Saturday, 1 August 2009

How to sell stuff

A tale of two retail experiences...

Me: "Hello, I'd like to buy one of these please."
Retailer: "You sound English, I'll have to change a few things. I can't sell you one from the stand and I need $300 for shipping."
Me: "Thanks, but no thanks."

Me: "Hello, I'd like to buy one of these please."
Retailer: "Certainly sir, would you like me to customise it at all?"
Me: "No thanks, but I'd like to buy one from the stand."
Retailer: "No problem."
Me: "Here's my American Express card."

Same product, same show, same exhibition hall. Retailer 1 (Aircraft Spruce) managed a smile, but weren't interested in selling anything. Retailer 2 (Sarasota Avionics) couldn't have been more helpful or pleasant to deal with.

Seaplane heaven

A short drive or bus ride from the AirVenture showgrounds you'll find the EAA's seaplane base. The idyllic base situated on Lake Winnebago is, in contrast to the bustling showground, quiet and relaxing. There's a steady stream of departures and arrivals and free boat rides around the sheltered inlet where the aeroplanes are moored.

The number of aircraft landing at the seaplane base looks like being significantly down this year. Some people are saying that the economy is at fault, while others blame the administrative hassle that the TSA has put in place for Canadian visitors flying in - there are certainly fewer C reg. aircraft this year.

If you visit Oshkosh in the future, and every pilot should try to get there at least once, I can recommend taking a morning, afternoon or evening to enjoy the seaplane base.
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Friday, 31 July 2009

Cessna's SkyCatcher nearly here

Cessna's C162 - the SkyCatcher - is now compliant with the ASTM standards used for LSA (Light Sport Aircraft)in the US. According to Cessna, deliveries are due to start later this year, with November looking likely, although many observers and deposit holders believe that only in 2010 will significant numbers start to be delivered.

The SkyCatcher features a stick-cum-yoke arrangement, a Continental O-200 and a Garmin G300 glass panel.

I overheard a couple of visitors talking while standing by the SkyCatcher...
"Look at that 'ole Coninennal"
"Yup, bedder dan dat Rowtaix thing. Shame dere building it in China"

Thursday, 30 July 2009

...and today it rained

The wet summer isn't limited to the UK. Today Oshkosh was mainly about rain and mud. The car parks were in danger of turning into mud baths and the display took place between showers with the audience alternating between watching the proceedings in the open and sheltering under the nearest convenient high-winged aeroplane. The stallholders in the hangars weren't complaining though, the wet weather sent many visitors scurrying inside to look, dream and sometimes buy.

Tomorrow promises to be much better with any storms holding off until Saturday. Fingers crossed.

Where has the Epic gone?

Yesterday there was a patch of grass that an Epic LT called home. Alongside was a gazebo and a poster or two. By late afternoon today the patch of grass was empty and the gazebo gone. There were a few rumours that I won't repeat here. It could of course be that the Epic crew had to be elsewhere, that the aeroplane was needed, or that they've moved to another part of this huge site...

As soon as anything is confirmed I'll post an update.
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Liberty XL2 to get diesel power

Not content with providing what they call the world's most economical, IFR-approved, two-seat trainer, the team at Liberty Aircraft has set off on a journey that should enable them to bring a Wilksch-engined Jet A1 fuelled aircraft to market. The aeroplane was clearly labelled as a proof of concept aircraft, but Liberty personnel told FLYER that the Wilksch engine would be FAA-certified within four to six months, with certification of the airframe/engine combination following six to ten months after that. This timescale suggests either significant optimism or a project that is already quite advanced. Watch this space for updates.
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Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Positive vibes from Piper

Piper came to Oshkosh talking about their adoption of Garmin's G600 in their training aircraft. From 2010 the G600 glass panel will be standard fit on new Warrior and Seminole and an option on the Seneca V.

Piper also announced that they are putting the Piper Archer back into production. The 180hp PA28 will come, as standard, fitted with Garmin's G600 and an S-TEC 55x autopilot. Standard features will also include leather upholstery and air conditioning. The Archer will be available in 2010 for about $300,000.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

SMA's new engine

You could be forgiven for thinking that SMA, the French company behind the SR305 diesel engine (very) occasionally seen in the C182 had gone away, but a US and French team was working the stand at Oshkosh and updating us on progress. According to Luc Pelon, SMA's CEO, they have been further developing the engine and the SR305-E is the result.

A different turbocharger and FADEC changes have brought the engine's service ceiling from 12,000' to 20,000'. Pelon believes that the true advantages of the engine will only be realised when someone designs an airframe specifically for it, but in these tough economic times we think he may have some while to wait.

