Lockheed Martin: AFSS Performance Is Improving »

Right up front, we'll say we've heard the same complaints about Lockheed Martin's handling of the Flight Service Station contract as everyone else: Long wait times, dropped calls, lost flight plans and briefers lacking local knowledge of the areas they cover. Lockheed Martin's Dan Courain, the company's VP of aviation services, says he has gotten a similar earful and at AOPA Expo on Thursday, Courain told AVweb that LockMart is doing something about. Specifically, it has rewired the call waiting system to delay bumping of calls from their origination area to other parts of the system, where briefers may be umfamiliar with local landmarks, airspace and conditions. More

Diamond Rolls Out Two New DA40-Based Models »

It's axiomatic that to survive in the business of general aviation, a manufacturer has to constantly roll out new models or, at the very least, improved versions of the standing product line. Diamond has done both and at this week's AOPA Expo in Hartford, it announced two new variants of the DA40, the XLS and CS. Diamond's Heike Larson told us this week that the XLS is a bit more than a tarted up DA40 with nicer upholstery, although it does have that. More

Piper's New Matrix: A Deflated Mirage »

Does the world really need an unpressurized Piper Mirage? Piper thinks it does and at the AOPA Expo show in Hartford this week, it announced the new Matrix which, although technically a new type certificate, is really a variant of the well-established Malibu/Mirage series. Piper CEO Jim Bass told AVweb this week that it believes the Matrix will find a sweet spot in the market because it will sell for an equipped price of $757,000, more that $300,000 less that the price of a new Mirage. Because the airplane lacks a pressure hull, it's less expensive to manufacture and has an empty weight of around 150 pounds less than the Mirage. Bass says this will offer owners high cruise speeds and payloads well into the teens and if an owner wants to venture to the airplane's certificated 25,000-foot ceiling, the Matrix will have an onboard oxygen system. More

Diamond's Updated DA40 Line »

Diamond Aircraft announced two new models of the DA40 at AOPA Expo in Hartford on Thursday. A bells-and-whistles version called the XLS features a major upgrade of the Garmin GFC 700 to include WAAS with VNAV, electronic charts, Safe Taxi and a full page engine display on the multi function display. Options include Jeppesen Chartview, in which the aircraft's position on the plates is depicted. Standard price will be $335,000. An entry-level model of the DA40 called the CS was also introduced. More

Cessna Commits to Bend »

The people of Bend, Ore. are likely sighing relief today after Cessna CEO Jack Pelton said the Columbia Aircraft plant will be maintained and there will also be "significant" investment in the company if Cessna is the successful bidder for Columbia's assets. "It will stay in Bend, Ore.," Pelton told a crowded news conference at AOPA Expo in Hartford on Thursday. "That's where the workforce is." Pelton also said Cessna's booming facilities in Kansas are at capacity and there's no room to accommodate Columbia production. Pelton said the intention is to continue production of the existing Columbia line and to ramp up production to 250 airplanes a year. He also hinted the Columbia plant will be involved with future production of the Next Generation Piston line of aircraft but he did not elaborate. More

Mooney Acclaim Type S: "Unquestionably the Fastest" »

After a year or two of back-and-forth with Columbia Aircraft , with both companies claiming to have the fastest piston single airplane, Mooney now says its Acclaim Type S model will take the top spot, no questions asked. The Pilot's Operating Handbook for the Type S (S is for "speed," of course) will show a 10-knot hike in top speed, to 242 knots, David Copeland, vice president of sales, announced at AOPA Expo in Hartford on Thursday afternoon. The extra knots come from a new Hartzell propeller as well as several "aerodynamic enhancements" that the company is not yet ready to reveal, Copeland said. All current Acclaims from number 50 on up will get these enhancements and earlier models will soon be offered speed-boosting retrofits. The current Acclaim model will continue to be available as well. More

VLJs? Thanks, But We Prefer Citabrias »

AOPA Expo opened on Thursday morning with a thousand pilots or so attending a general session on the "megatrend" of owner-flown turbines, introduced by AOPA President Phil Boyer and hosted by AOPA Pilot Editor-in-chief Tom Haines. The crowd listened politely as Cessna CEO Jack Pelton and Matt Huff, of Williams engines, talked up the wonders and virtues of the coming owner-flown turbine fleet. But the one time the audience erupted in spontaneous applause? When Jim Robins, a businessman who "operates" a TBM700 to get to his homes and facilities around the country, mentioned the pure joy of "flying" his vintage Citabria in the early morning amid the Santa Fe mountains. Robins also raised some eyebrows in the crowd when he veered from the industry refrain that turbine aircraft are "easier" to fly than pistons. More

Piper Debuts Malibu Matrix — An Unpressurized Mirage »

The airframe of the new Matrix is essentially identical to the Piper Mirage, Piper officials said at AOPA Expo on Thursday morning, but there is one significant difference - the new Matrix is not pressurized. The goal was to create an aircraft that would satisfy a demand for an airplane with a large cabin, robust performance, and economical operating and acquisition costs. "The Piper Matrix fills those requirements, and it does it on the finest, most proven, airframe coupled with the most advanced technology available in general aviation," said Piper President and CEO Jim Bass. The price of the aircraft, at $757,000, is "hundreds of thousands of dollars below what has been available," he said. Anticipating widespread global interest in the airplane, Bass said Piper will start deliveries to dealers next month and will build 100 Matrixes in 2008. More

Cessna to Offer Diesel Skyhawk »

Cessna will offer the 172S Skyhawk with a Thielert turbo diesel engine with deliveries to start in mid-2008. In an announcement at AOPA Expo in Hartford, Conn., Cessna officials said the decision to offer the diesel came after extensive market surveys and flight testing. "The Skyhawk is already the best-selling, most-flown airplane ever with more than 43,000 delivered and this option further expands the market due to the worldwide availability of Jet A fuel," said John Doman, Cessna vice president of propeller aircraft sales. Cessna will install the engines at its Independence, Kan., factory under the supplementary type certificate already held by Thielert. More

Aspen Avionics Expands Facility, Adds New Staff »

Aspen Avionics has accelerated its relocation plans to accommodate rapid growth, the company announced on Thursday, and has moved into new corporate headquarters almost a year ahead of schedule. The company nearly quadrupled its space, moving from a 6,000-square-foot facility to 23,000-square-foot building in Albuquerque's TechCommons Business Center. The company is in the final stages of certifying its new Evolution Flight Display system and is transitioning from an R&D company to a manufacturing company, with related expansion of customer support, marketing and sales activities. "This is much more than a move or a change of address for us," said Aspen's President and CEO John Uczekaj. "The market's enthusiastic response to our Evolution Flight Display line of products has validated our strategies. The additional space will enable us both to manufacture and ship products faster, and to better support our large and growing number of customers." More