A Safety Journal for General Aviation
by Max Trescott, Master CFI & FAA Aviation Safety Counselor
to Pilot Safety News
Subscribe or Unsubscribe
Welcome to our Special Oshkosh Issue!
To the loyal fans of this newsletter--and to the new subscribers who are just receiving their first issue--my apologies. Yes, I’ve skipped some issues of the newsletter, and yes I have been busy. Unfortunately, writing the newsletter is one of the things that falls on the backburner--but hopefully you still feel that you’re getting more than your money’s worth out of it!
Once again, I am in the back of the bus in the flight levels. The last issue was written while flying back commercially from Sun-N-Fun. This one is being started while flying commercially to Oshkosh. I know it’s a tough life I lead, but someone’s got to make the sacrifice!
So why have I been flying commercially to these fly-ins when the option exists to fly myself there in a small plane? Like many tradeoffs in life, it comes back to time and money. Small planes are great fun, but for longer distances, the airlines still often have an advantage in time and cost. I guess we’ll have to blame Southwest for that situation! Also, I’ve already flown a couple of trips in small planes to the Midwest earlier this year. Both were great fun, and if you haven’t done any really long cross countries like that I strongly encourage you to do one sometime if you’re so inclined.
If you haven’t noticed, we are probably living in the most fascinating time in general aviation history. After decades of little change, we’re seeing cataclysmic change on all fronts. On the low end, Light Sport Aircraft offer the promise of attracting new people back into aviation. In the middle, Cessna has just done a fly by at Oshkosh of their “Cirrus Killer” high performance aircraft. Higher up, Eclipse is just about to ship the very first Very Light Jet to customer #1. And of course, glass cockpits are showing up everywhere, from light sport aircraft to the jets.
The one place to see it all is Oshkosh. For years, I read about it in the magazines and thought, "this sounds pretty good." But Oshkosh is so great that words and pictures simply don't do it justice. You must go there and experience it yourself to appreciate how great it is. Just as all Muslim's have a duty to make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once during their lifetime, all pilots should be required to go to Oshkosh.
A lot of people who’ve never been to Oshkosh think of it as just another air show, with a primary emphasis on fast aircraft flying overhead doing amazing stunts. Even though it has world class air shows every afternoon, it has so much more. You can attend hundreds of forums where experts speak on just about every aviation topic imaginable. Hundreds of exhibitors show their latest wares in four huge covered buildings, while perhaps a hundred more aircraft manufacturers and organizations exhibit outside or in their own dedicated buildings.
Thousands of aircraft fly in for the show, many of which are on display. Typically, more than 400 warbirds alone are flown in for display. Whatever your interest is in aviation, you're sure to find out more about it at Oshkosh.
Hopefully, I've convinced you that you must go to Oshkosh someday. Don't put it off. Write July 23-29, 2007 on your calendar NOW and start making plans to attend. If you have only a few days, fly in commercially to places like Chicago, Madison, Milwaukee or Green Bay and rent a car. You might also consider combining it with another trip to the Midwest or East coast--after all you're already most of the way there. And when the dozens of doubts and conflicts start to crop up before the show, resist the urge to cancel the trip. Remember, you're on a pilgrimage; it's your duty to go to Oshkosh!
Have fun and fly safely!
Max Trescott, Master CFI
Online Training for the Garmin G1000 Glass Cockpit
As many of you know, I spend a lot of time teaching in Glass Cockpit aircraft, and have written a book on the Garmin G1000. At Oshkosh, we announced two new products: online VFR and IFR transition courses for the Garmin G1000. Together, these courses provide over six hours of training material that you can access from any PC over the internet. The beauty of it is that we're updating it frequently, so you always get the latest information in the fast changing glass cockpit world.
Each of the courses is $99. You can read more about the courses or take the courses online now.
