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Sales of piston airplanes rose 16 percent in the first half of this year, compared to the same period last year, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association reported on Monday, with 455 airplanes delivered. Twin turboprops, however, led the field, with a jump from 34 deliveries last year to 58, a growth rate of 71 percent. "We are encouraged to see a strong increase in billings this quarter," said GAMA President Pete Bunce. "But the mixed results in shipments -- and the differences in performance among sectors -- demonstrate that GA airplane manufacturers still face some strong headwinds as the global economy recovers." The GA sector overall saw 9 percent growth, but business jet sales continue to decline.

Compared to last year's numbers, business jet sales are down 4 percent, GAMA said. Overall, billings for GA airplanes worldwide reached $10.4 billion, up 26.4 percent from the same period last year, when they totaled $8.2 billion. "This marks the first time since 2008 that airplane revenues have exceeded $10 billion in the first six months of the year," GAMA said. The complete shipment report can be found at GAMA's web site.

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Tucked in the GAMA numbers for the second quarter of 2013 was the revelation that Gulfstream has overtaken Bombardier as the world leader in business jet sales revenue. The first deliveries of Gulfstream's flagship G650, which sells for about $65 million, vaulted the Savannah planemaker into the lead with sales of $1.83 billion from April through July. Bombardier took in $1.59 billion from April to July but the company doesn't intend to stay in second place for long.

Bombardier spokeswoman Annie Cossette told the Globe and Mail that the company's prospects are good for the rest of the year. “I won’t speculate what position we’ll have until the end of the year but we do believe that No. 1 is still within our reach,” Cossette said. To reach the podium, Gulfstream sold 30 of its G450, 550 and 650 large-cabin aircraft and six smaller 150 and 280 models. Bombardier sold 14 Global 5000/600, 11 Challenger 605, 16 Challenger 300 and four Learjet 60XR in the same time period.

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Photo: NTSB

In an update issued Tuesday afternoon, the NTSB said the captain of a Southwest Airlines 737 that landed nosewheel-first at New York's LaGuardia Airport on July 22 had taken over control from the first officer "at a point below 400 feet" as the jet approached for landing. It was the first time the two pilots had flown together. The first officer had flown into LGA before, including six flights in 2013, and it was the second arrival for the captain, who had acted as the monitoring pilot both times. The nose gear collapsed on the runway, causing substantial damage to the airplane. All 150 onboard were evacuated and eight people were treated for injuries. "At this point in the investigation, no mechanical anomalies or malfunctions have been found," the NTSB said. "A preliminary examination of the nose gear indicated that it failed due to stress overload."

The safety board also said the captain has been with Southwest for 13 years, and has been a captain for six years, with more than 12,000 hours of flight time. The first officer has been with Southwest for about 18 months, and has about 5,200 total flight hours. Tuesday's report also said, "The crew reported that below 1,000 feet, the tailwind was about 11 knots. They also reported that the wind on the runway was a headwind of about 11 knots." The NTSB said investigators have collected five videos showing various aspects of the crash landing. The team will be analyzing these recordings in the coming months.

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At the traditional wrap-up news conference at Oshkosh on Sunday afternoon, EAA Chairman Jack Pelton said this year's show succeeded in meeting its main objectives. The number-one objective, he said, was to have a safe AirVenture, and that was accomplished. The second major success was to have an airshow at all, given the challenges posed when the FAA declined to pay the expenses for air traffic controllers, and sent EAA a bill for almost $450,000. The third challenge was to provide an entertaining airshow, despite the lack of military participation. "Most of you will agree we exceeded that expectation," Pelton said. EAA also said it had a record number of vendors at the show, many of whom reported robust sales. 

"The traffic is just nonstop all day," Bret Koebbe, from Sporty's Pilot Shop, told EAA. Vendors cited growing optimism regarding the economy, plus good crowds drawn by the near-perfect weather, for improved interest and sales. Joe Blank, of Van's Aircraft, told EAA that sales were strong, especially for the new RV-14, introduced last year. Pelton said he wanted his staff to "come away with the overall feeling that would bring people back next year, and we feel [that] objective has been achieved." AirVenture 2014 is scheduled for July 28 to August 3. That show will honor the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I and celebrate the 75th anniversary of the jet engine, along with many other features and events to be announced.

