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Volume 25, Number 22a
May 28, 2018
 
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Textron Shifts Focus On Cessna Pilot Centers
 
Kate O'Connor
 
 

Textron is in the process of restructuring its Cessna Pilot Center (CPC) network, including cutting back on the number of CPCs and putting more focus on its Cessna Flight Training System digital interactive flight-training curriculum. “As a part of a new strategy to expand the reach of the Cessna curriculum to student pilots,” Textron told AVweb, “the network of CPCs is transitioning to an exclusive group of flight schools that meet heightened qualifications.”

Until recently, the Cessna Flight Training System has only been available to students at Cessna Pilot Centers. “This shift enables us to expand accessibility to the curriculum beyond the CPC network. Flight schools outside of the network may purchase the curriculum for their student pilot training programs. Other CPC benefits remain exclusive to the network,” the company said. CPC benefits also include credits toward aircraft purchases, parts discounts and free admission to instructional seminars.

In order to implement its new CPC system, Textron is ending partnerships with quite a few of its more than 160 CPCs. Several flight schools that will no longer be participating in the program, including one that has been a CPC since 1998, told AVweb that given the expense of new aircraft and parts, they are now having to look into options offered by other manufacturers. In addition, one school pointed out, they will be unable to use any CPC-branded materials, signs or advertisements they may have had for the school. The number of schools that will continue as CPCs has not yet been confirmed.

Current CPCs have expressed excitement about the direction of the program, particularly when it comes to the digital interactive flight-training curriculum. “The prior focus appeared to be on the marketing of the Cessna name, but that focus has since progressed to an excellent product that allows students to study on their own time, allowing the time spent with the instructor to be a reinforcement of topics,” said Aaron Repp, chief flight instructor of CPC Jet Air Inc., which has facilities in Iowa and Illinois.

The shift in how it handles CPCs is the latest in a series of changes to Cessna’s approach to its piston aircraft. Textron announced earlier in May that it will stop producing the diesel Skyhawk JT-A. The announcement came less than a year after the aircraft was certified. The TTx high-performance single met the same fate in February. According to GAMA, Cessna sold 129 Skyhawks last year, which, although historically on the low end, still kept it as a top seller of training aircraft ahead of everyone except for Cirrus. So far in 2018, the company has sold just 13 Skyhawks compared to 20 in the first quarter of 2017.

Twin Mustang Might Make AirVenture
 
Russ Niles
 
 

One of the most unusual and intriguing aircraft to fly for the Air Force might make an appearance at AirVenture 2018. Aircraft restorer Tom Reilly says he’s close to flying his XP-82, the so-called Twin Mustang that was built as a long-range bomber escort at the end of the war. It didn’t see any action in that war but was used as a night fighter in Korea. More than 300 were built and all but five were scrapped in the early 1950s. Reilly, who is based in Douglas, Georgia, found a complete airframe at an Ohio farm and has spent the last 10 years scouring the world for the parts necessary to restore it to flying condition.

“The interest and enthusiasm for this restoration has been wonderful and gratifying,” Reilly told EAA. “There is no better place than Oshkosh to make the first public flights of this aircraft, which is why it is our intent to complete the restoration and testing so we can be a part of AirVenture 2018.” The aircraft used two P-51 fuselages on a common wing and two specially designed Packard-built Merlin engines to create a long-range and high-speed fighter. “It has been decades since people have seen this aircraft type fly anywhere,” said Rick Larsen, EAA’s vice president of communities and member programs, who coordinates AirVenture features and attractions. “The return of this historic aircraft to the sky is a tribute to the vision and perseverance of the restoration team, and it’s fitting that the group has AirVenture as a goal to fly this beauty before a huge, appreciative audience.”

Lycoming 'When can an engine give you 200 extra flying hours?'
New Trainers: Less Likely Than Ever To Be Cessnas
 

It appears to be happening at a glacial pace, but ever so slowly I realize that Cessna's recent removal of the $465,000 Skyhawk JT-A from its product portfolio underscores the company’s declining relevance in general aviation training, a segment it once owned. What would happen if Cessna decided to exit the piston single market entirely? From the European perspective, not much impact.

