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Pilot Briefing

75 years of Beechcraft Seventy-five years of history in any industry is a milestone—in general aviation, it's nearly the entire lifespan. Although other aircraft companies in Wichita have been around longer, Hawker Beechcraft Corporation knew it had an opportunity to pull out all the stops for its diamond jubilee, to make this one really count.

75 years of Beechcraft

Seventy-five years of history in any industry is a milestone—in general aviation, it's nearly the entire lifespan. Although other aircraft companies in Wichita have been around longer, Hawker Beechcraft Corporation knew it had an opportunity to pull out all the stops for its diamond jubilee, to make this one really count. And it succeeded.

For one long weekend, Hawker Beechcraft, the current iteration of Walter Beech's company, founded in 1932, invited pilots and aircraft owners to join its employees in a celebration hosted in cooperation with the American Bonanza Society's annual convention (ABS is the type club for the Beechcraft Bonanza and other Beech aircraft). The true highlight of the event: Beech Factory Field opened up to all comers on Saturday, September 8—the airport has been home to Beechcraft since 1934, when Walter Beech moved his nascent namesake company from a small corner of the Cessna plant to the former Travel Air factory. Travel Air, of course, was the company founded by Clyde Cessna, Lloyd Stearman, and Beech in 1925. During the 2007 Open House, the public could walk in and stroll through much of the plant buildings, including Plant II, the original factory site, where Bonanzas and Barons are still produced, and Plant III, where composite fuselages for the Premier IA and Hawker 4000 come together and are baked in giant ovens.

Out in one of the huge parking lots surrounding the field, Hawker Beechcraft hosted Family Fest, featuring the Sons of Beech rock band, and a free lunch and rides for the kids. From the employees cheerfully serving hot dogs for hours on end, to the 350 Beechcraft owners who flew in from all corners of the country for the event, the pride was pervasive. Here's to another 75 years.— Julie K. Boatman

View a video of the annual Beech fly-in, held earlier this year, on AOPA Pilot Online.

The power of 12

Comp Air, the composite kitplane manufacturer, is continuing work on its recently announced Comp Air 12. The 12 is a single-engine turboprop powered by a Honeywell TPE331-14GR engine rated at 1,650 horsepower. According to Comp Air, the 10-seater (including the two seats up front) is expected to cruise at 310 knots at 29,000 feet and climb at 2,800 feet per minute at gross weight. Range is expected to be 2,535 nautical miles burning 71 gallons per hour. A prototype is already flying and certification is expected in the first quarter of 2010. Price is expected to be $2.95 million.— Ian J. Twombly

GA helps protect environment

General aviation may have played a role in keeping that glass of water you drank earlier today fresh and toxin free. NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are using a Learjet equipped with special high-resolution cameras to track algae blooms in lakes Erie and Huron. The blooms can cause foul-tasting water and release toxins that can make humans and animals sick. NASA said the blooms in the Great Lakes cause concern because they provide water to 40 million people. Using an aircraft allows researchers to quickly spot areas with "suspicious bloom" and direct boats to collect water samples. Last year, a T-34 conducted the missions. Researchers hope aerial imaging will help predict areas of harmful algal blooms and give advance warning to city water plants and beaches.— Alyssa J. Miller


Rod Machado, columnist for AOPA Pilot and an AOPA Flight Training contributing editor, has just released his latest book, Rod Machado's Instrument Pilot's Handbook. In the tradition of his other instructional manuals, which include the hugely popular Rod Machado's Private Pilot Handbook, the 624-page volume includes more than 1,400 illustrations and pictures. "My goal was to make learning about instrument flying fun, personal, and complete," Machado said. Among the topics he covers: aviation decision-making skills; analog and glass cockpit instruments; a step-by-step look at the planning of an actual instrument cross-country flight; and techniques and tips for flying all types of instrument approaches. The book sells for $59.95 or call 800-437-7080.

