Al Marsh Archive

Jackie Chan appears in Embraer video

Friday, May 31st, 2013

Embraer is so proud of its $18.4 million Legacy 500 business jet that it made a six-minute Hollywood-style promotional video to promote it. If you want to make big bucks you gotta spend big. Apparently the Mach 0.82 Legacy 500 can travel through space (not) and carries a bluish glow that could be from re-entry (not). It can carry eight passengers 2,800 nm or four passengers for 3,000 nm. On shorter flights it can carry 12 passengers.

Barnstormer sets off to grow general aviation

Friday, May 31st, 2013

Sarah Wilson will join with the B-29 bomber Fifi this summer on a national tour. Her goal is to use the original Stearman Speedmail that promoted a wildly successful radio show in the 1930s, “The Flying Adventures of Jimmie Allen,” to interest another generation of youth in aviation. The show, sponsored by an oil company, started a youth club called the Jimmie Allen Flying Club and attracted a million kids. Here’s a schedule of where she will appear. Chalres Lindbergh flew the 1929 Stearman on April 2, 1930 (scroll halfway down this Facebook page).

The coolest airplane I’ve ever seen

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

90FK Lightplanes, one of the top small-aircraft manufacturers in Europe, has designed a FK51 70-percent replica of the famous P-51 Mustang using whimsy, a passion for flying, and a sense of humor. It weighs only 1,000 pounds (a limit for ultralights in Europe), has retractable landing gear (can’t do that in the American light sport aircraft world), and three very special details. You can see a video about it with designer Peter Funk of South Africa on

Detail one: the carbon-fiber airplane has 100,000 simulated rivets and screw heads in its molds, meaning the airplane appears to be made of metal. Detail two: when the pilot starts the aircraft, a sound system is automatically triggered playing a recording of the Merlin engine used by the real Mustang. The speaker is on the lower cowl disguised as a cooling vent. Detail three: puffs of smoke emerge from the fake exhaust stacks to add to the impression that this is almost the real thing.

Its aerobatic as heck, capable of plus 8 Gs and minus 4 Gs. Here are some details from the FK Web site. So when can you buy this $130,000 aircraft? You can’t yet. In July final testing and approval will be done in Europe, with deliveries in late summer. Then FK Lightplanes, headquartered in Poland with a branch in Germany, will go to work making the airplane with fixed gear to comply with the American light sport rules, getting rid of the adjustable prop because it also isn’t allowed on light sport aircraft, and getting ASTM approval so it can be sold as a S-LSA light sport aircraft.

Dan Johnson, head of the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association and owner of the bydanjohnson Web site, reports on this and other models displayed at Aero, the main airshow in Europe for lightweight aircraft. Check his May 8 story.

Wingsuit jumper aims for rock wall

Saturday, May 25th, 2013

Granted, there was a small opening in the rocks, but does that make this safe? Looks like Alexander Polli used up one of his nine lives.

Cessna lays off workers

Saturday, May 25th, 2013

Local Wichita television station KAKE reports the layoffs announced this week by Cessna Aircraft total 100 workers. Cessna had not announced totals. The layoffs come in addition to a voluntary retirement program announced earlier this year. Cessna lost $8 million in the first quarter, causing parent company Textron officials to reduce their earnings forecast. A loss is expected in the second quarter too, but profitable quarters are expected to resume late in the year when deliveries of the upgraded Sovereign jet begin.

Cessna small-jet line not suspended

Saturday, May 25th, 2013

Cessna Aircraft CEO Scott Ernest told reporters at EBACE, a corporate jet show in Geneva, Switzerland, that the production line for its smallest jets was never suspended. It is still going, but slowly, and just how that slowness was achieved was never explained. The small jet market is terrible right now and Cessna was getting pressure to lower prices below the profit level. Confusion came when parent company Textron’s CEO, Scott Donnelly, said during a phone call with stock analysts that the smaller jets like the CitationJet and Mustang would be built to a good stopping point, and then the company would “stop production” on the models. I reported the line would be paused because Donnelly implied that production would be resumed at some point. Then Cessna officials called, wanting to know where I got such an erroneous impression. So, I played Textron’s own recording of Donnelly over the phone and stopped it just after Donnelly said, “…stop production.” “What does ‘stop production’ mean?” I asked. I was told, “We’ll call you back.” I got a statement in a phone call a few minutes later that any comment as to how “slowness” is achieved “was speculation.” I asked if that meant Donnelly was guilty of speculation, but didn’t get an answer to that question, either. So, if you looked at the small-jet production line, would everyone be moving in slow motion? That’s speculation.

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.