AirVenture 2006 -- aka Oshkosh
We’ll I’m here. Are there times in your life when you realize at that instant there’s no place you’d rather be and nothing you’d rather be doing than exactly what you’re doing? It’s always precious when we can achieve that kind of synchrony in our lives, and there’s no place I’d rather be in late July than in Oshkosh. At the moment, I’m sitting in a folding chair at my campsite, located about 30 feet from last year’s campsite (yes, I’m a creature of habit!), watching the ultralights fly the pattern. This year the winds are reversed, so as they cross the old red barn, they’re cutting their engines and plunging down behind the trees to land on Oshkosh’s dedicated grass runway. It’s relaxing way to end a busy day.
Every Oshkosh seems to be an adventure. Last year, my tent blew away an hour after I set up. After searching, I finally found it a few hundred yards away (yes, this year I used the tent stakes!). This year I learned two things I didn't know. The first is that it’s possible to board a commercial airliner in the U.S. without a drivers license. The second is that in the state of Illinois, it’s against the law to rent a car unless you’re in physical possession of your driver’s license!
But it provided a great illustration of how chains of events, seemingly distant and unrelated, can have second and third order effects that are impossible to predict. Which is exactly what I told the audience at my speech on Night Flying. After walking in five minutes late, tripping and falling onto the stage in front of 200 people, I apologized and explained that I was late because of a distant, unrelated event--a blurry fax that I had sent six days before.
It became the perfect moment--teachable moments as flight instructors like to call them--to talk to the audience about chaos theory and how one small, distant event can lead to large changes elsewhere. And how most accidents are the result of a series of linked decisions. If we’re able to recognize the first couple of decisions or circumstances that may be precursors to an accidents, we can then take new actions that break the links in the chain and prevent an accident. In this case, I realized that the second step--scanning my drivers license and emailing a copy of it--was a potential problem, but then I failed to act to break the chain.
So the chain of events was: On Thursday I faxed a copy of my drivers license. It wasn’t clear enough, so I scanned and emailed it on Friday. At the time I joked that I always find something left on the scanner that I previously scanned (this often happens with copy machines too)--and then left my drivers license there. On Tuesday I boarded a Southwest flight to Chicago, and was surprised that my pilot’s license and YMCA card, which has a photo, were sufficient to get me on the flight. However, in Chicago, I couldn’t rent a car without my drivers license. I stayed overnight in a nearby hotel, my wife Fed-Exed the license, and on Wednesday morning I rented the car, arriving at the main gate at Oshkosh at 1PM, when I was due to speak. Some very helpful people spirited me over the to the Forums area.
When I got there, I noticed someone sneaking into the front of the building through a gap where a side tarp was tied to a pole. Here was my big mistake. While I would never do something while flying "just because someone else did it," I justified sneaking in through the opening because someone else was doing it. Of course that person didn’t trip over the rope at bottom of the tarp and fall onto the stage in front of 200 people who were wondering: a) Is this part of the show? and b) If Max is this uncoordinated, how did he ever get to be a CFI? But it was a great talk, the crowd grew over the next hour and we had fun together. And I can’t wait to do it again next year. Though I think I'll ask Chevy Chase to do the physical comedy part of the presentation!
Trend One: Very Light Jets
Eclipse 500 painted in the colors of DayJet, an on demand, per seat air taxi company serving the southeast.
The jets are everywhere. I had lunch with a marketing manager from Embraer and we talked about the Phenom 100 and 300, which are due to begin shipping in 2008. He feels that the Phenom 100, with a price tag of around $2.8 million, will fit between the Cessna Mustang and the CJ1 and will be mostly flown by owner/operators. The 300 will be a better fit with the air taxi/charter market, though won’t be quite big enough to appeal to the corporate air departments (though I think he's wrong there--already some corporations are looking into buying the even smaller Eclipse 500). The big questions on all of these jets is whether the hypothetical air taxi market will actually develop or not. That’s a critical success factor that will determine whether the VLJ’s will have tremendous success, or will be an unfulfilled promise in aviation.
