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Volume 25, Number 31b
July 30, 2018
 
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A New Two-Seater From Lancair
 
Mary Grady
 
 

Lancair has introduced a new two-seat kit called the Barracuda, which it calls an “entry-level” airplane. The Barracuda will cruise at 200 knots at 13 gallons per hour, and sells for about $200,000. The all-composite airplane is designed “for the pilot who wants maximum performance with a minimum investment of build time and budget,” said Lancair President Conrad Hufstutler, and incorporates “all the best features of the Mako,” which was introduced last year. “We’re expecting to take a big bite of the two-seater performance market,” Hufstutler said. The first Barracuda subkits will deliver no sooner than early next year, and by the third quarter all the subkits should be ready, the company said.

The new airplane will incorporate a number of new features, including a one-piece wing with greater span. “The new wing makes aircraft handling more docile and significantly reduces build time,” the company said. Fully automatic retracting nosegear adds 10 to 12 knots to the cruise speed. In the cockpit, the Barracuda comes with a customizable avionics package, typically based on the Garmin G3X Touch and GTN-750 components. The company will offer a range of options, such as Freon air conditioning, full de-ice protection, a choice of engines and more.

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.

AVweb's AirVenture Two-Minute Photo Tour
 
Paul Bertorelli
 
 

At AirVenture 2018, AVweb collected a lot of photos and video. Here's a two-minute tour of what we saw.

JP International 'Pilot's Best Friend - Technology that works
First Commuter Craft Customers Begin Builds
 
Kate O'Connor
 
 

Commuter Craft is ready to welcome the first builders of the company’s two-place homebuilt Innovator to Commuter’s Cartersville, Georgia, factory to begin construction. The planes will be built at the factory where the company says it will take two to three weeks for owners to complete their 51 percent of the aircraft with the plane ready to fly in three months. Commuter Craft founder and president Richard Hogan told AVweb more about the aircraft and the building process in this podcast interview at AirVenture 2018.

Hogan says that first group of builders have all had experience building aircraft before. These "Alpha Builders" have been chosen to vet Commuter Craft’s Builder Assist Program in addition to putting together new airplanes. Once those planes are finished, the company will tweak the program if needed and then bring in a group made up of both new and experienced builders for a second round. General production is scheduled to begin next year.

The Innovator is a composite design with options that include folding wings, a ballistic parachute and seatbelt airbags. The engine options are both Continental Titan models—either the 180-HP IO-340 or the 200-HP IO-370. The 200-HP version has an 850-pound useful load, range of 940 miles and is expected to cruise at an estimated 194 MPH. Pricing runs from approximately $150,000 to $210,000.

GA Revitalization Bill Gains Support
 
Mary Grady
 
 

A bill that aims to support the future of general aviation was introduced in the Senate last week by Senators Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and has gained support from GA advocates. “Across the aviation industry, we are facing an unfortunate reality—too few young Americans are starting careers in the field,” Inhofe said. “This bill will empower the next generation of needed pilots.” The bill would encourage adding an aviation curriculum option in high schools, reduce red tape in an effort to grow the pool of pilot examiners and create some liability protection for volunteer pilots, along with several other measures. EAA, NBAA and many other aviation advocacy groups have expressed support for the bill, known as the Securing and Revitalizing Aviation (SARA) Act of 2018.

Other details of the act include: The bill proposes giving the NTSB the authority to review the denial of an airman medial certificate by the FAA, extending to FAA designees the existing due process protections enjoyed by pilots and providing that an airman may voluntarily surrender a medical certificate and reapply for a certificate without an unnecessary wait period. It also supports efforts by seaplane pilots to mitigate the spread of aquatic invasive species, enabling seaplane pilots access to bodies of water that now are closed. It also proposes to implement the Volunteer Pilot Protection Act, which qualifies volunteer pilots for limited liability protection as long as they follow appropriate procedures, have the FAA-required flight experience and maintain liability insurance. The full text of the bill can be found here.

Donations Energize NASM’s New GA Exhibit
 
Mary Grady
 
 

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, in Washington, D.C., has accepted a $10 million donation from the Thomas W. Haas Foundation to help finance its new “We All Fly” exhibit, which will focus on general aviation. The exhibit also will include an aerobatic biplane flown by Sean D. Tucker. “The generous support from Tom Haas and the exciting addition to our collection of the Oracle Challenger III will help us showcase why aviation is so important to all of our lives,” said Ellen Stofan, museum director. “Sean Tucker’s aircraft will no doubt inspire future pilots and aviation professionals through the story of his amazing career.”

