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Volume 25, Number 30f
July 28, 2018
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Cessna Debuts Full-Scale Denali Turboprop Mockup At AirVenture
Larry Anglisano

At AirVenture this week, Textron Aviation proved that the Cessna Denali single-engine turboprop is getting closer to flight testing, displaying a full-scale mockup of the entire passenger cabin and cockpit. The mockup, which had a fully assembled executive interior with aft seats removed to accommodate a motorcycle, also had Garmin's G3000 integrated avionics.

Initially introduced in 2015, Textron unveiled the aircraft's cabin concept in 2016 and has been fine-tuning the Denali's cabin and cockpit after gathering input from its customer base. The aircraft has larger cabin windows, larger seats, a modular refreshment center and an aft-located serviceable belted lavatory, which can be removed by the crew if it needs to use the space for cargo or additional seating. The executive interior accommodates six individual reclining passenger seats, club-configured tables and a refreshment center. In a commuter configuration, the cabin accommodates nine forward-facing seats. Designed using cues form Textron's large-cabin business jets, the company says the Denali has the largest flat-floor design of any airplane in the class.

The Denali will be powered by the 1240 shaft horsepower full FADEC-controlled Catalyst engine, which was developed by GE Aviation. It will have a digitally optimized single-lever engine/propeller control and mated with a 105-inch diameter McCauley five-blade constant-speed composite propeller, which has reversible pitch and ice protection. The GE engine will have a 4000-hour TBO and the aircraft will have a 1600 NM high-speed cruise range when loaded with one pilot and four passengers. Textron said the Denali is projected to have cruise speeds in the 285-knot range and full-fuel payload of 1100 pounds. The Denali will have a digital pressurization system that maintains a 6130-foot cabin altitude at 31,000 feet.

Textron told AVweb at AirVenture 2018 that flight testing is slated for 2019, followed by production in 2020. For more on the Denali project, visit

AirVenture: The Diesel Dance
Paul Bertorelli

To say that aviation development and market uptake moves glacially is an insult to glaciers everywhere, or at least the piles of dirty snow that pass for glaciers in a world where average summer temperatures make Venus look temperate. I can develop a fairly long list, but let’s consider diesel engines for the moment.

These make perennial appearances at AirVenture and like the pixel-addled zombies that we are, we dutifully troop off to the press conferences, write down what the people say and then stumble off to the hangars to recover in one of those Magic Fingers chairs while the guy in next booth flogs copper-bottom pots. Yeah, I did it last year and never even got the massage.

This year, the Wisconsin-based startup, EPS, had a press conference and so did DeltaHawk. Remember them? EPS showed; DeltaHawk didn’t, although they were on the field. You can hear about EPS’s latest progress in this podcast

Cutting to the chase, the EPS engine is a high-output diesel capable of up to 450 HP, so it targets high-performance singles and twins, utility aircraft and the UAV market. The company claims to have provisional orders for more than 1000 engines, without saying who the customers are. It’s an innovative 180-degree V-8 configuration with one crankpin sharing two rods, so the engine is shorter. But at 657 pounds installed, it’s still heavier than a gasoline engine on a power-to-weight basis. If the company’s numbers are accurate, it has stunning fuel specifics: 0.32 BSFC compared to 0.35 for the diesels already out there and 0.42 for typical gasoline engines. 

Without occupying the minds of the people who buy these engines—and that’s OEMs, not aircraft owners—it’s hard to know how much such sunny numbers sway them, if at all. Consider Cessna’s on-again-off-again but mostly off-again flirt with diesel. It pulled the plug on a Skyhawk diesel in 2007 just as Thielert was about to sink. Then it announced the 182 JT-A in 2012 with the SMA SR305-230 diesel, only to flatline that project in 2015. This spring, Cessna killed the diesel Skyhawk using Continental’s CD-155.

Piper is hanging in with its CD-155-powered Archer DX, but it doesn’t appear to be a strong seller. We know Cirrus has flown various diesels in the SR22; we don’t know if they’re remotely interested in offering a diesel model. My guess would be … maybe, but probably no. Mooney has its diesel M10 trainer project in limbo, if not abandoned entirely.

Along with a few conversions, Diamond still owns what there is of the diesel market, which by my estimation, is about 7 to 9 percent of total new GA piston aircraft. Like the EPS engine, the Austro four-cylinders Diamond developed have impressive fuel specifics and are, bar none, the smoothest running powerplants in piston GA. But they’re heavy and more expensive than gasoline engines. But this may not matter to a buyer who can afford a $1.4 million DA62.

