EAA AirVenture 2002:

 - May 6, 2008, 4:35 AM

The resilience of general aviation was never more in evidence than at EAA’s AirVenture in late July, when an estimated 750,000 airplane buffs made the annual pilgrimage to east central Wisconsin for the 50th time.

Homage to the 22 airplanes that gathered at Curtiss-Wright Airport in Milwaukee for the first official EAA fly-in convention in 1953 was dwarfed by the more than 2,500 show aircraft out of nearly 10,000 airplanes that jammed Wittman Field in Oshkosh this year. And that didn’t include those whose pilots opted to land at other nearby airports or splashed down at the EAA Seaplane Base on Lake Winnebago.

Despite the still questionable economy and the continuing fallout from last September, the general aviation community flew and drove to AirVenture in numbers that–while not a record–put smiles on the faces of organizers, visitors and exhibitors alike. EAA president Tom Poberezny said at the end of the show that the number of exhibitors set a record and, at least anecdotally, the event exceeded their expectations.

Having completed EAA’s golden anniversary doings, Poberezny already was looking forward to a massive AirVenture 2003 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers’ first flight. Several of the events and exhibitions this year were part of the festivities leading up to next year’s celebration of powered flight.

Garvey’s Swansong

Outgoing FAA Administrator Jane Garvey made her final trek to AirVenture as head of the agency, and held another lively “Meet the Administrator” gathering that drew a standing-room-only crowd into the FAA building at OSH. She has attended the EAA event for all five years of her tenure at the helm of the FAA, in addition to her first visit in 1997 just before she officially took office.

As expected, Garvey and her entourage fielded a wide range of questions from GA access to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) to whether there has been any movement on rescinding the age-60 mandatory retirement age for Part 121 pilots.

Garvey said that GA came “very close” to regaining access to DCA several weeks ago after coming up with “a very good set of proposals.” But when a possible security threat surfaced over the Memorial Day holiday, government security agencies pulled back. “We are trying to negotiate with the security people, but it is very, very tough,” she admitted.

On the age-60 question, she gave the group “something you don’t want to hear.” Despite a “lot of research,” she said candidly, “frankly…I don’t see this as a high priority.”

Rutan the Rocket Man

Two unique and diverse aircraft made their first public flights at Oshkosh, and one huge old veteran approached its last. Dick Rutan twice flew the EZ-Rocket–on Thursday and Saturday–and CarterCopter’s gyroplane prototype went aloft for a demo flight on Friday. Meanwhile, an Air Atlanta Icelandic 747-200 slated for retirement overshadowed the static display and provided massive shade for most of the show, marred only by a few rainstorms.

XCOR Aerospace, which developed the EZ-Rocket, calls it the first step toward providing cheap and easy civilian access to space. Based on a modified fiberglass Long-EZ homebuilt aircraft, the EZ-Rocket is designed to reach 10,000 ft while demonstrating the capability for routine operations of a rocket-powered vehicle.

It is powered by two 400-lb-thrust rocket engines fueled by isopropyl alcohol (essentially rubbing alcohol), which Rutan is able to shut down in flight and then relight for another go around. The EZ-Rocket was built at a cost of $500,000 in less than a year and is the country’s first privately built, liquid-fueled rocket. Its technological achievements were recognized as one of Time magazine’s 2001 “Inventions of the Year.”

CarterCopters said it is nearing Mu ratio of 1, which will enable licensed manufacturing of hybrid aircraft with vertical takeoff and landing ability that are capable of traveling at speeds of 500 mph at 45,000 ft. Mu is defined as the ratio of the forward flight speed to the rotor tip speed. That should enable licensees to build rotorcraft with performance superior to the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor at a far lower cost, the company said.

The Air Atlanta 747 carried visitors to AirVenture along with a homebuilt Pitts aerobatic airplane, called an S-2-XS in Iceland, and a rebuilt Piper J-3 Cub. After several low passes over Wittman Field, it was taken to the display area, where it became the first 747 to remain at Oshkosh after carrying charter passengers to the show.

Push-pull Composite Twin

Adam Aircraft Industries flew its recently officially ICAO-designated Adam A500 from its Englewood, Colo. base with less than a dozen hours on the airframe but with the blessing of the FAA. Company president John Knudsen said the trip took about 4.5 hr flying time because the landing gear was locked down.

