A Safety Journal for General Aviation
by Max Trescott, Master CFI & FAA Aviation Safety Counselor
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As long time subscribers know, Pilot Safety News often comes out late in the month. That's certainly the case this month, since I've been out of town most of the month on various trips. You'll benefit from these absences though, as all of those trips were flying related and I'll be sharing a lot about them in this and upcoming issues. One of the trips was to visit Sun-N-Fun, the first big aviation expo of the year, and my first trip ever to this great show. Most of this newsletter will "Spotlight" this outstanding show. It's interesting to note that there's a lot of activity at the low end--light sport aircraft--and at the high end--Very Light Jets or VLJ. We'll talk mostly about the former, but tease you with a picture or two on the latter.
I'm typing part of this while flying along at FL400. It's nice to be in the back of the bus sometimes and not have to do the flying--though I'm not fond of taking off my shoes to shuffle through airport security. My only consolation is that Richard Reid was known as the "tennis shoe bomber" and not the "underwear bomber!"
The latest way to communicate is via Podcast. If you have a computer and can connect to the internet (and you must because you're reading this!) you can listen to Podcasts on just about any subject. You can find a series of podcasts on flying at www.thefinerpoints.net, which is hosted by Jason Miller, a CFI in the S.F. Bay area. Jason interviewed me about a month ago, and you can hear us talking about--what else--the G1000 Glass cockpit. To hear this short chat, go to http://www.thefinerpoints.net/podcast/?Podcasts=all#, scroll down and click on #25, which will download the 5 MB file so you can hear it. If you have iTunes (a free download from Apple.com) you can subscribe for free to receive Jason's podcasts.
Last month, we mentioned that the FAA is eliminating the "Position and Hold" instruction at many airports. They did issue hundreds of waivers, so you'll need to check with your local tower to find out if position and hold can still be used at your airport. Locally, Palo Alto has a waiver, but busy San Carlos does not. Stay tuned to see how this all sorts out.
It seems like in every issue, I have something good to say about the 99's organization of flying ladies. This month you should know that they are putting on their annual Flying Companions Seminar, for spouses of pilots, at Reid-Hillview in San Jose, CA. Other 99's chapters around the country hold similar seminars, so check your local chapter. My wife attended this excellent all day session a number of years ago and I was amazed at how much she learned from it. If you want your spouse to learn more about flying and how to help you from the left seat, go to Flying Companions Seminar.
Here are a
few upcoming seminars I'm teaching:
May 9, 2006 Risk Management & Personal Minimums 6:30 PM South County Airmans Assoc, South County Airport, San Martin
May 20, 2006 IFR for the Garmin 430 & G1000 9:30 AM, Tradewinds Aviation, RHV airport ($50 members, $75 non-members) Call 408-729-5100 to register.
Looks like I'll be in Southern California in June--more on that next month.
Feel free to forward this newsletter to your flying friends and encourage them to subscribe. If you're on the distribution list, you'll receive an email each month highlighting the information contained in the online version of the newsletter. Submissions and feedback are always welcome!
Have fun and fly safely!
Max Trescott, Master CFI
Sun-N-Fun Air Show
Whoever named this great air show really got it right! If you live on the west coast as I do, you may think that Sun-N-Fun is a small regional air show in Florida and that's certainly what I thought when I attended it this month for the first time. While it is in Florida, I was shocked to realize is that it's anything but small. Not only is it the second largest air show in the U.S., but it's a heck of a lot bigger than the AOPA shows that rotate around the country and typically draw around 10,000 attendees. While the press office is apparently careful not to share numbers, my sources put the show size between 250,000 and 500,000 attendees over the course of the week and tell me that it's grown significantly in recent years.
That's not as big as the 750,000 plus people that attend Oshkosh, but there's a major benefit to that. You'll find virtually all of the same exhibitors at Sun-N-Fun and the show is a lot more accessible. You'll probably spend less time driving into the show each day and you won't have to walk as far from the parking lot.
Also, if your family is not as enamored with aviation as you are, you can still make a family vacation. Sun-N-Fun is located in Lakeland, FL, which is an hour from the Orlando International airport and perhaps just under an hour from the Tampa/Clearwater/St. Petersburg airport. I can see you're getting ahead of me on this one. Yes, bring the family and let them hit Disney World for a couple of days while you bask in aviation (and sun) at Sun-N-Fun--which is a pilot's version of Disney World. The two venues are so close I could see fireworks over Disney World one night while headed back to my hotel. So everyone can come home with a smile and a suntan.
