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After several years of playing second fiddle to the rest of the world, the U.S. has reportedly reclaimed the top spot in terms of business jet sales. Oliver Stone, of U.K.-based brokerage firm Colibri Aircraft, told Business Jet Investor that in some market segments, 80 percent of the buyers are American. “After years of aircraft leaving the US, we have seen a strong surge of activity going back to the US register,” Stone said. He suggested the rebound of the U.S. market may help ease the concerns caused by problems in Eastern Europe.

Stone said despite the unrest in Ukraine, most Russian business people are not affected by economic sanctions and there is still a market for business aircraft. "There are many business people in Russia who will not be affected by the sanctions, and who will continue to use their aircraft," he said. "There will continue to be private aviation business there and opportunities will remain." Sellers also have to be aware of the market differences in Eastern Europe. "Unlike other countries in the region, the majority of private jets are owned by private individuals for personal use; very few are delivered specifically for the charter business," said Marian Jancarik who runs that territory for Colibri. "This makes the population of the business jets in the Czech Republic very stable and signifies a growing industry."

Business jet and airliner manufacturers tend to dominate news about aviation in China but a California kit builder is also doing a major deal with the Chinese. Quicksilver Aircraft has sold 77 aircraft thanks to a distribution agreement it signed with JH Nanning Group. The kits will be made at Quicksilver's Temecula plant and shipped to China where they will be assembled and sold as complete aircraft. Eventually, the parts for the aircraft may be built in China and they will design their own aircraft, too. Although the light end of the aviation market is virtually non-existent now, "burgeoning demand" is expected as airspace regulations ease.

In selling airplanes to China, Quicksilver is also playing a mentorship role in fostering a new light aircraft industry there. "The interest of the Chinese government to develop high-tech industries is evident," said CEO Will Escutia. Meanwhile, the company is also ramping up its domestic production following acceptance of its Sport2SE as a factory-built light sport aircraft. It will build three manufacturing plants in the U.S. and the domestic expansion will be a model for activity in China. "An expansion into China follows this model and sets the stage for the Quicksilver enterprise to grow briskly as its long proven and modestly priced aircraft should be well received in that nation," the company said in a news release.

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The Malaysian government has released satellite data that was used to determine that Flight MH370 went down in the southern Indian Ocean but critics say it might not be of much use. The 47 pages of calculations from the log of an Inmarsat satellite that received signals from the 777 were released in PDF form, rather than the raw data that was expected, and parts had been redacted. Malaysian officials said the redactions were to remove irrelevant data but the community of experts that can analyze this material have made it clear they want the full file of raw data before they can make any solid conclusions. They also say it may advance more conspiracy theories rather than quell those already out there.

The satellite in question isn't set up to track its targets, merely relay data from its automated monitoring systems. But Inmarsat said it applied Doppler principles and other physics to determine the aircraft took the so-called "southern route" and likely crashed off the west coast of Australia. Scientists all over the world were anxious to get their hands on the satellite data to see if they could confirm or refute the earlier conclusions. "There are lots of gaps in the 'readable summary,' ostensibly to remove extraneous info, but surely it should be up to the global community to decide what is and isn’t extraneous?" the techy website ExtremeTech opined. For their part, Inmarsat and the Malaysians are saying the data is being released for transparency, not verification.

Honda Aircraft has taken delivery of its first two production model HF120 engines from the GE plant in Lynn, Mass. The engines are now in full production at the Massachusetts plant after getting FAA certification late in 2013. Production will be moved to Honda's plant in Burlington, N.C. later this year. The engine is billed as major technological leap for small turbofans with better fuel efficiency and more power for its size than comparable designs. It's GE's first foray into the little engine market. The engines pave the way for Honda to meet its current targets.

“Honda Aircraft Company’s most important goals are achieving Federal Aviation Administration Type Certification and delivering the first customer aircraft," said Honda Aircraft Company CEO Michimasa Fujino. "Our total effort is focused on reaching these much anticipated milestones in the first quarter of 2015." The first production aircraft will be rolled out soon and there are eight more behind it on the production line. Honda has spent 20 years developing the aircraft and the engine and is banking on the over-wing pylon design's efficiency and space saving as a major sales feature in a still-tough light jet market.

