Resurgence Of The RG

23

Once upon on a time only 20 years ago, retractable landing gear for single-engine airplanes was consigned to the midden of aeronautical history. The advent of the Cirrus SR series, the Lancair, Diamond and eventually Columbia and Cessna proved you could go fast without folding wheels. And oh, the maintenance dollars you would save! Why, it would almost pay for itself.

We in the aviation press dutifully scribbled down what the marketing people told us because we in the aviation press dutifully scribble what the marketing people tell us. We did this despite the fact that fixed gear with its shapely, but virility-challenged wheel pants denied pilots that phrase which elevates them from merely kinda special to the rarified heights of aviation knighthood: “Positive rate, gear up!” Only the select few could do that. And an even more elite few would never know the exquisite specialness of declaring, “But I know I put the gear down!” after contemplating the $60,000 trail of broken antennas and aluminum smears while punching their way through an insurance agent’s phone menu.

Now, we seem to have finally come to our senses with two new singles in the certification queue both to have retractable landing gear: Diamond’s DA50 RG and the Pipistrel Panthera. Let’s address why they have retractable wheels. For the DA50, it’s because former Diamond Aircraft owner Christian Dries deemed it logical. Diamond had already developed the gear system for the DA42 twin and adding it to a new big single would eke out some additional knots, despite what those with snagged wheel pants might say. For Pipistrel, trying to squeeze maximum speed with minimum power, retractable wheels were unavoidable. Not to mention the aesthetics. A Panthera with fixed gear would look like a ballerina in combat boots.

Neither of these airplanes is certified yet, but Pipistrel has a preproduction demonstrator in the U.S. and I flew it this week with Andy Chan, of Right Rudder Aviation. They’re in Inverness, Florida, and will be the distributor for the Panthera. Certification projects always take longer than anyone imagines they will and the Panthera has even stretched that. I first flew it in Slovenia in 2014 at which time it had already been in development for three years. It’s got at least another year to go, if not a little more.

It was originally touted as a 200-knot airplane on 10 GPH, but if that’s going to be the case it’s not the case yet. The draft POH offers preliminary performance estimates so I’ll stipulate that I can’t hold Pipistrel to these as final numbers, but the highest TAS given is 194 knots at 10,000 feet and 14 gallons. I didn’t take the airplane that high but before flying it, I circled one number in the performance chart: 183 knots at 13 GPH. I penciled in a question mark.

Really? Yes, really. When the airplane settled out at 8000 feet on an ISA plus 30 day, it was cruising at 184 knots on 13 GPH. For comparison, the normally aspirated Cirrus SR22 at the same altitude is burning 5.5 gallons more at the same speed. Pipistrel’s delay in certification is due in part to the switch from the original Lycoming IO-390 to the IO-540-V4A5 at 260 HP. The Cirrus has the Continental IO-550-N at 310 HP. Pipistrel switched to the 540 because it’s approved for 91-octane autogas, which the IO-390 wasn’t.

Heretofore, Mooneys were considered the fastest singles but the reality is they were actually more efficient than fast. The Mooney Ovation, for example, (IO-550-G) can’t quite manage the 184 knots at 8000 feet, but a little less. But it takes 13.6 gallons to do it, running lean of peak. A reasonable way to look at this is specific range—distance traveled per unit of fuel in pounds. Higher is more efficient and better.

The Panthera’s specific range is about 2.35 miles per pound while the SR22’s is 1.7. The Ovation is about 2.2. There are various ways to tweak specific range by leaning technique and speed adjustments and the Continental engines have a slight advantage because they can run brake specific fuel consumptions in the lower 0.4 range compared to mid 0.4s for the Lycomings. But I doubt if any of this would close the gap in the Panthera’s exceptionally low drag. The retractable gear is a factor, but just looking at the Panthera tells you it is a slick, low-drag airplane. (If Diamond hits its numbers with the DA50, it will have a specific range of about 3.)