And this gets me to the wrong-assumption stage of the discussion. With the exception of Diamond, airframers are not exactly risk takers. Volumes and margins on GA airplanes are thin at best and a clean sheet innovative airplane that tanks—always a good chance that it will—takes the P&L with it. Ask Diamond about that after the DA42 teething pains with the original Thielert engines.

Sure, OEMs want performance and economy to juice the ad copy, but they just as desperately want to avoid a turd of an engine that may suffer from infant mortality and a vaporous supply chain and support structure. You can practically get parts for a Lycoming at NAPA, but a new-age diesel? Not so much.

And that’s where I think innovative powerplant developers run off the rails. It’s not enough to have great performance, impressive fuel specifics and single-lever control; OEMs also want companies that appear to have legs and staying power in the commercial sense. That, more than anything, makes breaking in with a new engine daunting as best, improbable at worst. 

Fears about the extinction of leaded avgas were once driving this, especially in the U.S., but even as the FAA has all but surrendered on an unleaded replacement, I don't sense much concern. Owners aren't asking us what we think is going to happen. Not that I have a clue in hell anyway. But diesels—especially new, unestablished ones—will have a steep uphill slog to gain market share. Technical excellence or lack thereof may have nothing to do with it; market inertia may drive it. And evidently, except for a small niche, pilots love gasoline.

Landsberg Confirmed As NTSB Member
Mary Grady

Bruce Landsberg, who is well known in GA circles thanks to 22 years with the AOPA Foundation and Air Safety Institute, has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate as a member and vice-chair of the NTSB. Landsberg was nominated to the position last September by the White House. He will serve two years as vice-chair, and his term as a member extends through 2022. "Bruce Landsberg is one of the most knowledgeable and passionate safety proponents our industry has ever seen,” said NBAA President Ed Bolen in a news release this week. “His expertise across several aspects of aviation safety will make him a valued addition to the NTSB.”

Landsberg, who lives in South Carolina, served as executive director and then president of the ASI, from 1992 to 2014. His depth of experience, serving alongside NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt, who worked as a pilot for 32 years, suggests the board will have a strong presence on aviation safety issues. "It's both exciting and humbling to join this group,” Landsberg told AVweb last year. “I have worked with them for almost three decades. The mission hasn't changed, just the organization, to help pilots and the traveling public get where they're going — safely!"

Construction Underway On Doc’s New Home
Kate O'Connor

Construction on the hangar that will become B-29 Doc’s permanent home is on time and under budget, director of Doc’s Friends Josh Wells announced at AirVenture 2018 on Thursday. Doc is one of only two B-29s still flying. The B-29 Doc Hangar and Education Center, located in Wichita, Kansas, is expected to be completed this October, with Doc taking up residence the same month. Once open, the $6.5 million, 30,000-sqaure-foot hangar will house an exhibit gallery and education center, conference rooms and offices alongside the historic warbird.

Wells says that the west wall of the hangar will be glass and the space will be illuminated even when the exhibit is closed so that Doc will always be on display. “The B-29 Doc Hangar and Education Center will be the catalyst in connecting today’s generation with the Greatest Generation,” Wells said. “It will give all visitors, young and old, a one-of-a-kind and hands-on learning experience about the B-29 and its critical role in shaping the world we know today.” The education center will offer hands-on exhibits and learning experiences aimed at highlighting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines for students and young people.

Doc is on site at Oshkosh again this year and, after recently receiving FAA clearance, the B-29 is giving passenger flights. The B-29 Doc Flight Experience includes history and safety briefings and a 30- to 40-minute flight. Doc’s Friends, which was founded in 2013, is a nonprofit board that manages the operation of the historic B-29.

Lycoming 'When can an engine give you 200 extra flying hours?'
NTSB Cites Spatial Disorientation In CJ4 Crash
Mary Grady

An inexperienced pilot flying on a dark night probably thought the Cessna 525’s autopilot was engaged, but it wasn’t, the NTSB has concluded in its final report on last year’s fatal crash in Lake Erie. The pilot had logged a total of 56.5 hours in Cessna 525 jets, with 8.7 hours as pilot in command, including his flight test. It’s likely the pilot attempted to engage the autopilot after takeoff, as he had been trained, the safety board said; however, based on the flight profile, the autopilot was not engaged. “This implied that the pilot failed to confirm autopilot engagement via an indication on the primary flight display,” according to the final report. “Inadequate flight instrument scanning during this time of elevated workload resulted in the pilot allowing the airplane to climb through the assigned altitude, to develop an overly steep bank angle, to continue through the assigned heading, and to ultimately enter a rapid descent without effective corrective action. A belief that the autopilot was engaged may have contributed to his lack of attention.”