Quietly erasing a shelf queen like the TTx out of the showroom without blinking may make sense from a future business-case perspective. Losing dead weight is paramount when trying to get a global enterprise of the size and magnitude of Textron set up for the future. While Cessna acted without much fanfare (again), the industry seemed mildly surprised, especially considering Piper's recent move to equip its PA-44 Seminole with diesel engines after having already done so with the Archer DX.

Diamond has achieved great success with Jet-A burning engines in its twins and the DA-40 single. No other manufacturer has matched that and now Cessna is essentially saying the effort is not worth it. Converting an older airplane to diesel hasn’t been a big business, either

Even though TBRs were raised from 1200 hours to 2100 hours for the Continental CD-135 and CD-155 engines in 2016, an owner still only has 2100 hours to amortize the engine before replacing it. Checking prices on the Continental website reveals that the engine alone will cost owners between $36,000 and $42,000, plus the labor cost for the conversion.

Having flown an early Thielert-equipped Cessna 172 in Germany some 15 years ago, I remember how much money our flying club spent on the conversion. The conversion came to us thanks to a student who attempted to use the aircraft to explore the off-road capabilities of the Skyhawk, bringing it to a sudden and metal-bending stop in a ditch. The outgoing engine was near TBO, so insurance helped make the jump. At the time, avgas was already killing us, even though we were nowhere close to last week’s price point above a high of $13 per gallon.

Even here in Europe, diesel has seen a sharp price hike and the government is actively working to discourage any new diesel sales. Some manufacturers are offering buyback guarantees in case some sudden kneejerk reaction tanks the market.

Even though we see development with electric/ diesel hybrids and further work on fuel cells and pure electrics, anything diesel already looks a bit outdated here in Europe. Volkswagen didn’t help the cause with its scandalous software tweaking and particulate air pollution is looming larger as a public concern. Over here in Europe, we seem bent out of shape by plans to prohibit diesel-powered vehicles from major cities in Germany.

In that context, Cessna’s abandonment of diesel makes more sense. Flight schools who are scraping by are not in the market for new airframes and chances are if the trusted old 172 needs replacement, it may well be another used airplane at a low price. Maybe a Cessna, maybe not.

Flight schools that are doing well and are in the market for new make their decisions based on sharp-pencil calculations, not emotion. The trends seem to be drifting away from the traditional players such as Cessna and Piper and more toward one of the countless LSA-style aircraft, which will more than likely put the pilot behind a Rotax. 

Maxing out at 145 horses with its new 915iS, Rotax just isn't quite ready for heavier airplanes or is only attractive on smaller multi-engine applications such as the DA-42 and SeaBears’ new amphibian.

Pure electrics and hybrids will probably gain traction in Europe and even Asia before there’s any meaningful market movement in the U.S. Cessna and Textron have signaled no interest at all in this segment, but plenty of others have. Perhaps Textron is working on something in secret, but if so, it might be a good idea to let the rest of us know before everyone loses interest in anything Cessna.

Hydrogen Fuel Cells Go Flying
 
Paul Bertorelli
 
 

While drone makers and would-be electric aircraft manufacturers are waiting for better batteries, hydrogen fuel cells are rapidly becoming a reality. In this news feature shot at the AUVSI Xponential in Denver, AVweb took a look at some of these technologies.

 

Top Letters and Comments: May 25, 2018
 
AVweb Staff
 
 

Initial Pilot Certification Passing Rates

As with the military, the CFI shortage or experience level in GA could be helped by engaging retired pilots. The problem for this segment of pilots/CFII's is that flight schools/ military training units want schedule control over the CFII or the insurance co requires permanent employment status. There should be some way for more flexibility on the part of schools & insurance co's. I'm 78 fly out of a private field & actively instruct in the local area, have 12,000 total , over 7,000 as CFII, all in fighters or GA. I used to have an independent CFII relationship with local flight schools, then all stopped the independent contractor relationship. I'm fortunate that my home base has a flying club & the clients & I work out compatible schedules, resulting in great flying opportunities & a rewarding retirement activity. Train all certificates except ATP & find the few that fail the PT is generally because of checkitis not knowledge or ability. My suggestion is to get more experienced CFII's by looking at an unused resource & make the system more compatible with the retired community.

