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Volume 25, Number 31a
July 29, 2018
 
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Training Buoys Engine Market
 
Russ Niles
 
 

The surge in pilot training has been good for the engine business and Lycoming CEO Mike Kraft says he’s hopeful it will be sustained. In a podcast interview at AirVenture 2018, Kraft said the legacy engine maker has kept innovating and adapting to the changing market and many of the biggest changes are invisible. For instance, the company has begun installing diamond-coated wear parts in the engines and the result will be increased reliability and longevity. Among the big projects it’s involved with is supplying the FADEC-equipped iE2 engines, formally known as the TEO 540-C1A, for Cape Air’s new fleet of Tecnam 2012 twins.

The Massachusetts-based airline, which operates commuter services in the Northeast, Caribbean, Midwest and eastern Montana, has ordered 100 of the little airliners, which seat up to 12 passengers. The first Cape Air plane is now being built and the engines were recently certified. The Tecnams will replace the current fleet of 83 Cessna 402s. The Cessnas seat nine passengers. Kraft said the company is building a lot of engines for the experimental market, particularly for the Vans RV line. Among the innovations in the experimental engines is dissimilar ignition, using an electronic system for half the plugs and magnetos for the other half.

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.

Dynon's New Pocket EFIS and ADS-B Receiver
 
Paul Bertorelli
 
 

At AirVenture 2018, Dynon introduced two new products, both bargain priced. The D3 is the latest iteration of the company's pocket EFIS and the DRX is a budget dual-band ADS-B In receiver.

Epic Certification Expected This Year
 
Russ Niles
 
 

Epic Aircraft is aiming for certification of its big E1000 turboprop single by the end of the year with deliveries to begin by 2019. At a news conference at AirVenture 2018, Mike Schrader, director of sales and marketing, said the plan is to build eight to 12 customer aircraft in 2019, 24 in 2020, 36 in 2021 and reach full production of 50 in 2022. “We are fully funded and we are fully committed,” Schrader said. The company is owned by a Russian aerospace firm that also owns an airline and has been fully supportive of the project, said Schrader.

Schrader said the company is also adding a second manufacturing facility at its Bend, Oregon, headquarters to accommodate the anticipated growth. The last big milestone was structural testing and that was completed just before the show. That included testing the wing to 19,000 pounds with a 31-inch deflection and inflating the pressure vessel to 18 psi, almost three times the 6.6 psi operating pressure differential. New equipment has been added and 24-hour production will ultimately be possible.

Mooney Aims For 50 A Year
 
Russ Niles
 
 

Mooney hopes to build 20 aircraft this year as it continues its re-entry to the high-performance single market. At a news conference at AirVenture, Director of Marketing Lance Phillips said they’re planning to ramp up to 40 aircraft next year with a goal of maintaining about 50 aircraft a year after that. Australian certification of the latest two-door models of the Acclaim and Ultra will open a market that has been historically strong for Mooney. It’s borrowing a few marketing ideas from the automotive industry as it ramps up its business and a familiar name is again associated with the brand.

Mooney has entered a marketing alliance with iconic carmaker Porsche. There will be no technical cross pollination, however. In the 1980s, Mooney and Porsche certified the PFM 3200 an aviation version of the six-cylinder boxer engine in its 911 sports car for aircraft and while it attracted a lot of attention it didn’t sell well. One of the automotive-style marketing ideas for new Mooneys is called Fill and Fly. For the first three years, new Mooney owners will only pay for fuel in most cases. The company will cover all the scheduled maintenance and consumables in the first three years.

Lycoming 'When can an engine give you 200 extra flying hours?'
Ercoupe In A Jam
 
Russ Niles
 
 

It all worked out in the end but the pilot of an Ercoupe 415-D on his way to Ohio from AirVenture likely annoyed thousands of Chicago commuters. A reported engine failure prompted him to land the little single on Lake Shore Drive, one of the city’s busiest streets. He flew it under a pedestrian overpass and landed on the wide street without hitting anything but the incident and the ensuing response closed all the southbound lanes of the thoroughfare. It took about an hour to get the plane pushed to the side of the road and open three of four lanes and by then the traffic jam stretched for miles.

A report from CBS Chicago says the pilot called air traffic control to report an engine failure and the controller suggested he head for nearby Midway Airport. “Negative sir. We’ll be down here somewhere on the shoreline,” the station reported the pilot as saying.

Dissimilar Ignition Replaces Troublesome Units
 
Russ Niles
 
 

Electroair has launched the design approval project to provide an alternative to a troublesome magneto that has a history of service difficulties and is on about 6,000 engines. The Bendix D2000/D3000 Dual Magneto, which operates two conventional mags off a single drive, has been a maintenance headache and safety concern for years. Electroair’s answer is a single unit that incorporates an electronic ignition for one set of plugs and a mechanical magneto for the other set.

