Thursday, 3 November 2011

Bollocks











A couple of years ago we went on an organised flying tour of Tunisia. We had a great time and met some great people. Madeleine and Fernand (centre and right above) were there with their Cessna 210. They were in their early 70s but lived life as if they were in their 30s. Madeleine only stopped talking to laugh.

Later we spent a weekend at their house in Rouen, we enjoyed good food, good wine and great company.

Time passes quickly, we left a couple of messages and didn't hear back, we assumed they were busy.

This week we tried to get in touch again and sent some emails to the local aeroclub.

Madeleine and Fernand took off from Rouen for Montpellier on February 26th 2011. Climbing through FL140 in the vicinity of Aigle VOR something happened and one of the Centurion's wings came off. The report has yet to be published, but I'm told there was icing and CBs in the vicinity.

Bollocks.


Monday, 19 September 2011

People watching

I'm sitting in the loung of a large, New York area, FBO (Fixed Base Operator). I've been here for an hour or so, quietly looking at the people passing through while I wait for my lift to arrive.

Just outside the door there's a gaggle of limo drivers - smoking, laughing and no doubt putting the world to rights.

Then there are the white coats - a medical team presumably waiting for something or someone to arrive. I say 'something' because there's a van outside with ORGAN TRANSPORT written on the side.

There are a couple of policeman trying to track down some people who were here earlier. The people in question have popped out to lunch - something the receptionist has told the policeman a few times without them seeming to understand.

There are some golfers - a small group which passes quickly through.

By far the most interesting is a group of suited men with earpieces and curly wires disappearing into their suits. From time to time they are joined by other, more smartly dressed men of middle eastern appearance. They break off into various sub groups, talk in hushed tones and occasionally pop intio the rest rooms to 'sort out comms'. One of the group doesn't have an earpiece but does have an ID tag and a clipboard - he's looking fairly harassed.

A couple walks through on the way to a GV, they're followed by a porter pushing a huge trolley stuffed with shopping bags.

Someone behind the desk is looking at the curly wired gang and saying "On the ground in ten minutes, ten minutes." Clipboard man has gone over for a chat, meanwhile one of the curly wire gang is talking into his wrist and more curly wires have gone into a huddle.

I look on Flight Aware and see that my lift is in the air and on the way.

The medical team walked through the door leading to the apron, the transport van has gone. I imagine that  a family is fervently touching wood and crossing fingers.

The activity in the lounge increases significantly before a well-dressed, slim, middle-aged man arrives through the airside door. He's accompanied by a some more curly wires. A couple of similarly sharp suited gents jump up and lots of greetings follow. Three of them sit down and chat for no more than ten minutes - each time one of them looks up someone moves swiftly towards them with a briefcase or piece of paper. 

A Cessna Caravan parks up and a young family pass through on their way to the waiting car, their three- or four-year-old is fascinated by all of the suits. 

As quickly as the important group came in they get up to leave, returning airside. I counted over a dozen black limousines and 4x4s driving around the outside of the apron in a convoy lead by two police cars. It's emptied the lounge somewhat, but there are still four Brit-accented curly wires hanging around.

According to Flight Aware my lift is now only 22 minutes away.

Crew members sit drinking coffee while waiting for their passengers, FBO employees load food, organise fuel and take calls. Another line of black limos is waiting patiently outside for the next VVIP to arrive…


Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Oshkosh

EAA Airventure 2011 has been and gone and we've had the wrap up email from the press office. Here it is, with a few observations…

