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The Cessna Citation M2 now has been certified to operate to and from airports with elevations up to 14,000 feet, Textron announced on Tuesday at the Latin American Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The new capability means the jet now can operate from La Paz, Bolivia, and Quito, Ecuador. Textron also said it will expand its South American network of service facilities for the King Air line. Also at the show, Embraer announced it has delivered the first Legacy 500 midsize jet to a customer in Mexico. The jet was type-certified by Mexican authorities in June. The company also announced that its follow-on Legacy 450 got Brazilian type certification at the show.

Pilatus Aircraft said Synerjet, based in Sao Paulo, which provides Latin American sales and support for the Pilatus turboprops and the in-development PC-24 twinjet, now plans to establish a new company to offer fractional shares and management services for the PC-12. While the Brazilian economy is currently facing very difficult challenges, Pilatus said, they still see "excellent potential" for future sales of both the PC-12 NG single-engine turboprop and the PC-24. "In particular, the growing agribusiness sector has excellent potential for Pilatus aircraft due to their unique ability to operate from short, unimproved runways, carry large payloads, and load oversize objects through their cargo doors," according to the Pilatus news release.

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The erratic work schedules of air traffic controllers often cause chronic fatigue, endangering the system's safety, according to a 2011 NASA report that The Associated Press says the FAA "kept secret for years." The FAA now has posted the report online (PDF), hours after the AP posted its story. Controllers participating in the study wore a wrist device that recorded when they were asleep, the AP said. They also kept logs of their sleep, and took alertness tests several times per work shift. Schedules worked by 76 percent of controllers in NASA's field study led to chronic fatigue, creating pressure to fall asleep, NASA found.

The impetus for the study, according to the AP, was a recommendation by the NTSB to the FAA and NATCA to revise controller schedules to provide rest periods that are long enough "to obtain sufficient restorative sleep." The FAA asked NASA to conduct the study. In a July 2014 memo attached to the report, the FAA's vice president for safety and technical training, Joseph Teixeira, said the FAA had "concerns" that NASA's report was too "judgmental" and went "beyond the original purpose and scope" of the study the FAA had requested.

In a news release posted online Monday, the FAA said it "implemented a comprehensive Fatigue Risk Management System to manage controller fatigue" in 2012, which included changes in scheduling that the FAA said have had a positive impact on the fatigue problem. "Although fatigue is an issue in any 24/7 operation, the FAA has taken many positive steps to minimize fatigue," according to the news release. "The fatigue modeling we’ve done shows that there is greater alertness using these updated scheduling practices."  

"Safety is NATCA’s top priority," NATCA said, in a statement emailed to AVweb by spokesman Doug Church on Tuesday. "That is why we have worked collaboratively with the FAA to implement policies that help controllers cope with fatigue issues. Real progress has been made over the past four years when this report was first completed. That being said, improving and enhancing the safety of the system is something we strive to do every single day."

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With the FAA and the aviation community facing increasing pressure to find a way to keep UAS and airplanes separate, a group of four engineering students from the University of Rhode Island have proposed a solution. Their project, which took first place in an FAA design competition, proposes installing a solar-powered drone detection and tracking system at airports, and affixing radio-frequency detection tags to drones. The system would alert air traffic controllers to the location of drones in their airspace, and also would warn drone operators when their UAS enters the no-fly zone. The team traveled to Washington, D.C., last month to present their concept to FAA officials.

According to the students' report (PDF), the system would be easy to install and maintain, and close to 100 percent reliable. The tags that would be attached to the UAS weigh less than an ounce and are equipped with an internal lithium battery with a lifetime of up to five years. The electronics required to alert the drone user could be incorporated into drone operating systems as a standard feature, according to the report, making the technology available at virtually no cost to the drone operators. The costs of installing the system could be up to $200,000 per airport, but the students note that's much less than the cost of even one accident caused by a jet engine ingesting a drone.

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A new design for a solar-powered hybrid hot-air balloon, by Cameron Balloons, made its first flight this weekend at a balloon rally in Bristol, England. The aircraft is the first fully certified balloon to use the hybrid solar concept. The balloon envelope is designed with a special black panel, which absorbs the heat from the sun, and on the other side is a panel of insulating silver fabric, which helps to retain the heat in the envelope. The design enables the aircraft to fly while using about one-quarter the propane fuel that a standard flight would require, according to a news release from the fiesta organizers.

Dave Vauxhall, chief designer at Cameron, was on the first flight, and said flying under solar power creates "quite an unreal sensation." Normal hot-air balloon flights require frequent blasts of a noisy propane burner, suspended above the basket, to keep the air inside the envelope hot. "With this type of [solar] balloon … you are just floating along without a burner running," Vauxhall told the Western Daily Press. Solar-heated balloon designs have been flown in the past by experimenters as early as 1973, and in 1981 balloonist Julian Nott flew a solar-powered hybrid balloon across the English Channel.

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Daily news comes fast and furious in the aviation world, but some stories deserve a second chance to reach your eyeballs. Below are stories you may have missed recently.

The Garmin Flight Stream wireless data hub connects the Pilot tablet computer app with a variety of onboard avionics systems, including the Garmin GTN and GNS panel navigators and the GDL88/84 ADS-B transceivers.  In this video, Aviation Consumer editor Larry Anglisano, along with Garmin's Jessica Koss, goes flying with the system in the company Cirrus for a  hands-on demo.