This was actually the subject of a New York Times article the previous day. On the low end, some of the air taxi companies feel that they’ll be able to fly jets like the Eclipse 500 and charge passengers as little as $1 to $3/mile. To get these numbers, they’ll need to have relatively high load factors and few legs where they’re deadheading with no passengers. If the value proposition is there, they should be able to achieve the load factors. I talked with a NetJets pilot while I was refueling in Casper, Wyoming a few weeks ago (we’ll tell you about that trip next month) and he told me that they’re having relatively few empty legs. If they can achieve that in the fractional jet market (where people are paying $100,000 and more per year for a share of a jet), they certainly should be able to achieve that in the air taxi business where people won’t have to buy a portion of the jet, and will be simply paying a fare that might be $1,000 or less. Although the “fares” for these on demand services will be higher than the highest unrestricted fares on the airlines, the advantage will be that you'll be able to fly direct, and won’t have to change planes, will could save many hours.
One of the things I mentioned to Marco was that there should be additional appeal because your baggage would actually arrive with you. He lit up over this comment and mentioned that his luggage was delayed twice in the last two weeks while flying commercially. Once was on a trip to Paris, where his bags arrive 60 hours later! I told him that my bag had also missed my flight while flying to Oshkosh. So between us, we’d had delayed bags three times in two weeks.
The question of whether the air taxi market will materialize is crucial to Eclipse and the dozen other companies each vying for a 25% share of the market. It’s unlikely that all of these companies will survive. In fact, just as Oshkosh started, the Spectrum 33 jet crashed on a test flight, killing two test pilots, which may have sealed that fate of that company. And the low cost of the Eclipse 500 (originally under $900,000, but now around $1.5M), was predicated upon being able to build the aircraft in high volume. Currently the factory is running 3 shifts, working around the clock, building jets that should start to ship within a few weeks. And while they have a backlog of 2500 jets on order, at the current production rate, they’ll have delivered all of those jets in just two years! Which means they’ll be laying off a lot of people if the air taxi market doesn’t emerge. As always in aviation, it’s fun to watch the dreamers and risk takers pursue new ideas. Often they succeed and sometimes they don’t. Obviously the final chapter of the VLJ jet market is a long way from being written. And it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch and see how this plays out over the next decade.
P.S. Both Marco and the New York Times were quick to point out that the Eclipse 500 does not have a bathroom--which may severely limit it’s appeal for the air taxi market. Of course the Phenom will have a bathroom--so keep this in mind as you’re deciding which jet to buy.
More Very Light Jet news
Trend Two: Light Sport Aircraft (LSA)
Cessna's Light Sport Aircraft prototype. Cross between a C152 and C177?
If you think Light Sport is just a flash in the pan--like the Recreational Pilot license which went nowhere--you need to consider this. In the past 16 months, 38 new light sport aircraft have been approved! Many of these are models that have previously sold in Europe. The Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association expects that nearly 1,000 aircraft will have been shipped by the end of this year. Even if they’re only half right, this is still a sea change that will invigorate aviation.
Candidly, I’ve had some concern that rising fuel and insurance prices might eventually price the everyday person out of aviation, which would be sad. While the public has always thought of it as a rich person's hobby, the reality is that most people in the middle class (whatever that is!) could historically afford to get a pilot’s license and fly some if they made it a priority. Light Sport Aviation holds the promise of keeping aviation affordable.
Innovation often comes from small companies, with larger established companies waiting to join in later after the market has grown and is proven. With the announcement this week of two major suppliers--Cessna and Van’s--that they are pursuing the Light Sport market, we have proof positive that Light Sport has come of age. Cessna showed a prototype of their Light Sport aircraft which was mounted high on a pedestal. Certainly that made it prominent, but it also obscured the fact that its interior was incomplete. One Cessna employee told me that they’ll make a Go/No Go decision on building the aircraft in March, 2007. After that, it will take many months for certification and production. Add the numbers together and we’re unlikely to see this airplane for sale until sometime in 2009 at the earliest.
Van’s was displaying a proof-of-concept version of their RV-12, which is their first effort to build a Light Sport kit plane. The plane will most likely be powered by a Rotax 912S, 100 horsepower engine, the same one expected to power the Cessna LSA. The plane will probably be offered first as a standard kit and later become available as a fast-build kit option. The prototype is expected to fly in September or October and kits may be available by late 2007.