Comment from EAA president/CEO Rod Hightower:
"This year's event was a tremendous success. From the arrival of the Boeing 787 to our tributes to Bob Hoover and Burt Rutan, all the way through the huge crowd on the flight line for Saturday's night air show, the spirit of aviation was alive and well at Oshkosh this year. You could sense the enthusiasm for aviation and the future of flight throughout the AirVenture grounds."
I'd say that was a fair summary
Attendance: 541,000 - Increase of 1.3 per cent from 2010. Comment from Hightower:
* "The final attendance figure came in almost exactly where we thought it would. Opening day (July 25) was a tremendously successful day, while Friday (July 29) was very close to a record and Saturday (July 30) - with the superb lineup and night air show - was a big draw. Only some rainy weather in the middle of the week prevented the increase from being even greater."
Who knows how many people were there? I have no specific reason to disbelieve the EAA…
Total aircraft: More than 10,000 aircraft arriving at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh and other airports in east-central Wisconsin.
See above
Total showplanes: 2,522 (up 142 aircraft from 2010). Total includes 974 homebuilt aircraft, 899 vintage airplanes, 367 warbirds, 94 ultralights, 92 seaplanes, 36 aerobatic aircraft, 30 rotorcraft, and 30 miscellaneous.
Really? Seems high to me.
Commercial exhibitors: 803 (up from 777 in 2010)
Now this I am struggling with - not only did exhibitor numbers look and feel lower than 2010, but many exhibitors had nothing to do with aviation.
International visitors registered: 2,098 visitors registered from 68 nations, with Canada (551 visitors), Australia (297), and Brazil (257) the top three nations. (NOTE: This total includes only non-U.S. visitors who register at the International Visitors Tent, so the actual international contingent is undoubtedly larger.)

Media: 861 media representatives on-site, from five continents.
…sounds a bit of a big number to me (although whenever a company offered a free breakfast or lunch journos suddenly appeared).

What's ahead for 2012? Comment from Hightower:
* "Next year, for the 60th annual EAA fly-in, we'll be honoring Paul and Audrey Poberezny for all that they have done for the aviator community. We'll also welcome the iconic Piper Cub on its 75th anniversary. We're encouraging all owners of this legendary airplane to come to Oshkosh and turn the field yellow. We are going to be hosting a tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen, inviting all surviving members of this renowned World War II unit to join us at AirVenture. In addition, we'll recognize Van's Aircraft founder Dick VanGrunsven, whose RV series of aircraft have become the most popular homebuilt aircraft kits in the world. And, of course, there will be plenty of additions and one-of-a-kind surprises that can be found only at Oshkosh."
Funny that Paul Poberezny's son Tom isn't mentioned. Tom suddenly 'retired' during the event, lots of rumours surrounding this…it seems that Mrs Tom and her daughter didn't quite hit it off with Mr Hightower.
Biggest show news was probably Avidyne's announcement of a slide-in GNS530 replacement, worst news was a double fatality at the Seaplane base.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

A few quick (random) thoughts

Since getting back from Svalbard it's been hectic, particularly since Oshkosh beckons on Saturday. A few quick thoughts on some random aviation topics…

RAF Lyneham - According to the NOTAM the airspace will be suspended from today, and cancelled on September 30th. Liam Fox has announced that instead of being sold off, the site will re-open in 2013 as the home of the Defence technical training centre. I don't know if there will be flying from Lyneham in order to support that. It's a shame that a nice runway with lights, radar and an instrument approach is being lost to aviation.

BAA will have to sell Stansted and Glasgow or Edinburgh - This isn't something that greatly concerns me, but since BAA staff refused me permission to land at Edinburgh I'm happy that the people concerned might find themselves with new bosses, and those bosses might know a bit more about aviation.

Oshkosh - Only a week away, and the press conference invitations are coming thick and fast. So far no indications of any major announcements, although the Sennheiser S1 will officially break cover and Jeppesen will unveil the next version of Mobile TC which should bring enroute charts to the iPad. I'm sure there'll be more…

AirNavPro - as far as the UK/Europe is concerned this is really the only flight planning/GPS app available for the iPad. It has some good points, but the underlying airspace database is less than perfect, and it is far from intuitive. In a field of one it's the best, but it could be so much better, and so much easier.

PPR in the CI zone - What were they thinking? Clearly they weren't, and we now have a ridiculous system in place, albeit temporarily. My guess is that it will remain as those behind it aren't big enough to back down and risk losing face. The ability to (genuinely) admit a mistake and make changes as a result is a quality that's missing from many in senior roles these days.