The piper to be paid is in cabin size. The Cirrus—and the DA50—are commodious, wide and kind of high. The Panthera has less frontal area and is so low slung that the occupants sit deep inside the airframe. The glareshield is higher than in anything I’ve ever flown and reminiscent of the Mooney long bodies before the glareshield was lowered about an inch because of customer complaints. The Panthera appears to narrow sharply toward the front—although the cowling has wide blisters to accommodate the engine— and because it has a wide center pillar, the low view forward is restricted. I noticed this when making the first right-hand taxi turn. I felt like I was operating on faith because you can’t see far ahead of the airplane. There’s no A-pillar, however, so the side and aft views are unrestricted. In fact, in the cockpit video, it looks like there are no doors or windows at all.

If airplanes fly like they look, you’d expect the Panthera to be fast, sporty and nimble. It is. A lot. While other manufacturers have somehow equated side sticks or side controllers with modernity, Diamond and Pipistrel have clung to the ancient idea that center sticks are better. Center sticks are better. I have flown several iterations of side sticks and every time I write about my disdain for them, a Cirrus owner or two will reply that, well, if you flew it more, you’d get used to it and like it better. My reaction is that you don’t have to get used to a center stick, it’s just a natural direct connection to the moveable surfaces and if engineered correctly, it provides just the right control feedback. And don’t get me started on yokes. I will concede side sticks are better for crashworthiness.

For as slick as it is, I noticed that the Panthera doesn’t seem that difficult to slow down, although all my landings were too fast by at least 10 knots. It has trailing link main gear so, evidently, if you plop it on a little fast, it doesn’t get mussed. The rollout will just be longer. The pointy-nose thing is not noticeable on landing because it naturally forces you to look down the runway, which is where you’re supposed to look anyway. It is, however, very noticeable in maneuvering. I tried some steep turns but was totally lost in developing a level sight picture because the view against the horizon is all acute angles; no flat surface. I could figure out eventually. It reminded me of turns in glider.

Now we’ll see where the Panthera will fit in the marketspace. Since Cessna ceased the TTx, Cirrus essentially owns the high-performance single-engine market and with benefit of longevity, it has supported its effort with superb sales, marketing and service. Diamond is right behind that and now Pipistrel will have to butt in somehow by throwing some Euros at a marketing program. The Panthera is certainly worthy of the effort. Maybe the ability to burn low-octane fuel is a must and it does have a ballistic parachute, as the Cirrus models do.

I ride a kind of motorcycle classed as a sport adventure bike. No one knows what that means, but it seems to translate to something utterly uncompromised toward high performance. No old-guy highway pegs or back rests; no cup holders, but kick-ass suspension and great brakes. Having not noticed any cup holders in the Panthera, it strikes me as the equivalent of that. It makes what nods it must toward creature comfort, but it’s more tuned for performance untarnished by efficiency.

Driving home, I imagined this thought experiment. Your friend made megabucks in tech and as a cash-out reward, she bought herself one of those hangars with the shiny gray epoxy floors and tasty LED lighting. When you visit, there are three airplanes parked in the hangar: A Cirrus, a Columbia and a Panthera.

“Which one you wanna take today?” you’re asked. You might dither a moment, but I doubt anyone with a pulse wouldn’t want to get their hands on the Panthera’s stick. I’ll have a video on it next week. Price, by the way, hasn’t been locked down but best estimate is about $675,000-ish in the certified version, depending on the Euro exchange rate.

Other AVwebflash Articles

23 COMMENTS

    • Agreed. Given that the insurance for my sixty-year-old Skylane with a hull value of seventy-grand doubled this year, I would hate to see the premiums for a Skylane RG. Having recently considered building a Rans, the insurance quote for the taliwheel version was exactly double that of the nosewheel version.

