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Volume 25, Number 30e
July 27, 2018
 
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Stratos Lengthens Light Jet Design
 
Russ Niles
 
 

Stratos Aircraft has gone back to the drawing board and redesigned its 714 single-engine jet into the 716, a longer version with a larger and more comfortable cabin. At a news conference at AirVenture 2018, Engineering Manager Carsten Sundin said the company heard plenty of feedback from potential customers about the 714 cabin and decided to “bite the bullet” and make the changes early in the development process. Details of the resulting new aircraft will not be released until the fourth quarter of this year but Sundin called it a “true six-place aircraft” in this podcast interview.

Sundin said the company is still targeting the overlap market between turboprop twins and small bizjets with product he said will outperform anything in that market. Production models of the 716, which is almost three feet longer than the 714, will cost somewhat more than the $3-$3.5 million predicted by the company for the 714 but the company hasn’t released the new price for the 716. Sundin said the first kit version of the 716 is in production and will be finished later this year. The company intends to begin as a kit builder and hopes to be able to certify the aircraft for factory production in three to four years.

AirVenture: Electrics Are Meh
 
Paul Bertorelli
 

I’m pleased to report my record as an aviation seer—never much to brag about to begin with—is now even more tarnished. I was fully expecting this to be the year that electric aircraft would make a bigger splash at AirVenture. But, just ripples. We reported on the Opener BlackFly in this video and news story and the SureFly Workhorse multirotor is here, but not much else.

It makes me wonder if electrics may be getting a short pause as would-be buyers look at the potential benefits and limitations. This occurred to me when I attended a press briefing by Michael Coates, who leads Pipistrel’s efforts in the U.S. Slovenia-based Pipistrel is by far the leader in light aircraft electrics. The factory is expanding into a new operation across the border in Italy and despite being hobbled by short flight duration, those airplanes are finding enough buyers to generate significant volume for Pipistrel. Most are going into Europe, but also the Pacific and Australia. Six are flying in the U.S.

As press briefings go, Coates’ was refreshingly honest. No overblown marketing claims peppered by that all-purpose adjective—exciting—but an unvarnished assessment of where the market stands. He concedes that electrics simply aren’t yet fully functional airplanes. Pipistrel is addressing that with rapid charging technology, but Coates thinks the market won’t potentiate until flight duration reaches about three hours. On batteries alone, that threshold remains over the horizon. In this podcast  I recorded, he sees the near term future shaped more by hybrids than by pure electrics.

If that’s true, internal combustion engines will need a dose of new development. I don’t see any engines that are light enough or powerful enough to work in the hybrid role. For example, the aforementioned Workhouse is a hybrid, but it’s relatively slow and has a range of only 70 miles, plus a 400-pound useful load. That’s on the low side even for a weight-challenged LSA. Pairing an engine like the Rotax 912 to a generator for hybrid application doesn’t deliver much usefulness because it adds the weight of the batteries and associated electrical gear. The gasoline engine itself driving a prop delivers more efficient power loading at a lighter weight.

Pipistrel is involved in the emerging urban mobility concept and Coates thinks if this idea gains ground, it will reset the market, due to sheer volume. But even though Pipistrel is bullish on an electric future, it didn’t get to the point of building 200-plus airplanes a year by making ill-advised business decisions. That’s another way of saying that Coates and Pipistrel seem to agree with the broad opinion that multirotor urban mobility is a conceptual thing for the moment, but making it a reality ain’t gonna be a short cake walk.

Airshow Surprise

The airshow at AirVenture is necessarily carefully scripted. I think it’s hands down the best show of its kind in the world and to get it that way, it unfolds like a stage play. No gaps, no dead spots and no surprises.

Except sometimes there are and Wednesday’s show had a big one: The Navy’s Blue Angels made a surprise pass during the show, catching the crowd and evidently the announcers by surprise. The F-18s made a sweep through, flew a formation maneuver or two and disappeared over the horizon.

I hadn’t realized it, but they appeared last year, too, although only with two aircraft. Of course, in an airshow this complex, they don’t just call up the tower and do the Ghostrider thing. The scripting is done in the background and this one has Jack Pelton’s fingerprints all over it.