Chief test pilot Glenn Maben and flight-test designated engineering representative Bruce Barrett made one stop in Sioux City, Iowa, on the way to OSH, where they arrived July 21 after beginning the trip at Centennial Airport. Asked about problems, Knudsen said there were “none whatsoever. The airplane landed with no gripes on it.”

The pressurized, centerline-thrust twin-engine aircraft made its first flight only July 11 with Maben and Barrett at the controls, and Knudsen said that the FAA wanted at least five hours on it before they would clear the A500 to depart the Denver area.

Adam Aircraft Industries CEO Rick Adam and Knudsen began the program in 1998. Following a three-quarter-scale proof-of-concept aircraft built by Scaled Composites, the first carbon composite airframe parts for S/N 0001 were produced about a year ago. With two more test articles under construction, the Adam A500 will provide cruise speeds up to 230 kt and have a ceiling of 25,000 ft. Range will be 1,150 nm.

Knudsen told AIN at Oshkosh that initial tests have S/N 0001, powered by two Continental 550 twin-turbocharged engines that produce a combined 700 hp, flying “right on the numbers.” He added that climb rates were “a little better than expected,” while approach to stalls and rotation were “right on the money.”

Adam Aircraft said the A500 is expected to be one of the first to answer NASA’s SATS (small aircraft transportation system) mandate to find reasonable personal air transportation to relieve the nation’s hub air traffic. Subsequent to the first flight, the price of the A500 is $895,000, with FAA certification expected early next year.

The 262-cu-ft cabin has leather club seating for six included in the standard package, along with a cockpit featuring sidestick controls, dual Garmin GNS 530s and S-Tec 55x autopilot.

Socata’s Newest Means “Business”

Representing the single-engine, turbine contingent, Socata introduced the TBM 700C2, which CEO Philippe Debrun characterized as “a business-like version” of its current TBM 700. The mtow increases from 6,579 lb to 7,394 lb, giving operators improved payload/range performance.

With a payload of 1,380 lb, Socata calculated the range of the C2 at 1,184 nm at 255 kt with NBAA IFR fuel reserves. Carrying a 910-lb payload, the new TBM can take off with full fuel and fly 1,678 nm with NBAA IFR fuel reserves.

The TBM 700C2 will retain the same aerodynamics and Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-64 turboprop as the current “B” model, but will have strengthened airframe parts as well as sturdier tires and some additional new features at an increase in cost of $150,000 to $2.64 million. The good news is that air conditioning and on-board oxygen–formerly $25,000 options, each–are now standard. The new features include a new luggage compartment, a new interior with seats dynamically tested to more than 20 g, the Honeywell ECS/VCS environmental control and air conditioning systems and an additional luggage compartment behind the pressurized cabin.

The C2 prototype is currently under active testing, and Debrun said that FAA certification–expected this fall–“should present no problem.” Deliveries of the first TBM 700C2 are aimed for the end of the year. Debrun said that Socata is also working to increase the ceiling from 31,000 ft to 33,000 ft.

Jet-A for Light Airplanes

Bridging the gulf between piston and turbine fuels, SMA came to AirVenture 2002 with recently issued FAA certification for its jet-A fueled SR305-230 piston engine, which promises substantially reduced direct operating costs and eliminates the need for specialized aviation gasoline formulas.

Shell Aviation global technical manager Rob Midgley admitted at an SMA press briefing that “if 100LL disappears tomorrow, we don’t have a replacement.” The fuel already is increasingly hard to find in some developing nations, while jet-A has become the international standard for aviation and military fuel. He noted that larger, higher-power supercharged and turbocharged engines cannot run on unleaded fuels, but technology such as that employed by SMA eliminates the problem entirely.

Since its inception in 1997, SMA, which is owned by the European Aeronautic Defence and Space (EADS) company, French automaker Renault and French engine-builder Snecma, has been developing piston engines that operate on jet fuel. The 230-hp SR305, which won Joint Aviation Authorities certification last year, will be installed on the Socata TB 20 and the Cessna 182 under STCs by the end of this year.

Unlike other mostly dismal attempts to hang automobile diesels on airframes, SMA is purpose-designed and built. Jean-Marc de Raffin, chairman and CEO, said the air and oil-cooled SR305 features direct injection without gear reduction and has fewer than 500 parts, compared with 2,000 in a typical avgas powerplant. It also weighs in at 60 to 90 lb less.

He said the current 200- to 300-hp range of the engine could be increased, and the 2,000-hr TBO will be upped to 3,000 hr by the time the first production engine is delivered in December. Compared with similar-output gasoline engines, direct operating costs will be reduced by 30 percent in the U.S. and 50 percent in many other nations, he added.