More from Airventure next week

Friday, 8 July 2011

Still away

Sorry, have not managed any updates while on this trip - there has been lots and lots of flying, and not very much time. More when I get back, but in the meantime there are a few pictures on the FLYER Facebook page here


Monday, 27 June 2011

A few days to go before Svalbard

The current plan is to head to Paris on Thursday and then Stavanger Friday, Tromso Saturday then Svalbard Sunday. With 48 and a bit hours to go there are only 2,042 things left to do, but today I managed to tick off a few more, thanks in no small part to some very good friends.

I've got a pack of maps (which I need to look at in order to draw a few lines), I've got dayglo stripes on my wings, fresh oil in the engine and a host of survival gear should the worst happen.

Just need some decent weather now…

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Better get the prep work started
















Towards the end of next week I'm off to Spitsbergen in the C182 with a group of French pilots. After reaching Tromso in northern Norway we'll have another 550 ish nm to do, most of it over the Barents Sea. I'll be wearing a survival suit and carrying a dinghy, but plan A doesn't involve using either. Tomorrow the aeroplane will get an oil change and a good look under the cowl. I'll also apply the high visibility orange 'invasion stripes' required by the Norwegians and check on the calibration of my JPI fuel flow meter. This (it's officially an FS450) is linked to the GPS, and gives all sorts of good information like fuel on board when you land, range and endurance. Particularly helpful as there's no alternate and the aeroplane doesn't hold enough fuel to get there and back.

I've got hold of most of the charts I need and have arranged to borrow a couple that are missing, I also need to get the O2 cylinder filled up - although I'd much rather fly the whole trip at lower level, but a full cylinder (like a full fuel tank) gives options, and options are always good.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Aero Expo

You have to feel sorry for the organisers - the weather may yet change, but it doesn't look like we're set for a sunny Sywell. Right, where are my thermals?


What are they thinking?

Soon you'll need PPR to visit Alderney, Guernsey or Jersey with a GA aircraft.

A website has been created here to make it easier, but come on, is this sort of rubbish really necessary? Why is it people with runways, and let's not forget that the CI has a tonne of Class A and full ATC too, seem to have a problem with aeroplanes?

Grrrrr

Here's part of a document that's been circulated

PPR is to be introduced as a temporary measure in 2011 and applicable to Special VFR flights arriving at all three Channel Island Control Zone airfields. The introduction of PPR will be used on a seasonal basis and during core hours. PPR forms a part of the wider traffic and workload management plan for ATC and is key to the continuing safe operation of the ATCC as mandated by the Director of Civil Aviation. PPR will be managed via an online/electronic and telephone helpdesk method.

Daily 30th June to October 2011
0800 to 1900 local time
Outside of these times no PPR

Headlines:
. Jersey ATC will ensure that PPR is applied in a fair and equitable fashion with every
reasonable endeavour to the continued provision of the ATC service to all airspace users.
. Jersey ATC will provide a telephone helpdesk during the hours of PPR operation to assist pilots in PPR and flight planning for the Channel Island Control Zone, enabling Jersey ATC to provide a better service to its customers.
. The Jersey ATC helpdesk will book PPR over the telephone for pilots who cannot or
choose not to access the online system.
. As a temporary measure, PPR will be reviewed on a weekly basis and a monthly
performance report will be submitted to the executive management at Jersey Airport. Jersey ATC has guaranteed that if the temporary measures of PPR are showing no benefit it will be withdrawn in part or completely.
. PPR is not applicable to aircraft operating under Instrument Flight Rules.
. PPR is not applicable to over flights, departing flights or those flights involved in local training flights.
. PPR is based upon slots of 30 minute periods. The available slots each day without any ATC restrictions is 264, consisting of 4 slots per hour in each of 6 sectors (further
explained on the website at http://www.cicz.co.uk )
. ATC will adjust the PPR rate at the tactical stage in response to unforeseen
circumstances, or prolonged periods of non VFR weather conditions in order to provide the best service to the customer.

Rationale:
. To safely manage the traffic levels in the Channel Islands Control Zone, by continuing to allow non scheduled/general aviation aircraft access to the Channel Island Control Zone in core periods and ensure that this service is fair and equitable for users.
. To work with and assist the non scheduled/general aviation section of our service to
ensure that it can be provided and managed effectively.
. To make traffic known to Jersey ATC. If traffic is known to the Air Traffic Service Provider then we can plan accordingly and minimise delays to all users by fitting aircraft into the plan.
. To keep pilot expectation of service delivery at a realistic level.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

You've got to feel sorry for him...


















