May 1, 1999
By Peter A. Bedell
If Michael Rindler's dream comes true, his new company, CarinaStar Shares, will be synonymous with NetJets, Flex Jet, or Raytheon's Travel Air. Like these well-known companies, CarinaStar Shares will specialize in fractional ownership of new airplanes. But instead of a $20 million jet shared four ways among high-rolling execs who sit in back, you can get a quarter share of a brand-new, fully loaded Raytheon Beech A36 Bonanza or Baron 58 to fly yourself.
Rindler, a health care consultant and pilot of 33 years, recognized a need to put pilots into new airplanes for a price less than the cost of a new airplane. "For about the same price as a 25-year-old airplane, we can give a customer 100 hours per year in a new one," he says. With loaded Bonanzas and Barons leaving the factory for $600,000 and $1 million, respectively, aspiring airplane owners can certainly appreciate what Rindler is attempting to do — make new airplanes more affordable.
The cost of a quarter share in a new A36 Bonanza will be $125,000 and the Baron will ring in at $250,000. Rindler believes that a first-class operation, using all-new airplanes for both the shared ownership business and a complementing regional charter operation called CarinaStar Airways, will be well received in the marketplace and will differentiate CarinaStar from traditional ownership options and charter operations. An aggressive equipment turnover plan will make sure that owners and charter passengers are always flying in airplanes no more than five years old. For the charter side of the business this is certainly a change from typical 135 operations, which utilize airplanes frequently older than their pilots.
Twenty-five-year-old A36s and Baron 58s average $134,000 and $170,000, respectively, according to Vref. That price is reflective of airplanes equipped with 1970s-era avionics, mid- time engines, and paint and interior conditions rated seven on a one-to-10 scale. CarinaStar's new airplanes, obviously, will have the latest avionics (including IFR-approved GPS and color radar), new paint and interior, and new engines, thereby boosting overall value to the shareholder.
Maintenance, cleaning, insurance, hangar, and scheduling — ordinarily a bane to owners — will be paid for through a monthly handling charge. CarinaStar believes that the overall cost of ownership will be less expensive than owning a used airplane of similar value because of the lower maintenance costs of new airplanes and volume purchasing. Raytheon offers warranties of varying length for airframe, engine, and avionics. An hourly operating fee will also be assessed; however, that figure and the handling charges won't be determined until later this summer.
The Baron featured on these pages is CarinaStar Airways' first airplane, which will be used as a demonstrator for the fractional program and the first airplane for the charter operation. CarinaStar Airways' FAR Part 135 certificate should be in hand by the end of the summer.
CarinaStar's airplanes won't be ordinary Bonanzas and Barons. Since 1984, when Beech incorporated the 300-horsepower Continental IO-550 and redesigned the instrument panels of the A36 Bonanza and Baron 58, little has been done to the piston line. Today, under the guidance of an energetic director of the piston line, Raytheon is infusing new life into these stalwart designs (see " What's Next for Raytheon's Piston Line?" p. 75). CarinaStar is the launch customer for the forthcoming Jaguar Special Edition Bonanza and Baron. Like the Jaguar edition of the Beech King Air C90B offered last year, the Bonanza and Baron will have specially outfitted interiors and unique paint schemes.
Running on the success of the Jaguar King Air (in which a few extra airplanes had to be produced to meet demand), Raytheon and Jaguar will each enjoy a sort of promotional cross-pollination of their respective products. For Raytheon, it means more than just getting exposure at auto shows. Expect cabin mockups and information to be displayed at horse shows, boat shows, and other places where potential customers abound. For Jaguar, expect to see cars using up space in a Raytheon display at events such as the National Business Aviation Association convention and EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh.
Many of the interior ap-pointments seen in CarinaStar's new Baron will be incorporated into the new Jaguar edition. Although N87RG's seats are the standard Bonanza/Baron seats, they are covered in luxurious ivory-colored leather that will be fitted in the Jaguar airplanes. Seats in the Jaguar airplane will use the same frames but have new cushions tailored to look like those found in the Jaguar Vanden Plas luxury car. N87RG's seats are complemented by leather-covered sidewalls with integrated armrests. Real wood inserts accent the interior decor. Practical folks will appreciate other little touches such as the built-in cup holders (which replace standard ashtrays), pockets that are sewn into the bottom of the front seats for storage of flashlights or charts, and a chart clip that has been added to the right side of the pedestal for storage of checklists or additional charts. To cap off what may be the nicest interior available on a new piston airplane, Raytheon tastefully wrapped the yokes in leather.
