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.