Earlier today I was flying along, minding my own business and dodging the showers. I was outside controlled airspace but listening to a local unit just to see what was going on.

A couple of Exam call signs were on frequency, both pilots on IR tests, both pilots undoubtedly towards the end of an expensive, intensive course. The first pilot seemed on top of things and was soon passed to London, the second pilot sounded more nervous. The unit I was listening in to cleared the second pilot to 2,500ft - but shortly called him to ask his altitude as it was indicating 3,000.

The pilot replied that he was correcting to 2,500 - but I'm guessing that the level bust was going to spoil his test. I can imagine how badly he felt as he pushed the nose down, perhaps taking his feet from the rudders for long enough to kick himself. As if that wasn't bad enough, ATC then called the Exam call sign to remind him that the previous agency had only cleared him to 2,500 - so even if by some miracle the examiner had been asleep/missed the mistake the first time around he/she was left in no doubt. I suppose there's a chance that the pilot got a partial pass, but a mistake like that at the beginning of the flight can't have done a huge amount for his nerves.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Time for a photo shoot


The good news is that the weather looks good. The bad news is that just as soon as it looks good it starts to look wet too. Best take a brolly…

TAF EGLL 080459Z 0806/0912 23009KT 9999 FEW030 PROB40 TEMPO 0809/0818 24015G25KT 7000 SHRA PROB30 TEMPO 0909/0912 8000 SHRA=

Edit. While there were a couple of showers around the weather turned out fine, if a little blustery!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Cessna's new CEO

Jack Pelton came into work at Cessna a couple of weeks ago and retired. Colleagues in the USA tell me that Jack's retirement came in the form of being fired with immediate effect. Some poor Q1 numbers and a reluctance to make deeper cuts apparently sealed his fate. That's all rumour and hearsay of course.

Today Scott Ernest, Jack's replacement, starts his second week at Cessna. If the rumours are true the spreadsheets will be getting worn out and Scott will be weighing up his first set of tough decisions. If the rumours aren't true…well, Oshkosh is only six or seven weeks away and Cessna will be shouting from the Wisconsin rooftops.

Watch this space.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Long day
















I had the opportunity to fly a new Tecnam P2006T from the factory in Naples, Italy, to Wycombe in the UK last week. We left the factory at about 16.30 on Tuesday, overnighted in Cannes and landed back at Wycombe at about 19.00 on Wednesday. The flight will be the subject of a 'Flying Adventure' in the magazine, but for now I thought I'd mention a few observations.

VFR in Italy
Like the UK, Italy has a lot of low-level Class A. If you want to stay over land (we didn't), you're stuck with a lot of compulsory reporting points. If you're happy over the sea, you'll end up low and quite a few miles off the coast.

Don't run late
While talking to Bastia we overheard a pilot heading for somewhere in Italy. His destination was about to close so he tried to negotiate an after-hours unicom style arrival. The Italians were clearly not in the mood to go along with his plan, and eventually the obviously frustrated pilot diverted into Calvi for the night. There are worse places.

Bergerac
This airport is situated in one of France's most gastronomic regions. The restaurant however caters for the mass of passengers passing through on Ryanair flights. Panini was about as exotic as it got.

Autopilots
Thanks to some seriously strong headwinds the flight back took a little under eight hours. After landing at Wycombe I flew my C182 back to the strip. That's a lot of flying in a day, but thanks to the factory-fitted autopilot I managed to stay awake for my supper, even after a post-flying beer. Hand flying all day would have had me dosing in my dinner!.

The full story will appear in FLYER soon





Friday, 27 May 2011

What would you do?

Earlier this week I found myself flying the C182 between appointments. I was to the south-east of Benson's MATZ and heading vaguely west.

I had Benson's frequency dialed in, but wasn't talking to them. The police helicopter who was working Benson was given some traffic information. A little while later the police helicopter told the controller that he'd try to get a registration, and a while after that the pilot called to advise of a black and yellow Stearman wearing the number 26 on the fuselage.