On the outside, a special paint scheme has been designed to set the Jaguar airplanes apart from standard Bonanzas and Barons. This paint is a two-stage (base coat/clear coat) paint that provides deeper color, better durability, and easier spot repairs.
After several years of fielding complaints from Ray-theon customers about premature cylinder wear, Continental and Raytheon worked together to raise the quality of engine that powers these top-dollar airplanes. Today, all new Barons and Bonanzas are powered by Continental's Special Edition engines. These engines incorporate many features found in customized examples emerging from specialty overhaul shops like Ultimate Engines or Victor Aviation. Crankcase dowels are now installed to keep the case halves better aligned, and a balanced crankshaft nestles between the halves. Continental has built a special cylinder shop at its Mobile, Alabama, factory to match cylinder exhaust and induction port flow rates to within 5 percent for the Special Edition engines. Intake valves and the induction runners have also been modified to improve airflow. Balancing of the pistons and connecting rods is intended to smooth operation and reduce wear caused by imbalance. Continental, which previously snubbed balanced fuel injectors sold in the field, is now including a set in the Special Edition IO-550s and the TSIO-520, which powers the B36TC turbo-charged Bonanza. According to Raytheon flight test data, these changes have resulted in a reduction of vibration-related squawks from one in six airplanes to one in 138.
On the avionics side, Raytheon has incorporated AlliedSignal's Bendix/King Silver Crown Plus avionics into its 1999 piston line. The newest addition to the stack is the KFC-225 three-axis autopilot, with altitude preselect, vertical speed hold, and built-in altitude alerter. The new autopilot resides high in the instrument panel rather than on the pedestal, as the old KFC-200 did. Raytheon intends to hollow out the area where the old autopilot control head lived and use it for storage of small items and for a GPS data-loading plug.
The autopilot received accolades for smoothness and operation on the flight from the Raytheon factory in Wichita to CarinaStar's Hilton Head, South Carolina, home base. Engine smoothness and power were also notable. The new Baron, even with a full load, turned in true airspeeds as high as 209 knots at a break-in power setting of 23 inches of manifold pressure and 2,500 rpm at 7,000 feet. If the airspeed indicator is correct, that is almost 10 knots better than book figures. After clouds nudged us up to 9,000 feet, N87RG still sped along at 196 knots at a more realistic 65-percent power (21.5 inches and 2,300 rpm). Interior noise level, measured with a portable decibel meter, was a quiet 83 dBA in the center seat area, although the cockpit area registered 91 dBA — a typical figure for Barons. The new soundproofing Beech plans for the Jaguar airplanes appears to work well in the rear of the airplane.
N87RG has spent many hours since delivery strutting this kind of performance to potential fractional owners in the Hilton Head area. Rindler hopes to attract nonpilots from the area to the shared ownership program by flying them on CarinaStar Airways. It is hoped that after a flight or two, these nonpilots will be smitten by the operation and in-spired to buy a share and learn to fly.
Since the network of airplanes will be limited at first, CarinaStar Shares will be confined to the area in and around Hilton Head. The first Jaguar A36 Bonanza has been ordered and is expected to be delivered by the end of the year. As more airplanes and owners come aboard, the business will likely expand to encompass the entire southeastern United States. When schedule conflicts arise N87RG will stand in as a reliever airplane for the fractional airplanes. CarinaStar's Web site will contain a program designed to make scheduling convenient and easy.
Besides hoping that the shared ownership concept enjoys as much success as it has for the corporate jet set, Rindler hopes that CarinaStar Shares will raise the caliber of owner-pilots. Minimum training standards and mandatory currency requirements from a company such as FlightSafety International or SimCom will have to be met by the pilots. Those not meeting the standards will be able to fly with one of the charter company's professional pilots until they're up to speed. In the beginning, those pilots will fly with Chief Pilot Brion Gluck, an experienced charter pilot and ATP with more than 9,000 hours of flight time. Gluck is CarinaStar's first employee and is responsible for setting up the charter side of the business. Training is included in the price of the share, and the airplanes will be identically equipped in order to ease transition. Pilots switching from one airplane to another won't have to learn anything different except the correct N number of the airplane being flown.
