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In what appears to be the major product introduction of the Aero show in Friedrichshafen, Piper Aircraft announced Wednesday that it began marketing a diesel-powered Archer, the Archer DX. The aircraft is certified under an STC developed by Piper and Continental Motors and it will have Continental’s Centurion 2.0s, a 155-horsepower variant of the base engine developed by the former Thielert Aircraft Engines and acquired by Continental last year. The airplane is slated for delivery in the first quarter of 2015, according to Piper CEO Simon Caldecott, who expects it will create a new market for the company, rather than cannibalizing sales of Lycoming-powered Archers. Piper see the DX as a global aircraft, but expects some sales in North America.

On the show floor Tuesday, Piper had the new airplane wrapped in vast sheet of red satin, which was removed with a flourish on Wednesday afternoon. The newly STC'd aircraft will remain in Europe for demonstration flights until June, Piper told AVweb. According to Caldecott, the DX fulfills Piper’s promise to offer customers a range of fuel choices in new aircraft, including avgas, diesel and Jet A. At a price near the $400,000 mark, the Archer DX is mainly aimed at the training market, where operating costs drive the economics. Piper claims the DX’s Centurion engine burns 38 percent less fuel than the Lycoming O-360-A4M that recent Archer models have been equipped with. That yields an overall 31 percent lower operating cost over gas models, according to Piper’s sales material.

Piper’s performance claims for the DX include a 114-knot cruise speed with a typical payload of about 794 pounds. Because the diesel is heavier, the Archer DX has about 76 pounds less useful load than the gasoline Archer and a slower cruise speed, but Piper’s sales pitch for the DX will be that its considerably lower long-term operating costs make it an attractive choice. Configured for training, the DX will be equipped with a Garmin G1000. The cert work was done by Technify Motors, the German operating unit of Continental Motors, which specializes in diesel aircraft technology. The work was done at a former East German military base called Altenburg, where the former Thielert Aircraft Engines did most of its flight research.

The Centurion 2.0s was developed as a follow-on to the original 1.7 Centurion first certified by Thielert around 2002. At 155 hp, it’s the highest output engine of the four-cylinder Centurion series, but because it hasn’t been fielded in large numbers, its TBR—time between replacement—is 1200 hours, 300 hours less than the Centurion 2.0. It also requires replacement gearboxes at 600-hour intervals. Continental Motors says that raising the TBR of all of the Centurion engines is its top technical goal and it believes that the engineering test data supports higher replacement intervals. See AVweb's video report on the Archer DX here.

With more 600 exhibitors and increased North American presence, Europe’s largest general aviation trade show opens in Friedrichshafen today. At least two new certified aircraft are expected to be announced and a number of companies, including Garmin, will introduce Europe-specific products.

The show will have four spotlight areas, including an engine display sponsored by AVweb’s media partner, the German-language fliegermagazin, an avionics section and an e-flight expo highlighting electric aircraft. E-volo’s attention-getting Volocopter will also make its first trade show appearance at Aero. Related to that, new this year is the UAS Expo, for unmanned aircraft and related systems. Look for reports on these topic areas as AVweb’s Aero coverage continues through the week. 

Aero’s North American sales rep, Luann Alesio, told AVweb on Tuesday that about 45 North American companies are represented at Aero, up slightly from a year ago. She said the North American pavilion at Aero has been enlarged to accommodate them.

At Aero 2014 in Friedrichshafen, the big new is Piper's introduction of the new Archer DX, its first diesel-powered aircraft.  The engine uses Continental's Centurion 2.0S.  In this overview of the show, AVweb's Paul Bertorelli and Thomas Borchert from the German fliegermagazin give an overview of the show.

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Bonus depreciation could be making a comeback for business aircraft buyers and NBAA is encouraging lawmakers to make it happen. The Senate Finance Committee last week drafted legislation that would restore a series of tax incentives for two years, including bonus depreciation on capital assets. Under bonus depreciation, businesses are allowed to write off a greater portion of the purchase price of assets in a single year and on expensive items like airplanes the savings can be significant. "Economists have long recognized that allowing for additional depreciation, in the first year after the purchase of an asset, is an effective way to motivate people and companies to make upgrades," said NBAA President Ed Bolen. "When applied to business aircraft purchase, bonus depreciation gives companies immediate access to the efficiency, productivity, competitiveness and other benefits that come with the asset’s use, while also helping to preserve jobs in a key American manufacturing sector."

