Saturday, 3 July 2010

Alternative windsock

Friday was aviation medical day. As usual I'd managed to leave it until the last minute, so with my FAA class II expired and my CAA/JAA class II in its last 36 hours of validity I flew up to a convenient Davetry strip to see Dr Frank Voeten, an AME who handily does both CAA and FAA medicals.

I'm glad to say that both medicals were renewed - failing would have meant leaving the aeroplane there. The first flight of the new two-year validity period was a very pleasant, very smooth late evening trip back to Wiltshire.

My direct track took me through Brize and Lyneham. As I flew over Brize I spotted the Vulcan on the ground. I understand that it has had a recent two-hour test flight, although obviously it didn't get signed off by the CAA in time to display at Goodwood on Thursday.

A few miles away from the strip a farmer was handily having a bonfire, it gave me a hundred yard long windsock although there wasn't really any wind to speak of. On short final the rabbits scattered, leaving a nice smooth runway, and a great end to a great late evening flight.

Time for some rumours...

It's new aeroplane bonanza time. Despite the economy I think we're likely to see quite a few interesting aircraft announced over the next few months, and they're not all lightweight two-seat Rotax-powered aircraft either.

Think singles, with two, four and more seats - and think twins, think pistons, think mogas, and think Jet A.

New announcements aren't just restricted to new aircraft, there's an increasingly loud whisper that Bose will be launching a new headset soon (presumably at Oshkosh) - and there's talk that Jeppesen may be announcing an iPad chart reader App too.

It's turning out to be an interesting year…

Friday, 2 July 2010

Good fun at Goodwood

Yesterday was a five-leg day. It started with a short flight to Garston Farm to pick up FLYER's editor, Ian Waller. From there we flew to Goodwood to take a look at their new Aviation Show, which is running alongside the Festival of Speed.

Goodwood was its usual very organised, very friendly and very neat place. The courtesy coffee and bacon bap on arrival were much appreciated, as was the transport to and from the Festival of Speed (well, it would be silly to go all that way and not take a look). The Aviation Show itself was a pretty select affair, with Pilatus, Cessna and Hawker Beechcraft all having aircraft on display.

The Festival of Speed itself looked interesting, but with work looming in the background we didn't have time to fully appreciate the event.

As soon as the Hunter had finished displaying we were off to our next meeting, at Popham, and that was followed by a slightly rainy flight back to Garston and finally the strip.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Rotax rules...

The Tecnam P2006T turned a few eyes at AeroExpo, but its engines also raised quite a few eyebrows.

To some pilots who have spent hundreds or thousands of hours behind Lycomings or Continentals, Rotax spells trouble. They immediately think of the early, two-stroke engines rather than the current batch of four-stroke wonders. Sadly, pilots with tens of hours who get their disinformation from others often share the same view.

The four-stroke Rotax engines, 912, 912S and 914 are bloody great engines that enjoy a 2,000hr TBO and a high level of reliability. If I ever get around to crossing the Atlantic in a piston aeroplane, I'd be quite happy to do it behind a Rotax.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Piper pain

The hoped for recovery seems to be happeneing a little slower than we'd like. Piper's Vero Beach factory will close for a week in August with almost all employees getting a week off without pay.

A small group of people will remain to ensure that critical parts get shipped, and that any customers can pick up their new aeroplanes. The PiperJet development group will also be at work during that week.

It's the jet decison that I find interesting. Is there so much internal (or investor?) pressure that a week will make a big diference, is it intended to send a message to the industry that the jet is the company's top priority or is it a case of managing customer (deposit holder) expectations?

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Think single with two engines

I had the chance to fly the Tecnam P2006T twin a few days ago.

It performs remarkably well considering the four-seat twin has just 200hp. The aeroplane delivers a relaxed cruise of 135kt, with a total fuel burn of just 38 litres per hour. Impressive stuff.

Looking at the specs it's hard to avoid comparisons with singles rather than twins - who'd buy a Piper Arrow instead of a Tecnam twin for example?

The low rental cost - Airways Flying Club has it on the line for £200/hr solo - should go a long way towards reinvigorating the PPL twin rating market, and well-managed groups of around say four or five people should provide economic touring with the added security of an extra engine over water and inhospitable terrain.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Old alternative fuels

I've just been reading about an interesting experiment that took place in the early 80s. Socata, in a project financed by Lycoming, Primagaz and the French Transport Ministry, clocked up 250 hours on a TB10 converted to run on liquid propane. According to an EADS Socata book, the result was an aircraft that was both faster and quieter than the TB10. The LPG was stored in tip-tanks, which probably made for a more interesting spin if nothing else.

The aircraft was displayed at the Paris Airshow in 1983, but the project was cancelled, apparently when the various partners involved couldn't agree with the French Government on how to tax the fuel!

Plus ca change.

Many thanks to Rod Simpson for the photograph.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

AeroExpo - a few quick thoughts

It was hot, numbers were down and the percentage of 'registration enthusiasts' was up. Sunday was inevitably very quiet.

The event was pretty well supported by the industry, and while there wasn't stand after stand of new and exciting aviation products there were enough things to see to make a visit worthwhile.