CarinaStar's overall goal is to offer a turnkey service allowing pilots to experience the joy of flying without having to sell the farm to buy a new airplane. Will it work using piston airplanes in a limited region? Time will tell. CarinaStar's plan is modeled after Raytheon's Travel Air fractional ownership program. In fact, Raytheon offered key support to Rindler's concept by providing ideas and insight that just may be the key to CarinaStar's success.
For more information about CarinaStar, telephone 843/689-2936 or visit the Web site ( www.carinastar.com). Links to all Web sites referenced in this issue can be found on AOPA Online ( www.aopa.org/pilot/links/links9905.shtml).
For more information, contact Raytheon Aircraft Company, Post Office Box 85, Wichita, Kansas, 67201, 316/676-7111; or visit the Web site ( www.raytheon.com/rac/).
All specifications are based on manufacturer's calculations. All performance figures are based on standard day, standard atmosphere, sea level, gross weight conditions unless otherwise noted.
As director of the piston business unit, Steve Young has the unenviable job of modernizing Raytheon's Beech piston airplanes without compromising production-line efficiency. Young, a former Naval flight officer, has been flying for 22 years and has spent the last two years in his current position. Young has heard the complaints that come in to Raytheon from owners, and he has plans to do something about them.
"A common complaint is the fit of the main cabin door," said Young. "We have a new jig that enables workers to assemble the entire canopy section [upper fuselage] in one step. Not only will this improve the fit of the door, since it no longer has to be removed and placed in a new jig; it will also shave four to five hours off the time it takes to build a Bonanza or Baron. We'll also use new precision tooling to reduce variability in the fitting of cabin doors and cowlings." Young also plans to improve the door handles on both the cabin and cargo doors. "A handle similar to that found on the Pressurized Baron will ease operation, while improving durability and security."
Complaints about the durability of the Continental powerplants have been addressed in the new Special Edition engines, said Young. "TCM is responding. Top Care is a good program and has curtailed the cylinder problems."
Young is also excited about the new standby alternator to be used in the piston airplanes. This mini-alternator supplies 20 amps of power compared to the 6.5 amps provided by the old standby generator. The little alternator will have enough oomph to run nearly all of the radios and panel lights. It's also lighter than the old unit and is expected to have a life up to four times longer.
Raytheon is investigating possible future use of full-authority digital engine control (FADEC) technology, which is currently under development by Continental and Aerosance.
Starting this year, all Bonanzas and Barons will come fully equipped. The only options are air conditioning, long-range fuel tanks (Baron), UltraSuede headliner, and a Mode-S transponder. "Having all airplanes equipped identically reduces labor costs through build time and commonality," said Young. This thinking is further evidenced by Raytheon's decision to equip the piston airplanes with Hartzell propellers. Every other propeller-driven airplane built by Raytheon uses Hartzell props, eliminating the need for two vendors.
On the avionics side, Raytheon plays conservatively. The company waited a few years before installing the AlliedSignal Bendix/King Silver Crown Plus avionics in its airplanes. This allowed other manufacturers to work out the kinks in the new radios. As a result, Young says that he's extremely pleased with the new radios and their marriage into the airplanes.
"We could chase Garmin, but who knows what would come next?" said Young. Standing on this long-lasting relationship with AlliedSignal, Young has set his sights on the next step, which he believes will be flat-panel technology. Raytheon has been active in creating futuristic cockpit displays through NASA and the industry's joint effort, the Advanced General Aviation Transport Experiments (AGATE) program. Equipment is currently being tested in a Beech F33A Bonanza.
Other projects include a new Bonanza landing light system to curtail bulb-life complaints; conversion of the right-hand emergency exit window to a fixed window, thus reducing weight and complexity on an airplane that already has several large doors on the right side for emergency egress; improved engine mounts to reduce vibration; new sound insulation to reduce cabin noise; a new windshield retaining system that can be screwed in rather than riveted; and a new heated windshield system for the Baron that will eliminate trapped-moisture problems.
Young's list is growing. At the rate he's moving, more changes will be made to the Beech piston airplanes in the next few years than have been made since 1984. With Steve Young at the helm, nobody can say that Beech has lost touch with the piston market. — PAB
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