What General Aviation Can Look Forward to in 2014

January 2nd, 2014 by Rod Rakic

Kicking off the shiny new year by sharing some things that I’m looking forward to in 2014. What excites me about these developments is their potential to have far-reaching impact on the aviation community and the industry that supports it.

 

ICON A5

A5ICON gets a lot of flack from the traditionalists in the aviation community. But with with first pre-production aircraft on track to be completed in mid-2014, and the first deliveries of production aircraft planned later this year, this is a product  is looking less like vaporware everyday. Partnering up with Cirrus Aircraft (Folks who know a lot of about building composite aircraft) for production seems like such a smart move. Why re-invent production techniques when you’re reinventing the experience of flying for the fun of it?

A modern, clean sheet aircraft design which reimagines what flying for fun can be has a ton of potential. The ICON A5 is product which feels like a mashup of a jet ski and a seaplane to offer something completely new. Team ICON has focused their efforts not on the dwindling traditional aviation community, but on a much broader market for recreational motorsports. Everything ICON does is feel more at home at luxury motorsport dealership, not the stodgy milquetoast spaces we associate with today’s aviation brands.

Ditching the airspeed indicator, for a far more intuitive Angle Of Attack system is a great example of how this is a product designed for folks who aren’t pilots. (Yet.)

No single product I know of has as much potential to suck otherwise unsuspecting “civilians”  into the aviation lifestyle.

 

Cessna 182 Turbo Skylane JT-A

JTAI love this airplane. The new JTA-A even looks better. As the old saying goes, the C-182 Skylane isn’t great at anything, but it’s good at everything. This is product where the world called, and Cessna listened. A proven legacy airframe, is getting a new heart. This bird sips Jet-A.

Bolting a SMA SR305-230 diesel engine and a new cowling onto this workhorse airframe should be a winner. Burning Jet-A gets you 30-to-40-percent lower fuel burn per hour, faster cruise, better climb, and no mixture control to futz with.

Cessna knows the market for newly built light aircraft is overseas, and anything burning avgas is going to have limited utility due to the constraints on 100LL infrastructure around the world. This is the year the market makes the the move to Jet-A.

 

Redhawk 172

RedhawkOn the other end of the spectrum, the folks at Redbird (Folks who have done a great job bringing some great training technology in reach of far more flight schools than ever before.) are taking a different approach. Back in the 1970′s when the manufactures were churning out airframes at a rate that made the efficient to build, they were relatively affordable to buy. The folks at Redbird are essential recycling legacy airframes to make training aircraft affordable again.

With the cost of a newly built 172 often climbing out of the reach of many flight schools, Redbird will start remanufacturing old 172s, stripping them down to the bare metal, and offering 172 Redhawks to the training industry.

They’ll start by hanging Continental‘s Centurion turbo-diesel engine, which sips Jet-A at just 4.5 gallons per hour, (Again, more Jet-A) install Aspen Avionics’ Evolution glass panel in a new interior, and new paint. Everything about the Redhawk will be tuned for the demands of a busy flight school.

Redhawk will be a package solution for flight schools. Including insurance, leasing “power by the hour,” with an innovative lease program through partner Brown Aviation. This could mean that more schools could get better access to more modern equipment. Flight schools will be free to concentrate on finding customers, not financing. The beta program starts in Spring.

 

Mooney is Back

MooneyJust when it seems like the idea of building airplanes designed for personal transportation seems to be going the way of the betamax, Mooney is starting the production lines back up this year.

These are some really nice traveling machines. Simple trainers they are not. They don’t have all the features you find in more modern designs, but if the prices can be kept reasonable, they could be competitive again.

This is a product with a lot of fans. It’s nice to see another option in the marketplace of aircraft well suited to private aviation.

 

Space Tourism

Virgin GalacticStarting in 2014. Folks who bought a ticket will starting climbing aboard rocket ships that will take them into space.

Now I  won’t be able to afford a ride, (for a long while) but then again I probably wouldn’t have been able to afford to buy a ticket on the earliest airlines 100 years ago either. Virgin Galactic will commence sub-orbital hops above the Kármán line, with a view of the curvature of the earth, and some zero G thrown in for good measure.

Sir Branson has compared SpaceShipTwo to the Ford Trimotor of of our time. I’m good with that. Mostly because I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

 

Demo Teams Back In Action

T- BirdsAir shows are the largest outdoor professional sports in North America. These performances and static displays are the backbone of the air show experience. Last year’s sequestration debacle caused the outright cancellation of many air shows around the country.

Now the economic impact aside, the impact to recruiting can be debated other places…

…but the impact on inspiration is clear. The inspiration air shows deliver have a huge impact on aviation, aerospace more broadly, and across the board STEM education is huge.

Nothing delivers the tonnage of inspiration like an air show.

…and if you don’t like air shows, we just can’t be friends.

 

So that’s what I’m looking forward to. How about you? What did I miss? What do you look forward to the most?

Happy New Year everyone. Let’s make it awesome.

 

 

Rod Rakic

Rod Rakic is committed to making aviation work better. He’s the co-founder at OpenAirplane, which is dedicated to making flying safer and more useful. He’s a pioneer in creating interactive experiences for almost 20 years. Rod is a digital strategist, professional pilot, and a user-experience nerd with a mission.

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The opinions expressed by the bloggers do not reflect AOPA’s position on any topic.

  • Phil G

    I can’t see any of this having a significant impact on GA. OpenAirplane is probably the only thing that will. more power to you Rod!

    • http://www.OpenAirplane.com Rod Rakic

      Thank you Phil, you’re too kind.

      I’m stoked that we’ve seen OpenAirplane get the the support that it has from the community. We’re really hoping to make a dent.

      But I also wanted to point out the other developments that at least have the potential to change how we fly in the new year. There’s no one solution, but when you pit some of these things together, maybe we can see positive trends emerge.

  • MikeG

    3rd Class Medical becoming history !!! Now that is what I’m looking forward to for 2014

    • http://www.OpenAirplane.com Rod Rakic

      Mike, I hear ya. I just felt it was too long of a shot to see it become reality in 2014. It’s definitely on my list for 2015!

  • Sean B

    I hadn’t heard about the Redhawk 172, but am very excited about it. I have the Icon A5 shirt (and other swag) and would love it as a step up from our seaplane trainer. This is a great list, and love the Tupper quote at the end. :)

  • Sean B

    FYI, comments on here are showing an occasional “cannot read captcha token file” error.

  • Martin Weiss

    Dear Rod,

    I’m excited about the new FlightDesign C4 coming along in 2014 with possible certification shortly thereafter. Great potential for a true four seat 180 HP 160 knot travel machine from a company and a designer (Tom Peghiny) with a proven track record. Add a parachute and subtract a 3rd class medical and you have a Cirrus for the “restovus” :)

    In fact, if approved and sold, I will sell my SR22 and get one in a heartbeat. 20 knots less cruise but with 8 gallon less per hour fuel burn = a LOT of airplane. And if the price point stays true (mid $250K) a late model SR22 like mine would be an even swap. Don’t get me wrong – I love my Cirrus, but the C4 is attractive to me as I get older and do less business flying and more personal flying. Your thoughts?

    • http://www.OpenAirplane.com Rod Rakic

      Hi Martin,

      Thanks for the heads up on the C4. It looks like a neat airplane. I hadn’t heard of it being certified and avaible for deliver in 2014, but it seesm like a natural next step for them. Kinda like Diamond creating the successful 4 seat DA-40 from the 2 seat DA-20.

      I hope I get to fly one!