Al Marsh Archive

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.

An unusual piloting job; getting cuddly with the bears

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Da bears means, in Alaska, not the Chicago Bears but the real ones. One of the most unusual piloting jobs is taking tourists out to bear country west of Anchorage in Alaska for closeups of grizzly bears doing their fish-eating act. Suggestion: do not eat fish for breakfast the morning of the flight. See what K-Bay Air does here. Video includes beach landings and aerial scenes of Alaskan bear country.

Terrafugia car flies at Oshkosh

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Here are the two Terrafugia Transition flying car demos you missed at Oshkosh.

This airplane flies sideways

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Watch halfway through this video as Jurgis Kairys makes his Sukhoi 31 fly sideways. Sean D. Tucker can do that too, but at higher altitude for safety, and with a nose-high attitude. This is just a flat attitude, going sideways.

Diesel market special report in “Pilot”

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Just as the deal is announced between AVIC in China, and the bankrupt Thielert diesel engine company in Germany, AOPA Pilot has published a special report on where diesels are headed. There are several general references to a deal to bring Thielert out of bankruptcy in the article, as well as comments on Continental’s plans to stake its future on sales of diesel engines to the world market, if not so much to the United States.

Continental is owned by the same Chinese company, AVIC, that acquired Thielert. The deal means that Continental suddenly can offer a complete line of diesel engines. Before its bankruptcy, Thielert even had a 350-horsepower diesel on several Cessna 206 aircraft, but development ended with bankruptcy. Continental now has access to that technology, along with the smaller engines. Continental certified in December its 230-horsepower diesel based on technology it bought from SMA, the company that used its refined, second generation technology to win the trust of Cessna Aircraft for the Cessna 182 now nearing deliveries.

Check out our special 3,000-word report on where diesel technology is headed in the August issue of AOPA Pilot already released as a digital edition, and reaching mailboxes now.

Why Icon DID get its LSA weight exemption

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

UPDATE: Icon has been granted its 250-lb weight exemption. Here’s our story by AOPA Senior Editor Dave Hirschman.

HERE IS THE ACTUAL 17-PAGE GRANT OF EXEMPTION (see Attachment #1).

HERE IS THE OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT:

LOS ANGELES, July 29, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued its decision to grant ICON Aircraft’s petition for exemption to allow an increased takeoff weight for ICON’s A5 amphibious Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) up to a maximum of 1680 lbs. The exemption would accommodate, among other safety features, a Spin-Resistant Airframe (SRA) which enables the A5 to better avoid loss-of-control scenarios due to stall/spins. The company announced in February of 2012 that the A5 had been successfully tested to and met the full FAA Part 23 standard for spin resistance. The FAA exemption will allow the A5 to become the first conventional production aircraft to meet this rigorous safety standard.

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130729/LA54410)

In its Grant of Exemption No. 10829 issued to ICON Aircraft Inc., the FAA stated, “The combined design features and SRA concepts incorporated into the ICON A5 design . . . are recognized by the FAA as significant safety enhancements.” The FAA went further to state: “The FAA determined that granting relief from the MTOW (Maximum Takeoff Weight) for LSA for this specific safety enhancement is in the public interest and is also consistent with the FAA’s goals of increasing safety for small planes.”

“We’re excited the FAA has recognized the importance of this accomplishment to the future of aviation safety,” said ICON Aircraft Founder and CEO Kirk Hawkins. “For decades now, statistics have shown that loss of control due to stall/spin situations is the leading cause of pilot-related fatal accidents in General Aviation. ICON spent an extraordinary amount of time and resources going well beyond the call of duty to achieve this important safety milestone.”

The FAA’s decision enables ICON to continue with A5 manufacturing, currently scheduled for first production aircraft in spring 2014. The FAA’s published guidance allows up to 120 days to issue a decision on any exemption request; however, ICON’s exemption request was not approved until 14 months after it was filed in May of 2012. Faced with the delay, ICON was forced to move forward with an interim design weight that still guaranteed the safety benefits of a Spin-Resistant Airframe. As a result, the initial production A5 will have a max gross takeoff weight of 1510 lbs, an 80-pound increase over the standard 1430-pound amphibious LSA maximum. “We had to make some tough engineering decisions in order to keep the program moving forward given the FAA delay,” said ICON VP of Engineering, Matthew Gionta. “But in the end, we got to a great place and are on the verge of delivering one of the safest, most user-friendly Light Sport Aircraft possible today.”

In a speech titled “A New Look at Certification” delivered October 11, 2012, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta mapped out the FAA’s vision for the future of aircraft certification where regulations encourage innovation by being less prescriptive and where complexity and performance are used as aircraft criteria instead of weight and propulsion. “We applaud the FAA Administrator and his team for demonstrating truly outstanding thought leadership,” said Hawkins. “This kind of progressive thinking unleashes innovation within aviation that will have a profoundly positive impact on increasing safety while simultaneously promoting a strong, growing industry for our economy.”

 OLDER STORY JULY 18 with Dan Johnson commentary:

Follow me along here on this advance, speculative reporting. The FAA has just announced that it is near a decision on the requested 250-pound weight exemption needed by Icon Aircraft for its A5 amphibious airplane. (Check back here Monday, July 29, mid-morning, for an update.) What else is near? Could it be that AirVenture occurs in nine days, and the announcement will be made there? To me that is a certainty. To you, your own opinion is fine with me.

Now then. Would the FAA make an announcement unfavorable to an airplane company at a show that draws 600,000 pilots armed with super-sized cups of lemonade loaded with sticky sugar, and just right for throwing? Unlikely. The FAA barely has enough money to send anyone to the show (although you can get controllers to run the tower if you pay enough), let alone pay a huge drycleaning bill. So my deduction is that the weight exemption is approved. Still, try to act like you didn’t know when it is announced.

“I am of two minds on this,” said Dan Johnson, a founder of the light sport aircraft movement and author of bydanjohson.com. See his take on the pending weight increase decision here. “This has the potential to grow the LSA sector, yet some may view this as unfair since they played by an earlier rule set. The FAA may hear from a lot of other producers who would also like to qualify for a safety exemption, and some of those could prepare the right package and get it if Icon does. Will the FAA be able to accommodate multiple requests given their budget? On behalf of the Light Aircraft Manufacturing Association [which Johnson heads] we supported the request for exemption because it has potential to grow the sector,” Johnson said.

Now Icon can go from the 1,430 pounds that light sport seaplanes can now weigh to 1,680 pounds, a 250-pound increase. (However, it was later learned Icon will use only 80 pounds of the exemption allowance.) With that, it’s more likely A5 customers will get the cuffed outer wings that keep the A5′s wingtips, and the aileron, flying when near a stall, and a parachute, folding wings, and retractable gear. “Exemptions sometimes lead to new rulemaking and are used to evaluate approaches to new technologies,” Johnson said.