I heard them go by, but no eyes on for me. Pity, I’d would like to have added them to my collection of out-of-focus airshow snapshots.

Jail Time For Drunk Pilot
 
Mary Grady
 
 

A former pilot for Alaska Airlines was sentenced on Wednesday to a year and a day in federal prison, for flying two flights in 2014 with a blood alcohol level more than three times the legal limit. David Arntson, 63, pleaded guilty in February to one felony count of operating a common carrier while under the influence. Prosecutors said Arnston had been an alcoholic during a “substantial” portion of his 20-year airline career, and had concealed his drinking from the airline and the FAA. Arnston also was assessed a $10,000 fine. The maximum penalty for the felony is 15 years in prison.

In a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles, prosecutors said Arnston flew from San Diego to Portland on June 20, 2014, and then from Portland to John Wayne Airport, in Orange County. After landing, Arnston was selected for random drug and alcohol testing by airline personnel. Two breathalyzer tests showed Arnston had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.135 percent and 0.142 percent. The federal limit is 0.04. Arnston later retired from the airline, and the FAA revoked his certificates. “This case sends a message to everyone in the aviation industry that passenger safety is paramount, and we will aggressively investigate and prosecute any threat to that safety,” said U.S attorney Nicola Hanna.

Lycoming 'When can an engine give you 200 extra flying hours?'
VIDEO: Redbird Caravan Amphib Simulator
 
Kate O'Connor
 
 

Redbird Flight Simulations is developing a Cessna Caravan amphibious flight simulator. In this AVweb video, we took it for a test run at AirVenture 2018.

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Pipistrel Aims For Faster Charging Electric Aircraft
 
Paul Bertorelli
 
 

While Slovenia-based Pipistrel has aggressively expanded into electric aircraft and has dozens in the field, it acknowledges that lack of battery capacity still makes electrics less than fully functional airplanes. One possible fix: rapid charging systems that use water cooling to potentially halve the amount necessary to top off the batteries.

At AirVenture 2018, Pipistrel’s Michael Coates told us in this podcast  that that the company’s Alpha Electro—the first electric two-seat light aircraft to be remotely practical—is finding sales traction, but would-be buyers are still put off by lack of endurance and long charging times. The Electro is capable of about an hour—more or less—of pure battery fight. Coates explained that Pipistrel is developing charging stations for its electric aircraft similar to Tesla’s Supercharger idea. But depending on temperature, it still takes about 45 minutes to top off the batteries.

Coates said battery manufacturers promise higher capacity batteries but the gains are only about 6 to 8 percent a year, too slow to make a meaningful dent in endurance and function. One thing Pipistrel is experimenting with is a water cooling system to keep the batteries from overheating during a rapid charge—possibly as little as 20 minutes. The Electro was originally developed with quick change battery packs, but they require a dedicated cart and weigh more than 100 pounds, so they’re cumbersome to handle. Customers seem to be favoring in-aircraft charging.

Six Alpha Electros are in use in the U.S., all in California. Under an FAA waiver, they’re allowed to be used like any other light sport aircraft, including for training. The FAA is currently revising regulations to allow electric aircraft to be approved without exemptions.

Coates says Pipistrel’s data indicates the operating cost for the Electro is about $25 per hour, to allow for charging, battery replacement and maintenance. While the Rotax version of the airplane costs between $105,000 and $108,000, the electric version costs $138,000.

FAA Asserts Drone Authority
 
Mary Grady
 
 

The FAA has “exclusive authority” over the nation’s airspace and air traffic control, the agency asserted last week, responding to efforts by cities and towns to regulate drone use. “State and local governments are not permitted to regulate any type of aircraft operations, such as flight paths or altitudes, or the navigable airspace,” the FAA said. Congress has provided the FAA with exclusive authority to regulate aviation safety, the efficiency of the navigable airspace and air traffic control. However, the regulation of aircraft landing sites does involve local control of land and zoning, the FAA noted, and laws traditionally related to state and local police power – such as land use, zoning, privacy and law-enforcement operations – generally are not subject to federal regulation.

