Al Marsh Archive

Amazingly short takeoffs and landings

Friday, May 17th, 2013

The 2013 Valdez, Alaska Short Takeoff and Landing competition is over for another year. This is the way legends are made. Enjoy this YouTube video.

Bizjet market finally reaches bottom? New models entering the market

Friday, May 17th, 2013

It’s not a competition you want to have. Corporate Jet Investor has looked at the data and concluded that, compared to 2012, jet deliveries will be down and 2013 will enter history as the worst since 2004. The General Aviation Manufacturers Association looked at the same data and concluded that 2012 was the worst year. Both surveys point to the fact that it can only get better from here. Corporate Jet Investor’s Alasdair Whyte notes that past news stories from EBACE, a jet show starting May 21 in Geneva, Switzerland, have reported a turnaround in the economy every year since 2009. In 2008 a show-news story even said the good times were here to stay. “Rather than pretending that everything is great, we should be honest and say that the market is still tough. Most companies have adapted to this new world. Life goes on. We are, hopefully, at the turning point for the global market now. But as the stories above show, you cannot hype your way out of a downturn,” Whyte said. His company forecast says manufacturers will deliver 44 percent fewer aircraft in 2013 than in 2008. While the light jet market is “suffering badly,” large aircraft deliveries are down, too. “Learjet prices are falling,” the report adds. Speculation not found in the report is that Beechcraft deeply discounted its remaining Hawker jets before selling them all. Beechcraft may sell off its jet business this summer.

On an upbeat note, here are new jets coming down the line:

Bombardier is offering its Learjet 70, 75, and 85 models this year along with the Global 7000 in 2014 and the Global 8000 in 2018.

Bombardier has announced the Challenger 350. Startup customer is NetJets in 2014.

Embraer’s Legacy 500, a competitor of the Challenger 300, will appear in public for the first time at EBACE this week with deliveries starting next year. The Legacy 450 will be delivered in 2015.

Pilatus has announced its PC-24 jet.

Nextant Aerospace is upgrading its Nextant 400XT (based on the Hawker 400) to the 400XTi. The company captured the early lead in a race with Beechcraft to modernize the Hawker 400 fleet after the former Hawker Beechcraft delayed its modificaton program six weeks due to cash-flow problems. The upgrade includes two 3,050-lbst Williams FJ44-3AP engines. The choice of engines is a heatedly contested argument between Nextant and Beechcraft.

While Beechcraft has no jets coming down the soon-to-be-sold jet line, upgrades to the Hawker 400XPR continue. Winglets developed  at Sierra Industries will be certified in the fall and made available for installation at Beechcraft service centers. Originally, certification of the winglets was expected in January 2013 with deliveries in February. The 400XPR also includes conversion to 3,200-pound-thrust Williams FJ44-4A-32 engines.

Cessna is coming out this year with its M2, the new profit-saving (Cessna-saving?) Sovereign, the new Citation X, and in the first quarter of 2014, the first flight of the Latitude with certification in 2015. The Mach 0.86 Longitude (Cessna’s biggest jet for the next five years) will enter service in 2017. A single-engine turboprop is still in testing, still not ready for public announcement. The SMA diesel-powered piston-engine Skylane JT-A will be certified in June.

Dassault announced the super-midsize Falcon 2000S and 2000LXS.

Gulfstream is working on a replacement for the G450/550 mysteriously code-named the P42. The Gulfstream 650 is making its first appearance at EBACE.

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.