AOPA Pilot 2007 General Aviation Photography Contest
A Cub and frozen trees wins August photo contest

Put together Alaska's majestic scenery and a pretty Piper Cub, and voila, you've got the ingredients for the August "Photo of the Month" in the AOPA Pilot 2007 General Aviation Photography Contest. AOPA members couldn't help but fall in love with Erika Bennett's picture of the Piper PA-11 taken in early December 2006 over Alaska's Talkeetna area. Bennett chose a spectacular moment when the sun was just on the horizon and the angle just right to offset her yellow Cub against the hoarfrost that had built up on the trees overnight. See a larger image and other monthly winners on AOPA Online.

What's in AOPA Flight Training this month?

  • Stick Shtick. Switching from a yoke to a stick, and why it's not rocket science.
  • Balancing Act. Keep these basics of instrument interpretation running through the back of your mind.
  • What's in a Name? If you know how runways are named, you'll know what the runway number tells you—and what it might not.

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


Compiled by AOPA Pilot Staff

Business jet market busting ahead

Manufacturers conducted three days of nonstop press conferences at the National Business Aviation Association convention in Atlanta in September. AOPA Pilot Editor in Chief Tom Haines, Editor at Large Tom Horne, and Senior Editor Al Marsh found that jet orders are well ahead of the production capacity needed to fill them.

Can't build them fast enough

Adam Aircraft is ramping up production of the A500 centerline piston twin while completing certification of the A700 jet. The goal for early 2008 is a production rate of three A500s per month—an effort to work off a backlog of 400 combined orders for the two models. The second conforming A700 jet made its first flight in late August. Company officials aren't saying when the A700 will be certified, but it is expected sometime in 2008. Meanwhile, Adam has signed a 10-year training contract with Saferjett to provide customer training in the two models.

An $11 billion order backlog is apparently enough for Cessna Aircraft to consider an acquisition, such as Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing. Cessna has signed a letter of intent to acquire the manufacturer of the Columbia 350 and 400, presumably to add to its product line. Cessna sold 525 jets this year through August 31. It delivered 307 last year and will deliver 380 this year; stepped-up production will allow it to deliver 470 next year. Among the deliveries were 27 of the newly certified Citation Mustang very light jets; Cessna will deliver 44 of the small jets this year and about 100 next year.

To keep up with increasing global demand for its business jets, Dassault Falcon Jet (DFJ) said it would increase its production rate to 120 aircraft per year, beginning in 2009. An additional 200,000-square-foot assembly plant will be added to the existing assembly center at Falcon's Bordeaux-Merignac, France, manufacturing facility. This follows expansions that have already occurred at the company's Little Rock, Arkansas, completion center. John Rosanvallon, president of DFJ, said that 2006 was a banner year, with a record 125 business jet deliveries.

The largest inhibiting factor to increasing sales of the 400-knot TAS Piaggio P.180 Avanti II is the production rate. Company officials are working to speed production and expect deliveries to grow from 23 in 2007 to 35 in 2008. There are 132 of the twin-engine, pusher-prop aircraft in service, with 80 of those in North America. The company has recently switched to Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-66B engines that result in a 402-KTAS average speed.

In 2006, the Boeing Business Jets (BBJ) company had 19 orders for all models of its business and personal aircraft, a new record. This year there are 30 orders worth $2.9 billion, and they range from Boeing 737s to 747s and 787s. The company is sold out for all models through 2012.

Help for new companies

Airbus has signed on with Epic Aircraft to aid in the certification process of new Epic models. A multi-billionaire investor in India who owns Kingfisher Airlines and is one of the largest Airbus customers has entered a 50/50 partnership with Epic. The company says it has $150 million in jet orders based on non-refundable deposits. The reason Airbus signed on, other than possible pressure from its biggest customer, is to participate in new technology developed by Epic—a single-piece composite fuselage.

Sino-Swearingen is getting financial help for high-rate production. "This company has been starved, so we're giving it the money to do what it can do, and take the airplane to production," said Action Aviation Investors' (AAI) John Sabovich. AAI is a joint venture between Britain's Action Aviation and ACQ Capital, an American investment group. After recent negotiations, Action has taken a controlling interest in the company that produces the Sino-Swearingen SJ30-2 business jet. The remainder will be owned by the company's original Taiwanese investors.

New products

There were new products introduced at NBAA, many of them relating to seeing at night and in poor weather. Many past NBAA conventions have been dominated by new enhanced vision and synthetic vision products.