At AirVenture 2015, Yingling Aviation arrived with a spiffy, remanufactured Cessna 172. It's the fifth such project to come out of the ground and in today's video, a VLOG from Paul Bertorelli, AVweb examines what this means to the aircraft market.


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TV is a harsh and impatient mistress. (Just ask Donald Trump.) And so it was when I was blathering on in Friday’s VLOG about refurbs and airplane prices, I had to leave some material in the bit bucket in the service of shortening the video. But I think it’s worth mentioning in a follow-up.

You will have noted in the video that Yingling’s Ascend 172 has a steam-gauge panel. Really? Yeah, really. Isn’t that a step backwards? Virtually everything sold new today has glass; round dials and iron gyros disappeared almost a decade ago. Of the four remanufactured products now on the market, two have glass—the Redbird Redhawk and Premier’s diesel conversion—and two have steam gauges, the Sporty’s 172 Lite and Yingling’s Ascend. So buyers will have a choice and we might find out how price-sensitive they really are. What passes for conventional wisdom in aviation has always shown that when a long list of options are available, that’s what buyers will want. Historically, at least recently, stripped-down basic models of anything—airplanes, GPSs, apps—have not sold well. If buyers are willing to go in at all, they’re more likely to go all in.

But is that part of the problem with high new aircraft prices? Have we, in a sense, cooked our own goose? That’s what occurred to me when I was graphing the sales and price data for the VLOG and noticed something curious. Historically, new aircraft prices have been through cycles of short periods of tracking or only slightly exceeding the CPI, followed by periods of rapidly exceeding it. This is exactly what happened between 1998 and 2006, when sales were booming. But then came steep prices rises for the 172. What caused this? Only Cessna execs know for sure; perhaps a memo came down from Textron ordering better quarterly numbers. That’s actually what I suspect happened, because new aircraft prices, just as with avgas, don’t necessarily reflect the true cost of goods with a margin thrown in. There’s an element of psychological pricing.

click for full-size

So what may have aided and abetted the psychology in 2006 is the advent of the glass panel—specifically the Garmin G1000. It first appeared in the 2005 production year and was the system of choice shortly thereafter. The cost of the G1000 alone couldn’t have accounted entirely for the steep price rise. Although avionics now account for a large percentage of the cost of an airplane, glass isn’t that expensive. But perhaps the glass panel lends a panache and uniqueness to the entire package that supports a perceived higher value. If you’ve ever perused the used aircraft ads, recent model Skyhawks are almost always listed as “G1000 Skyhawks,” not just a production year. It almost gives the impression that the airplane is an afterthought to fly around this wonderful glass to wherever you wish it to be. 

Maybe it’s a coincidence, but if I superimpose a shaded area on the graph labeled “the age of glass” it correlates loosely with declining sales. It’s not a perfect fit, of course, but it’s also more than a curiosity and it can’t help but raise this question: Are higher prices and slow sales the result of a glass tax? The GA market is, at best, tender and it’s fair to ask if buyers developed eyes for glass bigger than their checkbooks. I’ve also heard the reverse, that glass panels actually stimulated sales and without these systems, the downturn would have been both sooner and worse. Maybe, but the data doesn’t support this. And I’m talking mainly about trainers and utility aircraft. I haven't plotted the data for, say Cirrus or Piper personal aircraft.

Not that I’m suggesting we go back to steam gauges. EFIS has proven more reliable, more capable and perhaps safer for some pilots. On situational awareness alone, it far outstrips analog instrumentation. And it's just more desirable. But there is definitely a price to pay for all this technology—both in buying it and, especially, feeding it data. So what Yingling is saying, albeit not in so many words, is that maybe buyers will give glass a pass in favor of a lower price, which at the most basic for the Ascend 172 is $159,000. Schools that buy such airplanes will now have to deal with some kind of differences training to prepare many of their students for the airplanes they might either transition into as professional pilots or buy as the next generation of aircraft owners. Somehow, I don’t think that’s going to prove a deal breaker, especially when measured against airplanes that cost less than half as much as new ones do.

As I said in the VLOG, the next two to three years will be telling. I would deem remanufactured airplanes a success if the lot of them sell 150 airframes during that period. To my mind, that will establish a trend and prove that at least for some buyers, aircraft price really is a driver.

How to Sell? Do This

The other day, out of the blue, I got a call from Mike Ciochetti. You probably don’t know Mike and I just met him at AirVenture last month. He’s CEO for Heaven’s Landing, an airport community in Rabun, in the Georgia mountains northeast of Atlanta. If you saw our Top Ten Reasons You Know You’re At AirVenture video, the girls playing angels were in Mike’s booth.

When we met, we exchanged cards and he invited me up to Rabun to look over the place. I’m frequently up that way on motorcycle tours. I mention this because the follow-up call for sales and promotion has become a lost art. Hell, in aviation sales and promotion, just returning a call is a lost art. This is the way old-school salespeople used to operate. They left no stones unturned, no leads unfollowed, no calls unreturned. And they got results.

Maybe in the crush of the modern world, with tweets, emails and texts flying around at the speed of heat, people just don’t respond the way they once did. Sometimes I can’t help but feel that in aviation, we’re so beat down by bad news and a flat economy, that even people whose job is to return sales calls and do promotion just kind of give up.

Well, don’t. You never know when that call you’re about to blow off actually represents a sale or a contact that will yield something worthwhile, say like a link to a business you own. A call from the press offers an opportunity to have your story told and that’s never a bad thing.

So this month’s Doing it Right mention goes to Mike Ciochetti. Pass it on.

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