Brent Maule, sales and marketing director of Maule Air, said that his company is getting ready to mount the SMA engine on an M7 and is developing an aircraft that will increase gross weight by 800 lb to 2,800 lb. And Alan Klapmeier, chairman and CEO of Cirrus Design, revealed that an SR-21TD is being developed to mate with the SR305-230.

SMA claims the new engine is “user friendly” with a single control lever, reduced noise in the cabin and immediate cold starts down to -20 deg C, while at the same time cutting noise levels by 5 to 7 dB and lowering air pollution. The company sees the engine as a retrofit for any aircraft in the 180- to 300-hp range.

Eclipse’s Presence

The epitome of dream aircraft generated by the EAA spirit of innovation, Eclipse Aviation maintained a high profile at AirVenture 2002. The company rolled out its Eclipse 500 twinjet just a few days before AirVenture 2002 and sponsored the 12 pavilions used for informational sessions and briefings. A mockup of the aircraft was prominent in a large exhibition tent not far from the main entrance.

While Eclipse anxiously awaited the entry-level aircraft’s first flight from its Albuquerque, N.M. base, the company announced an agreement under which Global Aerospace would provide aircraft hull and liability insurance to owners of Eclipse 500s. Although premiums have not been determined, Eclipse Aviation CEO and president Vern Raburn likened them to aircraft of similar size, such as the Beech Baron.

“Insurance is a requirement for every aircraft owner, and in today’s market that cannot be taken for granted,” said Raburn. “It is great news for our customers that aviation’s leading insurance underwriter is making the commitment now to write policies for the Eclipse 500, even though it is 18 months before the aircraft will be available to customers.”

Currently priced at $837,500 (2000 $), the six-person Eclipse 500 is designed to fly 1,300 nm at 355 kt at a cost of approximately 56 cents a mile. The new jet is powered by the Williams EJ22, a turbofan engine that weighs approximately 85 lb and delivers 770 lb of thrust, claimed to be a higher thrust-to-weight ratio than any commercial turbofan ever produced.

Eclipse said its Avio intelligent flight management system provides electronic control of the major systems on the aircraft. Flight controls and brakes are conventional.

Long-range Winner

By far, the hands down winner of the longest journey to Oshkosh went to Steve Death, a pilot for Australia’s Gippsland Aeronautics, who made the solo trip in the single-engine GA8 Airvan. The longest leg of the 10,000-nm trip was 20 hr from Hilo, Hawaii, to just south of San Francisco.

After visiting AirVenture, the company was to fly the Airvan to the National Test Pilot School (NTPS) in Mojave, Calif., to undergo final tests to upgrade its current FAR Part 23 Amendment 48 certification to the latest Amendment 54–said to be the highest certification standard available to general aviation, worldwide.

According to Gippsland, this new certification is a precursor to FAA type certification, which will provide the basis for the aircraft to be sold and type-accepted anywhere in the world. NTPS, the world’s largest civilian test pilot school, was enlisted to complete the necessary dynamic flight flutter testing required for FAR 23 Amendment 54 certification.

The eight-seat GA8 is targeted at the niche market now occupied by the Cessna 206 and the Piper Cherokee Six. George Morgan, director and co-founder of Gippsland Aeronautics, described the airplane as “a flying box on a 300-hp Lycoming [IO-540].”

The GA8 Airvan currently holds Australian Civil Aviation Authority type certification and it has been type-accepted in South Africa, Indonesia, Belize and New Zealand on this basis.

“The certification is a high priority for Gippsland Aeronautics as it means we meet the requirements for FAA type certification,” said Morgan. “This is vitally important to open up the U.S. market to us, because, although the Australian aviation agency automatically accepts aircraft that have been certified in the U.S., the FAA requires independent certification of the aircraft before any sales in the U.S.”

Gippsland wants to establish a market in the U.S. by the end of this year, and it envisions a float-equipped version replacing de Havilland Beavers in Canada. Dassault is looking to distribute the aircraft in French-speaking countries, the company said.

Morgan said the company is looking at increasing power in the Airvan, including using a diesel-type engine or turboprop, and perhaps stretching capacity to 10 passengers. A diesel could be first tested on Gippsland’s GA200 agplane for performance and reliability. “We don’t want to be caught napping when avgas 100LL is phased out,” he said.