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Several years ago, I bought my husband a ride in a glider as a gift, and I latched on to the idea of learning to soar. I had read and heard about how flying gliders could add to the safety of flying an airplane, not only as a result of the skills and judgment learned but also by improving basic stick and rudder work. I was of the opinion whatever basic skills I had were continually being eroded by flying the same air- plane the same way year after year.

I fly a Piper Comanche, a fantastic airplane, but I felt raw power and Buick-like flight characteristics were covering my flaws. I wanted something to shake things up a bit and get me back into sensing more of what the airplane was doing and how I was influencing it.

Doubts

Initially, I had strong doubts I could land an airplane lacking an engine. Sure—it was going to be on the ground one way or another, and sooner rather than later, at least until I developed some soaring skills. On the other hand, I had plenty of simulated engine-out experience. Let me assure you: They’re not the same.

I’d easily passed the forced and spot landing portions of multiple check rides—well within standards—with the engine at idle. Yet the doubt in mind was still there. I never could exchange it for complete confidence that when the engine was gone, really gone, I’d be able to land the airplane without losing focus on the other distractions sure to be present at the time.

I wasn’t born a pilot, nor was I born into a family that had any connection to flying. I didn’t look to the sky and wistfully dream about flying an airplane. I wasn’t one of those types.

Instead, I spent most of my life fearing flying. Given the relatively short time since coming to my senses and learning to fly, was it any wonder doubts about my abilities—and what would happen when there was no choice and it was all up to me—were still present?

Differences

I started taking dual instruction aimed at an add-on glider rating. Almost immediately, I found glider flying to be difficult to learn. It wasn’t the soaring part; it was the landings. The challenge wasn’t maneuvering to find lift and use it to stay aloft. Instead, it was how to land, safely and in control of the glider. Actually, it wasn’t the learning part that was so hard. It was the unlearning of things that had become second nature.

For one, the sight picture for landing is totally different in a glider. I found myself diving at the grass runway and then miraculously, at the last possible second, I was parallel to the ground, slowing down. This could not have been caused by me, the pilot. Landing was obviously a result of will and concentration alone.

I continued with the training for many months but I wasn’t getting any better, feeling any safer or for that matter, having much fun. The confidence I was seeking was turning into a lack of confidence.

I certainly hadn’t soloed the glider yet, which sent me the very clear message I wasn’t gaining on my lack of skills.

I also didn’t feel like my instructor was my ally. Had this guy never worked with someone obviously much older than he, and a woman besides? It felt like he never quite knew what to do with me.

Interruption

About the time I realized those factors were telling me loud and clear that I needed to change my approach, life managed to get into the way of my training. This was a first for me, someone who tries to put flying at the top of her priorities list. I rationalized that I could get back into my glider training in a few months, when things settled down. So I stopped the training and put all my energies into other, equally challenging things. Before I knew it, a few months turned into two years.

I hadn’t forgotten my real goal, which was to improve my flying skills. I made the phone call to start training again.

Reconnecting

Nothing had changed the impediments to my glider training—the airport I used was 50 miles from my home, so I wanted to make the most of each trip. One good thing: During my two-year hiatus, the glider operation had moved to a different location on the field, beside a grass runway. To save commuting time, I opted to land on the shorter grass runway used by the gliders, rather than the paved runway nearby. This meant performing a short/ soft-field landing for an audience of pilots with wide-ranging experience and skill levels each time I landed. It was intimidating at first but as time went on, the ground rolls were shorter and the landings were exactly where I wanted them. I was beginning to get the hang of this. Whatever “this” was.

Transitioning—or transferring my skills—from landing my familiar Comanche, to landing a glider during the training and then getting back in the airplane for another landing for the commute back to my home airport was noticeable. It actually was taking effort and concentration to adjust from landing the glider to landing the airplane. I even once—once—nearly landed the Comanche nose-wheel- first. Was I making progress?

I was. I went for training one Saturday in September, had three “pattern tows” and performed three spot landings with my instructor before he, quite unexpectedly, exited the glider. He told me to have fun, use my pilot skills and go out by myself. I did three more landings, talking myself through all of the points in the pattern each time. It was just as thrilling an event as my first airplane solo, nearly 10 years earlier.

I’ve done a lot of flying and added to my accomplishments, but there is nothing like a first solo in a new category of aircraft. Nothing.