- Dave Yoder

Flight Training's Future Fleet

Quote from your article "LSA standards don't allow for non-gas-powered engines" This is actually incorrect LSA certification which works off ASTM standards provide a pathway for electric aircraft standard F2840 - 14 Design and manufacture of electric propulsion units for light sport aircraft" is an internationally accepted standard used around the world. Countries like Australia accept this standard and have aircraft registered in the LSA category for training purposes. The problem in the USA market is with the FAA definitions of an LSA aircraft. The FAA definitions define an LSA aircraft as a 'single "reciprocating" engine' and the difficulty is with the word "reciprocating" because in electric aircraft is not a reciprocating engine. Other countries in the world (in fact from my research every other country in the world) does not have this requirement for reciprocating and this means electric aircraft are considered LSA accepted and happily flying around the circuit. FAA, stop putting up unnecessary roadblocks because you are dragging the US behind every other aviation country in the world.

- Michael Coates

The Day My Tablet Died

Gary, I have a personal tablet, personal phone, work tablet, and a work phone, all with EFB. My tablet and personal phone are complete mirrors that have complete CONUS/Canada/Carribean charts. My work tablet/phone have charts for the places I'm flying "now" because of space constraints. In addition, I have two separate WAAS GPS (one with AHRS) units that are always charged, plus all of the devices have their own (lower resolution) GPS capability. I got the idea from a story (possibly apocryphal) where the examiner or CFI told the pilot to take off the (reading) glasses off in a controlled scenario for some reason. The pilot then took out another pair of glasses, which where listed as "dropped" by the examiner / CFI, so he took out another pair of readers and asked if he wanted those "dropped" as well. The examiner / CFI laughed and said yes, so the pilot pulled out yet another pair of readers. At that point the examiner / CFI said "ok you win" effectively. I had a CFI doing my BFR fail my tablet, he laughed when I turned my phone on and promptly failed the AHRS GPS and my in-panel GPS. I then pulled out the mini-WAAS GPS I keep in my eVest and pressed the power button while keeping the plane straight & level. He asked what would happen if he failed my phone, I pulled out my work phone, clipped it to the mount, and handed him my personal phone. At that point he figured out that I had planned sufficiently far ahead so we moved onto other scenarios. Had he failed my other GPS, I would've had the built in (lower resolution) device GPS. Had he failed that phone I would've still had my final tablet. If you have enough backups it gets to the point where the examiner / CFI runs out of plausibility, but worst case scenario is he fails everything with any electrics in the panel and all external devices for some reason. I'm still comfortable flying like that, but really the examiner / CFI just passed from plausibility to being ridiculous.

- Joe Servov

Should the FAA Allow Supersonic Flight Over the Continental U.S.?

There are three issues:

  1. What is the shockwave imprint.  I studied the SST when getting my BSME, and don't know enough about current impact of current designs to answer.
  2. What are cost of operation relative to M .94, and how much faster.
  3. What is impact on environment.  We really do need to determine if added Super flights will exceed environmental capacity to recover.

- Ford C. Ladd

No Help For EU Pilot Shortage

We are in a similar situation here. Although it is cheaper to flight train here and despite the fact that we have a healthy and experienced flight training core, it also holds an ROI suffering from anemia. For the same cost, my grandchildren can become teachers, lawyers or medical doctors. Scholarships from airlines and industry would help promote new-starts in all aviation careers as more pilots would generate more manufacturing of equipment, support services and personnel. Pay well and demand well. Pilot starting pay scales should equal that of FAA Air Traffic Controllers. Somebody do something!

- Rafael Sierra

When Only Luck Will Do

Good story. It carries a useful lesson for all that any safety or survival gear that goes down with the plane is of no value. Your sister publication, Aviation Consumer, did an article some time ago about survival gear. One of their recommended products was a vest that contained the various survival items in several pockets. The theory being that by wearing your gear, you will have it if you need to depart the wreckage quickly. At the time I did not think much of the idea, but this has prompted me to reconsider their advice. Luck only goes so far, and as another old saying goes, "luck favors the well prepared".