Ask how, not if...

Oshkosh is as much about the people as it is about the aeroplanes. An interview with Jessica Cox in AeroShell Square yesterday drew crowds, and some tears. Jessica is unusual in that she was born with no arms, and controls her Ercoupe with her feet. Cox summed up her spirit nicely by saying that she never asks if something can be done, but only how something can be done.

SMA Maule

While Luc Pelon was discussing his SR305-E Brent Maule was on hand to talk about the upcoming Maule M9. Fitted with the SMA diesel engine, the M9 will cruise at 137mph burning about 9usg. The paperwork is with the FAA and the TC is expected 'real soon now'.

The M9 will be the first aircraft fitted with the SMA engine as standard and is expected to appeal to many markets where avgas is unavailable or hard to find. As you can see, the M9 sports a new cowling which is not expected to win any awards for beauty.

Cirrus update

Although there was news of some strategic partnerships and a new luxury trim level that facilitates customer's individual design requests (known as Xi), the subject that interested most people at yesterday's press conference was the Vision jet and Alan Klapmeier's plans to buy the project from Cirrus Aircraft.

Cirrus co-founder (and Alan's brother) Dale Klapmeier addressed the question before it was asked by explaining that Alan was indeed working on a deal, and that he is the only person that Cirrus Aircraft would even consider as a buyer. Dale (and later Brent) acknowledged that a team led by Alan using outside finance would be a win win situation. In response to a question from the audience, Brent Wouters said that Cirrus Aircraft would retain an unspecified percentage of any new company set up by Alan. Finally, should it prove impossible for Alan to raise the money and buy the project, Cirrus Aircraft would 'get it done' although both Dale and Brent said that this scenario would make it very challenging to certify the aircraft by 2012.

Monday, 27 July 2009

New engines, new fuel

Continental kicked off the stream of press conferences yesterday by announcing several engine developments. For starters, they'd flown to the event in a Cirrus SR22 turbo running on 94UL, an avgas replacement they're backing. The set-up has accumulated 20 flight test hours so far with promising results.

Continental's PowerLink (so far standard equipment on the Liberty XL2 and a retrofit option for the IO-550N found in Cirrus SR22 aircraft) is set to play a larger part in Continental's future, particulary when avgas is replaced by something else (and TCM - Teledyne Continental Motors - is backing 94UL). There are two further developments of PowerLink in prospect, one a basic configuration that will be aimed at the retrofit and lighter end of the market where cost is a significant factor, and another that will deliver all of the FADEC advantages including analytics, but with a lower weight penalty.

The SR22 Turbo may be a big seller, but the people at Cirrus are bolting on a turbonormalising system, developed and manufactured by the highly respected guys at Tornado Alley, to the stock IO-550N. In an effort to win back some business, TCM has certified their FADEC system on their TSIOF-550, which now delivers 350hp at FL220. They're working closely with OEMs to deliver this engine and intend to make it available as a retrofit or replacement fit for existing SR22 Turbo owners.
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Meigs Field

I'd always wanted to fly from Meigs, but that's no longer possible thanks to the well-documented actions of Mayor Daley. This morning, before leaving Chicago for Oshkosh, Ian and I drove down to take a look at what was left. Although the control tower remains there's little else to suggest that this was once one of the world's most stunning airports. Dayley has turned it into a park with a mixture of mown grass, paths and wild conservation areas. As parks go, it's a pretty good one. It's in a stunning location and provides an area for cyclists, runners, walkers and just about anyone else to enjoy themselves. I'd still rather have Meigs though.

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Sunday, 26 July 2009

Life in Economy

Today was a travel day. To be fair to Virgin, the economy seats in their A340 aren't that bad. Ian Quinn tried out Premium Economy, and I had a minor concern when I thought that my bag hadn't made the flight, but all's well that ends well... so to summarise the day.
  • An hour-and-a-half to drive to Heathrow
  • A couple of hours to get stressed by the experience of T3
  • Eight hours in the aeroplane
  • About an hour to get through immigration, baggage reclaim and Customs
  • What seemed like an hour standing in the queue for the hire car
  • An hour or so to enjoy Chicago's traffic
Chicago seems to be a great city with a really nice atmosphere. We had a local beer or three and a bite to eat in a decent nearby bar. Tomorrow we're planning to have a quick look at what was once Meigs Field before Mayor Daley bulldozed it under cover of darkness in 2003. Right now my watch is telling me it's 9.00pm, but my body knows that it's 3.00am.

'night zzzzzzzzzzzzz