From the conversation it seems that the Stearman was in Benson's northern stub, and while it would be good airmanship to be in two-way communication with Benson it is by no means a legal requirement for a civilian aircraft.

So what would you do? My own view is that the police helicopter pilot (or whoever it was on board) was somewhat overzealous in his reporting. If I'm right - and given the controller's lack of real interest in the police helicopter's report I think I am - the Stearman pilot wasn't breaking any rules and hearing one pilot keen to report another leaves a nasty taste in my mouth.



Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Love is in the air












Sorry for the long gap…

I just wanted to pass on what was (for me) an amusing experience.

I recently found myself sitting in a car park close to Turin airport. My colleague pointed out two pilots and two cabin crew from Alitalia walking to their cars. The pilots (both male) had stylish hair, sharp uniforms and mirrored aviator sunglasses. They rolled their flight backs with style. The cabin crew (both female) were pencil thin and polished. They passed close enough for us to see that they had perfect make up and perfect hair. All four of them walked as if they were on a cat walk. If they'd have had captain's rather than FO stripes, I'd have guessed that they were coming from a photo shoot. These people were seriously in love, although I'm pretty sure it was with themselves.

By way of a contrast, I found myself in an airport bus waiting to be taken to the aeroplane. Half-a-dozen Ryanair crew were walking out…apart from being aircrew, the two crews didn't appear to have much in common.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Money


















Someone asked me recently why pilots were flying less, and why fewer people were learning to fly. The answer (obviously) has something to do with money, or more accurately, value for money.

On that subject a couple of things struck me recently…I was thinking about an autopilot for the C182. It has the Cessna Navomatic 200 wing-leveller fitted, but that only works if you want to fly 10nm circles, and although I could probably find someone to repair and recalibrate it, I get the feeling that I'd be in for some big bills to keep it working. I spoke to a few people about a decent retrofit autopilot (S-TEC is really the only game in town). The bottom line is that it would be cheaper to pay for my wife to get a PPL and an Instrument Rating than it would be to fit an S-TEC 55X. I guess I'll be hand-flying for a while.

I'm typing this from the world's biggest pilot shop - Sporty's. The company is celebrating its 50th year this weekend and is having a fly-in at Clermont County Airport. I paid less for my ticket on United than I paid to fill the tanks in the C182 last week. I'm trying not to think about that.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

AOPA US under attack

Over the years, I've spent some time talking to people working for AOPA US. I've been to their annual events, and I read AOPA Pilot, their magazine. They're a good bunch doing a good job in tough times. A few years ago the organisation had a change of President when Phil Boyer retired and Craig Fuller took over.

Craig's timing was less than ideal - the economy took a dive and that, combined with rising fuel prices, led to fewer aircraft sales and fewer people learning to fly. Times were tough and they're only just starting to get better.

AOPA has recently been getting some stick, see this post for an example from the end of 2010, and now others are joining in too. ANN has hit out with this. That's a bit of an outpouring about AOPA's email marketing campaign, and given that ANN and AOPA are also competitors on the commercial side, it's a bit wide of the mark IMHO. What a shame…

Friday, 8 April 2011

Aware 5

I went flying with the Aware 5 today. For anyone who hasn't seen an Aware before (is there anyone?), it's a very simple GPS with a digital CAA chart which has an underlying airspace database that's used to provide controlled airspace warnings. The '5' is a bigger unit than the original, but works in exactly the same way.

In most light conditions, the screen is easy to use, although there are times when the bright sunlight makes it difficult. The GPS finds itself quickly and the battery seems to be coping well (an hour-and-a-half so far). Airspace warnings come both on-screen and audibly - and even without the unit being somehow plugged into the intercom, the beeping is audible above the 182's Continental and through Sennheiser's ANR. The only complaint is that the supplied suction mount is about as cheap as they come, but there are plenty of other options available to the resourceful pilot.

For £249 it offers good value, and instant situational awareness.



Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Thoughts on recent some recent news

Sun 'n Fun is running, but rather than sunning myself in Florida I've been at my desk in Bath (lots to do and we have a flight training show in Amsterdam this weekend). It seems that there's a fair bit of news doing the rounds…here are a couple of the more interesting stories

1. Cessna announces the Corvalis TTx
Not sure what to make of this. The Corvalis hasn't really sold in big numbers when compared to its competitor the SR22. On the face of it the TTx doesn't deal with three big issues…the lack of FIKI (Flight Into Known Icing), the lack of an airframe parachute and the price. The new paint and new interior are great, but not really compelling enough. The real value that the TTx brings is Cessna's version of the G2000. This represents the latest in Garmin's line up, and sooner or later it'll make the G1000 seem a bit clunky. Cessna won't deliver the TTx until 2012, so how many people are going to be put off buying anything with a G1000 in the meantime? My guess is quite a few.

2. Diamond lay off D-Jet team
A few weeks ago Diamond Canada made a plea for the process behind a local government loan to speed up. It didn't and Diamond carried out its tacit threat to cut back staff and over 200 people found themselves out of a job. The D-Jet project (said to be 60% complete) has 'stalled' according to Diamond. If the money comes through the employees will be called back, but right now I imagine they're all out looking for jobs, probably in Vero Beach.


Monday, 21 March 2011

NEWS...

Feeling bad about not posting a great deal recently. Here are some quick thoughts on recent aviation news items…

Cirrus gets sold to the Chinese. The deal has yet to be completed and I have a feeling the road between here and there is full of turns, hills and potholes. Ultimately I still think that it'll get done.

Cessna ship fewer SEPs than Cirrus in 2010. It's a tough market out there and I'm not sure that any of the manufacturers are making money. If it wasn't for banks and Venture Capital/foreign/generous owners providing life support...

Talking of which, take a look at this Diamond story. I'm not convinced that it can be taken at face value, but local funds are an important source of cash flow for OEMs, ask Piper, Hawker Beechcraft, Diamond, Cirrus and lots of others…

Despite Today's Pilot being a competitor I was sad to see it go. They're a good bunch of people - but to be frank the market needed some consolidation.

Cessna is unveiling some new technology next week - as far as I can tell it is linked to the Corvalis…

There's some more big news coming towards the end of this week - keep your eyes open on Thursday.

More soon (I hope).

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Road Warrior

Another airport another day (or night)... I've been doing a lot of waiting for flights recently (sadly, running a UK GA magazine isn't profitable enough to rent some funky, fast, de-iced aeroplane for weeks at a time in the USA) and have been spending some of my time people-watching. I've developed this theory - modern business travelers are really just modern day cowboys.

Rather than being dressed in chaps and spurs, the modern male cowboy wears beige chinos and blazer while cowgirls wear dark business suits, often keeping the spurs. They all strut their stuff on the concourse, a quick draw hand always poised to react as soon as their holstered Blackberry rings. The airport has its own much sought after nuggets of gold, in the form of power outlets - the business cowboys fight a battle with the bandits - roaming teenagers who plug in iPads or laptops for games, music or videos.

Those who have won, presumably by never losing a draw, often get to step out of the fight into special saloons with uniformed guards…

Have to go... my horse is just pulling up to its gate, yeeha…

Friday, 11 February 2011

Grrrr





















I haven't flown the C182 for a while, since November to be precise.

Earlier this week the weather was forecast to be exceptional and we needed to take a few pictures - an ideal opportunity to brush off the cobwebs and give the 182 its first flight of 2011. I packed the flying kit and took along a battery booster just in case...

I drove to Henstridge where it has been spending the winter in a nice warm hangar where I discovered a cowling covered in red dye. It seems that one of the seals has dried out allowing the fluid to seep out - I can now see why red dye is used!

I ended up driving to the photo shoot, a less than ideal way of travelling.

I'm told that a couple of new seals shouldn't be too expensive nor take too long... fingers crossed.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Rumours...

Rumours are an everyday part of GA. In tough times there's always someone about to go bust (manufacturer, flying school, magazine...), and in the good times there's always someone about to launch a new world-beating aircraft, training school or even magazine.

Right now there's a 'GA manufacturer about to be bought' rumour doing the rounds. This particular manufacturer is, apparently, about to be sold to the Chinese, and while I have no idea how likely that might be - I wouldn't be particularly surprised.