- John McNamee

Astronaut Artist Alan Bean Dies
 
Russ Niles
 
 

Alan Bean, an Apollo astronaut who was the fourth man to walk on the moon, died Saturday at the age of 86 in a Houston hospital. Bean was the lunar module pilot on Apollo 12 and also commanded the second crewed mission to Skylab in July of 1973. He was a Navy Test Pilot School graduate and had 5,500 hours in 27 different aircraft types. Bean was widely respected as a pilot and astronaut but was equally known as a space-themed artist.

On his retirement from NASA in 1981 he started turning out works that incorporated moon dust and Apollo memorabilia in the paintings. Bean was "one of the great renaissance men of his generation -- engineer, fighter pilot, astronaut and artist,” said fellow astronaut Harrison Schmitt. His trips to space prompted his surprise turn of career. "Every artist has the Earth or their imaginations to inspire their paintings," he told The New York Times in 1994. "I've got the Earth and my imagination, and I'm the first to have the moon, too.”

Industry Round-up: May 25, 2018
 
AVweb Staff
 
 

Aircraft Spruce

People travelling to AirVenture 2018 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, can place orders with Aircraft Spruce for pickup at the company’s booth at the show. To take advantage of that option, orders need to be received by noon EST on Monday, July 16. Orders can be placed on the company’s website. To have the order delivered to the show, select “Pickup at Oshkosh 2018” in the shipment options. There is no additional charge for show pickups, but there is a $100 order minimum. Aircraft Spruce will be in Hangar A, Booths 1022-1029.

Curtis Superior Valve Co.

Curtis Superior Valve Co. Inc. recently announced that they have received FAA PMA approval for a low profile, aluminum oil quick drain valve that fits most Lycoming engines. The CCB-38000 quick drain valve was designed specifically for retractable gear and twin-engine aircraft with close fit cowling. It will also fit Lycoming engines where there might be interference from structure, exhaust, hoses or wiring. The valve comes with a separate activating tool. It can be ordered from Curtis’ distributor network.

All In Aviation and Lone Mountain Aviation

Flight school and aircraft rental company All In Aviation, along with maintenance partner Lone Mountain Aviation, has announced that the City of Henderson has approved its designs for a 24-hangar facility at Henderson Executive Airport (HND) in Las Vegas, Nevada. The complex will include 9,000 square feet of office space, five training rooms, a full-size classroom, a library, a 16-person conference room, an avionics workshop, a pilot shop, a parts department and a 22,000 square-foot maintenance hangar. All In Aviation hopes to break ground on the project in May and open in December 2018.

Charles M. Schulz - Sonoma County Airport

A Request for Interest (RFI) was issued on May 15, 2018, for the lease and development of four separate parcels located on the Charles M. Schulz - Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa, California. Three parcels are designated for aeronautical use and one parcel for either aeronautical or non-aeronautical use. The goal of this RFI is to seek interested parties willing and able to lease and develop the sites. The airport has requested that any party submitting an expression of interest is capable of designing, financing, developing, managing and operating the site. The deadline for submissions is June 30, 2018, at 4:00 p.m. See the complete press release for contact information.

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Picture of the Week, May 24, 2018
 
 
Seven P2Vs converted to aerial tankers; parked at Alamogordo, New Mexico. These workhorses, which belong to Neptune Aviation Services, are being retired. Most of them will spend their retirement in various aviation museums. Photo by Jim Unruh.

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Podcast: Workhorse SureFly VTOL Hybrid
 
Kate O'Connor
 
 

Electric delivery vehicle company Workhorse, which recently began untethered flight testing of its hybrid-powered SureFly VTOL, is seeking full FAA type approval for the aircraft. Workhorse CEO Steve Burns talks about the development of the project and the company's goals for the aircraft now that it's flying free.

Goulian Tied For Top Red Bull Spot
 
Russ Niles
 
 

U.S. Red Bull Air Race pilot Mike Goulian came second in the weekend race held in Chiba, Japan, and is now tied in the overall standings with Matt Hall, of Australia, who won Sunday’s race. Hall edged Goulian by less than a third of a second. Under the points system that sets overall standings, the win vaulted Hall to 36 points along with Goulian. In Sunday’s race, the Czech Republic’s Martin Sonka came in third and Canada’s Pete McLeod was fourth. Both Sonka and McLeod recorded two-second penalties in the final race.