The jet’s climb rate exceeded 6,000 FPM during the initial climb, the NTSB said, and it flew past the assigned altitude of 2,000 feet MSL. The flight director provided alerts before the airplane reached the assigned altitude and again after it had passed through it. The bank angle increased to about 62 degrees and the pitch attitude decreased to about 15 degrees nose down, as the airplane continued through the assigned heading. The bank angle ultimately decreased to about 25 degrees. During the subsequent descent, the airspeed and descent rate reached about 300 knots and 6,000 FPM. The enhanced ground proximity warning system provided both "bank angle" and "sink rate" alerts to the pilot, followed by seven "pull up" warnings.

The NTSB said its examination of the recovered wreckage did not reveal any anomalies consistent with a pre-impact failure or malfunction, and concluded that pilot spatial disorientation was the probable cause of the crash. “Contributing to the accident was pilot fatigue, mode confusion related to the status of the autopilot, and negative learning transfer due to flight guidance panel and attitude indicator differences from the pilot's previous flight experience,” the board concluded. The pilot, John T. Fleming, died in the crash, along with his wife and two sons, and a neighbor and his daughter. The group was returning to Columbus, Ohio, after attending a Cleveland Cavaliers basketball game.

‘Exploration Of Flight’ Now Open In Denver
Mary Grady

Aviation enthusiasts who aren’t in Oshkosh this week — or who may be passing through Colorado on their way home — have a new destination to visit, with the official opening of the Exploration of Flight campus on the south side of Centennial Airport. The 19,000-square-foot Boeing Blue Sky Aviation Gallery, a project of the Wings Over the Rockies Museum, opened to the public this week. The venue offers a variety of options to help visitors experience the world of flight — a ride in a tumbling gyro chair will make clear the effect of G-forces on the human body, an operating wind tunnel is available for visitors to test their own designs and virtual-reality flight experiences invite visitors to try their wings.

On the second level, visitors can learn about all the elements that mesh together to create today’s aviation system. A viewing lounge overlooks the nonstop action at Centennial Airport, the second-busiest general aviation airport in the U.S. Guests can listen to the chatter from Centennial Tower, try out flight simulators or go for an introductory flight, through a partnership with Aspen Flying Club. The Gallery is open Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. The hangar is located at 13005 Wings Way, Englewood.

Follow Me || TBM 900
King Schools Rolls Out New Courses
Kate O'Connor

Two new courses for drone pilots and several for aircraft mechanics are joining the lineup of online aviation training resources at King Schools. John and Martha King announced at AirVenture 2018 that they will be offering recurrent drone training and Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) courses beginning this August. The LAANC course will be available for free as a stand-alone and included as part of the school’s Flight Instructor Refresher and Drone Pilot Training courses.

The Kings also announced that updated versions of their general, airframe, and powerplant courses are now available for aspiring aviation mechanics. “These courses are ideal for busy aviation mechanics who are preparing for their A&P exams,” said King Schools CEO Barry Knuttila. “They are accessible from any computer or device and allow the completion of a new lesson in just 15 minutes. With lifetime access and free updates, the courses will continue to provide a great refresher for mechanics long after passing their exams.”

King Schools has been providing training courses for 43 years now. At Sun ‘N Fun this year, they moved to delivering all of their courses solely online.

WAI Shifts Sides On FBO Issue, As AOPA Persists
Mary Grady

The small universe of general aviation advocacy groups usually forms a united front, working together to promote common interests, but this week that changed. On Thursday, Women in Aviation International withdrew its support of AOPA’s protests regarding FBO fees, leaving AOPA now the only major GA group still pushing the initiative. “As a pilot myself, I am sympathetic to the financial challenges inherent in flying,” WAI President Peggy Chabrian said in a statement. “But we also recognize that FBOs provide services crucial to our flying as well as extending comforts which enhance general aviation operations.” AOPA spokesman Joe Kildea told AVweb in an email, “It is unfortunate Women in Aviation International flip-flopped on airport access, egregious FBO fees, and transparency, [but] our coalition continues to grow and now includes 16 organizations. These groups have joined AOPA in representing pilots, the consumers in the general aviation industry.” Kildea added that “certain organizations appear to be financially conflicted because of Signature contributions.” Signature Flight Support is the world’s largest network of FBOs, operating more than 200 locations worldwide.