Spokesman Michael Kobylik said dissimilar ignition systems are becoming a popular alternative to traditional mags because the electronic systems offer much more precise spark control while the mechanical setup offers redundancy if there is an electrical failure. To build the dual system, the company had to design its own mechanical system because it had previously built only electronic ignitions. The high energy rotor produces excess power that can serve as a backup generator.

Follow Me || TBM 900
AirVenture Time Capsule: 2017
 
AVweb Staff
 
 

Last year’s show was a stellar and exciting one, if you were a visitor or pilot looking for a great summertime aviation experience—but for reporters in search of news, it was a weeklong exercise in frustration. “The press conference schedule has been busy, but other than avionics, nothing of significance has emerged,” wrote AVweb’s Paul Bertorelli. “Continental promised ‘multiple major product announcements,’ but my fellow journalists were grumbling, as only journalists can, that incremental reports on engine certs and new roller tappets aren’t exactly major.” Nevertheless, beautiful weather and a long list of events, workshops, airshows and unique, gorgeous airplanes on display brought no complaints from the non-journalist contingent, with record crowds on site all week.

The B-29 “Doc,” from Wichita, made its debut at the show, roaring to life after years of effort by thousands of volunteers. Blue Origin displayed New Shepard, its reusable rocket, along with a full-size mockup of a crew capsule with room for six future astronauts. And a stage full of real astronauts reminisced at Theater in the Woods about the Apollo era, which launched 50 years before. Two new aircraft made an appearance, with the first public showing of the Stratos 714 VLJ proof of concept, and Kitty Hawk’s multi-rotor LSA flying at the Seaplane Base. And by week’s end, Bertorelli found one brand-new ready-for-market airplane to report on—Vulcanair’s 1.0 trainer, a less-expensive alternative to the classic Cessna 172, made its Oshkosh debut.

Top Letters And Comments, July 27, 2018
 
 

LSA Weight Restrictions Changing

On the fence about that 150 purchase? Better buy it now because in two years there will be a significant price increase.

Robert Ore

Weight restrictions still two years away? WHY? How can a Cessna 150 not be a "Light Sport Aircraft"? Shoulda been done already.

James Efird

The LSA concept was flawed from the beginning and specifically designed to exclude existing trainers so as to boost sales of new European designs. The training environment did not appreciate the fragile planes that could not carry American-sized students and fuel. The only good thing that came out of the concept was that it proved that all the old pilots without medicals were flying perfectly fine without any increase in accidents. Why not just get rid of the medical for small 2-4 seat "trainer" class planes and let designers and pilots choose what they want?

Mark Fraser

Sure, 1320 pounds is an arbitrary number, but then so is 750 Kg (1654 lbs). Any number chosen will be arbitrary, but with a reason or purpose. 1320 lbs is 600 Kg. I'm sure that had some bearing on standards for a European class of aircraft, but it wasn't adopted in America to help European designs, rather it conformed with the European class, and if Americans wanted to make something that could qualify to a broader market, they could. LSA class has been adopted as an ASTM standard for many countries around the world. Hopefully in the new classification they will remove the "Reciprocating Engine" requirement so we can better develop and utilize electric propulsion. Also hope they allow for automatic constant speed props too. When considering "American size" people, where should the upper limit weight limit be placed? No matter where it is placed, it is still an arbitrary number, but hopefully with a reason and a purpose. The word arbitrary as it is used today has a negative connotation as if there was no thought behind it; rather is an unsatisfactory, random number chosen. The LSA number and whatever it is changed to are not ever arbitrary in that connotation.

Jon Durr

Flying to OSH with ADS-B

I flew in VFR yesterday evening just before closing and it was a madhouse with a lot of people who either didn't read the NOTAM or just didn't care. My ADS-B traffic screen was almost unreadable at the tightest zoom level, and that didn't include the others without ADS-B. I'm certain there were some close calls from people only looking at their traffic screens and not out the window. It's great having that traffic screen, but it also leads to some serious complacency.

Gary Baluha

One of the first things I noted about using ADS-B for traffic was that for close-in work, having a HUD to prevent the head down in the cockpit problem would be a MAJOR safety improvement. Maybe it will click with the manufacturers as an unfilled niche & spur some R&D investment; the current ones don't seem to be gaining much traction.

John Wilson

For what it's worth, I flew in on Sunday with an IFR clearance, and saw nobody on ADS-B except the other clag drivers. Breaking out at 750' AGL with 1.5 mile visibility gave me a lovely view of the whitecaps on Lake Winnebago, but nothing else. Once Ardy & Ed's slipped into view I knew Runway 27 wouldn't be far behind. I loved having the airspace to myself; it was way safer than 2016 where I was fifty feet from a midair in perfect VMC. The ATIS yesterday said "Oshkosh is IFR. Really. No special VFR operations will be permitted. Even for you."

Brad Koehn

Podcast: Lycoming Adapts To Market
 
Russ Niles
 
 

Lycoming's Mike Kraft says the training market is keeping things humming at his plant. An order for 200 of its most expensive and technologically advanced engines doesn't hurt either. AVweb's Russ Niles spoke with Kraft at AirVenture 2018.

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.

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