  1. There is always a certain number of people who want to buy new. And without new, there cannot be any used. Auto/truck sales seem to have peaked at 18 million with 2000 and 2016 the two notable years that achieved close to that. Since 1978, the highs are close to 18 million twice as noted, and the lows are all over the board with 2001-2004 reasonable steady and 1996-98 somewhat steady new sales. No real predictability even if you have statistical millions of units to work with. Today, with vehicles averaging $37K for the average grocery-getter there seems to be a peak of new car customers statistically proven since 1978.

    The GA fleet has been at 188,000 to a high of 231,000 in 2007 with 2019 stats t a little over 212,000 airplanes outside of the airlines. My guess is the Experimental growth has been outpacing crash and age attrition. The mojo Pipistrel or any other piston single manufacturer needs to have is determining exactly how big is the small market for a retractable gear, four place, piston single.

    My guess it is a very fixed number of new airplane buyers, especially for RG, four place, piston singles. Just like church attendance, it is not growing each year, as the evangelist would like us to believe. Rather, it is simple “sheep stealing” from one church/denomination to another. There is no real growth of “believers” nationally. It has been steady or declining slightly, just like the GA fleet. People leave one church and migrate to another for a variety of reasons. It appears to me the limited number of buyers who just have to have a new airplane, are not only fixed but relatively easy to identify demographically. Aircraft companies like Diamond and Pipistrel know whose “sheep” they are going to steal. That will be Cirrus.

    Cessna did not actively pursue those “sheep” with the TTx/Columbia/Corvalis/400 with the evangelistic zeal that Cirrus took to corner that market. And aircraft evangelism requires a heavy investment in developing a culture/aviation lifestyle this relatively finite group is now used to. It’s hip to own a Cirrus. Within that culture, the turbo SR22 is the most hip of the hip. Diamond and Pipistrel have a sort of culture somewhat started, but nowhere near as well done, extensive, slick, and well funded as Cirrus. Mooney never grasped this concept at all except to rest on their past laurels and keep the 7000 Mooney owners supplied with parts and support with an equal lack of evangelistic zeal as they marketed with their new aircraft. Sort of like mainstream US Protestantism and the non-denominational mega-churches. No real growth, just shifts where the traditional faithful worship and those dissatisfied enough to leave for the next popular mega-church. There will be a certain traditional amount of Mooneyiacs who are loyal enough to the airplane even if Mooney is enthusiastic or not. Without a lot of marketing investment, especially in creating a culture all its own that resonates with the current number of buyers for a $750,000- $1,000,000 piston single, RG, or otherwise, I don’t see enough buyers available who did not buy a Cirrus to buy something else in numbers that will sustain a company who only sells only one type of aircraft.

    I truly think that the Panthera and the Diamond counterpart are simply “halo” airplanes that depend on the life support of their other airplanes sales they are gaining in the trainer market. But as the Cirrus gets long in tooth, there will be incremental opportunities for conquest sales, in the next few years of what is left of the Covid-19 ravaged market, to sell a few Pantheras and Diamond D50’s. All of these airplanes from Cirrus, Pipistrel, and Diamond perform about the same, cost are similar, panels similar, engines similar, structures similar, and all have sticks placed somewhere in the cockpit. To me, 100 feet away, these airplanes all look the same. Sort of like the current state of automobiles…very little outside distinction.

    Beech is smart. Just keep manufacturing a good airplane, let the American Bonanza Society do all of the safety, marketing, training, and parts sales work along with a whole cadre of PMA sources all having a specialty in maintaining a particular generation of Bonanzas, knowing the larger market is the remaining fleet. It doesn’t matter to Textron if you sell 6 or 600 G36’s as long as you still have the airplane in production letting ABS as a type club provide all of the ingredients for longevity and loyalty. Cirrus has a grasp of that angle following the same recipe as far as a type club. It remains to be seen if there will be eventually a strong PMA cottage industry source to take over support of the now aging fleet. I am not certain Cirrus even wants that.

