Friday, 7 August 2009

Flight planning

When I was learning to fly, my preparation for a cross-country flight went roughly along these lines.
  1. Plan the route. That meant lines on maps and plogs with times, speeds, altitudes and headings. It involved protractors, scales and a CRP1 to do difficult sums.
  2. Pop over to the Tower to look at the NOTAM (I learned pre internet). Looking at the NOTAM meant flicking through a few sheets of telex paper pretending that I understood the seemingly random characters that were barely legible. I didn't.
  3. While in the Tower, ask for the latest TAFs and METARs at least for the departure and destination airfields. These too were a mystery at first.
  4. Discuss all of the above with other students, actual skygod PPL holders who were at the school renting, and finally one of the instructors. Should any changes be required, I'd repeat all of the steps.
These days the planning process is much quicker, that's partly due to having a bit more experience but also because it is just so much easier now. For my flight to France tomorrow, the planning went something like this
  1. Take a quick look at the weather to see if it is going to be VFR or IFR. For this (rough) guide I look at one or more of the following Avbrief, BBC, Meteo France. Tomorrow looks like good VFR
  2. Fire up Navbox ProPlan, create a line between departure and destination and 'rubber band' my way around anything I need to.* Depending on distances and time pressures, I may plan a stop somewhere - unless there's a good reason I prefer not to fly legs of more than three hours if possible.
  3. Check NOTAM on the AIS site and re-plan with ProPlan if there's a need (no need for tomorrow, although there are some transiting Red Arrows and a big gliding competition to look out for.
  4. Draw a line on the map, and take a look at airspace, paying particular attention to vertical restrictions like the airway running from SAM to the Channel Islands.
In the morning, I'll use the briefing handbook facility to check for any last minute NOTAM and will use Avbrief to take a more detailed look at the weather. I'll be spared trips to the Tower or anywhere else and will file my flight plan online via AFPEx, and my GAR via email.

Both processes give the same result, but where I probably took half a day to plan a 100nm flight before, now largely thanks to the internet and a laptop, pretty much any European flight can be easily planned in less than 30 minutes.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Where's Rick Shrameck?

Have you seen Rick Shrameck? During Oshkosh there were rumours that the Epic facility in Bend, Oregan had been closed down by a 'Federal agency'. The rumours were persistent so I tried to find out what was going on, but couldn't make contact with Mr Shrameck. Emails and calls continue to go unanswered.

There was an Epic stand at Oshkosh but when I went along to ask some questions I found that the stand had gone!

One Epic customer, Rich Lucibella, has recently filed a lawsuit against the company for an engine that he says they failed to deliver. According to Lucibella (via AIN) there are about twelve uncompleted airframes in the Epic building. The Epic LT is a kit aircraft that is supposedly built at the factory by the owner. Epic is currently under investigation by the FAA for allegedly exceeding the amount of building that the company does compared to that carried out by the owner.

Thanks to Airport Journal for the picture

Update: According to loal news reports the building was locked up by the landlord who also has a lien on good inside. Rick Shrameck is not repsonding to calls or emails, neither is his business partner or lawyer. More information here

Owners bid $40m for Eclipse assets

Two Eclipse owners have put together a $40m bid for Eclipse Aviation's assets which include the DayJet fleet. If successful, Eclipse Aerospace (EA) will pay $20m in cash and issue $20m in shares to take over where Vern Raeburn and Roel Pieper left off.

Although this offer has passed inspection by the bankruptcy court - and the existing owners' group EOG (Eclipse Owners Group) has withdrawn, in order to back EA's offer - there is still a chance that there will be an auction later this month. I understand that there may be competition from Russia and China, although Daher-Socata is no longer an interested party. Eclipse Aerospace was started by Mason Holland and Mike Press, both Eclipse owners.

Update: The fate of Eclipse will be settled on August 20th. So far the Eclipse Aerospace bis is the only runner in the race with the bankruptcy judge setting a deadline of noon on Friday 14th August for others to enter the running. If one or more bids are made then an auction will follow, if not then it is likely that the judge will approve the sale of Eclipse's remaining assets to Eclipse Aerospace.

Hotel approved for Biggin Hill

It's not all bad news at Biggin Hill. After two failed attempts the airport has received planning permission to build a hotel at the corner of Churchill Way. The hotel's bar and restaurant, which will have a view of the runway, will be open to the public.

More details from This is Kent

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Waterless wash test

...and now for something completely different. AFE recently sent through a 'onedrywash' car cleaning kit to test. Waterless cleaning systems have become very popular in areas of drought, and in some parts of the world it has been the only way that car valeters could remain in business, although I very much doubt that a hosepipe ban is on the cards for the UK this summer.

It says on the box that the system was developed to clean aircraft in the desert. Lacking anything resembling a desert I waited for the rain to stop and headed for ths strip to try out the system for a report in next month's issue of FLYER. After doing that I thought I'd try making a video of the process for this blog.

As you can see the system is simple to use: spray on, clean with supplied microfibre cloth, and then finish by polishing with another clean, dry (supplied) mf cloth. The box claims that the kit has enough fluid in it to clean seven cars, but I'd guess that there's about enough to give a dirty C182 one good clean.