Fun Parts

Maybe my instructor wasn’t such a bad guy after all. Maybe he had matured in the two years since I had been to training last. Maybe I had.

There continued to be more interruptions to my training, and I even had a second first solo, but I kept chipping away at practicing. And learning.

I learned that what I thought was a forward slip in my airplane was actually a side slip, with a little nose-down attitude thrown into the mix. I can do a pretty serious forward slip in a glider now. And learning how to land with a short ground roll? It means focusing on a landing spot, coming in at the correct speed and barely lifting the nose to bleed off airspeed in the last four feet above the runway. I can do that, too. And the best part is, I can do it without power. The sense of accomplishment to be able to land, roll out and be stopped right where you want to be, every time, is priceless.

I haven’t mentioned the fun parts, like getting towed to 2500 feet AGL, gliding over to where a cloud is building, and flying the thermal up to 3500 feet. Or being able to stay out soaring for over an hour, riding up, dropping down, flying around looking at whatever you want to look at—sky, ground, ocean, swamp, roads or best of all, clouds. Yeah, it’s a little corny, perhaps, but maybe we don’t talk about the fun parts of flying enough. We should, because they are a very real reason why we do this flying thing.

Lessons

What did I learn from adding on a glider rating? For one thing, rudder and aileron coordination are a must and the key to flying well. Also—having power available and variable can cover up a multitude of weaknesses in flying skills. At least it did for me. It’s not as if I had bad flying skills to begin with, but they are more refined now. For one thing, I no longer worry too much about whether I’ll have the skill and concentration to put the Comanche down in an engine-out situation. Sure—if that ever happens—I’ll still need some luck with terrain, landing areas and weather. But having landed without an engine so many times, the real thing in a (formerly) powered plane won’t be laced with so much uncertainty.

If I had it do all over again, I would have learned to fly a glider before I learned how to fly an airplane, but that’s not how it happened for me. I also learned to deal with setbacks in an airplane, which I had never had to do before. I learned that if obstacles are in the way and you don’t see a way to reach your flying goals, try anyway.

Sue Folkringa is a Florida-based instrument-, multi-engine- and seaplane-rated commercial pilot with more than 1300 hours of experience. And a glider rating.

This article originally appeared in the September 2012 issue of Aviation Safety magazine.

Thank goodness there are passionate and determined owners of vintage aircraft in this world. Due to people such as Joe Shepherd, the lives of we who are crazy about flying machines have been vastly enriched because we get to see the results of their passion fly rather than gather dust. Shepherd owns, and regularly operates, a flying rarity—there were only 130 built—from what some would refer to as a Golden Age of piston twin design. To make matters more interesting, few pilots have ever heard of the type, and most, upon seeing one for the first time, confuse it with another classic that was built in far greater numbers but didn’t perform or handle quite as well. Joe owns and flies a 1936 Lockheed 12A Electra Junior—and the story of the uncommon type and how Shepherd came to own and bring one back to life makes for fascinating reading.

A Little History

In 1912 brothers Allan and Malcom Loughead formed a company to build airplanes—they eventually named it after themselves and, in 1926, changed the name again so it was spelled the way it was pronounced. Despite the almost constant threat of financial collapse, the company turned out a series of single-engine airplanes one perceptive individual referred to as “plywood bullets.” Lockheeds were fast and often pushed the design envelope—consequently they were used for more than their share of record-setting speed and distance flights as well as serving as airliners until the powers that be decreed that there would be no more single-engine airliners.

In 1934, a year after Boeing introduced the first modern airliner, its 10-passenger Model 247, Lockheed entered the twin-engine airline market fray with its 10-passenger, but faster, Model 10 Electra. Wind tunnel testing at the University of Michigan by engineering student Clarence “Kelly” Johnson revealed that a twin vertical tail design would be more efficient than the planned single vertical—creating what became almost a trademark for future Lockheed piston airplane—and resulting in a job for Johnson straight out of school. He went on to head Lockheed’s famed “Skunk Works.”

As fate would have it, Jack Northrop, the engineer who had designed Lockheed’s cutting-edge Vega moved on to Douglas Aircraft and designed a “multi-cellular” wing that Douglas used on its DC-1 airliner—which begat the DC-2 and DC-3 and smoked the rest of the world in airline design and sales, including Lockheed.

