Pilot Briefing

January 1, 2008

A fast-food solution

Entrepreneur Douglas Rodante sees—or smells, rather—a bright future for jets flying on more Earth-friendly plant-based fuels. On October 1, he and Chief Pilot Carol Sugars made the first jet flight fueled by 100 percent biodiesel. They took a Czechoslovakian-built L–29 aircraft on a 37-minute test-flight at altitudes up to 17,000 feet the following day. The aircraft, which is rated to run on a variety of fuels, including heating oil, required no modifications to run on biodiesel. They used recycled restaurant vegetable oil that had been treated with an additive to remove the carbon chains. Rodante had planned to make a cross-country flight from Nevada to Florida in November, but it has been delayed. Rodante and Sugars hope to modify a Learjet to make a high-altitude round-the-world flight next year. The test program is being conducted by Green Flight International and Biodiesel Solutions.

Market weakens slightly for piston manufacturers

Piston-engine aircraft sales were down slightly for the third quarter of 2007, but manufacturers remain optimistic.

Shipments of piston airplanes manufactured worldwide decreased by 6 percent, going from 1,975 for the third quarter of 2006 to 1,857 shipments in the same period last year. Turboprop shipments, however, were up by 14.5 percent, and jet shipments saw a 20.9-percent increase, according to figures released by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA). “This is the third consecutive quarter where growth in the piston market has wavered. We are encouraged, however, by the industry’s commitment to strengthening this segment with the introduction of products that will bring new pilots and new customers into this market,” said GAMA President and Chief Executive Officer Pete Bunce. “The good news is that our manufacturers in this segment have not reported a noticeable decline in interest in the piston market.”

Cessna Aircraft shipped the most single-engine airplanes with 507 when combining the 172 Skyhawk, 182 Skylane, and 206 Stationair lines. Cirrus Design, however, shipped the most four-seaters with 461. Diamond isn’t far behind with 356 shipments for its two- and four-seat models.

Columbia Aircraft shipped 131, followed by Hawker Beechcraft with 81; Mooney Airplane, 59; American Champion, 50; Eclipse Aviation, 48; Maule Air, 30; and Liberty Aerospace with 28.

UAV refueling simulated above Lake Ontario

A highly modified Learjet operated by Calspan Corporation of Niagara Falls, New York, has demonstrated unmanned air vehicle refueling behind a Boeing KC–135R tanker aircraft under sponsorship of the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory. Flown by computers during the test, the Learjet approached the tanker, joined in formation, and moved to several positions required during aerial refueling. The aircraft then performed a computer-controlled breakaway maneuver after simulated refueling was complete. The Learjet is flown by pilots during takeoff and landing. —Alton K. Marsh

What’s in AOPA Flight Training this month?

  • Scanning the Glass: Getting an instrument rating in a glass-cockpit airplane? Our four-step system breaks down the scan you’ll need.
  • Just the Facts: When listening to ATC’s barrage of instructions or a lengthy AWOS, be alert for the words that convey what you must know.
  • When Should You Cancel a Flight? Canceled flights are part of life, but don’t ground yourself for no good reason.

The January issue mailed on November 28. Current AOPA members can add a subscription to AOPA Flight Training for $18 per year. For more information call 800-872-2672.

PS Engineering teams with L-3 on Smart Deck

Audio panel and entertainment system manufacturer PS Engineering has teamed up with L-3 on the latter's new SmartDeck glass cockpit system (see "On Display:

L3 Communications Avionics Systems SmartDeck," December 2007 Pilot). The PMA8000L-3 is a derivate of the company's popular audio panel series.

The unit is redesigned to incorporate into L-3's visual design philosophy, and features things you would expect from PS Engineering. In addition to IntelliVOX squelch control, entertainment inputs, and dual transmit split audio capability, the unit also sends notification to L-3's primary flight display to alert the pilot to marker beacon passage.

To learn more about the SmartDeck, see our December feature online, including a slide show of the system at work ( www.aopa.org/smartdeck).       —Ian J. Twombly

AOPA ePilot Headlines

Recent news from AOPA’s weekly e-mail newsletter

Team plans long solar flight

Now under construction in Switzerland is a four-motor aircraft destined to serve as the prototype for a fragile piloted airplane that will circle the globe on solar power alone.

