Al Marsh Archive

Diamond Aircraft (Canada) and diesel company on the mend

Friday, May 17th, 2013

Not long ago Diamond’s plant in Canada laid off all but 51 workers. That 51st employee was there to oversee the paperwork on the Diamond D-Jet. At the time I was told that there were still partially completed airframes on the line, and when those were delivered as new aircraft, employees would be called back. Now 34 workers have returned, including those needed to lay up more composite airframes. Through all this the Diamond headquarters in Austria has operated normally. A Diamond plant in China continues to churn out 30 to 40 four-passenger DA40 aircraft a year to be delivered in Asia, at this point meaning China. That plant has never built a gasoline-powered model, putting a Thielert diesel engine on the very first one. Only now is the plant transitioning to Austro diesel engines, the engine Diamond turned to when Thielert hit financial and mechanical problems (now solved). Thielert, with its Centurion marketing and warranty arm, is on the verge of emerging from bankruptcy–meaning someone is going to buy it. Whoever does that will suddenly have a family of diesel engines, right up to a 350-hp certified but undeveloped engine.  There are already negotiations in progress which the company can’t disclose. The financial questions that led to Frank Thielert leaving the company will be resolved soon, too, by a German court. Thielert engines have one problem–time between replacement. That means you trash the engine (destructive testing is the nicer phrase) when it reaches 1,500 hours rather than overhaul it. Overhaul might be offered in the future by the new owner. Purchasing the engine is still economical if you happen to live in Europe where avgas is $12.58 or in Niger where it is $22 a gallon. Diesel engines cost 30 percent more but you save 24 to 35 percent on fuel–a good deal for those flying 500 hours a year.

Paraski down the side of Mont Blanc

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Take a break and watch a group of paraskiers glide just above the snow and sometimes on it down Mount Blanc on the France-Italy border. Great photography. Thanks to Hunter Harris for finding this.

FAA says delays are awful

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

 I’m seeing a little gamesmanship out there. The FAA has laid off controllers thanks to budget sequestration, and isn’t shy about pointing out just how awful things are for travelers. Could the FAA be putting pressure on Congress to fix the budget? Just maybe? Here’s the FAA release:

“As a result of employee furloughs due to sequestration, the FAA is implementing traffic management initiatives at airports and facilities around the country. Travelers can expect to see a wide range of delays that will change throughout the day depending on staffing and weather related issues. For example, the FAA is experiencing staffing challenges at the New York and Los Angeles En Route Centers and at the Dallas-Ft. Worth and Las Vegas TRACONs. Controllers will space planes farther apart so they can manage traffic with current staff, which will lead to delays at airports including DFW, Las Vegas and LAX. The FAA also expects delays at Newark and LaGuardia because of weather and winds.

“The FAA will continue to work with the airlines throughout the day to try and minimize delays for travelers. We encourage all travelers to check their flight status and also to visit fly.faa.gov for the latest airport delay information.

“Yesterday more than 1,200 delays in the system were attributable to staffing reductions resulting from the furlough. There were more than 1,400 additional delays as a result of weather and other factors.”

So do your job, public. Sound off about how steamed you are over the delays. After all, you’re part of the game. Personally, I don’t like games.

Airline complaints boost case for GA

Friday, April 12th, 2013

A study from Purdue University and Wichita State University indicates airline passenger complaints are up, giving a boost to business aviation. The report notes more seats per aircraft means passengers are jammed in a little tighter, making flights less comfortable. Quality rankings show Virgin American at number one, followed by JetBlue, AirTran, Delta, and Hawaiian. At number six is Alaska, followed by Frontier, Southwest, US Airways, and American. United ended up at 14, probably because, as everyone knows, United breaks guitars.

Just a quick shoutout to Southwest, where tighter seating arrangements mean arms and knees of fellow passengers are glued to yours for the duration of the trip, and fewer cabin crews are using Southwest’s trademark humor during announcements. In fact, some are downright condescending. Also, thanks, Southwest, for losing the camera tripod used by AOPA photographer Chris Rose on our flight frmo Baltimore to Birmingham April 5.

Burt Rutan developing Ski Gull seaplane

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

Burt Rutan is developing an amphibious, two-engine, motor glider, seaplane on skis. The skis are embedded with skateboard wheels. He described it to The Old Bold Pilots organization in California at the end of January. He doesn’t need a medical to fly it, and if it works, you could be flying it, too.

Greg Koontz practicing for Sun `n Fun

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

KoontzphotoWEB

Greg Koontz helps AOPA get the shot

Airshow performer Greg Koontz got practice with his new Decathlon Xtreme for his Friday, Saturday, Sunday performances at Sun `n Fun, and we got great pictures for an upcoming article on the airplane. That’s Chris Rose on the ground, by prior briefing and agreement, getting the shot of the maneuver that Koontz uses for his ribbon cutting. This airplane had a bird strike the morning the shot was taken, but the cowling crack was quickly glued and repaired. CLICK PHOTO TO ENLARGE

Hawker jet line to find owner by mid-year

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Beechcraft Corporation will sell off the jets the company once made as the former Hawker Beechcraft by mid-year. Dow Jones Business News had a report on the possible sale last month. The last time the jets were almost sold, the interested parties, according to the Dow report, were: Textron (parent company of Cessna), Mahindra and Mahindra of India, Embraer of Brazil, New United of China, and Carlyle Group, an investment company. There are new parties interested, the Dow report indicates.

World’s busiest airports named

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

The Airports Council International has ranked the world’s busiest airports once again, and Atlanta wins.  Top ranked are, in order: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, and Los Angeles. Then Beijing comes in at number six, followed by: Charlotte, Las Vegas, Houston, Paris, Frankfurt, London, Phoenix and Philadelphia. At number 15 is Amsterdam, followed by: Toronto, Detroit, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Newark. At 21 is New York JFK, followed by: Munich, Miami, Mexico City, Madrid, Guangzhou (China), and La Guardia. At number 28 is Jakarta, followed by Phoenix, and in thirtieth place is Istanbul.

Here’s how Americans send robots to Mars

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

UPDATE: Link to video repaired

Doesn’t hurt to recap one of America’s proudest achievements, sending a huge robot to Mars. Thanks to blimp pilot, author, and aerial photographer Hunter H. Harris of the Eastern Shore of Maryland for sending this link along. It’s easy to get to Mars. You just build a rocket, aim to the right of the moon, and it’s all downhill from there, as you’ll see. Crank the volume–this one’s hard to hear.

Skycatcher rumors proved true

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

At the last U.S. Sport Aviation show in January at Sebring, Florida, rumors indicated hundreds of Skycatcher buyers with deposits down bailed on their order as soon as the price of the light sport aircraft rose to $149,900. AOPA’s Jim Moore has looked at the records and found the rumors to be true. It appears Cessna is conducting more test flights and will have something or other to announce regarding the Skycatcher in two or three months. There are 77 sitting in crates somewhere, either China or Independence, Kansas. Cessna has no comment. In the meantime, Flight Design continues to hold the lead in sales of LSAs.