Pilot Briefing

October 1, 1998

Malibu Meridian debuts at Piper

The New Piper Aircraft's new Malibu Meridian turboprop flew for the first time on August 21, 10 days ahead of schedule and only eight days after being introduced to the public at a glitzy rollout event.

The Meridian is Piper's first new airplane in nearly two decades. It is a derivative of the Malibu Mirage, which debuted in 1983 as the Malibu. The Meridian is powered by a 400-shaft-horsepower Pratt & Whitney PT6-42A engine. Most interesting is the new model's avionics panel, which will be outfitted with Garmin products. Among the offerings is the new Garmin GNS 530 (right), which, like the recently introduced Garmin 430, combines in one box a com, VOR, glideslope, localizer, and GPS with a color moving map (see " Pilot Products," p. 183). The 530 is different in that it features a five-inch-diagonal screen; the 430 uses a smaller screen. In addition, engine instrumentation will be on an LCD provided by Meggitt Avionics and will include functionality similar to that found on larger aircraft with engine/instrument crew advisory systems (EICAS). Meggitt will also provide the Meridian's primary flight display. Autopiloting duties aboard the Meridian will be provided by S-Tec's System 550, an enhanced derivative of the company's System 55.

Piper has priced the Meridian at $1.3 million, and the company says that it will be available for delivery by the end of 2000. Company officials promised that the new airplane's speed, cost, and delivery targets are being met. So far, New Piper dealers have commitments on 90 aircraft, which means that the Meridian is sold out through 2001.

Besides the new cowling, major external differences between the piston-powered Mirage and the turboprop Meridian is a 37-percent larger horizontal tail that has been strengthened to accommodate the extra power. In addition, a chord-lengthening glove has been slipped over the leading edge of the wing root area to increase lift enough to allow the Meridian to stall at 61 knots or less for FAA certification purposes. In 1999 Piper plans to build three more prototypes that it will use to finish the certification process.

McCauley Propeller Systems, in cooperation with Executive Wings, has received a supplemental type certificate to install five-blade McCauley Blackmac propellers on Beech King Air B100s. Available exclusively through Executive Wings, the conversion is expected to reduce cabin noise by seven to nine decibels and increase rate of climb. Shorter takeoff rolls and three- to five-knot cruise speed increases are also claimed as benefits. For more information, contact Executive Wings at 800/669-2704.

Five pilots will represent the United States at the World Glider Championships in Niederoblarn, Austria, next summer. They are Charles Kalko, of Green Brook, New Jersey; brothers Bill and John Lumley, from Delray Beach, Florida; Walter Parresch, of River Edge, New Jersey; and Kim Reniska, of Austin, Texas. Pictured are U.S. glider team members (from left): Bill Lumley, Kalko, Reniska, John Lumley, and Parresch.

Wanted: CFIs to train GPS users, earn extra money

Northstar Technologies plans soon to offer all CFIs a unique incentive program, the Professional Northstar GPS Training Team. Besides earning their regular salaries training Northstar customers on the use of the company's GPS products, participating CFIs can earn a commission from Northstar for the sale of new Northstar GPSs.

Interested CFIs must attend one of Northstar's regional training schools; dates and times have not yet been determined. For more information about the program, call Dave Salvador at 800/628-4487 or 978/897-6600; or visit the Web site ( www.northstarcmc.com).

More than 400 Partenavia P68 owners around the world will soon be able to find spare parts again. The bankrupt Italian firm Partenavia has been purchased by another Italian company, VulcanAir. The company plans to establish an office somewhere on the East Coast of the United States soon. In the meantime, VulcanAir can be reached at Via G. Pascoli, 7, 80026 Casoria, Naples, Italy; telephone 39-81-5918237.

Ohio and Michigan aviation firms have combined forces to seek a supplemental type certificate for the Beech King Air 90 approving installation of Garrett TPE331-10 engines. Officials of National Flight Services, located in Toledo, and Murray Aviation in Detroit say that the new engines will increase cruise speed. The STC will also include five-blade McCauley propellers. Cruise speed should be about 290 knots, the firms claim. They have formed a new company, Kilo Alpha 290, under which to seek the STC. The new company was incorporated in Melbourne, Florida, but work will begin at the Ohio and Michigan locations.

Boomerang to enter production

Morrow Aircraft Corporation is planning to put a version of Burt Rutan's Boomerang twin into production. Rutan's lopsided-looking personal transport first appeared at EAA's Oshkosh convention in 1996 and drew quite a response. Since then, Ray Morrow, founder of II Morrow - the successful Salem, Oregon-based avionics manufacturer - has set his sights on certifying a larger, more powerful version of the unique twin.

