Al Marsh Archive

Around the world for eight by private jet

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

hong kong

Hong Kong

Every holiday season it seems one company, usually Macy’s, captures media attention for the most luxurious gift. This time, it may be Flexjet. If you really loved your family and friends this holiday season, you would buy them the new Abercrombie and Kent offering–a $1.5 million trip around the world for eight aboard a Flexjet Challenger 605. Hotel rooms, granted they are luxury accomodations, are double occupancy at that price. So what did you expect for only $1.5 million? The leather seats transform into beds if the pace wears you down.

Yes, excess, I know. I’m just the reporter here. For the record, I am a lot more likely to go around the traffic pattern at Frederick, Maryland, in a rented Diamond DA40 than I am to go on this trip.

The price includes private showings and events at every stop that the rest of us will never see. The two-week grand tour includes a visit to Japan to see the Toji Temple and the emperor’s private retreat, both of which are closed to the public. There are two nights in Beijing, two nights in Hong Kong, and two nights in Agra, India, near the Taj Mahal. There are also two nights each in Turkey and France.

Challenger 605 aircraft

Challenger 605

Trips start after the current travel season ends in February. The Challenger will repeat the trip as many times as there are millionaires who are willing to pay the price. Or, at least they were millionaires before the trip began.

The twin-engine Cub

Monday, November 4th, 2013

DoubleEnder is good at short landings and takeoffs --Photo by bushplanedesign.com

DoubleEnder is good at short landings and takeoffs. Photo by bushplanedesign.com

Maybe one day you can get your multi-engine rating in a Cub–sort of a Cub, anyway. It’s based on the Cub heritage but is a clean sheet design and is meant for the rough bush country. The DoubleEnder has a tractor prop and a pusher prop and unprecedented forward and side visibility, unless you spend your flying hours in a bubble-nosed helicopter, of course. It may end up as a kit one day, but development has been in progress many years. It has two Rotax engines modified to produce 130 horsepower. You’ll see a full report on bydanjohnson.com here.

Want to go “cliff diving” in Alaska aboard the DoubleEnder? Watch this video. Here’s a much more relaxed look at the DoubleEnder Prototype practicing SHORT landings. The next DoubleEnder will have side by side seating.

Mooney announces its “comeback”

Friday, October 11th, 2013

Friday night Mooney released this announcement on achieving new funding that will allow a restart of production in January. Earlier this week a Chinese news agency reported a Chinese real estate firm was making an investment in Mooney. The announcement identifies only a California company as the investor.

 

Mooney Announces Its Comeback

With New Funding, Mooney Sets Itself to Re-enter the Single Engine Market

 Kerrville, Texas – After a five-year hiatus from manufacturing single-engine airplanes Mooney is pleased to announce that it will restart manufacturing at the beginning of January 2014 at its headquarters in Kerrville, TX.  New funding from Soaring America Corporation, a California based Company will provide necessary capital to re-launch and sustain the legendary brand. Details of the financial arrangements will remain confidential. The company will continue to manufacture the Acclaim Type S, and the Ovation series.

“It’s a new day for Mooney. And with a new investment group that is committed to the future, we’re expecting to make a strong move in the industry,” noted Barry Hodkin, Chief Financial Officer for the company. It’s been a long time coming and we couldn’t be more excited about our return to manufacturing one of the finest and most trusted airplane fleets in the industry.”

The first order of business will be to hire and train a new workforce and reestablish the supply chain. The company is projected to recruit up to 100 people within the first year of operation. The company has a large variety of personnel needs that includes technicians, engineers, line workers, accounting and sales people. Within two years, the company is anticipating employing significantly more people depending on the demand for its products.

“While we expect to be reunited with some of our previous employees, we are confident we’ll attract new talent as we re-enter this aviation space. We’re looking for the best and brightest people to help meet our vision for the future,” said Hodkin.

The Acclaim Type S is recognized as the world’s fastest single engine airplane. The turbo-normalized airplane is home to over 130 speed records with a normal cruise speed of 230 ktas and a service ceiling of 25,000 feet. The Ovation series has cruising speeds up to 190 ktas and a service ceiling of up to 20,000 feet.

“It’s too early to provide the details, but we’ll have some very exciting announcements in the near future about the technological advances that will accompany the Acclaim Type S and Ovation series,” said Hodkin.

During the difficult economic times starting in 2008, when single engine sales dropped by over 30 percent compared to the year prior, Mooney ceased production. Over the last five years, the Company that was started by Al Mooney more than 80 years ago has remained in business, focusing on customer support for the Mooney planes still in service. Given more positive economic indicators and the unique market niche for Mooney airplanes, the company feels confident about a sustaining future in the industry.