Watch this space - a couple of people have told me that the sale is imminent...

Friday, 28 January 2011

Airline joy

We're away this weekend. Getting to this particular event involves flying, and with a strong desire to be there I bought a couple of airline tickets a few weeks ago. The weather is too unpredictable and the freezing level too low to be able to guarantee attendance by C182. Inevitably the weather looks OK for flying, and inevitably we're figuring out exactly what we can and can't take while making sure that our liquids are in bottles no bigger than 100ml. The tickets came in at just over £200, and being tight (a useful trait in this economy!) I'm not willing to throw them away so that I can take the Cessna instead.

Next weekend we have meetings in Paris, and once again we can't afford not to be there. I've bought a Eurotunnel ticket for the car, but that was much, much cheaper - so if the weather's OK I think we'll be flying with oversize hand luggage and loads of liquids in lots of big bottles, just because we can.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Nearly $1m for an SEP!

A couple of things have happened in the aviation manufacturing world over the last few days. Starting yesterday, Textron, Cessna'a parent announced its 2010 financial results. 2010's Q4 was better for Cessna than 2009's Q4 (largely thanks to a US bonus depreciation tax break). Despite that, the end result for 2010 was still a loss of $29m for Cessna. The company is reasonably positive about the future citing a stabilising of the economy and fruition of new product investment as factors.

A few days before that, news of a 'new' aircraft from Cirrus Aircraft started leaking. I haven't seen an official release, but it seems that the company is making a special model to celebrate 10 years of the SR22. The SR22 10th edition is based on an SR22T and will, I hear, be loaded with lots of extras and available options. No doubt there'll be a new (cosmetic) look inside and out. What's interesting to me is that the price has been set at $795,000. By the time you get that to the UK, pay for the ferry and pay for the VAT we're only £25k or so short of the £1,000,000 single-engine piston. I suppose it will make the expensive fuel look relatively cheap!

Bringing a bit of new aircraft interest to the four-seat sector is the recent news of a new entrant from Mahindra in India. The company is due to fly its five-seat single in March. Mahindra, which owns a majority stake in Gipplsland' is also planning an eight- to ten-seater. The company plans to sell the aeroplanes for roughly 20% less than the equivalent US-made product.

The sector will also see at least two more entrants when both Tecnam and Flight Design show four-seat models at Aero Friedrichshafen in April.

A fair chunk of activity for a market sector that's been in decline of late.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Trying too hard

The argument goes something like this…

I fly a XXX (insert appropriate LAA permit to fly type) and it’s powered by a Rotax 912S. It’ll cruise at XXX kt (add speed to taste) while burning about 18lph. The annual maintenance costs me about a fiver and I keep it in a barn on a strip that is usable for 12 months of the year. I tour extensively and there’s enough useful load for two people to go away for six weeks.

This is then countered with something like this…

Well yes, that’s all very well but I fly my XXX (insert appropriate…you get the picture) it is only ever at night and almost always in clouds. I need to be able to take four lardy people and their baggage, and although it burns more fuel I cruise at XXX kt. It gives me flexibility. Besides, if I owned a Permit machine I’d never do any of the maintenance because I can barely put up a shelf. I’d have to pay an engineer to do it all for me, so it wouldn’t save me a penny.

The trouble is, while each side continues to entrench its position with religious verve, the congregation fails to be either converted or educated because the proselytising is just so friggin tedious. There’s no one aeroplane that’s perfect for all, and finding the one that’s right for you means taking an honest look at your own needs and then educating yourself about all of the options out there. Beware of owners exhibiting missionary zeal.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Motorway joy...

Apologies for the lack of updates. I'm in a car on the M4 with enough time for a few bullet points...

- Craig Fuller, President of AOPA US is upbeat about GA and 2011. However, many observers predict a tough year.
- Bembridge continues to remain closed to visitors with the owners (the Taylor family) and managers (BN Group) seemingly having trouble working and playing well together
- Avgas prices continue to rise thanks to increased wholesale prices and the extra VAT.
- 2011 looks like being the year when EASA finalises the CS-LSA category

More soon I hope...