Goulian has struggled in previous years but become a threat to win the overall championship in the last couple of years.  He won this year’s race at Abu Dhabi and came third at Cannes and credited his team with his strong performances. “Our team is so strong, and we keep working and working and working,” he said.

Initial Pilot Certification Passing Rates Trending Down
 
Jason Blair
 
 

As an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE), I’ve felt like my pass rate on practical tests has been declining over the last couple of years. It started as a gut feeling, but then I compared my recent numbers with my pass rate from a few years ago and found it was also statistically true. It got me thinking. Have I somehow gotten harder? Or are applicants really failing more frequently? And if so, is it just me, my locale, or something that is happening on a national scale?

So, I took a look at the FAA’s reported national pass rates for FAA certificates on practical tests.

What I found was that pass rates have declined on the national level. If we look at all types of practical tests, the pass rate in 2007 for 43,619 practical tests was 80.1%. In 2017, for 38,210 tests the pass rate was 76.5%. This is an overall drop in passing rate of 3.6%.

Looking more specifically at private and commercial initial pilot certification tests, passing rates are down nearly 5% in both cases from a decade ago. Much of that drop has come in the last two years.

The graphs here show exactly what has been happening in this trend. While there is some variation in the percentage yearly, the general trend in both private and commercial pilot certification is a downward initial passing rate.

When we see a drop like this, it is natural for us to ask why it is occurring. Nothing major has changed in training standards, training requirements or training procedures. One thing that has changed, however, is turnover of instructors in the training sector.

The past couple of years have seen extremely active hiring of instructors into airline jobs. Instructors are spending less time in instructor positions before they move on to employment at other flying jobs. The result of this is that they gain less experience—important experience that makes them better at their job.

For example, an instructor 10 years ago probably wouldn’t be hired by an airline until he or she had more than 2,000 hours of total flight experience. Now, it’s not unusual to see instructors hired at the minimum 1,000 hours for a restricted ATP qualified applicant. That means they have spent 1,000 hours less time providing instruction to students. If they previously instructed 15-20 applicants for ratings and/or certificates before moving on, now they will be instructing more like 4-6 students. The result is that those who are providing instruction are continuously turning over and never really gaining the greater period of experience that makes them better at doing the job of preparing students for pilot certificates. While it may be hard to draw a causal link, I think the connection is obvious. As students work with instructors who have less experience, the pass rate has declined. It seems pretty clear, and it is happening right now in our pilot training efforts.

What are the effects of this reduction in passing rate?

Well, for one, it means that because of the reduced passing rates in 2017, statistically 1,375 more practical tests had to be retaken when compared to better pass rates of a decade ago. This means that more examiners need to take time for retests that could be better dedicated to doing full tests. It also means that examiners’ schedules are more backed up. It means that more customers experienced the increased training cost associated with retests. And it means that instructors must spend more time getting students ready to retest after they failed the first time. There are real costs to all of these events.

Does this mean that our pilot training is any less safe than it was in the past? Or that those pilots are any less safe when they eventually get to an airline and fly passengers commercially? Not necessarily. They still have to meet the same standards to pass; it just means that they aren’t doing it on the first try as often as they were a decade ago. It does mean we have some work to do in the training community though. We shouldn’t be comfortable with declining passing rates.

Perhaps it’s time to look carefully at our training process and see if there is anything we can do to improve the passing rates of instructors who are new at their job, even if they are only going to be instructors for a short period of time in their career. It also means that we may need to evaluate the traditional incentive to be an instructor in the first place—to gain enough time to be able to move on to another pilot job. Is this motive really doing the industry the best service? I can’t help but think that in an ideal world, experienced, high-time pilots would be the ones providing the instruction, not relatively low-time, recently certificated pilots. But to make that happen, the job of instructors would have to be able to offer competitive pay with other pilot jobs and we would need to find a way to transition pilots and their experience from initial certification to service in the airline environment without making them serve as instructors to do so.

Other countries do this in different ways, and there isn’t necessarily one right or wrong way. But it is likely that we need to have a hard discussion in our industry about how we train and prepare pilots, and if our system is due for some changes.

Without evaluation of these considerations, the pass rate reduction we are seeing has the potential to increase, further creating greater costs and delays in pilot training.

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