A New Turbine Bonanza Mod

Rocket Engineering of Spokane, Wash., used the stage at Oshkosh to announce its latest conversion, hanging a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-21 on a Beech Bonanza B36TC. The company calls the result the TurbineAir and claims it represents the most economical, cost efficient, high performance, entry-level turbine aircraft in today’s market.

The company has been developing the TurbineAir for four years and test flying it for two, with 250 hr logged. FAA certification is expected within weeks. The cost of the conversion is $399,000 and is available only on the TC, which has the longer wings used on the Beech Baron and built-in oxygen.

Based upon initial flight test data, the TurbineAir will have a high-speed cruise of 250 kt at 25,000 ft and a max VFR range of 870 nm at 225 kt. The mtow will be 4,050 lb and the maximum useful load 1,250 lb.

Tiger Aircraft, which is bringing the Tiger AG-5B back into production in Martinsburg, W. Va., said its long-awaited production certificate is expected to be delivered early this month. CEO Bob Crowley said that the company has orders “well out to next year” and is looking to expand its sales centers, which are now located mostly on the East Coast.

Tiger Aircraft has produced eight of the revived Tigers thus far, and plans to ramp up to build a total of 26 by the end of the year. Noting that the market is “still strong,” Crowley said that by the first quarter of next year, production will be eight aircraft a month.

Just When You Thought It Was Safe…

Sandel Avionics acknowledged at AirVenture that it has received a patent infringement complaint from Honeywell regarding its recently approved ST3400 terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS), and has filed an initial response to the complaint. The company has already started shipping the TAWS units, and Sandel president Gerry Block said at Oshkosh that the Honeywell suit “doesn’t actually affect our business right now.”

Sandel’s ST3400 is a class-B system that will be required in all Part 91 turbine-powered airplanes with six or more passenger seats and Part 135 turbine airplanes with six to nine seats beginning on March 29, 2005.

Priced at $19,950, it meets TSO C151a for terrain awareness and warning equipment and is a complete system, including both computer and display. It is the only self-contained TAWS and the only system to put the terrain display in the pilot’s primary instrument cluster due to its exclusive 3ATI size, Sandel said.

Block accused Honeywell of “trying to monopolize the TSO and we don’t agree with that.” Also named along with Sandel as defendants in the Honeywell complaint are Goodrich Avionics Systems and Universal Avionics. Block said the complaint was received immediately after Sandel was awarded its TSO.

“We certainly don’t know if Honeywell is taking the position that no one can build–or in the case of Goodrich, simply announce–a TSO C151a TAWS, or if Honeywell believes it outsmarted the FAA into granting it a de facto monopoly on the TSO,” said Block. “But speaking for myself, if this turns out to be the case I would have expected the industry to know about it long before now.”

He said that Sandel’s TAWS is probably one-third the cost of any other system, and one of the first has been delivered to Clay Lacy Aviation for installation into a Learjet 35 by IFR Avionics of Van Nuys, Calif.

Jepps’ Visual Notams

In a project certain to be welcomed by pilots in these days of pop-up TFRs, Jeppesen announced that it has completed the second phase of a system to provide graphical notams to FSS specialists. The visual notams will better enable briefers to explain to pilots the size, location and scope of the many temporary TFRs issued in the wake of September 11.

Jeppesen said it was selected by the FAA to develop the graphical notam because of its ability to deliver aeronautical information in such a format. Jeppesen has demonstrated this ability by its posting of detailed depictions of many of the TFRs on its Web site.

Included in the second phase of work are enhancements suggested by the FAA to improve the software used to create and disseminate graphical TFR notams based upon the agency’s testing of the prototype software earlier this year.

The need to depict TFRs graphically became apparent when lengthy text-only notams were issued mandating that pilots stay clear of certain areas without clearly defining the boundaries of the areas to be avoided. Using drawing tools developed for FliteStar, Jeppesen’s PC-based flight planning application, the company was able to accurately depict the location and boundaries for each TFR in both VFR and IFR contexts.

Jeppesen also announced that it has reached agreement with UPS Aviation Technologies and Avidyne to provide NavData updates directly to users of UPS-AT avionics equipment and Avidyne’s FlightMax.

As of early last month, users of UPS-AT GPS navigators and multifunction displays may choose to download NavData updates directly from Jeppesen using its Skybound II Datawriter, thereby eliminating the data card exchange procedure. But users who do not wish to make the change may continue to receive card-based updates from UPS-AT.