    That tells me Pipistrel, Diamond, and Mooney are fighting for a very, very limited market. But as long as Pipistrel and Diamond sell trainers, there will be these RG “halo” aircraft available for those few buyers that do not buy a Cirrus when they slowly, incrementally fall out of favor. Mooney will have to do what Textron has done. Promote and support the Mooneyiac’s type club following the recipe ABS has done for the Bonanza/Travel Air/Baron line for training, parts support,insurance advocacy, and a cottage industry PMA parts source. Then, they too can build a handful of Ovations and Acclaims making it hip to own a Mooney no matter what it’s age and survive.

    As with most current pilot/aircraft owners, I don’t fit the demographics of a new airplane buyer. I have struggled to own, maintain, and fly an airplane no matter what it is. I feel its a fantastic privilege to fly. Every time I fly our 1953 D-35, I am amazed at its performance, handling, and relative affordability. 9.7 gallons per hour of auto fuel at 150 kts, fingertip flight characteristics, roomy cabin, good useful load, all combined in a look that does not blend in with the average airplane on the ramp.

    I did not anticipate the response I get from so many folks flying far more expensive airplanes, far more modern in the sense of what most marketing agencies try to portray. It’s like a sea of Supras, 300ZX’s, Porches, modern muscle cars, at a performance car show and pulling up in a small block 66 Corvette and hearing the phrase “nice Vette man” from the average car show spectator. They can identify with the Corvette. In the case of my airplane, I can get to a destination withing minutes of a new million dollar piston single. And I guess it is kinda cool to hear…”nice Bo, man”.

    • Good analysis, Jim.

      From what I’ve read, Cessna used to have that marketing/evangelism. The Cessna Pilot Centers and “$5 to Fly” coupons (which I remember lasting until the 1970s) got people in the door, and the Cessna 150 served as the gateway drug. Cessna then offered a product line that followed you up the income ladder – 172 for fun, 182 for family hauling, and the 210 for big vacations. A similar series of twins for those who really made it and/or had serious business needs rounded out the piston line-up.

      However, I’ve read elsewhere that the growth of the Interstate Highway System was a big factor in reducing the need for a private plane. With more highways going to more locations at relatively high speeds, the time advantage of an airplane was eroded. When I had my 150 here in the greater-NYC area I joked that I could beat a car only if there was a bridge, tunnel, or ferry in way. Without those choke-points, a car trip was about the same amount of time. My current Cardinal RG is certainly quicker, but the door-to-door time delta is still not great, especially on short(er) trips – the time spent going to the airport, preflight, and then getting from the airport to where you really want to be is a big handicap. Factor in the creature comforts of modern automobiles (especially A/C) and relative immunity to weather worries, and ‘selling’ a plane ride to someone who cares more about the destination than the journey is really difficult.

      • Kirk, your observation is spot on…”the time spent going to the airport, preflight, and then getting from the airport to where you really want to be is a big handicap. Factor in the creature comforts of modern automobiles (especially A/C) and relative immunity to weather worries, and ‘selling’ a plane ride to someone who cares more about the destination than the journey is really difficult.”…especially the last phrase, “and ‘selling’ a plane ride to someone who cares more about the destination than the journey is really difficult.”

        Cirrus has tried to make their airplanes very car like. I don’t want to broad-brush Cirrus buyers. However, my personal observations including having refurbished a couple of SR22’s ( no easy task when Cirrus does not want anyone outside the Cirrus controlled community to touch their airplanes), Cirrus customers I have interacted with seem to lean more toward the destination rather than the journey. Its about getting high, fast, down, and into a very high density airspace destination. Those who have started with a Cirrus as a trainer, then move on to higher ratings, and amassing their flight time in the airplane they trained on, are definitely goal oriented people. And I am confident, a large portion of their VisonJet buyers are SR22 owners.

        Cirrus airplanes have been refined to the automobile driving, destination oriented people with a Cirrus SR22 portrayed as the BMW, Lexus, Mercedes, Volvo version of an airplane. Aerial romance is limited to smooth, hard surface, long runway, Hilton Head types of destinations or high traffic DFW type of ramps with the obligatory King Air, Citation, Lear in the backdrop panorama. Precisely where the VisionJet can only go into.

