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Volume 25, Number 19c
May 11, 2018
 
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GA Sales Up, But Still Anemic
 
Paul Bertorelli
 
 

On a strong domestic economy, sales of general aviation aircraft rose during the first quarter of 2018 over the same period last year, the General Aviation Manufactures Association said on Thursday. The rosy sales picture was largely driven by increased turboprop and piston helicopter sales, GAMA said. And while both unit volume and sales revenue were up, data from the individual companies is less encouraging.

Turboprop sales rose from 102 to 115 during the first quarter—a 12.7 percent rise—but piston helicopters showed the greatest strength, rising to 81 from 58 units last year, a 39.7 percent increase that’s the largest quarterly rise in at least five years, according to GAMA data. Once again, however, shade was cast on the fixed-wing piston segment, which declined slightly to 200 from 203, a 1.5 percent retreat. That makes it on track to build fewer than 1000 new aircraft in 2018 worldwide.

GAMA President Pete Bunce attributed the strong piston helicopter market to escalating demand for training aircraft. He said the other segments were buoyed by global economic growth and aerospace innovation. Companies report that some of that demand is coming from Asia as regional and national airlines gear up to train pilots for expanding airline ops.

The bizjet segment continues the flat performance we’ve seen since the downturn of 2008. GAMA data shows 132 bizjets for the first quarter compared to 130 in 2017. Jet sales have shown little change since 2008, although there were small spikes in 2014 and 2015.

Cirrus led first quarter piston output with 74 aircraft sold, followed by Tecnam with 45, Piper at 34, Diamond at 31, Cessna with 23 and Mooney with four aircraft.

Cessna Ends Diesel Skyhawk Production
 
AVweb staff
 
 

Cessna’s diesel-powered Turbo Skyhawk JT-A is no longer in production for sale directly to customers, Textron has confirmed to AVweb. The airplane, which was certified last June by both the FAA and EASA, has been deleted from the company’s website. However, the Continental CD-155 engine will still be offered to customers directly through Continental as a Supplemental Type Certificate installation for the Cessna 172, a Textron Aviation spokesperson told AVweb in an email. "Installation can be facilitated and accomplished by Continental after aircraft acceptance and delivery from Textron Aviation," the spokesperson said. Cessna's sales of the JT-A were actually under Continental's STC approval.

"We trust that this change to deal directly with the engine manufacturer will be beneficial to our customers, while also helping us further streamline our production process," the spokesperson said. The 155-hp turbo-diesel Continental CD-155 can run on either diesel or Jet-A fuel, and boosted range by about 50 percent compared to the conventional Skyhawk. The option added about $60,000 to the base price. When it was introduced, Textron officials said they expected the new engine option would expand sales globally. Besides the added range, the diesel engine offers a speed boost to 134 knots and improved takeoff performance, especially in high and hot conditions, according to Textron.

Although the emerging pilot shortage has stimulated demand for trainers, diesel-powered models aren’t getting much lift in the North American market. Even worldwide, demand appears weak. According to Jimmy Lockhart of Africair, a Miami aircraft distributor that also offers Continental diesel conversions of the Cessna 172, market interest is strong, but sales are not. He says the company has converted about 70 airplanes to diesel, but none have been sold in the last 18 months. He said lack of interest in the Cessna JT-A was probably due to its high price — twice the cost of a diesel conversion.

Epic Optix Shows Low-Cost HUD
 
AVweb Staff
 
 

At Sun 'n Fun 2018, Epic Optix showed off a new low-cost HUD for light aircraft. In this follow-up coverage, AVweb learns how the new device works. It's designed to attach to the aircraft glareshield without need for formal approvals.

Proposed Bill Targets Technician Shortage
 
Kate O'Connor
 
 

Legislation recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives seeks to create a program to bring more people into the aviation maintenance workforce. If it passes a House vote, the Aviation Workforce Development Pilot Program Bill, H.R. 5701, would provide grants of up to $500,000 for activities that support aviation maintenance workforce development.

Twenty aviation organizations including AOPA, GAMA and NATA have voiced their support for the bill in a letter to House leaders. As for why the bill is needed, the groups point to a Boeing analysis that “suggests that 118,000 new technicians will be needed in North America over the next two decades” and a forecast from consulting firm Oliver Wyman that says “demand for aviation maintenance technicians will outstrip supply by 2022.”

The bipartisan bill was introduced by Representatives Sam Graves, R, Mo., Daniel Lipinski, D, Ill., Markwayne Mullin, R, Ok., and Brenda Lawrence, D, Mich. “All of aviation from general aviation to large commercial operations will be affected if more people do not enter this vital field,” said Graves. “This legislation provides a viable path forward to address the skills gap and ensure the United States remains a world leader in the aviation industry.” Last March, Senator James Inhofe, R, Ok., introduced a similar bill in the Senate.

Embraer Joins eVTOL Trend
 
Kate O'Connor
 
 

Embraer’s tech innovations division, EmbraerX, is working on its first electric VTOL aircraft, the company announced at this year’s Uber Elevate Summit. “Urban mobility is ripe for transformation and we are committed to having a major role in this key market,” said Embraer CEO Paulo Cesar de Souza e Silva. With this concept design, the company joins the likes of Boeing, Airbus and quite a few others in actively exploring whether there is a future in urban aerial passenger transport vehicles.

According to Antonio Campello, CEO of EmbraerX, “This is one example of how Embraer X is committed to exploring a range of disruptive products and services that could revolutionize the business of air transportation.” Embraer says its eVTOL design was developed with “extensive interaction with potential urban air travelers about their desired experience” and it looks like they might still be open for input from future customers. Anyone interested can design their own eVTOL aircraft on the company’s website by answering a few questions and picking out preferred features.

Uber Elevate also saw eVTOL concept announcements from Pipistrel and Karem Aircraft. All three companies are working in partnership with Uber to develop air taxis for Uber’s UberAIR aerial ridesharing venture. Uber hopes to begin commercial aerial transport services in 2023.

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Picture of the Week, May 9, 2018
 
 
A Beechcraft D17S Staggerwing at the 2018 Staggerwing and Radial Reunion at Jacksonville Executive at Craig Airport (KCRG).

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