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There's so much to see and touch at AirVenture that your eyes may tire of looking and your button-pushing finger can get a little stiff.  That doesn't deter the AVweb team, however, as they poked, prodded, and otherwise product-tested their way through some of this year's most interesting products in a series of "Product Minute" videos.

WingX Pro7 Upgrade

Dual Electronics' XGPS160

Skycraft SD1 Affordable LSA

Levil Technology's iLevil AW and Apps

Garmin's GTR200 Radio with 3-D Audio

Sagetech Clarity

MyGoFlight Sight Line iPad Cockpit Display

Bad Elf Lightning Dongle GPS

Dual Electronics' XGPS170 ADS-B

Bendix/King's myWingman
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As usual when walking the grounds of AirVenture in my green AVweb news shirt, I got engaged by a number of readers and interested bystanders. I always take this opportunity to ask where people have come from, what compelling things they’ve seen and what their overall impression of the show is.

I guess I’d say the consensus is I found no consensus. Nearly everyone I spoke to liked this year’s event and those who noticed improvements that EAA has made seem to approve of the course changes. But honestly, I expected the enthusiasm to rise just a little above a slow simmer. But it didn’t seem to.

I’m always asked by vendors and colleagues what I think the attendance is like. Trick question. In years past, I’ve guessed the place is mobbed only to learn that attendance is down by a couple of percent. My impression just from walking the hangars and the grounds is that it’s up considerably over last year, if not the last several years. At times, the vendor hangars were unnavigable due to sheer human congestion and the lines at the food booths were 20 deep around lunch time. Yet when I asked a few vendors I know what the booth traffic was like, more of them said just okay, not fantastic. Aircraft Spruce was doing brisk business on the two days I went by their big corner store in Hangar A, but a few other vendors told me things were a little slow. John Moreland from CubCrafters mentioned they were closing in on a couple of sales and add a couple of more to that and the trek to AirVenture is more than worth the effort.

Officially, attendance figures aren’t published until near the end of the show, but EAA’s Dick Knapinski told me on Friday that attendance was “on plan” and that the finance guys were happy. We tend to measure the success of AirVenture by the rise and fall of attendance, but I think we also overstate its importance. You can’t read megatrends into what happens in a single week in July, but what happens in the industry after the inevitable connections made at AirVenture bear fruit.

There were clearly more product introductions and innovations at AirVenture this year than since 2008. While many of these related to tablet computer apps, the new innovation center EAA erected where the much-reviled chalets were last year hosted some interesting developments, including a neat little wearable HUD—think Google Glass for pilots—and Adept Airmotive’s emerging high output V-6. (We’ve got videos on both.) These aren’t just dingbat ideas, but could hold genuine promise for commercial development.

We didn’t expect to see any introductions from the major airframers and as Dick Knapinski might say, that went to plan too. But with its buy of Thielert Aircraft Engines, Continental injected a welcome pulse of developmental energy that’s already paying off. Redbird’s Redhawk project is but the leading edge of diesel conversions that I expect to see gain traction within 24 months. Lycoming, it’s now your turn.

I keep hearing about the coming trend of decreasing prices on both aircraft and avionics, but it’s too soon to say if anything we saw at AirVenture validates this. Yes, the Redhawk project promises lower operating costs as do Continental’s diesels and Bendix/King’s price on the new KT74 transponder will give Garmin pause. But two datapoints do not a trend establish. Frankly, I remain wary of overreach in claims that the Part 23 revision will usher in a fresh new day with an expanded market and enthusiastic newcomers. We’ll see.

Personally, I like the changes EAA made in this year’s AirVenture. The association has invested in incrementally improved infrastructure and made a measurable attempt to making the show more affordable to attend. The food courts were a mixed bag. Lunch for two at one of the A&W stands still whacked most of a $20 bill, but the quality was better and it was marginally cheaper than last year. Although I tend not to gush, I’m relaxing my normal thoughtful restraint with regard to the airshow. EAA nailed it. I hope it continues the trend of a faster paced show with more variety and more and bigger Jumbotrons. Those things rocked.

Bottom line: We’re not quite back to 2006 yet, but on the other hand, it’s a different world now. My view is that AirVenture 2013 at least points us in the right direction.

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