        Trying to add aerial romance such as turf runways, cabins in the foothills, 2,500 ft farm strips, stop and smell the roses type of advertising does not connect with the 300-400 $750,000 to one million dollar buyer. And the largest portion of the car buyers in this scenario like the BMW, Lexus, Mercedes, Volvo driving experience vs a Lambo, Ferrari, Mclaren, or Ford GT way to get there. And most certainly, this is not the group who owns and drives a 69 Z/28 Camaro, 66 389 Tri-Power GTO, or Bullit cloned 68 Highlander Green Mustang.

        I think Cirrus has really evaluated the $750K to one million dollar market, targeted that kind of buyer/flyer, made it a lifestyle synonymous or parallel to the upscale car market but stayed out of the rock-star super-car association. This leaves Diamond and Pipistrel to spend big bucks to try and compete within that target audience on those terms. Or have to figure out if there are still some “aerial romantic” buyers who are not destination oriented, prefer the journey to the destination.

        Are there buyers who appreciate the driving/flying experience far more intensely than climb fast, fly high, engage the AP, learn the all of the glass panel button pushing while using the personal cell phone and tablet, managing 4-6 glass screens en-route. I find many pilots get great satisfaction out of technology management rather than hand flying. Not saying wrong or right, just an observation. And if all of that fails to keep the greasy side down and the clean side up, pull the chute.

        We are an automobile oriented society whose influence is the driving factor ( no pun intended) for all personal transportation. If the urban mobility vehicles can mimic that, if new airplanes mimic that, that is the litmus test for success.

        In today’s automobile advertising, it is about managing and enjoying the GPS. asking Alexa for locations for parking, shopping, eating locations while enjoying the surround sound at audiophile quality with your cell toting friends doing likewise…basically all heads down. And if you try to pass uphill, in a no passing zone, around that environmentally assaulting semi, the car version of AutoLand takes over to keep you from a head on accident. Too challenging to parallel park? Push another management button and the car will do what your driving skill set cannot do. Car maintenance? Just drive until a check engine light comes on and take it to someone to turn off. And most anything you buy today, will run 200-300,000 miles with that kind of maintenance attention. And all the car manufactures realize that even the most basic econobox must have leather and power everything. Those attributes are not just expected in the high end vehicle. So, this is what the average person is used to. Those who climb the ladder of financial success expect all of this at a minimum. Especially in an airplane. New airplanes are to be managed to their destinations, managed maintenance, and managed daily care including someone managing the air pressure in the well hidden, wheel pant, attired tires.

        Wheels that disappear? That’s not modern, that’s for the aerial romantic.

  2. I eschew airplanes (and cars) that fit like Spandex – regardless of how fast or efficient they are.
    For me, comfort is king.
    I find the SR-22 to be very snug. But the Vision jet is pure comfort.
    It also has folding wheels. But not a steerable nosewheel. Genius or obstinacy?

  3. I agree with Yars. I fly a Cessna Cardinal because it is easy to slip my aging body into the pilot’s seat without climbing on a wing or folding myself into unnatural positions. With the gear folded, it gives adequate speed for my modest travel needs and does so with good (by aircraft standards) fuel efficiency. Not being a member of the one percent club, my interest in any airplane costing $650-$800 K is mostly idle curiosity – kind of like admiring the lines of a Ferrari or Lamborghini, but knowing I will never own one. As another poster said, the purveyors of these shiny machines are locked in a zero sum competition for the limited number of people actually able to afford such things. I wish them luck, but annual production numbers that one could count using the fingers of their two hands are not likely to see them survive long-term.

    I have had a few Cirrus owners poke fun at my retractable gear saying that it is only a matter of time before I forget and do the aluminum slide. Perhaps, I say, but how long does it take them to check the pressure and add air to their tires. Oh, and don’t ride your brakes too hard lest you catch those fancy wheel pants on fire. One Cirrus driver shrugged and said something like he had people to do that. Must be nice.