Mercury Computer Systems is integrating forward-looking infrared (FLIR) technology into its two new, high-end platforms for the VistaNav Synthetic Vision System: the CIS-2000 and CIS-2200 Cockpit Information Systems. Both qualify as Commercial Class II EFB (electronic flight bag) systems. The FLIR interface kit retails for $1,580.

L-3 Communications unveiled its much-anticipated SmartDeck integrated flight control and display system. The system, designed for lighter general aviation airplanes, includes dual primary flight displays and a multifunction display—each 12 inches on the diagonal—and a smaller center console unit and a flight display controller. It also includes dual air data attitude and heading reference systems (ADAHRS) designed by L-3. The L-3 digital radios interface with a PS Engineering audio panel. SmartDeck is designed to incorporate a host of L-3 sensors, such as Stormscope lightning detection, Landmark terrain warning system, SkyWatch collision avoidance, and IRIS infrared imaging system as well as datalink weather.

EADS Socata spokesmen let slip that the company is in the process of developing a step-up airplane for the TBM 850. The airplane would be powered by twin turbofans, it was strongly suggested. No timetable or any other details were mentioned.

Jeppesen wants you to leave the IFR en route charts at home. The company's Jeppesen Integration Toolkit (JIT) recently received FAA certification. JIT allows electronic en route charts to be integrated into multifunction displays much the way terminal procedures have been for several years. While many MFD currently feature depictions of navaids, airports, terrain, the depictions are not substitutes for IFR charts. With JIT data on the MFD, the user is actually seeing electronic charts created on the fly from data stored on the airplane—a first step in a paperless cockpit. The system is designed for high-end MFDs such as those found in business jets for now.

Max-Viz, which concentrates on enhanced vision systems for business aircraft and helicopters, has joined forces with Forward Vision, a provider of forward-looking infrared systems for general aviation, to bring enhanced vision capability to piston-engine and turboprop aircraft operating below 28,000 feet. Max-Viz has migrated its high-performance systems into a smaller, lighter system, the EVS-100. Forward Vision will distribute the EVS-100 to general aviation manufacturers, service providers, and the Experimental homebuilt community under the Forward Vision label. It costs $14,995.

Beginning in 2009, Bombardier Aerospace's Global 5000 and Global Express XRS ultra-long-range business jets will feature Rockwell Collins' new ProLine Fusion avionics suites. The Fusion system—dubbed the Global Vision Flight Deck by Bombardier—will enable a wide range of evolutionary new technology. Enhanced and synthetic vision displayed on primary flight displays, heads-up guidance incorporating flight path data, ADS-B and TCAS-II functionality, and an information management system are among the capabilities. The Global Vision flight deck can also accommodate GPS-WAAS navigation, and controller-pilot datalink communications. The system includes four 15-inch LCD displays.

Rockwell Collins has developed "Venue," a new aircraft cabin entertainment system designed to mimic a standard home entertainment system. Apple iPods will plug into a panel next to each passenger seat, or four iPods can be plugged into a bank of docking ports for hours of personal music and video. The system includes HD video. Through a pushbutton panel that uses programmable icons, passengers can select airshow maps showing the present location, control the cabin environment, watch a movie, or listen to music.

AOPA ePilot headlines

Recent news from AOPA's weekly e-mail newsletter

Seawind sidetracked
Given a recent fatal crash and the withdrawal of funds by the Canadian government, Seawind Aircraft has been forced to interrupt development of the amphibious aircraft.

Solar airplane flies 54 hours
A London-based company, QinetiQ, has continued to add to its successes in the New Mexico desert with solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Garmin fixes G1000 problem
Garmin says it has fixed faulty attitude heading reference systems (AHRS) in its G1000 avionics system, which resulted in some delayed aircraft shipments for manufacturers.

Scales Composites sold
Northrop Grumman has increased its 40 percent ownership in Scaled Composites, creater of SpaceShipOne, to 100 percent.

Aviation loses two legends
William T. Piper Jr., former president and chairman of the board of Piper Aircraft, and Paul B. MacCready Jr., the inventor who developed the first human-powered aircraft, the Gossamer Condor, died at the end of August.

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