Mangold takes Red Bull crown

American Mike Mangold’s first-place win in the 2007 Red Bull Air Race World Series was hailed as “a spectacular triumph” and “an improbable comeback” by race officials.

Tigers to be built in Georgia

Tiger Aircraft, which went bankrupt and closed its Martinsburg, West Virginia, facility, is now under new ownership and will rise again as True Flight Aerospace to build the AG5B Tiger, formerly the Grumman Tiger, in Valdosta, Georgia.

Eclipse adjusts work force

With production levels of the Eclipse 500 lower than anticipated, Eclipse Aviation has reduced its work force. The company had staffed for a production rate higher than the one aircraft a day it has been able to achieve so far.

Excel-Jet seeks justice

Excel-Jet has filed a lawsuit against the FAA in an effort to clear its prototype airplane as well as its test pilots of any fault regarding a 2006 crash.

Now you can receive a customized version of the free AOPA ePilot e-mail newsletter tailored to your interests. To customize your weekly newsletter, see AOPA Online ( www.aopa.org/apps/epilot).

Cessna wins Columbia bid

Cessna Aircraft will acquire the assets of Columbia Aircraft of Bend, Oregon, following a successful bid for the firm in U.S. bankruptcy court on November 27. Cessna says it wants to “broaden its single-engine product portfolio.”

Cessna’s winning bid was $26.4 million, but the transaction was not scheduled to be completed until December 4. Cessna officials said Columbia will take on the Cessna name, and the dual-turbocharged 310-horsepower Columbia 400 will become the Cessna 400, while the normally aspirated 310-horsepower Columbia 350 will be named the Cessna 350. Both use the Continental 550 engine.

Cessna plans to make “significant” investments in the Oregon facility, which will become one of Cessna’s six manufacturing facilities. Former Columbia aircraft will be supported by the Cessna service centers and Cessna parts distribution. Cessna plans to contact current owners.

“It only makes sense that we fully embrace these two new aircraft and their owners as members of the Cessna family,” said Cessna Chairman, President, and CEO Jack J. Pelton.

Eclipse launches computerized safety program

Eclipse Aviation recently received FAA approval of its Flight Operational Quality Assurance (FOQA) program. FOQA uses flight data monitoring capabilities built into the Eclipse 500 very light jet to help the manufacturer proactively assess and correct high-risk operating conditions before they cause an accident.

FOQA is a commonly used tool in the airline industry, but Eclipse is the only GA aircraft manufacturer to deploy such a system. Operational and system data is downloaded from Eclipse 500s during maintenance procedures and sent to the company. At Eclipse, the data is blended with other data from the rest of the fleet and then analyzed by sophisticated software to determine any dangerous trends.

The resulting information can be used to improve aircraft systems, pilot training courses, and flight manuals. No identifying information is included, so individual pilots and operators should not feel threatened, Chris Solan, Eclipse’s manager of flight safety, told AOPA.

Since certification of the airplane late in 2006, Eclipse has delivered about 75 airplanes, but continues to struggle to build airplanes at a rate that allows the company to become profitable. Chief Executive Officer Vern Raburn has said the company needs to manufacture about 600 airplanes a year to reach a profitable threshold. —Thomas B. Haines

Members in the News

Hal Shevers, AOPA 183872, founder and chairman of Sporty’s Pilot Shop and Sporty’s Flight Academy, was inducted into the Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA) Flight Instructors Hall of Fame in Oshkosh on November 9, 2007. A longtime supporter of AOPA, Shevers has been a member of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation’s Board of Visitors since 1990 and is a member of the AOPA President’s Council. He supports Aviation Exploring and EAA youth activities, and in March 2007 he created the Sporty’s Foundation to help educate young people about the excitement and life-enhancing potential of general aviation.

Wilson “Connie” Edwards, AOPA 98373, also was inducted into EAA’s Sport Aviation Halls of Fame for the Warbirds of America category.

Evelyn Bryan Johnson, AOPA 33508, has 57,635.4 hours of flight time and is often called “Mama Bird” because she has logged more hours than any other woman. Johnson, who turned 98 on November 4, 2007, was honored with the Katherine and Marjorie Stinson Award from the National Aeronautic Association for her contribution and dedication to aviation. That dedication to flying was evident from the start: She traveled by car, train, bus, and boat to reach her first flying lesson.