  4. Good article.

    I used to regularly get 170 to 172 on a little over 11 gph in a nineties Ovation. Lean of peak, of course, but the Mooney R was designed to fly that way.

    IMO, The next big winner will be the one that gets serious about creating customers. Waiting for the underfunded and mostly not focused flight school community to do it for you is business malpractice. Cirrus has been going after non pilot buyers and students from the beginning without investing much in training, but loads in marketing. Cessna continues to reap huge benefits from being the go to trainer while investing almost nothing to keep that position and will likely leave piston GA if seriously challenged for the title.

    Diamond could at least be picking up Piper’s commercial piston customers that find the Flight Design model too large. Also, could get air taxi business which may become more popular as flying with the general population continues to look more and more dangerous for various reasons even beyond COVID. I’m waiting for the first assault (violent or not) on first class passengers, which may come from some airline trying to make a profit by raising rates on the wealthy or from activists who want to one up their game from Bistro confrontations or even the so called “AntiFa” who doesn’t have a clue what Fascism actually is.

  5. Cirrus, so far has been the only GA manufacturing company to get serious about marketing. One of the things that I found surprising is they went after people who were not pilots, I was reading about one gentleman who learned how to fly in his gen 3 Cirrus, upgraded to the gem 4 and gen 5 the first year they were available and now flies a Cirrus jet. That is an example of a marketing program that works.

    For licensed pilots they have a very aggressive training training and
    mentoring program. The problem with all the other manufacturers, including Diamond is there a approach to getting private pilots to buy their airplane is “build it and they will come buy it”. The only reason Diamond and Piper are still around is the big buys from airline puppy mills.

    Until the manufacture’s “commodify the experience” like Harley Davidson did for motorcycles or NAUI did for scuba diving, GA is a the slow inevitable death spiral.

    I predict that the Panthera will be a commercial failure with only a handful made and sold, not because it isn’t a great airplane, but because it won’t be marketed and supported in a way that makes it a “ must have” for well off men

  6. Hey Paul, is there any way to edit my comments after I post them. My last post looks like an 8 year old wrote it. I actually can write a grammatically correct sentence, I just can’t type it right the first, errr second, OK third time……

    • Sorry if it bothers you, but I think the comments are a read as intended zone. If people want me to write like the pro’s, they can me the big bucks. (That will get a rise out of the staff, lol).

      I think you made excellent points, too.

    • Actually, no way to edit the comments, even for staff. I can delete it if you want to start over. For what it’s worth, it doesn’t look like an 8-year-old’s prose to me. I’d say at least a pretty skilled 10 year old.(:

      Seriously, if you want to repost, I’ll delete the old one.

  7. There has been some insightful comments on the subject here … most notable to me was the old Cessna axiom their CPC’s of old had that you’d hook ’em with a 150, set ’em with a 172 or 182 and hope they’d ultimately want a Citation. Hmmm … sounds like Cirrus’ marketing strategy today to me.

    Circa 1981, I was on the Board of Governors of the Edwards AFB Aero Club. Wanting to update the fleet, the Club requested and was granted a loan of something around $100K for that purpose from USAF. Needing a complex airplane for the curriculum, it was tentatively decided to purchase a new C172 Cutlass. I objected and said I could find a decent low time used C182RG for less than the cost of the Cutlass; I said “Give me 90 days, or less.” In short order, I discovered a ’78 182RG for sale in Santa Monica with 600 hrs TT owned by original owners for … put your seatbelts on … $44K. We went down to look at it, committed to buy it and did. I still remember flying that thing back to Base and how comfy, fast and new smelling it was at three years old. THAT was a nice airplane. Today — well used — it’s worth several times more, too.