The new exhibit is scheduled to open in 2021. It will provide visitors an opportunity to explore a variety of people and fields within aviation, highlighting themes such as sport, private, business, humanitarian and utility flight. In addition to Tucker's Oracle Challenger, aircraft such as a Cessna 180, Gates Lear Jet and a Cirrus SR22 will be displayed. The exhibit will feature new educational interactive technology and engaging videos that will explore the valuable impact of general aviation on society and encourage the public to join in, NASM said in a news release.

Lycoming 'When can an engine give you 200 extra flying hours?'
NTSB Reports On Florida Midair
 
Mary Grady
 
 

In its ongoing investigation into a midair collision that killed four people in Florida on July 17, the NTSB has reported that the two airplanes “converged nearly straight on.” The Piper PA-34-200 Seneca twin and Cessna 172N both were owned by the Dean International flight school, based at Miami Executive Airport (TMB). A private pilot was flying the twin, with a designated pilot examiner on board, and a student pilot and flight instructor were aboard the Skyhawk. Citing preliminary information from the FAA, the NTSB reported the Piper was en route to a nearby training area at an altitude about 1,500 feet MSL, flying northwest, and no longer communicating with the TMB tower, as it was outside the Class D airspace.

The Cessna was returning from the training area at an altitude about 1,500 feet MSL, flying southeast, and had contacted the TMB tower just prior to the collision. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, the NTSB said, with visibility recorded as 10 statute miles. FAA and NTSB records show this was the third fatal crash for the flight school since 2013. Last week, the school’s owner, Robert Dean, said he would be closing down the school. About 200 students were enrolled there, most of them from Saudi Arabia, India and Latin America. The school has been in operation since 1995.

Hard Landing Creases 767 Fuselage
 
Russ Niles
 
 

It is likely the flying days of an Atlas Air Boeing 767 are over after “hard landing” at Portsmouth Airport in New Hampshire on Friday. The old airliner, filled with troops returning home, hit the ground hard enough for the fuselage to buckle and leave a crease in the skin. There were also reports that the collision with earth ripped fixtures from the ceiling inside the cabin. There were no reported injuries among the troops.

The number of passengers aboard wasn’t immediately released but the aircraft, a 300 model, can carry up to 351 people in all economy configuration and the troop flights normally fly full. As of Sunday, accident websites were reporting the aircraft was still on the ground in Portsmouth. The sites are reporting that an inspection revealed serious damage to the aircraft.

Icon Aircraft Creates Managed Fractional Program
 
Larry Anglisano
 
 

Hoping to attract more owners for its A5 LSA amphib, Icon Aircraft announced a managed fractional ownership program at AirVenture this week. The program is called Icon Fleet Access and the company is launching it at several locations in 2018, including Tampa and Miami, Florida, and in Northern and Southern California. It also said the program—contingent on its success—will be accessible for potential buy-in starting in 2019 in Texas, the Northeast, the Great Lakes region and in other locations in the Northwest and Southeast.

The deal looks like this: For a 1/2 share in a new A5, you pay $225,000 plus a $1500 monthly management fee. Then, it's $75 per hour (dry) and you can fly the A5 a total of 150 days per year (including 40 weekend or "peak" days). Remote access (using the plane at any of the available locations) is free and additional users include one family member and one non-family member—or two family members. Additional users pay $350 per month. There's a five-day maximum booking duration (you get four max bookings) and you can book it 12 months out. The term is for three years where you can either renew or sell the share at fair market value.

For a 1/4 share, put $125,000 down and pay $900 per month and $75 per hour. You can fly it a total of 75 days per year, including 20 weekend or peak days. If you want remote access, it's another $300 per month. The 1/4 share program allows for one family member to fly the aircraft, plus $350 for additional users. You can book the aircraft six months in advance and are allowed two maximum bookings (five days with the aircraft). Like the 1/2 share deal, you can renew or sell at fair market value.

The management fee includes Icon-authorized schedule maintenance, insurance, storage, cleaning and line services. Basically, show up to fly it and then park it when you're finished with it.

The current fully equipped Limited Edition A5 is priced at $389,000 and Icon says delivery is available in early 2019. At AirVenture 2018, the company was including a $38,500 amphib trailer for free with a $5000 deposit and commitment to sign a purchase agreement by Aug. 31, 2018, for a Q1 2019 delivery. 

Icon's CEO Kirk Hawkins told AVweb in an interview at AirVenture that the assembly line for the A5 at the Vacaville, California, headquarters is active and the company is currently seeking flight instructors and service partners. Visit www.iconaircraft.com.

Podcast: Commuter Craft Innovator
 
Kate O'Connor
 
 

Commuter Craft is ready to welcome the first builders of the company’s two-place homebuilt Innovator to Commuter’s Cartersville, Georgia, factory to begin construction. Richard Hogan told AVweb more about the aircraft and the building process at AirVenture 2018.

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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

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