Powered by two 350-hp Continental TSIO-550s derated to 325 hp for takeoff, Morrow is expecting a 300-knot cruise speed at 75-percent power at 25,000 feet. The engines will be controlled electronically to minimize pilot workload. With a 170-pounder in each of the six seats and fuel for 700 nautical miles, Morrow claims that the production version of the Boomerang will be able to use runways as short as 3,000 feet. Tanks-full range is claimed to be 2,200 miles with VFR reserves.

Rutan's Boomerang design minimizes the amount of adverse-yaw handling problems encountered by conventional twins following the failure of an engine. By bringing the center of thrust of each engine closer together, the Boomerang's single-engine VMC (minimum controllable airspeed) is well below that of the airplane's stall speed. Rutan's Mojave, California-based company, Scaled Composites, will handle the design engineering of the airplane. Scaled Composite's spinoff company, Scaled Technology Works, in Montrose, Colorado, will manufacture the composite components. The airplanes will be assembled in Morrow's Salem, Oregon, facility. Morrow hopes to keep the price of the airplane in the area of that for a new Piper Malibu Mirage or Beech Baron, which is about $800,000.

Morrow's target is for the Boomerang to be a business airplane with a pressurized cabin about the size of a Piper Navajo's. A large door on the right side will be wide enough to accommodate a stretcher for air-ambulance work. II Morrow avionics will probably perform navigation and communication duties aboard the Boomerang.

Morrow hasn't set a certification date yet, but FAA certification has been applied for. The company expects the airplane to be flying at EAA's AirVenture '99 in Oshkosh.

Morrow's proposed Boomerang features forward-swept wings, a large cabin, and twin 325-hp turbocharged Continentals. The unique design is claimed to eliminate VMC.

Another nice try

Businessman Steve Fossett made another spirited attempt to be the first to circumnavigate the world by balloon - this time in the Southern Hemisphere - and set another balloon distance record of 15,200 statute miles in the process.

On this attempt, the balloon was torn apart by winds inside a thunderstorm, and Fossett nearly lost his life before successfully slowing what would have been an unsurvivable descent. Cutting away fuel and oxygen tanks during the last 2,000 feet slowed the vertical descent to the Pacific Ocean to slightly less than 30 mph. Still, Fossett was knocked unconscious briefly by the impact, and has no memory of the capsule's being dragged and beginning to fill with water.

Escaping with an emergency beacon and small life raft, Fossett was able to transmit the exact coordinates of his location to rescuers. He was asleep in a larger life raft that had been airdropped to him, when a rescue ship pulled alongside. Other than cuts on his head and bruises on his back (he reclined on a bench in the capsule to absorb the impact), Fossett was unhurt.

Loss of his equipment means that Fossett will not be ready to make another attempt in December or January, when weather patterns are favorable again.l

The second edition of the Grand Canyon chart has been printed, with a September 10, 1998, effective date. This chart is an update of the 1991 version. It shows updated military training routes, frequencies, operator routes that were incorrect before, airport identifiers, and other routine changes. It does not show any changes to flight-free zones, the SFAR boundary, air tour routes, or other items currently in negotiations by the Park Service, the FAA, Native Americans, and commercial operators. AOPA members can receive discount chart prices by calling 800/424-2787.

Commander Aircraft Company is offering buyers of the Commander 114B and 114TC aircraft a one-stop trade and purchase program. The program provides rapid appraisal and fair market value of trade-in aircraft; assistance with financing and insurance for the new Commander, along with aid in hangaring the aircraft; and transition flight training.

AASI Aircraft's new 200,000-square-foot factory for building the JetCruzer at Long Beach Airport, California, will be ready this fall. Production of the turboprop JetCruzer 500 will begin immediately to work off a backlog of 127 orders, the company said. The workforce will grow by 100 workers, to a total of 250. The company hopes to introduce a long-range twin-engine jet, the StratoCruzer 1250, in a year or two. A prototype of the StratoCruzer was already in development when efforts were switched to the JetCruzer.

Pilot/governor improves airport funding

Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan, a newly minted private pilot, has signed a new law giving an additional $5 million annually to the state's aviation programs. The law transfers jet fuel sales tax revenue from the state's General Revenue Fund to the state's Aviation Trust Fund.

Prior to the new law, annual state funding for Missouri's 113 publicly owned airports totaled $1 million that came from a nine-cent-per-gallon aviation fuel tax and a legislative appropriation.