    Now snap forward nearly 40 years. That airplane is STILL (sic) a part of that Club, has now been updated several times and still looks pretty decent given the number of hours it’s flown and the hoardes of people it has carried. In fact, I understand it’s now a part of the USAF Test Pilot school curriculum, too. Offhand, I’d say the $44K was well spent. But … there’s your problem. Not only which NEW RG airplane someone would consider but the plethora of used, clean and well maintained airplanes of all types might be available at lower cost. I just bought my first used car in decades for the very same reason. Let someone else eat depreciation. I found a creampuff that cost half of what a new one would have.

    For grins, I went to Cessna’s website and was reminded that you can’t even buy a Cessna retractable like the one I described above anymore. As part of that process, I discovered a nifty aircraft range tool for comparing up to four Textron airplanes. You could change the number of people carried and whether you were flying for range or speed. In comparing a Skyhawk to a Skylane to a G36 carrying three, I was greatly surprised to find that the fixed gear Skylane and the G36 max endurance range were ostensibly identical at ~910nm at 55% and FL120. If you changed to max speed range comparisons, the Skylane kicks the G36’s butt at 905nm vs 779nm. SO … what you might gain in speed you lose in range with the G36 with folding gear. And, the Skylane’s range only changes by 3nm if flown for endurance (908nm) or speed (905nm). I see absolutely nothing to be gained by buying a G36 over a peg legged Skylane. Nothing! Once in a while, it’d be nice to be able to go a long way without stopping which would be worth more to me than the speed advantage. (I think Boom Aerospace is gonna find that out, too).

    See: txtav.com/en/range-map

    I have an elderly retired airline Captain friend who can’t fly anymore. To satiate his aviation interests, he’s been buying up fixed gear Skylanes, spiffing them up and making a few bucks for his effort. They don’t last long. He tells me others are doing the same. There’s a BIG market for used, clean and appropriately priced Skylanes, I guess. He has one right now that he’d like me to have. In fact, he called me about it just yesterday. I balk because I’ve owned my Skyhawk for 35 years and I know it inside and out. But given the above Textron comparisons, maybe I oughta rethink that? The Skylane’s range is over 300nm greater no matter how you fly it. With the long range tanks in a Skylane, I could probably milk a no stop trip from my winter and summer homes if the wind gods cooperated? Hmmm … I just ‘set’ my own hook. I wonder if my Skyhawk would miss me?

  8. Good article, but it seemed to stray from its original premise about whether or not designing in retractable gear warrants the cost (both initial and recurring), complexity, risk of forgetting to put it down or landing with partial gear, and the extra weight reducing payload. Have the designers made any improvements to the systems to address the reasons the industry turned away from retractables in the first place?

    I’m also not sure I agree with the point about aesthetics. After you take off and the gear’s stowed, you’re usually not really visible to the naked eye, at least in much detail. And if you’re inside the plane, you can’t see yourself (GoPro cameras attached to the wingtips notwithstanding).

  9. “Watch Cirrus come up with a 180 hp retract.”

    Not a chance. Higher, farther, faster, is the holy grail of transportation. Pressurization is the great enabler of all that. 180 hp doesn’t support that, regardless of the configuration of the landing gear.
    Coast to coast with one stop is the litmus test. The Vision Jet arguably can do that in less than 9 hours time – without resort to nosebags.

    ANY airframe that’s limited to 180 hp will have a limited useful load – if for no other reason than climb-gradient certification requirements. That means limited fuel; limited range; limited people-and-things payloads. Folding wheels just add more weight, thus making matters even worse.

    Consider this: The certification cost of a new ANYTHING now is measured in hundreds of millions of dollars. If the net margin on a $500,000 airplane was 30%, you’d have to sell 660 airframes – just to cover the cost of a $100 million certification campaign. As long as that old truism – “the best way to make a small fortune in aviation is to start with a large one” – the long-term health of the industry requires fewer, not more, choices of airframes.

    A Tomahawk, an SR-22, and an SF-50 have got you covered in North America, from first lesson to personal transportation. Where’s the need (or the demand) for a new 180 hp 4-seat retractable gasoline-burner?

    Sorry – I see no emerging resurgence.