F22 Raptor and a F15 play with their little buddy--a P51 Mustang--against a low overcast
Like Oshkosh, Sun-N-Fun has a big air show every afternoon. Ironically, I don't usually spend a lot of time watching the air shows as I'm usually talking with people. Airplane people are incredibly friendly and knowledgeable, so my eyes are often not in the sky when the air show is on. But they got me this year. Wouldn't you know that the Air Force picked Sun-N-Fun to debut their latest fighter--the F22 Raptor.
Actually, they brought a pair of these remarkable birds, which flew on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and were on display on the flight line at other times. There's nothing like watching one of these aircraft pull up 90 degrees and keep on going--straight up! Later one of the Raptors and an F15 were joined by a P51 Mustang, another top fighter plane but from a different era. I captured these three birds as they flew nearly overhead.
Light Sport Aircraft
If you haven't noticed, the Light Sport Aircraft industry is taking firm root and is jumping ahead by leaps and bounds (okay, so I'm mixing my metaphors, but something is happening here). I spent a long time one evening talking with the founder of Kappa Aircraft, which coincidentally is located at Mt. Pocono airport in Pennsylvania, one of the airports I flew into on my long cross country when I got my Private certificate many years ago. Edwin started researching light sport aircraft 3 1/2 years ago, more than 2 years before there was a light sport category.
Kappa Aircraft KP-5
He'd lived in the Czech Republic for six years, which is where many of the light sport airplanes currently sold in North America originate. In fact, he tells me that these light sport aircraft ARE general aviation in many European countries such as Italy. What a sobering thought! Let's hope that general aviation doesn't become as expensive and as regulated as it is in Europe so that someday we have ONLY light sport aircraft in the U.S.!
Over the last year since Light Sport was formally named as a category by the FAA at last year's Sun-N-Fun, Edwin has seen a progression in the levels of interest in these planes. The first wave of interest came from pilots who were facing medical issues and felt that someday they might no longer qualify for an FAA medical. Then came a wave of interest from pilots who were only flying daytime VFR anyway and hence could cut their flying cost by flying light sport aircraft. Now, he's beginning to see inquiries from younger people who are interested in becoming pilots and see light sport aircraft as a means to achieve their flying dreams economically.
The numbers are small but growing. One company (and not the
largest one), told me that they've received orders for 50 planes and have
shipped 35 so far. Their plan is to build 12 aircraft a month which, if they
achieve that rate, would put them on par with recent shipment numbers for some
very famous names in traditional GA aircraft. Multiply by ten companies, add a
few more years for the industry to mature and we could be talking about a
CTSW Light Sport Aircraft
What surprised me is the sophistication in some of these aircraft. Take the CTSW, which lists for $89,000 and costs $109,772 as displayed at Sun-N-Fun. That display model included a transponder, Garmin 396 GPS and XM data link weather, ATD-300 traffic display and leather seats. That's the level of functionality typically found only in the newest glass cockpit aircraft which cost nearly three times as much!
There's a lot of variety in these planes. You'll find both land and sea airplanes, and within these categories you'll find high and low wings and metal and composite construction. Some are VFR only, others are IFR certified including one I saw that came equipped with a Garmin GNS 530 and XM weather! All of them are limited to two seats, a maximum gross weight of 1320 pounds and a speed of 120 knots. There are no limitations on the engine power or fuel quantities.
Solid industry statistics are hard to come by, though the Sun-N-Fun organization said in its daily newspaper that the FAA has inspected a total of 250 planes for shipments. Actual sales are probably less, since many of these early aircraft are going to dealers. Still, it's a remarkable accomplishment for an industry that is exactly 12 months old. It's going to be fun to watch this industry evolve over the next decade.
Interestingly, a few days ago, I saw a CTSW being demoed at San
Jose's RHV airport. Candidly, I have a theory that these planes will
proportionally be less successful in metro areas than their more expensive
counterparts. Why? Because in metro areas, a significant part of the cost of
ownership of an aircraft is NOT related to the cost of an airplane. For example,
at Sun-N-Fun I spoke with a Light Sport owner from Ukiah, CA about this. He
literally choked when I told him that his $85/month hanger at Ukiah would cost
him at least $450/month in the S.F. Bay Area--if he were lucky enough to find
The Sigma seems to be saying "Take me to your leader"--or home to your hanger
Other Light Sport models that I saw and which you might want to investigate were the Kappa KP-5, the Sport Cruiser, Skylark, Iccarus Breezer, Escapade, Zodiak XL, Sigma Elitear and Remo G3 600.