Trend Three: Glass for the Masses
As long time readers know, I specialize in teaching in glass cockpit aircraft, particularly G1000 and Avidyne Entegra equipped aircraft, such as Cessna, Diamonds, Columbia and Cirrus. When the Garmin G1000 first came out in mid-2004, there were many questions about whether it was available as a retrofit for existing aircraft. The answer was no, and that Garmin had their hands full with certifying the system for new aircraft and wouldn’t be making it available for existing aircraft for some time.
Well the time is now, and frankly it came sooner than I expected. Garmin showed several new products which essentially plugged all of the holes in their product line. Now, regardless of what kind of airplane you fly, Garmin has a glass solution for you.
The Garmin G600 is designed for retrofitting existing certificated aircraft with glass. But surprising, it’s NOT the same form factor as the G1000. Instead of two 10-inch screens, the G600 combines into a single 10-inch instrument, two smaller screens, both vertically oriented (or, if you’re computer savvy, “portrait mode”). The left half contains the Primary Flight Display or PFD, which shows the six primary flight instruments. The right half of the instrument contains a separate MFD display for the moving map, terrain and weather functions.
Frankly, the packaging is brilliant. Rather than needing to replace your entire instrument panel, you can now replace just the round gauges directly in front of the pilot and have the full functionality of a new glass cockpit aircraft. This also saves a lot of work re-engineering the right half of an aircraft’s instrument panels, which often includes radios and other options that you may not want to disturb. Garmin says the system will ship in Q2 of 2007 (figure on late June, 2007) at a price of just under $30,000.
It’s going to be fascinating to see how many of these systems sell. Nearly two years ago, as part of a research project, I queried several avionics shops about how many aircraft retrofits were including primary flight displays. The answer then was that most retrofits were for radios and moving maps and that perhaps only 1% of airplanes that came in were replacing the round gauges with the PFD’s available. Perhaps the G600 will create new demand for retrofits. Only time will tell.
Garmin G900X. Think G1000 for your Lancair or Van's.
If I were a betting person, I’d lay odds that the new Garmin G900X, targeting the experimental aircraft market, will have far greater sales. Here, Garmin chose to use the same form factor as the G1000--a pair of 10-inch screens. After pushing a lot of keys, it appeared to me that all of functions in the G1000 operated the same in the G900. Though there were some new features in the software--ones that I predicted in my Max Trescott’s G1000 Glass Cockpit Book--that Garmin obviously didn’t intend to display. Whenever I accessed them, a Garmin person came along to switch to another page. We’ll talk about the new functions in a future newsletter.
The system will initially be available only on Lancair’s IV/IV-P, and ES/ES-P, and Van’s RV-10, RV-9/9A, and RV-7/7A. If you’re working hard on building one of these aircraft and haven’t nailed down the avionics, I’d suggest you consider the G900. The price for the displays is $67,000, and there was a vendor at Oshkosh that builds instrument panels (sorry, I didn’t note their name) that was showing the system mounted in their panel for $94,000. As long as you’re going to build the fastest, sexiest aircraft, you might as well have the sexiest glass in the panel. That way, the oohs and aahs will continue when people look inside your aircraft!
Garmin also announced the 496 GPS, which is a successor to their 396 GPS. I thought the 396 had just about everything you could want in it, with a GPS, terrain database and XM weather. Even at $2,500, the 396 has been a hot seller. If you’ve been lusting after one, you’ll be delighted to hear that the price was recently dropped several hundred dollars to make way for the 496.
What more could the 496 hold? Then answer is that its GPS has a much faster update rate, and that it includes airport diagrams, a system that alerts you to nearby airspace and an airport directory database. All for $2795. The big question of course is what more could possibly be packed into the Garmin 596, if such a device is announced at some future Oshkosh show. Look for any new or future features in the Garmin G1000 as your best predictor of what’s likely to trickle down to future portable GPS units.