Have you logged “startle” time? ATP training rules make the rating costly.

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

The new requirements from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the Airline Transport Pilot exam, as demanded by Congress after a Colgan Airways accident, will hit in August of 2014. They are focused on giving pilots more experience before they get the ATP rating, and training them in upset recovery. The rules will increase the cost of just that rating, according to one school’s estimate, to $8,500 to $12,000. I got it in 1995 for less than $2,000 just for fun from ISO Aero, now known as Aero Services in Wilmington, North Carolina. The first effect of making airline candidates take more training is to discourage those of us who got it just for fun. The second is to take smaller schools and colleges out of the ATP training market. That’s because they can’t make money now that there is a new requirement for a full motion simulator replicating an aircraft of 40,000 pounds (minimum). Those things cost millions. AOPA and others fought the good fight to keep the requirements reasonable.

In that simulator, candidates are to learn some of the upset recovery techniques. Randy Brooks, a vice president at Aviation Performance Solutions in Mesa, Arizona, said a study of 16 accidents involving upsets (extreme banks, climbs, dives) revealed the pilot did the wrong thing. “In 16 out of 16 accidents the pilot did something that was contradictory to whatever training they would have had,” he said. As it turns out, the International Civil Aviation Organization that happens to be headquartered in Canada (it is for the world, not just Canada) will recommend to the world at some point in the future that upset training extend to those wanting the commercial pilot certificate. Once again, AOPA has officially expressed concerns that the suggestion consider all the consequences. The FAA doesn’t have to follow the suggestion.

Simcom Training Centers’  Tracy Brannon said the new ATP multiengine rules “…elevate the requirements to meet the title of the certificate.” His company, where he is the chief operating officer, is planning an ATP course that will be close to the ones Simcom offers for a full type rating. A full type rating course includes 14 hours in a simulator, and the new FAA requirements for the ATP call for 10 hours. The academic part will also be very similar. He has had inquiries from airline companies interested in sending applicants to such a course.

Brannon pointed out that the new ATP rules apply only to multiengine aircraft. So, the pilots like myself who got the multiengine ATP, just for fun, can still have the option of getting the single-engine ATP that does not fall under the new requirements. Simcom has a Saab 2000 simulator that meets the new requirement for training in a simulated 40,000-pound simulator, but company officials have asked the FAA to consider letting them use less costly simulators for the Hawker 800 and Dornier 328 that simulate aircraft weighing less than 40,000 pounds. There is no word from the FAA as yet on the request.

The FAA guidelines also require that the ATP candidate demonstrate a proper recovery technique after being startled. Brooks manages to startle students while flying an actual training aircraft by distracting them. “Then we’re going to talk about things you like to do besides flying, where you live, whether or not you’ve got kids–anything that will take you out of the cockpit, thinking I’m not going to do something, and wham. You’re going to have a simulated wake vortex encounter, and you’re going to hear me say ‘recover.’” Brooks can train students to automatically recover in three 45-minute flights. The new ATP rules call for use of a simulator for situations where the nose is too high or too low.

Opponents of the new rules warned that they could reduce the supply of airline pilots. “They’re going to pay $12,000 and then we start them out in a $10,000 job,” said the owner of a North Carolina flight school. The full impact won’t be known until after the rules take effect late next summer. In the meantime, a few hours of aerobatic training can pay big benefits. Make sure the instructor startles you before you graduate.

Piston values have stopped dropping

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

A few months ago I reported in AOPA Pilot that all aircraft were dropping in value; if it flew, it was down. Recently I checked back to see if things are looking better. Rarely would we celebrate being drug along the bottom of the used aircraft value “ocean, ” but that is the case with piston-engine singles and twins. Vref, the airplane value reporting firm, says prices that dropped into the toilet, let’s make that the vast clean ocean, have stopped dropping. They bounce up and down, but there appear to be no more cliffs ahead. They should stay where they are for another year, says Vref’s Fletcher Aldridge.

Aldredge looked at 25 jets and found all but seven of them are in a buyers’ market. If 10 percent of the fleet of, say, Lear 60XR aircraft are for sale, then it is a buyer’s market. If the percentage is less and few are available, it is a seller’s market. The Lear 60XR is in a buyer’s market because 22 percent of the Lear 60XR fleet is for sale, and the used inventory is growing. The Global Express, Falcon 900, Citation II, Beechjet 400A, CitationJet 525, and Gulfstream IV, IVSP, and V, are all in a buyer’s market. The Gulfstream 450 and 550 are in a seller’s market. You can see the whole list for yourself right here.