Kildea said AOPA’s initiative is supported by the American Bonanza Society, Antique Airplane Association, Cardinal Flyers Online, FNL Pilots Association, Glasair Aircraft Owners Association, Kansas Pilots Association, Lancair Owners and Builders Organization, Malibu/Mirage Owners & Pilots Association, Maine Aeronautics Association, Minnesota Pilots Association, Minnesota Seaplane Pilots Association, Montana Pilot’s Association, North American Trainer Association, Utah General Aviation Association and the Washington Pilots Association, as well as more than 1,000 individual pilots who signed a petition at AirVenture this week. AOPA's efforts to push its FBO agenda in court have had mixed results.

Mary Ellis, RAF Pilot, Dies At 101
Mary Grady

Mary Ellis, who flew Spitfires and bombers during World War II, has died at age 101. Ellis was one of 168 women who flew for the Air Transport Auxiliary, which employed civilians to deliver planes from factories to airfields. Nearly 10 percent of the ATA's pilots were killed during the war, including aviation pioneer Amy Johnson, according to the BBC. After the ATA was disbanded in 1945, Ellis flew for the Royal Air Force, where she was one of the first women to fly the Gloster Meteor, Britain’s first jet fighter. After leaving the service, she became manager of the Sandown Airport, on the Isle of Wight, and lived there with her husband, Don, a fellow pilot, who died in 2009.

Ellis continued to live at the airport and was still driving daily to the local shops at age 101. "Being an ATA pilot was fantastic," she said in 2016, when she and fellow ATA pilot Joy Lofthouse were honored by the royal family in London. "Up in the air on your own. And you can do whatever you like. I flew 400 Spitfires. And occasionally I would take one up and go and play with the clouds. I would like to do it all over again. There was a war on, but otherwise it was absolutely wonderful."

Virgin Galactic Reaches Mesosphere
Mary Grady

Virgin Galactic test pilots flew VSS Unity from the Mojave Air and Space Port to 170,800 feet on Thursday morning, the company said, marking the company’s highest flight yet. The rocket-powered ship, flying at supersonic speeds, flew though the stratosphere and reached the mesosphere for the first time. “This was a new altitude record for both of us in the cockpit, not to mention our mannequin in the back, and the views of Earth from the black sky were magnificent,” said test pilot Dave Mackay. Unity was carried to 46,500 feet by the carrier aircraft VMS Eve. After release, the crew lit the ship’s rocket motor and pulled up into a near-vertical climb, reaching speeds up to Mach 2.47.

“The flight was exciting and frankly beautiful,” said pilot Mike Masucci. “We were able to complete a large number of test points which will give us good insight as we progress to our goal of commercial service.” The mesosphere is rarely studied by scientists because it is above the range of balloon flight, Virgin said in a news release, adding that the company hopes to help the research community explore it further in the future. The flight also collected data on supersonic aerodynamics and thermal dynamics.

AirVenture Time Capsule: 2015
AVweb Staff

Three years ago, AirVenture attendees saw a B-52H Stratofortress bomber makes its first-ever visit to Oshkosh, Rotax introduced its 915iS engine and EAA announced a new prize for innovations in aviation safety. When the Stratofortress came to town, crews had to remove 6,000 feet of runway lights to accommodate the aircraft, which has a second set of 148-foot-wide outboard landing gear. The 1961 model came from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. It was on ground display for the weeklong event.

After introducing the 912iS in 2012, engine manufacturer Rotax came to AirVenture 2015 with a new version of the engine. At the time, the 135-HP, turbocharged 915iS had accumulated about 2,000 hours in the test cell and Rotax was working with airframers to begin flight tests. The engine became available in 2017.

2015 was also the year EAA announced that it was organizing a competition aimed at inspiring the general aviation community to develop new ideas to reduce loss-of-control accidents. The first Founder's Innovation Prize was awarded the following year and the competition has been held annually since. Previous winners are the Remora System (2017) and Airball (2016).

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