For example, the FAA said, local laws may be enacted that would require police to obtain a warrant prior to using a drone for surveillance, or to specify that camera-equipped drones may not be used for voyeurism or harassment. Also, laws prohibiting attaching firearms or other weapons to drones can fall under local jurisdiction. The federal Department of Transportation is working on a UAS Integration Pilot Program that will provide the FAA with insight and recommendations regarding how to best define the various government roles in the process of integrating drones into the national airspace. Ten state, local and tribal governments have been chosen to participate in a pilot program, working with private-sector partners to explore the options for the integration of drone operations. 


Avidyne Targets CitationJets With Navigator STC, Gives Money Back For ADS-B Upgrade
 
Larry Anglisano
 
 

Avidyne says the recent STC approval for retrofitting the IFD550 and IFD440 hybrid touch navigator in legacy Cessna 525/525A Citations gives the jets a sizable boost in capability, particularly for autopilot-coupled GPS VNAV approaches.

The STC, which was announced at AirVenture this week, is specifically for the CitationJet models equipped with Collins Pro Line 21 and the FGC-3000 digital autopilot/flight control system. The retrofit is also a means for equipping the aircraft with ADS-B Out, via Avidyne’s SkyTrax 322/344 (remote) ADS-B transponders. The existing Collins comm and nav radios can be removed during the retrofit since the IFD navigators have full navcomm capability.   

Like the rest of the IFD navigator interfaces, the system is compatible with Avidyne’s IFD100 iPad app that communicates with the navigator via Wi-Fi for an independent, large-screen display and control of the IFDs. The IFD navigators also have internal Bluetooth, which connects to a wireless keyboard for data entry.

In other Avidyne news, the company announced a $2500 cash-back promotion that bundles the flagship IFD550 with the L3 Avionics NGT9000 multifunction ADS-B transponder. The promotion is in response to the popularity of Avidyne customers pairing the premium Avidyne IFD550 with the L3 NGT9000 transponder.

"Avidyne spends a lot of time talking with our customers and when we learned of the popular pairing of these two products, we teamed with L3 Avionics on the two-month $2500 promotion," Avidyne's Dan Schwinn told AVweb at AirVenture, where the promotion kicks off. The NGT9000 is shipped from L3, but Avidyne sends the $2500 rebate when the installation is completed.

For more, visit www.avidyne.com.

 

Miami Flight School Closes After Fatal Crash
 
Mary Grady
 
 

Dean International, the flight school that lost two airplanes and four pilots in a midair crash last week, has closed, the Miami Herald reported on Monday. “We can’t live with ourselves; the crash devastated us,” Robert Dean, the school’s owner, told the Herald. “We had already planned to downsize because the embassies have stopped giving visas to students, but this was the final straw. It’s the right thing to do.” About 200 students have been training at the flight school, most of them from Saudi Arabia, India and Latin America. Students told CBSMiami they had been told to expect a refund from the school within three to six months. The Herald also reported that FAA records show the school’s aircraft were involved in five accidents from 2007 to 2017, with two fatalities. The school has been in operation since 1995.

The Herald spoke to dozens of students at the school who asked not to be named because of their immigration status. “Everything is up in the air for us. No pun intended,” one student said. “If we don’t get our money back—the average tuition is $37,000—we won’t be able to transfer to another flight school.” The student said they also are concerned their visas won’t be renewed. Dean told the Herald he plans to liquidate all assets at the school, and then give students their money back. “The crash had nothing to do with maintenance, but rather human error,” Dean said. “It was a freak accident, that’s what it was. Like one in a hundred billion.” Each airplane in last week’s crash, a Piper PA-34 and a Cessna 172, had two people on board. Ralph Knight, 72, an FAA examiner, was flying with Dean student Nisha Sejwal, 19; and Jorge Sanchez, 22, a CFI at Dean, was flying with Carlo Zanetti Scarpati, 22. Information about Scarpati, and who was in each airplane, was not immediately available.

Switchblade Nears First Flight
 
Russ Niles
 
 

The Switchblade flying sports car is expected to fly by the end of the year and the Oregon company continues to amass a substantial order book. Company President Sam Bousfield said in a podcast interview he had hoped first flight would have occurred before AirVenture 2018 but the tail needed some modifications to improve flight characteristics. That work has been done and the virtually completed flight test article, minus the engine, is on display at the company booth at AirVenture.

