Pilot Briefing

October 1, 2009

Economic recovery at least a year off

To those of you looking for signs of economic recovery, just wait. You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet, literally. Top aerospace industry analyst Richard Aboulafia and Cessna Aircraft Company CEO and President Jack Pelton both agree it is years off. Aboulafia predicts we are halfway through a three-year process, while Pelton predicts it could even be a four- or five-year process.

Pelton said recovery could take place after corporations that are customers for business jets return to profitability. That could start by late 2010, and may extend into 2013.

Aboulafia said he “very strongly agrees” with Pelton. “We’re halfway through a three-year process,” Aboulafia said. He is vice president for analysis with the Teal Group.

Aboulafia said the quarterly delivery results provide little in the way of an economic health indicator. “Delivery reports are the ultimate lagging indicator,” he noted. Pelton said quarterly reports would continue to show depressed deliveries well into 2010.

Aboulafia said indications now are that the economy is not dropping as steeply as it once did. He added that the economy suffered a similar drop in 2001, when the stock market lost one-third of its value, but grew back strongly for five years using “cheap cash” such as that found in the subprime mortgage industry. This time around, the world is paying the price for the “cheap cash.” On a positive note, Aboulafia noted lots of economic stimulus is cash making its way into the world economy.

Telluride’s runway a swayback no more

In 2008 and all the years before that, Telluride Regional Airport’s runway in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains was visibly lower in the center than on either end, and it gave pilots fits, mostly on takeoff. No more. Construction crews have worked most of the year to flatten the runway.

Airport Manager Rich Nuttall said the reconstructed runway (it has only one) is ready for paving. “The west end of the runway came down 30 feet, the east end went down 14 feet, and the center was raised 14 feet,” Nuttall said. It is scheduled to reopen not later than November 3, well ahead of the ski season.

For a spectacular shot of the runway as it once was, see “Landing on the Mesa” in the February 2009 AOPA Pilot.

Historic wind tunnel to be dismantled

A wind tunnel at NASA Langley Research Center near Hampton, Virginia, once used to test the Mercury space capsule, will be dismantled this fall. Built in mid-1930, it was named a National Historic Landmark in 1985.

NASA stopped using the 30-foot by 60-foot wind tunnel in 1995 and allowed Old Dominion University’s Batten College of Engineering and Technology to operate the wind tunnel, officially known as the Langley Full-Scale Tunnel, from August 1997 to August 2009. In addition to testing the Mercury capsule used for Earth orbital flights, it tested World War II aircraft, a model of the dirigible USS Akron—and, in 1950, an Albacore submarine, at the time the fastest sub in the sea. The lifting body (intended as a space-return vehicle), a model of the nation’s supersonic transport (cancelled before it could fly), and general aviation aircraft also were tested in the tunnel. In 2003, it was used to test a full-scale replica of the Wright Flyer built to celebrate the 100th anniversary of flight.

NASA officials were unable to operate the wind tunnel as a museum since it is on a secure military base, but the biggest deterrent to saving it was the fact that it is near the water and has flooded during past storms. Its 35-foot wooden fan blades could once drive air through the 434-foot-long tunnel at 120 mph, but its performance has deteriorated to 80 mph.

NASA Langley’s 14-foot by 22-foot tunnel has been the replacement for the Full-Scale Tunnel since NASA stopped using it in 1995. In addition, an even larger testing capability (40 feet by 80 feet) is located at NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California. Other, smaller tunnels are also potentially available.

Oshkosh debuts unique Yuneec

A new company based in Shanghai called Yuneec (pronounced unique) brought its two-place electric airplane to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh. The $90,000 aircraft, with enough battery power to fly 1.5 hours, will begin deliveries in late 2010 if development goes well.

Yuneec’s parent company has expertise in electric motors, and has built hundreds of thousands of radio-controlled electric aircraft models. Two battery packs are available for the Yuneec e430; one will allow the aircraft to fly for 2.5 hours, but only the pack lasting 1.5 hours will initially be offered to the public.

While the e430 isn’t quite ready, another model is ready for consumers. Sales and marketing are conducted from England by Clive Coote. Coote said the company is ready to ship $9,000 paragliders powered by an electric motor built by Yuneec.

The e430 is powered by a 40Kw (54-horsepower) brushless electric motor system using three specially produced lithium polymer battery packs.

An electrically powered ultralight built by Flight Design, the e-Spyder, is powered by a Yuneec motor. In addition, Flight Design is working on a hybrid gas/electric power system for its CT line of aircraft, the top-selling light sport aircraft in the United States.

FAA certifies Austro diesel engine

The Austro diesel engine, rushed to completion by Diamond Aircraft and Austro Engine when Diamond’s previous diesel-engine supplier Thielert went bankrupt, has won FAA certification. It came six months after approval was granted in Europe.

The 170-horsepower Austro AE300 diesel engine’s approval cleared the way for FAA approval under a reciprocal agreement of the Diamond DA42 NG twin’s type certificate. Diamond can also install AE300 engines on earlier DA42 aircraft.

Austro developed the engine in collaboration with MB Technology (Mercedes Benz) and Bosch General Aviation Technology. It uses a single-lever engine control and FADEC (full authority digital engine controls). Diamond displayed a DA42 with Austro engines during the recent EAA AirVenture 2009. It flew from Diamond’s Austrian facility averaging a fuel burn of 5.6 gph per engine at 65-percent power, getting 155 KTAS at 14,000 feet.

Look for the LAMA label

Based on a union television commercial years ago, the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association (LAMA) has begun a seal of approval program to guide consumers in the purchase of a light sport aircraft.

The process extends not only to the aircraft itself, but also to the availability of parts and repair facilities. Horror stories circulating in the industry show that some aircraft had to be returned to manufacturers in Europe for repair, something the insurance companies say they can’t afford. The majority of light sport aircraft sold in the United States are made overseas. Only American Legend’s Legend Cub and the CubCrafters Sport Cub, both listed as among the 10 best-selling LSAs, are made start to finish in the United States.

The LAMA label program has the endorsement of Avemco Insurance. “We believe that the LAMA approval process will improve the insurability of special light sport aircraft,” said Michael J. Adams, Avemco vice president for underwriting. The LAMA approval will address several concerns of interest to Avemco, including parts costs, the availability of repair shops, and adequate and appropriate pilot transition training.

Tecnam builds a Rotax-powered twin

Tecnam now offers a twin-engine Rotax-powered P2006T at a base price of $409,000 with analog instruments, or $469,000 with the Garmin G950 glass cockpit suite. Once fees are added for importing the aircraft from Italy the total price becomes $500,000.

The aircraft was designed by 85-year-old Luigi Pascale, who designed the twin-engine Partenavia, now marketed as the Vulcanair. The P2006T looks very much like the Vulcanair. The fuel burn is 10 gph, total (5 gph per engine).

The Garmin G950 is making its first appearance as the avionics suite for the P2006T. Other aircraft using the G950 system will be announced in the future. The G950 can be adapted to several models of autopilots.

Al Marsh

Alton K. Marsh | "AOPA Pilot" Senior Editor, AOPA

AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.