The measure is part of a package of "tax extenders" proposed in the legislation and would apply to equipment put to use starting Jan. 1, 2014. "Qualified property placed in service during the allotted period would be allowed an additional first-year depreciation deduction equal to 50 percent of its adjusted basis. Property that meets the requirements for the additional first-year depreciation deduction may also qualify for first-year depreciation equal to 100 percent of the qualified property’s adjusted basis," NBAA said in a news release.

With the FAA running into a legal quagmire over its blanket ban on commercial drone use, operators are losing patience. A Texas group that uses drones to help search for missing people told the Wall Street Journal they plan to challenge the FAA's restrictions in federal court. The FAA responded that the group should try to partner with a law-enforcement agency that already has a certificate of authorization for drone operations. Meanwhile, one retailer told the Journal that drone sales have increased by more than 25 percent since an NTSB ruling that blocked the FAA's enforcement of its no-commercial-use policy. The company has fielded dozens of inquiries from potential commercial users. "They're emboldened and we have to tell them to use caution," said Steve Klindworth, CEO of UAV Direct.

The FAA has filed an appeal to the NTSB ruling, and until that challenge is heard, the matter is on hold. The agency has said: "Anyone who wants to fly an aircraft—manned or unmanned—in U.S. airspace needs some level of authorization from the FAA." So far, the agency has approved one commercial operation for the use of drones in the Arctic. Congress has directed the FAA to come up with a plan for “safe integration” of drones into the national airspace system by Sept. 30, 2015. The FAA has said that such integration will be incremental.

The total number of helicopter accidents in the U.S. has dipped sharply in recent years but the distribution of mishaps across the various industry sectors hasn't changed according to the U.S. Helicopter Safety Team. The group did a detailed analysis of accidents from 2009-2011 and compared the data from an earlier assessment of the years 2000, 2001 and 2006 and said there was a 21 percent overall reduction in accidents between the two periods. The most dangerous helicopters continue to be those us for personal flying and the number of accidents in that category has risen to 20.7 percent of the total from a previous mark of 18.5 percent. And while the crash of a news helicopter always makes headlines, it's actually the least accident-prone sector and accounted for just .2 percent of all accidents, down from 1.7 percent in the earlier study.

Flight instruction and agricultural operations ranked second and third in total accidents (17.6 percent and 10.3 percent) and both sectors had significant increases in their accident rates (up 2.9 percent and 5.4 percent). Air tours, firefighting and logging operations all showed reductions in accidents and accounted for 5.9 percent, 3.6 percent and 2.7 percent respectively of accidents. The USHST is going to boost its efforts to improve safety in the most dangerous sectors and is already compiling data for its next report due out in 2016.

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Photo courtesy of Carter Aviation Technologies

Carter Aviation Technologies recently has started public demos of its technology demonstrator, which "takes off like a helicopter, transitions to an autogyro, and flies like a fixed-wing aircraft," CEO Jay Carter told AVweb on Tuesday. "We're pretty excited about this technology." The aircraft flew several times at Sun 'n Fun last week, and then the crew was asked to fly at the nearby MacDill Air Force base on Monday for military officials. "That was the ultimate invitation," Carter said. "Who knows what may come of that?" Carter says he plans to take the aircraft around the country this summer "to demonstrate its capabilities," and will fly it at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh in late July.

Carter said he is also working on a competitive DARPA contract to develop an unmanned aerial vehicle that could take off from a ship at sea, carry 600 pounds, fly 1,000 miles, hover on site for 18 hours, then return and land on the ship. "We think we can do all that, and stay up to 24 hours on site," Carter said. He also said he'd like to find an experimental kit manufacturer who would license his technology to create a personal-size aircraft. "The secret to our sauce," he said, "is that we've found a way to eliminate the drag from the rotor blade. We can slow it down to 100 rpm, which reduces the drag by 27 times." The demonstrator aircraft has flown up to 18,000 feet, and achieved speeds up to 202 mph. He said he is still expanding the envelope and expects it will fly up to 8 hours, cruise at more than 220 mph and reach altitudes up to 28,000 feet.