While the Lockheed 10 Electra airliner was left in the propwash of the DC-3, it is remembered as the airplane of choice for Amelia Earhart’s attempt to fly around the world in 1937.

The Electra Junior

As the Depression dragged on, Lockheed made the decision to enter a competition for what was called a feeder airliner, with six to eight seats. The result looked as if the engineering department simply parked an Electra outside overnight in the rain and let it shrink 30 percent. Christened the “Electra Junior,” the Model 12 had the traditional lean look of a Lockheed, a pair of 450-HP Pratt and Whitney radials and could cruise at over 200 MPH. The 12 would evolve almost immediately into the 12A, of which 70 were built—the remaining airplanes that came off the assembly line with minor differences were given a mix of civilian and military designations, depending on the customer.

Making its first flight three days before the June 30, 1936 competition deadline, the Electra Junior won by default—the competing companies couldn’t get their airplanes ready in time. Unfortunately, the feeder airline market never amounted to much, only a score or so 12s (the Electra Junior name didn’t really stick) became airliners. However, its useful load of some 3,000 pounds made it attractive to corporate and government users. As the decade wore on, Lockheed turned its attention to military aircraft, designing and building twin-engine transports, bombers and the famous P-38 fighter.

Production of the Lockheed 12 ended in 1941—the demands of preparing for war meant Lockheed would move its resources to its other airplanes and Beechcraft would produce the airplane it was building in the same performance niche as the Lockheed 12, the Beech 18.

Beech would go on to build over 9,000 18s. There are those who say Beech copied Lockheed’s twin-tail design, although the truth is probably that twin tails became a design fad in the 1930s (Cessna’s original version of its first twin, the Bobcat, had twin tails until testing showed a single tail worked better) as did T-tail in the 1970s. Nevertheless, a Lockheed 12 is often confused with the Beech 18. The easy way to tell the difference is that Lockheed carried the horizontal stabilizer through and outboard each vertical—the Beech 18 horizontal stabilizer is completely between the verticals.

After World War II the sheer number of Beech 18s, and parts availability, meant they stayed in service into this century, largely trickling down to the on-demand freight haulers. While the Lockheed 12 could carry about the same amount of freight, a little faster, the lack of spares meant there was a far lower demand. Time, attrition and cost to keep them alive meant Lockheed 12s became increasingly unusual to see anywhere.

A Certain Determination

Before becoming an airline pilot, Joe Shepherd spent some time doing as so many of his contemporaries did—he flew freight in Beech 18s and came to know them well. In the early 1980s it happened that he had a chance to fly a friend’s Lockheed 12 and was captivated by the way it handled and its speed. He became determined to buy one—which didn’t prove to be easy. In 1988, he got word of a 12A in Texas that was on the market; the owner wanted to trade straight up for a Cessna 195. It just so happened that Shepherd owned a Cessna 195.

The Trade

Shepherd flew his airplane to Texas to look at the Lockheed 12A. Joe’s airplane was airworthy, in good shape and being flown regularly. The Lockheed hadn’t flown in nine years and had been sitting in the open. That was good enough for Joe—after a few hours looking over the Lockheed, he traded even for it.

Restoration

Shepherd ferried parts, tools and friends between his home in Georgia and the Lockheed for the several months it took to get his 12A into condition to be ferried home. Once there, he pulled the wings and found that he’d only just scratched the surface of the work that going to be required. It would prove necessary to replace every cable, pulley, electrical wire and most of the nuts, bolts and screws. The landing gear had to be pulled and completely refurbished. He overhauled both engines. The more he got into the airplane, the more he realized it needed. He found and bought two other Electra Juniors to use for parts.

The 1980s became the 1990s and the restoration continued. 2001 ushered in the New Millennium with the restoration still not complete. After what Shepherd described as 20,000 hours of labor, his 12A flew again in 2007. Since then it has flown for 400 “trouble-free” hours, its polished aluminum lines drawing crowds everywhere it goes.

Flying It

Shepherd praises the handling of the 12—specifically mentioning that it is predictable on the ground. He’s used to comparing it to the Beech 18, an airplane he greatly likes—and points out that the Lockheed is a little crisper handling, plus it does not have the tendency to bite when the wheels are in contact with the ground that the Beech can have. At 65 MPH, the Lockheed 12 also stalls a bit slower than the Beech 18, because the Lockheed’s ailerons deflect downward as the flaps extend—an early STOL design.