Bousfield said the company wants a best-of-both-worlds vehicle that’s fun and capable to fly and drive. It has relatively high wing loading at 25 pounds per square foot and will land at about 60 knots. He said that because of the automotive style brakes, the aircraft can be flown onto the runway “like a jet” and still stop quickly on the runway. The company has attracted 667 orders to date.

Vulcanair Expects Big Training Market To Open
 
Russ Niles
 
 

Ameravia Aircraft, the U.S. distributor of Vulcanair Aircraft, announced Monday that it has 11 firm orders and 25 options on its new 172-look-alike training aircraft, the V 1.0. The Italian-built aircraft, which U.S. rep Mike McMann says is comparable or superior to the 172 in most ways, is only about two-thirds the cost of a Skyhawk at about $280,000. In a podcast interview he said the low cost is Vulcanair’s marketing plan to get a foothold in the burgeoning training market, which he said is about to explode world wide.

He said there is no way the current aging fleet of training aircraft can accommodate the huge surge in training activity that’s coming to supply 700,000 pilots to the airline and regional airline business. “We think we can do a lot in this market,” he said. The airplane is “fairly spartan” in terms of interior appointments but it comes with a G500 TX1 and a 10-inch PFD and is based on a proven design used for training in Europe. The first deliveries are going to a flight school in Illinois and McMann said more orders are expected.

AirVenture Gallery, July 26, 2018
 
Baxter Van West
 
 
The crowds at AirVenture 2018 had a lot to look at on the fourth day of the show. Here is some of what AVweb saw.

See all submissions

EASA Expands Mental-Health Rules For Pilots
 
Mary Grady
 
 

On Wednesday, the European Aviation Safety Agency published new safety rules that aim to better support the mental fitness of air crew. The new rules mandate that all pilots working for European airlines will have access to support programs to help them recognize, cope with and overcome problems that might degrade their ability to safely do their jobs, EASA said in a news release. The new rules also mandate alcohol testing of pilots and cabin crew for all airlines that operate in the European Union. Pilots for European airlines also are now required to complete a psychological assessment before the start of employment.

The new rules were proposed in response to the crash of Germanwings Flight 952 in March 2015. Investigators determined the first officer, Andreas Lubitz, locked his captain out of the cockpit and deliberately flew the Airbus A320 into a mountainside, killing all 150 people on board. “With these rules Europe introduces the right tools to safeguard the mental fitness of air crew,” said EASA executive director Patrick Ky. The rules will be implemented over a two-year transition period.

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AirVenture Time Capsule: 2013
 
AVweb Staff
 
 

In 2013, Jack Pelton first took the helm at AirVenture, marking the first time the show was not led by a member of the founding Poberezny family. He acted as chairman of the board from 2012 until 2015, when he was officially named CEO. Terrafugia flew its Transition flying car in public for the first time. The aircraft was parked at the company’s booth on the show grounds, then driven onto the taxiway, where the pilot pushed a button to unfold the wings for takeoff. Tablet computer apps continued to expand their capabilities and engage the GA community. And for sheer “wow” factor, Yves Rossy, aka “Jetman,” made his U.S. debut. Rossy soared like a bird for the crowds, on rigid wings powered by four tiny jet engines. “When you dream of flight, it’s completely free,” Rossy told AVweb in an interview. “An airplane is a compromise.”

The airshow experience got a major upgrade with the first appearance of Jumbotrons to help bring the action closer. The pacing and variety of the show also improved, and the crowds responded with enthusiasm. Reviews also were positive for changes in the food options at the show, providing more variety and keeping a lid on prices. A few new projects, true to the spirit of innovation encouraged by EAA, turned up at the show, and AVweb’s news team checked them out. Aviat Aircraft brought a Husky powered by compressed natural gas, Redbird announced a new initiative to convert Cessna Skyhawks to diesel power and GreenWing International introduced its battery-powered eSpyder ultralight. GreenWing hoped to develop an LSA version, if the U.S. rules would change to allow it, but so far that still hasn’t happened.

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