Lightspeed Aviation Foundation has announced the 2014 finalists for its 5th annual round of charitable grants, and pilots are invited to visit the foundation's Facebook page to vote for their choice to receive funding. Each of the finalists will receive an award up to $10,000, with the final amounts determined by the Facebook votes cast. Voting is open until midnight Oct. 31. This year's finalists are: Academy of Model Aeronautics, Agape Flights, Angel Flight West, the Civil Air Patrol, the Flying Doctors, Mission Aviation Fellowship, Missionary Flights International, New Tribes Mission, The Ninety-Nines, Patient AirLift Services, Pilots N Paws, Sun 'n Fun, ThinkGlobal Flight, Tomorrow's Aeronautical Museum, and Whirly Girls International.

"The Pilot's Choice Awards promotes engagement and awareness for our finalists to pilots and their constituents affected by general aviation," said Allan Schrader, president of Lightspeed Aviation. "By encouraging outreach by our finalists, we have witnessed hundreds of thousands of lives touched through aviation. We're excited about the impact each of these organizations are having in their areas of service." Last year's grants totaled $60,000.

Anyone who's ever seen an Erickson AirCrane knows how distinctive these flying machines are, and recently one of the aircraft completed an unusual mission to transport an endangered female Sumatran rhinoceros to a wildlife reserve. Laurentius Ambu, the director of the Sabah Wildlife Department in Malaysia, said the rhino is "on the verge of extinction" in the local region. "Without the use of Erickson Air-Crane's huge Sikorsky S-64 helicopter, this rescue would have been impossible," he said. The female will be paired with a male that is already at a protected sanctuary. "We hope … we will have baby rhinos very soon," said Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun, Malaysia's minister of the environment.  

The female rhino was transported with the use of a sturdy wooden crate that was lifted aloft by the AirCrane from her remote jungle habitat. "Erickson was proud to play a part in this important initiative, helping to protect this critically endangered species," company spokesman Brian Carlson told AVweb on Tuesday. This was the second time an AirCrane was used to relocate a Sumatran rhino, he said. The Malaysian wildlife agency already had decided to send its male rhino to the U.S. to find a mate, Masidi said, before the new female was relocated. If the female proves to be fertile, he said, the male will not have to leave.

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AVweb is the world's premier independent aviation news resource, online since 1995. Our reporting, features, and newsletters are brought to you by:

Publisher
Tom Bliss

Editorial Director, Aviation Publications
Paul Bertorelli

Editor-in-Chief
Russ Niles

Webmaster
Scott Simmons

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Rick Durden

Avionics Editor
Larry Anglisano

Contributors
Kevin Lane-Cummings
Paul Berge

Ad Coordinator
Karen Lund

Click here to send a letter to the editor. (Please let us know if your letter is not intended for publication.)

Comments or questions about the news should be sent here.

Have a product or service to advertise on AVweb? Your advertising can reach over 225,000 loyal AVwebFlash, AVwebBiz, and AVweb web site readers every week. Over 80% of our readers are active pilots and aircraft owners. That's why our advertisers grow with us, year after year. For ad rates and scheduling, click here or contact Tom Bliss:

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As Sun ‘n Fun drew to a close over the weekend, I’d say that most of the people I spoke to deemed it about average. As I’ve said before, it’s pointless to draw any conclusions about the aviation economy based on how vendors saw the booth traffic or what the daily gate was. We’ve long since passed the point of expecting a booming turnaround.

As I said in a blog last week, I was wondering if we would see at least the outlines of the next big thing. Maybe there is no big thing, just a steady trickle of developments in a market that continues to evolve slowly. Normally, when companies announce what avionics they'll use, it's a snoozer, but Flight Design's decision to use Garmin's G3X in its developmental C4 airplane is significant. Keep in mind, the C4 will be a full-up, IFR-certified four-place airplane. So how are they gonna get away with the uncertified G3X for avionics? Plan A is to certify those boxes as part of the airplane under the new revisions of FAR Part 23. Yup, they’re betting on the come alright and I think it’s not a bad bet, actually.