Shephard flies final at 80 MPH and regularly uses a 3,000 foot-long grass strip without having to touch the brakes. He says the Lockheed 12 is about 20 MPH faster than the Beech 18 and that the airplanes have about the same useful load—although there were many versions of the 18, and numerous STCs for them, so some Beech 18s can carry more than his Lockheed.

Shepherd says that a pilot with a fair amount of time in heavier tailwheel singles, such as a Cessna 195 or North American SNJ/T-6, generally has no trouble checking out in the Lockheed. The checkout is made easier by, as he says, dirt-simple systems. While many airplanes designed in the 1930s had horrendously complicated gear, flap, fuel and electrical systems, Shepherd says the Lockheed 12s are utterly straightforward and easy to learn.

A Star

Joe’s Lockheed played a starring role in the movie Amelia, where it stood in for Earhart’s Model 10 Electra in the action scenes because there are no Electras flying and the producer figured, correctly, that few could tell the difference from a distance. To double for the star of the movie, Joe wore a wig and scarf as he taxied and flew his 12A.

We don’t even want to think about how much work is involved in keeping the acres of bare aluminum polished; Shepherd told us he does have help. However, he reiterated that the airplane has been utterly reliable since the restoration and polishing rather than repairing a vintage machine seems pretty attractive to us. Plus, as Shepherd related, there has never been an Airworthiness Directive issued against a Lockheed Electra Junior.

Rick Durden is the Feature and News Editor of AVweb and the author of The Thinking Pilot’s Flight Manual or, How to Survive Flying Little Airplanes and Have a Ball Doing It, Vol. I.

Letter of the Week:
UAV Technology Won't Wait for FAA

A UAV (or any remotely controlled air vehicle) flown under 400 feet still has the potential to easily take down a manned aircraft, particularly if flown near final approaches to airport runways.  I'd imagine that the 400-foot altitude limitation would also make low-flying manned aircraft vulnerable, near an airport or not.

There seems to be an exploding proliferation of small UAVs that have the potential to exceed 400-feet altitudes.  They are flown by novice pilots right out of the box, by hobbyists who should probably know better, and, in this day and age, by people who have no problem with intentionally creating hazards to life and property.  Without a transponder aboard the UAV, or a means of the UAV pilot determining his altitude, how can the 400-foot limitation be accurately observed?  And how would you be able to see and avoid a UAV if you were aboard a manned aircraft?

I think that all UAV operators possessing air vehicles capable of climbing to an altitude where a mid-air collision with a manned aircraft would be possible be licensed and their UAVs required to be equipped with suitable exterior lighting, transponders, GPS, and other equipment that would make operation as safe as possible given a mixed operating environment.  This needs to be done immediately, not after a long debate, analysis, and wait for legislative approval.  The technology is not waiting for regulations to be established.

John Benton

The FAA is right to be cautious about authorizing the use of drones.  The risks involved are not all known, but they are a clear and present danger.  However, the FAA is taking way too much time to come up with a plan to deal with this.  These things are being sold right now, and regulation is needed now, not in 2020.

By the time 2020 comes, they may find that the cat is out of the bag, and millions of these aircraft are flying unregulated.  The buyers of these cheap but potentially dangerous toys are not going to be stopped by FAA's blanket ban on commercial use.  They are already using them that way, and a judge has already said it is O.K. to do so.

The question now is not whether they will buy and fly these things.  The question is, "How long will they do it with no regulation?"  The FAA needs to expedite this, or they will totally lose control of the situation, much like the FCC did with CB radios.

Marc Rodstein

This issue should be cut and dry.  UAVs operating via remote control (tablet or transmitter) for personal use should fall under the existing rules of the AMA, who currently govern the entire private sector for remote-control models.

If the UAV is operating commercially, either remotely controlled or autonomously via a preprogrammed GPS route, then it is a piloted aircraft and should fly under the rules that govern all other pilots, defined by the FAA.  There are already regulations in place to govern and control these activities.  Just like the government to reinvent the wheel at a time of reduced budgets.

John Gray

Skycatcher Kits?

Since Cessna can't sell enough of the Skycatchers to make it profitable, why don't they do something innovative and sell kits?  It should reduce their liability.  They already have everything to do it.