The Air Show
Oshkosh has an air show every afternoon, and while some acts are the same every day, some special events and flybys occurs only once during the week. Some highlights from the week included:
Tail of C17 Cargo jet at sunset on the flight line at AirVenture 2006
My most unforgettable characters at Oshkosh
Everyone at Oshkosh is friendly. I used to think that it was because everyone shares a common interest in aviation and is here to have a good time. I think another factor is that a disproportionate people are from the Midwest, and they just seem to be a little more relaxed about life than those of us who’ve chosen to live on one of the coasts. Or maybe it’s because the winters are brutal and they’re just delighted to have a nice warm summer day.
There are lots of families. Mom, dad and the kids camping out, riding bikes and watching airplanes. Then, there are the “most unforgettable people.” And don’t get me wrong--these people are friendly and nice too--they just stick out in my memory a little more. While traveling in one of the many trams that traverse the flight line at Oshkosh, I sat next to Blaine the embalmer.
No, I'm not making this up. Nothing unusual about Blaine except that he’s from Canada and has been doing his life’s work (pun intended) in Japan for the last 8 and a half years. He stands at least six and a half feet tall and his beard makes him look like a tough biker dude. I’ve been to Japan and at 6 feet, I'm taller than 99% of the people. While walking the streets, not only did I tower above the people like Godzilla, but many of them looked at me as if they had just seen Godzilla!
So, I asked Blaine if he gets looks of terror from the locals while walking the streets of Japan--of course he does. The funny part is that after 8 years, he doesn’t know much of the language. That led me to suspect that he was in Japan because he was getting paid better there than in Canada. His response: “I’m not there for the rice.”
If you’re a long time Steve Martin or Saturday Night Live fan, you of course know about the “two wild and crazy guys.” I swear there’s a guy I talked to yesterday who wears a pink hat colored like the one Steve Martin used to wear. Nice guy--he came up to me in the National Association of Flight Instructors booth and quizzed me about why it was taking him at least 10 hours to finish a Flight Review so that he could rent planes again after not flying at all for ten years. And I was proud that I kept a straight face while talking to him, in spite of the hat. I did smile a few minutes ago when I recognized the hat walk by in my campground (yikes, he's camping near by!).
Other things you could have seen at Oshkosh this year
Personal Training Plan
There is so much going on in aviation right now that if you’re the least bit bored with flying the same old plane to get the same $200 hamburgers (inflation), then you owe it to yourself to get out of the rut and put together a personal training plan for the rest of 2006. You might want to challenge yourself by getting a new endorsement: get checked out in a high performance aircraft with more than 200 hp, or learn how to make your feet dance while getting a taildragger rating. Or, get checked out in a new aircraft. I’ve done a number of checkouts recently for people looking for the challenge (not to mention the speed) of flying Cirrus aircraft, which are now more widely available for rent. Or you may want to stretch your comfort zone a little by actually doing that long cross country you’ve occasionally dreamed about, but haven’t gotten around to doing.
Summer flying with its longer days and more favorable weather is a great time to execute any of your flying plans. With a little planning and perhaps some additional training, there’s no reason why you can’t move your flying game up to a higher level. Flying is just too much fun to leave up to the professionals (though that’s what I’m doing in the back of the bus just now). So whatever it is you’d like to do to get more out of flying this year, “Just Do it!” And of course, do it with the kind of care and attention to detail that I’m sure all of you anytime you go flying.
Call me or email me if you'd like to talk about ideas for your own personal training plan.
August 19-20, 2006 Wings Over Wine Country Air Show Santa Rosa, CA
Sept 13-17, 2006 Reno
National Championship Air Races and Air Show
Nov 9-11, 2006 AOPA Expo 2006 Palm Springs, CA
Heard recently on the air on a clear, summer day.
Aircraft: NorCal Approach, Cessna 1234A would like to request the ILS 25R approach into Livermore.
NorCal Approach: Cessna 1234A, Roger you are number five for the approach.
Aircraft: NorCal, we'd like to cancel that request.
Pilot Safety News
© 2006 by Max Trescott
Master CFI & FAA Aviation Safety Counselor
Please contact me with your feedback or if I can be of service to you.
www.sjflight.com (650)-224-7124 Subscribe or email Feedback on Newsletter