Plan B, if the regulators fail to deliver on their lofty promises, is to use the airplane’s TSOd mechanical instruments as primary for IFR and the two G3Xs as displays. The airplane will have a TSOd GTN 750 and a TSOd backup radio, so unless the regulators get really chicken^&%$ about it, Flight Design should have it covered. They’ll need this to work if they hope to hit the $250,000 target price for the airplane. That price, by the way, is what a new G1000 Cessna 172 SP cost in 2007. They’re comparable airplanes, although the C4 is faster and its engine is approved for mogas. (Sort of...91 AKI, really.) Wouldn't it have been nice to have a G3X-like box 10 years ago when the G1000 was just appearing. But the displays just didn't exist then. I hope Flight Design makes these numbers. I also hope events in Ukraine, where FD does much of its manufacturing, don’t conspire to give them more headaches. (They’re also building a factory in China.)

Light Sport

There seems to be a substantial body of opinion—if not a majority-- that the light sport aircraft rule has been a mistake. We published one argument for this case last week.  While I don’t share that view, I also don’t think the LSA rule has been a ringing success, either. The reasons are many, but like those who argue against LSA, I do think the big negative driver is that an unnecessarily low max weight has meant that the aircraft just aren’t seen as durable for training. But that doesn’t mean the whole idea is a failure. Just ask Cub Crafters, which recently sold its 300th LSA.

And yet the new designs keep coming. At the show, Glasair Aviation showed off a mockup of the Merlin LSA it plans to introduce. Quicksilver showed its own S-LSA and I suspect we’ll see more at AirVenture. Why, I’m not sure. The market has declared it will support, at most, a couple of hundred airframes a year. Weak sales and low margin has already sent Cessna screaming into the night. I suppose if new entrants can make money on under a dozen airplanes a year, the business case is sound. Maybe. I always wonder what some of these companies might be doing with those investment bucks and developmental energy that might make them more return on the investment.

Rotax Numbers

Okay, I’m giving myself this week’s Wolf-Blitzer-Insufferably-Moronic-Question Award for a comment I made in this podcast. In discussing the torque numbers for the newly announced Rotax 912 iS Sport, I allowed as how the higher torque in certain RPM bands won’t have implications for the engine’s power output. That’s wrong, of course, because more torque at the same RPM means more horsepower.

During that interview, I was glancing at the 912 iS’s new torque curves and noticed that at the RPM where the peak power is measured, both engines had about the same torque, hence they’re both considered 100-HP engines. However, in the middle of the range, the Sport engine, by dint of having its induction tuned, generates a bit more torque, and hence horsepower at a given RPM. Also, I read past the scale on the right side of the graph—it was in Newton meters, not foot pounds. Not that it matters for the basic relationship of power and torque. This was done, by the way, mainly for the U.S. market, where constant speed props aren’t used much on Rotax engines. In Europe, they’re common, so the pilot can just dial up the RPM for max takeoff power. Improved induction gives the 912 iS better power delivery at takeoff revs with a fixed-pitch prop.

Diesel Traction

Continental’s Centurion diesel is popping up in more places and at next week’s Aero show in Friedrichshafen, we’re told to expect more announcements. At Sun ‘n Fun, Glasair showed off the first experimental installation of the Centurion 2.0s, the 155-HP variant, in a Sportsman. The company estimates it will add about a $60,000 price premium over the Lycoming choice. Homebuilders, who are notoriously frugal, may balk at that, but one Glasair builder stopped me near the booth and said he would order a Centurion now if it were available for the Sportsman he's got up on wheels. That’s a single data point, but maybe there’s more interest there than we think. And for reasons we don’t get yet.

At the Redbird booth, Jerry Gregoire told me the current price of the Redhawk conversion using the Centurion 2.0 will be $249,000. Isn’t that creeping up from the original estimate? Yes, it is. Gregoire said the airplane is simply proving to be more expensive to build than originally anticipated. To be fair, Redbird really didn’t make any promises about prices last summer, but had a goal of under $200,000 on a trial-balloon basis.

My view of it was that a price of around $225,000 would have been impressive; $249,000, I'd call not-that-bad territory and it has a whiff of the same old story in aircraft manufacture. One reason for the higher price, I have to guess, is that Redbird switched from the Aspen Evolution system to the Garmin G500. Sometimes I think we’re like crack addicts in aviation, larding up airplanes with more sophisticated and expensive equipment than they really need to do the mission. Then when we get bitch slapped by how expensive they’ve become, we act surprised and launch another bout of hand wringing over how we need to reduce prices. We can be our own worst enemies. In the end, there may be no solution for it. Maybe customers just won’t settle for anything but the highest price stuff, even while they complain about how much it costs.