Terry Henry

Kudos

I'm not a pilot and don't own even an RC plane, but I have to tell you that your collection of stories (and the quality of them) is, for me, the most interesting e-mail I get.

I love your selection of things, which obviously relate to aviation but still cover a huge spectrum of topics and the discussions of them.  Too bad you guys don't do all the news!

Keep it up,

Jim Jensen

Our best stories start with you. If you've heard something the flying world might want to know about, tell us. Submit news tips via e-mail here. (Or send them direct to Newstips at AVweb.com.)

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I spent a busy Saturday at the H.L. Sonny Callahan Airport in Alabama, otherwise known as Fairhope. That’s where Continental Motors has its factory and customer support facility and where it does engine overhauls and mods. It’s a nice little airport right by the lower reaches of Mobile Bay.

Continental was holding the first of what it hopes will become an annual event: Learn-to-Fly Day. Lots of airports organize airport days and aviation promotions, but you may have noticed not many big general aviation companies support these, much less an engine company. Continental had a static display of aircraft of all vintages, Young Eagle rides, Discovery flights, free food and seminars. In fact, everything was free; they’d sell you a t-shirt if you wanted.

The whole thing had the feel of an old-style southern ice cream social and they sure enough had the ice cream to go along with it. Continental’s Bill Ross, who was otherwise giving back-to-back Eagle rides in his Stearman, hauled out a nicely restored vintage John Deere one-lunger which was churning an ice-cream machine. A big one. I tried to show some restraint. (See the video of the event here. Mike Gifford explains Continental’s thinking in detail.)

This is another turn of events in keeping with Continental’s vertical view of the world. Two years ago, it started its own simulator-based training facility in an upscale mall and now it’s reaching out to the local community, fishing for possible private pilot candidates. Can this work? It’s hard to say, really. There’s no doubt that there are niches of wealth out there in demographic slices where people can afford to learn to fly. Continental is betting that maybe some of them just never thought of it and the leads the Saturday event generated may very well scare up some business for both Continental’s Zulu flight school and the school fleet based at Fairhope, soon to be offering Centurion diesel-powered versions of the Cessna 172.

But what I liked about the event Saturday is what it represented: A major GA company investing in its own future by encouraging flight training. Other GA companies have shied away from this sort of direct involvement because, I think, of liability fears. Or maybe there’s just no interest or understanding in the corner office and it’s just easier not to do such promotion and just concentrate on shaving costs and building margin, relying on a parasitic business model. That’ll work for awhile, of course, but eventually, the host will have nothing left to offer.

Continental’s Rhett Ross has said repeatedly that the company’s business view recognizes that the long game requires getting new people into the industry. To me, this looks like one step in the process. And I’m glad to see it, frankly. You should be, too.

Join the conversation.
Read others' comments and add your own.

On Saturday, May 24, 2014, Continental Motors held its first Learn to Fly Day at its Fairhope, Alabama facility. AVweb attended the event and shot this brief news video.  Learn more about the event on the AVweb Insider blog.

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That's not a Beech, and it didn't just roll off the line.  It's Joe Shepherd's immaculately restored Lockheed 12A Electra Junior.  We got story on this aircraft (and a good look at it) at Sun 'n Fun 2014.

Learn more here.

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The Lear 60 is a fast, affordable business jet.  But like most airplanes, it could do well with additional baggage space.  Raisbeck Engineering, a well-known STC house, has developed just such a product.  AVweb takes a look at it in this brief product video.

Focus on What Matters. Flying. || Bose A20 Aviation Headset

In Japan, remotely piloted helicopters made by Yamaha are a common sight and have been for more than 15 years.  Now the company wants to move into the U.S. market with a new model called the FAZER.  Yamaha's Steve Markofski gave AVweb a briefing on this new UAV at the AUVSI show in Orlando this week.

Kansas Aircraft Corporation || Extraordinary Service, Exceptional Aircraft

At the Association for Unmanned Vehicles International show in Orlando this week, dozens of UAV companies are displaying the latest in drone technology.  In this exclusive AVweb video, Prioria's Derek Lyons shows us a cool one — a carbon-fiber bird called the Maveric.

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Picture of the Week

Kurt Thorup of Boca Raton, Florida, goes to the boneyard for our latest lead photo. Click through for more reader-submitted images.

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