Cessna is building a military jet

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Scorpion_for-WebCessna Aircraft has very quietly built an econo military jet named Scorpion aimed at the jobs the bigger, meaner jets can do only at great expense, such as homeland security and border patrol. It’s had its first engine test. With its straight wing, it will go slowly enough to intercept slower aircraft, but can hit 450 knots when angry. Cessna built it for AirLand, another Textron company, and used a little bit of Citation jet technology along with engines used on many business jets. It should fly in two or three weeks. It’s said to cost more than a turboprop and less than a fighter jet. It was announced at the Air Force Association convention this week.

ATC predictions from 25 years ago; Pilotless planes and empty control rooms

Friday, September 13th, 2013

There was a conference at the U.S. Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, Mass., 25 years ago attended by representatives from Japan, Europe, the USSR (it was 1988, three years before the USSR dissolved) and the United States. They made predictions of what the future held. Let’s see how they did.

Tatiana Anodina of the USSR predicted a fully automatic system in which controllers would act as supervisors. We don’t seem to be moving that way. She also said the future system would be heavily dependent on satellites. Absolutely correct.

MIT professor Robert Simpson said the U.S. could lose its dominance of aviation manufacturing, and its monopoly on commercial air services, to Asian countries. That one remains an interesting prediction.

William Rouse of Search Technology said a computer he named CAL could instantly revamp the entire air traffic flow based on a flood of travelers, such as a sporting event in one city. He also said politicians delayed on their flight could address a banquet crowd from their seats (creating a new hell for fellow travelers). Fortunately those predictions failed, but a speaker late to a speech could combine Skype with onboard wi-fi. (Don’t tell them.)

Fred Singer of the U.S. Department of Transportation proposed unmanned supersonic freighters carrying 20-ton payloads at Mach 2 and 3 over the ocean. Command destruct capability, a switch that would blow up errant unmanned aircraft, might be necessary so the flights would be mostly over water. Cargo shippers probably wouldn’t like the odds, but unmanned aircraft are here, growing, and they aren’t over water.

Paul Muto of NEC Corp. of Japan said aircraft with satellite navigation would be cleared onto minimum time tracks, while aircraft using conventional navigation tools would still use airways. Ground-based navigation aids would be retained only as long as users want to pay for them. Sounds like he was on the right “track,” making the part about “paying for them” a little scary. But we have AOPA.  He also said, “We will not forsake our controllers. Both pilots and controllers will have their jobs.” Good call–so far.

A final thought: What if an unmanned aircraft that has been programmed to go one direction finds itself in conflict with an unmanned control room that wants it to alter course? Would there be a cyber argument leading to overheated circuits?

Cessna settles with former supplier

Friday, September 6th, 2013

Avcorp of Delta, British Columbia, once could boast that its vertical stabilizer for the Cessna CJ3 was the first component designed by someone other than Cessna. In fact, it still makes the boast on a Web page that probably needs to be taken down. Avcorp also made wing spars and the horizontal stabilizer for the wildly successful Sovereign. Cessna is waiting on an upgrade of that aircraft to turn its bottom line from red to black in the first quarter of 2014. All Avcorp work for Cessna ended in 2010 when Cessna said it was taking the subassemblies back in-house. Avcorp objected and won a $27.9 million judgement that was contested for a year or two. Now Cessna and Avcorp have reached a settlement, according to the Wall Street Journal.

For small jet sales to recover, small companies must get happy

Friday, August 30th, 2013

Right now, they aren’t happy about the economy, says Alasdair Whyte of Corporate Jet Investor. The small jet market is sick because small companies don’t have confidence in the economy and are holding back on purchases. They are not seeing a recovery. Larger companies are driving the economic recovery and don’t feel the same way, so they are moving back into the jet market. It’s tough on those who want to sell a used Cessna Mustang or similar light jet. It was so tough on Cessna that top execs closed the door on bargain hunters who were asking for unprofitable sales prices. Small jets aren’t heading for the sunset, just waiting for small businesses to find confidence in the economy. Whyte suggests we all buy something from a small business.

Cessna’s test 182 JT-A lands in field

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Cessna has confirmed its 182 JT-A powered by an SMA diesel engine landed in a field 30 miles west-northwest of Wichita Aug. 21. It is used for research and development of the diesel-powered 182. No details as yet but a local television station reported an engine failure. The pilot onboard was not injured and apparently was alone in the aircraft. Television news footage shows the aircraft intact amidst tall grass. The aircraft was on a certification flight. It was one of the steps needed to complete certification before deliveries can begin. Congratulations to the pilot for a great emergency landing.