On the plus side, Gregoire said with volume—and Redbird has big plans for that—the price might settle back to something lower. I certainly hope so. I’m not sure it’s enough to say an airplane is a good value just because it’s priced south of $390,000, which is where new Skyhawks are going. That $200,000 mark, or near it, seems like a sweet spot for buyers. And by the way, to achieve anything, these projects need to drive down the cost of what the customer will actually pay and not just improve profitability for flight schools. If would-be customers don't see price relief, profitability won't matter a bit.

Redbird has some competition from Premier Aircraft, which is doing Centurion conversions of the non-G1000 R and S model Skyhawks. Prices will vary, but the near equivalent of the Redhawk will sell for $289,000. That gets us to about the 2009 model Skyhawk as an equivalent. Redbird sees the market as a fleet lease opportunity through Brown Lease, while Premier seems to be angling for sales.

As refurb becomes a dominant market force, AOPA is shortly to announce its own project in this area. Several sources told me the association is doing a refurb project on three Cessna 152s with a price point of $85,000 out the door. Not that AOPA is getting into the airplane remanufacture business; it’s doing this as a demonstration project. This could be an idea with legs. As mentioned above, LSAs have been found wanting for lack of durability in the training market. But no one would say that about the venerable 152. In my mind’s eye, I can conjure up what a freshly restored one would look like. And I like what I see. My middle section hasn't expanded so much that I can't squeeze into the right seat comfortably.

Press Day

Many major trade shows have press days--a day or even two when the show is open just for press people to meet with companies and get their stories told. Of the aviation shows, only NBAA does this. But some companies are starting to figure this out on their own and are setting up appointments on set-up day. Redbird, for instance, had a major event and I met with them the day before to film the challenge project. It paid off in Google hits and clicks. So did ForeFlight and WACO Classics, to name a couple more.

Bluntly, for us and a few others I've spoken to, Sun 'n Fun just gets harder to cover every year. We blew off several events simply because we couldn't get from the press center to the show grounds or wherever the event was to be held. The golf cart taxi was a nice gesture, but didn't always work because there didn't appear to be enough available drivers. 

So if you're a company looking for press coverage, in the world of Google, you want it out there earlier rather than later. Give us a call or an e-mail before the show and we'll make a point to shoot coverage before the show opens--and this applies to any show. If you're still centering your coverage plan on press conferences, trust me, you're about 20 minutes late. You can do better.

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David Clark DC PRO-X

At Sun 'n Fun 2014, Seattle Avionics introduced a new app that offers just charts, plates and sectionals — no ADS-B support and no weather-getting.  Here's AVweb's quick take on the new app.

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Touchscreen for LSA and experimental avionics is the new trend at Sun 'n Fun 2014.  Dynon Avionics brought its latest touchscreen system, the Skyview Touch.  Dynon's Michael Schofield showed the system to Kitplanes magazine at the show.

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At Sun 'n Fun 2014, Kitfox had its new S7 LSA with a turbocharged Rotax 914 on display.  John McBean gave AVweb a tour of the airplane.

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Garmin has its pilot watch, and now Hilton Software has an interface that sends wireless flight plan data from its WingX Pro 7 iPad app to the Pebble e-paper watch.  Hilton Goldstein gave AVweb an overview of the interface from Sun 'n Fun 2014 in Lakeland, Florida.

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At Sun 'n Fun 2014, WACO Classics was showing off its new Great Lakes 2T biplane, a neat little sport and acro aircraft.  Peter Bowers gave AVweb a video tour of the aircraft.

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Textron's acquisition of Beechcraft has resulted in the creation of Textron Aviation, the combination of Cessna and Beech.  AVweb's Rick Durden spoke with Textron Aviation's Joe Hepburn about the transition.

Following FAA certification on February 28, Eclipse Aerospace has already delivered five of its new model 550 jets.  On April 2, it was set to deliver number six at Sun 'n Fun to a buyer who agreed to put the brand-new airplane on display during the show.  Mason Holland of Eclipse briefed AVweb on the 550 and Eclipse's plans going forward.