I was surprised how well the system worked, even on areas of paint that are in less than perfect condition. The 'kit' costs £14.95 and consists of a bottle of cleaning fluid (each bottle saves one tonne of water apparently!), two microfibre cloths and some latex gloves. Replacement bottles of 'onedrywash' are available for £9.95. It's expensive if you are a compulsive cleaner, but if your aircraft lives in a hangar and gets two or three good cleans a year then it's well worth giving this a try.

Air Touring at Biggin Hill in administration

Air Touring at Biggin Hill has gone into administration. The company was distributor for the TB series of piston singles and the TBM850 turboprop. They also distributed the Columbia 350 and 400 before Columbia itself went into administration prior to being bought by Cessna. Air Touring at Biggin was also the UK dealer for Mooney Aircraft.

I understand that neither Air Touring Germany nor the Air Touring Group are affected by this. For further information contact: Baker Tilly, The Clock House, 140 London Road, Guildford, Surrey GU1 1UW. Tel: 01483 307000

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

GA piston sales down 58%

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) today released the shipment figures for the second quarter of 2009. As expected, they don't paint a pretty picture. The first six months of 2009 saw 434 aircraft delivered whereas 1,034 were delivered over the same period in 2008, a 58% drop.

Total sales revenues (which include jet and turboprop aircraft) have also seen a dramatic decline with Cessna down $922,511,336, Piper down $48,475,950, Cirrus down $48,272,008 and Diamond down $46,671,661. The industry as a whole is down $2.73 billion so far this year.

In the first quarter of 2009, Cessna led the single-engine piston market with 26% of all shipments, but in Q2 Cirrus Aircraft became the market leader accounting for 32% of all shipments against Cessna's 31%. The best-selling single continues to be the Cirrus SR22 with 68 deliveries while Cessna shipped 32 C172 Skyhawk SP and Diamond 31 DA40.

Other snippets that I found interesting...
  • Cessna sold more Citation Mustangs than Skyhawks (38 against 32)
  • So far this year only one Corvalis 350 has been sold
  • Despite costing over $1m each, eight Baron 58 have been sold so far this year
  • Liberty Aerospace sold seven XL2 at an average price of $171,571
  • Maule sold two aircraft at an average price of $169,248

  • Privately, manufacturers are not hopeful for significantly increased sales. Many have new aircraft in stock and others will be building 'white tails' (aircraft without orders). The market may (fingers crossed) have bottomed out, but the recovery looks like being long and slow.

    Monday, 3 August 2009

    Oshkosh by the numbers

    The Oshkosh numbers are out, and the good news is that even in this tough climate attendance is up.

    Attendance: 578,000 - up 12% on 2008

    Total aircraft: over 10,000

    Exhibition aircraft: 2,652 (highest number since 2005). The breakdown was...
    1,023 hombuilt aircraft; 1,007 vintage aircraft; 355 warbirds; 116 ultralights; 99 seaplanes; 36 aerobatic aircraft and 16 rotorcraft

    Commercial exhibitors: 750

    Number of people camping: 41,000

    The event was reported on by 907 members of the media.

    If you want to be part of the numbers next year, the dates for your diary are 26th July to 1st August.

    Sunday, 2 August 2009

    Oshkosh in pictures

    A small selection, hopefully conveying some of the Oshkosh atmosphere. If you want to see a bigger version of the same slideshow, click here.

    A short guide to the Cirrus battle

    There's a lot of confusion surrounding the events at Cirrus, so here's a simple guide followed by a few guesses.

  • 25 years ago Alan and Dale Klapmeier founded Cirrus Design
  • In 1998 the FAA certified the SR20
  • In 2000 the FAA certified the SR22
  • In 2006 Cirrus started taking $100,000 deposits for the jet. It is said that at one point they held 40 deposits
  • In 2008, Alan Klapmeier was replaced as CEO by Brent Wouters, Klapmeier remained as Chairman
  • In early July, Alan Klapmeier announced that he was putting a team together to buy the jet project from Cirrus Aircraft
  • Brent Wouters and Alan Klapmeier appeared to not be reading the same script in interviews following that announcement
  • At Oshkosh, Wouters and Dale Klapmeier said that selling the project to Alan (while retaining an interest) was a win win
  • Later that week Alan Klapmeier said that he was withdrawing from the negotiations
  • Brent Wouters responded by suggesting that Cirrus had alternative capital options

  • A few thoughts (and guesses)

  • It's clear that there's a rift between Alan Klapmeier and Brent Wouters
  • It's clear that Alan and Dale are not as close as they once were
  • From comments made by Wouters, it's clear that the Jet will take a very long time for Cirrus to bring to market without significant additional investment
  • In these tough economic times, Cirrus needs deposit holders asking for their money back like a double dose of swine flu
  • Arcapita (who own Cirrus) should, in theory at least, be very motivated to do the deal - it would remove the jet deposit liabilities and going forward would mean that Cirrus would not need to spend 'every development dollar' on the jet.
  • Wouters has stated that the negotiations had got very, very close
  • Does Arcapita have another deal on the table?
  • Has Alan really withdrawn, or is that a negotiating tactic?

  • More news when I get it...

    Update: As far as I can tell the withdrawal was for real, and wasn't part of any negotiation strategy. It is impossible to say that Alan Klapmeier and his team will never buy the project, but all the signs are that when his Chairmanship of Cirrus Aircraft ends later this month he'll be spending his time working on non-Cirrus matters.