The legislation was supported by rural communities, the Missouri Pilots Association, and AOPA. Missouri Department of Transportation Administrator Brian Weiler said that many of the state's 50-year-old airports need upgrading to handle today's more sophisticated aircraft.

Other provisions of the bill allow state funding of up to $125,000 for operating costs of existing air traffic control towers at airports that have lost federal funding.

Experiment combines private and instrument training

Algeria Morse appeared at EAA AirVenture '98 as a proud new owner of both a private pilot certificate and an instrument rating. Making this newsworthy is the fact that both were earned at the same time in 99 hours of training under a program sponsored jointly by NASA and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Morse was among the first of 40 students to graduate from the program. She had a special need for training speed: During her second semester she got orders to report for preliminary training necessary for entering the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. Morse's first flight as a pilot was in March. NASA's AGATE program for general aviation contributed books and guidance. Her goal is to graduate from the Naval Academy and become a naval aviator.

Ohio school embraces recreational certificate

At another extreme of the flight-training continuum, Sporty's Academy in Batavia, Ohio, announced a partnership with the University of Cincinnati in which students will graduate with bachelor of business administration degrees after completing preliminary two-year aviation technology coursework. In all, students graduate with four flight certificates/ratings, beginning with a recreational pilot certificate.

Benefits of beginning with a recreational certificate include a shorter, more achievable goal and the fact that a student will have a pilot certificate three months earlier, according to a Sporty's spokesman. The additional cost to a student will be less than $300, he said.

Students in the four-year program will then earn private and commercial certificates and an instrument rating. Those who graduate from the two-year aviation technology program can work as flight instructors for Sporty's Academy while they complete the business administration degree, logging 600 hours of flight time and earning enough to pay for the last two years of college.

For more information on the program, call 513/735-9100, ext. 298. - Michael P. Collins

Sandia Aerospace of Albuquerque, New Mexico, has acquired Hoskins fuel flow systems from BFGoodrich Aerospace. All inventory, test equipment, and STCs for 63 aircraft have been transferred to Sandia. The company expects to begin shipping by the end of October. Sandia was also awarded FAA approval as an instrument repair station, allowing the company to repair and overhaul the full line of Hoskins fuel management systems. For more information, contact Sandia at 505/341-2930.

Lachlan (Mac) Beatson has retired as president of Learjet. Under his leadership Learjet completed certification of the Learjet 45 and delivered the first aircraft to a customer. His duties will be taken over by Jim Ziegler, the vice president and general manager of Aviation Services, Business Aircraft, who will add the title of vice president and general manager of Learjet Operations.

Owners of AlliedSignal Bendix/King KT-76A transponders must comply with airworthiness directive 98-14-03, which requires the replacement of two resistor networks in approximately 20,000 transponders bearing serial numbers 93,000 through 109,999. AlliedSignal is covering the cost of parts, as well as 2.5 hours worth of the labor required to comply with the AD.

AD 98-12-19 applies to Robinson R44 helicopters and will require, within five hours time in service, a dye-penetrant inspection of each main rotor blade skin around both inboard trim tab alignment rivet holes. Repetitive visual inspections of the area are required prior to the first flight of each day or intervals not to exceed five hours, whichever occurs first.

Cessna 180, 182, and 185 airplanes with STCd wing extensions from Air Research Technology are the subject of an AD requiring the inspection of the area between wing stations 90 and 110 for an angle stiffener at the lower wing spar splice. If the angle stiffener is not installed, the AD requires the installation of a reinforcing strap.

Under new rules that allowed the United States to put its best pilots forward and to train better despite tight budgets, the U.S. has had its best results in 20 years of world aerobatic competition. The men's team finished second, while the women's team finished third. In the Olympics-style competition, both teams "medaled." In individual competition, Diane Hakala came in second in women's competition, proving that she has taken from Patty Wagstaff the status of the nation's top female competition pilot. First was taken by former gymnast Svetlana Kapanina, of Russia, who was specifically trained as an aerobatic pilot by her government. Debbie Rihn-Harvey captured eighth, while Ellen Dean, of St. Augustine, Florida, stayed among the top 10 women aerobatic pilots in the world by taking ninth. In men's competition, Matt Chapman captured a medal when he took third place. Kirby Chambliss, who long deserved to be on the team before this year, took fourth. Former U.S. national champion Mike Goulian also remained among the top 10 pilots in the world by taking ninth. American women competitors have long campaigned to compete against the men instead of remaining in the women-only category, but they cannot gain a consensus from other nations to combine the categories.

