the XVue Touch is compatible with the company’s KSN770 navigator, Garmin’s GTN750/650 navigators, plus Avidyne’s IFD-series navigators. There are no moving parts—not even an internal cooling fan—because the display is convection cooled. 

The XVue Touch is available for purchase now, via BendixKing's distributor Aviall (www.aviall.com).

Looking to install the XVue in your certified aircraft? You can't, just yet, since it isn't certified. But, BendixKing told AVweb that a certified version—with an AML-STC (approved model list via supplemental type certificate)—will be available at the end of June 2018. It will cover over 350 aircraft and carry a higher price tag of $12,590. 

For more, visit www.bendixking.com.

Precision Flight's DCX Motion Sim
 
Kate O'Connor
 
 

As flight simulators have become ever cheaper, they are also getting more capable. In this video shot at Sun 'n Fun, Precision Flight Controls shows off its DCX MAX series simulator. Tracy Cook gives us a 90-second rundown.

Brainteasers Quiz #242: Secret Codes and Blockhead Tips
 

When it ain't a fit night out for Rans or Beech, that's the time to muster your aviation weather and ATC savvy to circumnavigate the towering CUs and TFRs while acing this quiz.

Click here to take the quiz.

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Meet the AVweb Team
 

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

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Paul Berge
Larry Anglisano

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