Very Light Jets
They are coming. Several are already flying and first deliveries look like they will still happen later this year. Eclipse drew a large crowd with their multiple jets on display and a static model for displaying the interior. The Cessna Mustang was sporting some additional paint trim which made it even more appealing. And Adam Aircraft displayed both their A500 single engine piston airplane and their new A700 jet. Both employ a very distinctive twin tail boom. The A700 flew during the air show, and it cast a very unique shape against the horizon as it was flying away from us.
The Adam Aircraft A700 VLJ
National Association of Flight
Part of the time at Sun-N-Fun, I staffed the NAFI booth. This is the professional society for flight instructors and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in becoming a CFI. You can find more about them at www.nafinet.org, including articles from their monthly Mentor magazine. Since NAFI is part of EAA, NAFI members get the same discounted admission to Oskhosk as EAA members. So join now before you attend Oshkosh this summer!
Air Shows are like college parties. When the beer runs out (or in this case when the deafening roar of the F22 Raptor is gone) people leave in droves. On my last day at Sun-N-Fun, I sat at one of the exits just to observe people leaving and see what I may have missed. It's been awhile since I did much active people watching and it was fun and informative.
First I noticed lots of families with kids. It's was great to see so many youngsters being exposed to aviation. Most were carrying chairs, wearing slightly goofy hats, and sporting a mild sunburn (something we haven't seen in northern California for over six months). Best of all, there were lots of smiles in the crowd, and many people said hello as they walked by me as I sat on the top of a picnic table taking notes.
The strong Florida breeze had these figures spinning. Note the child playing in the background
One group of three guys walked by and all of them had their faces planted in the same brochures. That triggered my reporter's instincts and I asked them to tell me about the catalog that had them so riveted. Actually, riveted is the operative word, since it was a catalog for--get this--furniture made from aircraft parts! I immediately headed over to the booth to see for myself. You can too by going to www.Motoart.com. This Southern California company has been in business for five years and has just released their first catalog. They recently sold a desk--made from an aircraft wing--to the production company that produces the television show American Idol (I guess they needed something strong enough to stand up to Simon's cutting words). They offer standard products (though each of a limited supply) and will also commission custom pieces. So if you cannot bear to part with your favorite old aircraft--have it made into something useful you can use around the house!
The show really has everything an airplane aficionado could want. Found that perfect purchase, but it won't fit into your plane for the ride home? No problem, because Federal Express was on site--even on the weekend--offering to ship that must have radial engine or B29 wing desk that you found. Lonely? There's the beer stand (next to the lemonade stand) and an internet cafe (no Starbucks though). Need a flight briefing? If you're a younger pilot, you've probably never seen a Flight Service Station (FSS), but there used to be hundreds of them. And there still is one at Lakeland, Florida--right in the middle of Sun-N-Fun.
Cheap advertising at Sun-N-Fun
There were plenty of youth activities scheduled throughout the week as well as dozen of Forums where you can learn just about anything from an industry expert. Since an expert is defined as "anyone from out of town with a Powerpoint presentation" I qualified and spoke on G1000 Glass Cockpit aircraft on Sunday. Unfortunately, I missed the one on Risk Management held at exactly the same time and given by a Diamond DA40/G1000 owner. We ended up sitting at a picnic table reviewing our presentations ahead of time. Turns out he was a customer of mine having bought a copy of my Max Trescott's G1000 Glass Cockpit Handbook. Small world. Hope to see you again next year Mike.
For those who like to camp, Sun-N-Fun has a special area set aside for you. If you'd rather stay in a motel, you're in luck. At Oshkosh, I've spoken with people who've had to travel an hour each way to the show, since they couldn't find a closer motel room. That's not a problem at Sun-N-Fun, since there are hundreds of hotels close by all catering to Disney World. I didn't book a room until a week or two before the show and had to drive a whole fifteen minutes each way to the show (20 minutes if you include the time to park my car AND walk to the front gate).
So do we recommend Sun-N-Fun? Totally! Hope to see you there next year.
May 6, 2006 Flying
Companions Seminar 8:30-5:30 PM. RHV Airport Terminal Bldg Conf. Room
May 10, 2006 Evening with Astronaut Hoot Gibson 5 PM, Hiller Museum, San Carlos Airport
May 13, 2006 Wings of History Museum Fly-in & Open House 8 AM to 4 PM, at E16 in San Martin, CA
Pilot Safety News
© 2006 by Max Trescott
Master CFI & FAA Aviation Safety Counselor
Please contact me with your feedback or if I can be of service to you.
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