Sean D. Tucker, AOPA 1132425, an airshow performer and inventor of the "Harrier" - a sideways flight maneuver - has opened the Sean D. Tucker School of Aerobatic Flight in Salinas, California, offering introductory and advanced aerobatic instruction in Aviat Pitts aircraft. Tucker has also been named a Pitts/Husky dealer. See his Web site ( www.poweraerobatics.com) for more information.

Frank Borman, AOPA 924581, former Gemini and Apollo 8 astronaut and airline president now has the title that he probably likes best: Grand Champion warbird owner at the 1998 AirVenture at Oshkosh. He won with a restored Bell P-63A Kingcobra World War II fighter. John Dove, AOPA 711231, won Grand Champion in the classic aircraft category with his Piper PA-12.

Mark A. Vance, AOPA 1373152, has written Flight of the Forgotten, a true story about the mysterious crash of an American Eighth Air Force bomber crew in 1945 while en route home after the end of World War II. The book may be ordered by calling 800/360-4511 or 954/796-0104, on the Internet ( www.pubmart.com), or by writing to Venture Press, 12445 N.W. 10th Court, Coral Springs, Florida 33071.

John T. Lyons, AOPA 1121489, of Herndon, Virginia, died recently at the age of 54, of a pulmonary ailment. Lyons was an award-winning correspondent for ABC Radio who was a London bureau chief in the 1980s and coanchored space shuttle coverage, including that of the Challenger disaster.

Matt Taber, AOPA 1344343, has developed new methods for training hang-glider pilots at his Lookout Mountain Flight Park in Rising Fawn, Georgia. The method involves tandem flights with an instructor to 2,000 feet (pictured above). Later, the student is taught takeoff and landing procedures on a 65-foot-high "bunny hill." For information, call 800/688-5637, or see the Web site ( www.hangglide.com).

The Oklahoma City All Sports Association has discontinued support of Aerospace America, an air show that has been annually staged at Will Rogers World Airport for 13 years. The group cited a $200,000 loss by the show in the past two years, and an additional $100,000 loss this year. Supporters and officials of the show have vowed that it will continue in 1999, perhaps in a different location.

Air BP has launched a six-step program to prevent aircraft misfueling. The program includes dedicated delivery trailers, transport driver training, use of testing equipment and marking decals, sensing valves that prevent jet fuel from entering avgas tanks, special valves on vehicles that prevent avgas trucks from loading jet fuel, and an awareness program called "Don't Assume - Confirm."

Million Air has established an FBO at Salt Lake City Airport II, in West Jordan, Utah.

JetProp LLC, of Spokane, Washington, has received a supplemental type certificate to install a Pratt & Whitney PT-6 engine on the Piper Malibu/Mirage series of aircraft. The company claims that its $589,000 conversion (plus the cost of your airplane) will produce an aircraft able to cruise at 260 kts for about five hours at 27,000 feet. JetProp has contracted with Rocket Engineering, also based in Spokane, to perform the conversions. For information, call 509/535-4401 or see the Web site ( www.jetprop.com).

AlliedSignal Electronic and Avionics Systems has opened a new $40 million world headquarters in Olathe, Kansas. Completion of the 560,000-square-foot facility positions the company for growth while enabling managers to consolidate operations.

An unmanned aircraft has crossed the Atlantic Ocean. Aerosonde, a small $25,000 robotic aircraft built by Environmental Systems and Services of Melbourne, Australia, flew from Newfoundland to Scotland in 26 hours. The 29-pound aircraft has a nine-foot wingspan, and is powered by a one-cylinder, 20-cc engine. It guided itself via GPS along a 1,727-nm course, gathering weather data. The total fuel burn was less than two gallons. It landed exactly where it was supposed to land, at Benbecula military range on the island of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. It is the first unmanned aircraft to cross the Atlantic. To learn more, visit the Web site ( www.bom.gov.au/bmrc/meso/New/aerohome.htm)

Byerly Aviation, an authorized Twin Commander refurbishment center in Peoria, Illinois, has delivered the first Grand Renaissance Shrike Commander to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. The 1974 model 500S Shrike had every part that moves or wears replaced with new or overhauled parts, and also had its lower spar cap replaced to comply with a major spar AD affecting most Twin Commanders. A complete avionics upgrade was also performed. This is the first Shrike to undergo the Grand Renaissance upgrade - a total refurbishment program administered by the Twin Commander Aircraft Corporation. A similar Grand Renaissance program is available for the Garrett-powered Twin Commander turboprop (shown at left). - Thomas A. Horne