Wednesday, March 1, 2006
Customer deliveries have begun!
There has always been some debate about the justification for piston twins. True, the second engine may get you home if one mill quits, but standard asymmetric-thrust multis haven’t exactly enjoyed a sterling safety record. In too many instances, directional control is so tenuous and single-engine performance so marginal that a safe landing on one engine demands that the pilot be flying a perfect airplane and be doing absolutely everything right." />
For one thing, many of the models listed above are still regarded as reasonably economical, luxurious, corporate transports, even if they’re long out of production. Cessna built the top-of-the-line 421 for almost 20 years and the 414 for 15 years, and Beech produced its prestigious Duke for 14 years. In the early ’80s, you could buy any of those airplanes for less than $600,000 and provide 200-plus knot transport for six to eight folks, most often flying well above the weather in pressurized comfort.
The very fact that there haven’t been any replacements for the pressurized Piper, Cessna and Beech twins is itself one of the justifications for the A500. Many companies and individuals bought those airplanes in the ’70s and ’80s, and today, thousands of the type are still flying. They’re growing old not-so-gracefully and offering their owners few options for replacement. The airplanes have now been out of production for so long that maintenance is becoming more frequent, time-consuming and expensive, and parts are becoming scarce.
Prime examples of all three types still serve the corporate community well and often demand prices north of $300,000. Considering the acquisition costs for twin turboprops, the next level in the corporate pyramid, many operators prefer to keep overhauling their big twins, and those are exactly the owners Adam hopes to tap with the A500.
Another goal of Adam’s push-pull design is to revive the pressurized twin without reintroducing the risks formerly associated with those original, heavy, corporate piston twins. Centerline thrust is regarded as so safe and easy to handle by the FAA that there’s a special twin rating formerly dedicated strictly to the CLT Cessna Skymasters, but now applicable to the Adam A500, as well.
(As if to confirm the wisdom of symmetrical thrust, one of the world’s largest corporate flight-training companies used to teach pilots of heavy, asymmetric-thrust twins that you shouldn’t even consider a single-engine go-around if you didn’t break out at minimums in IFR conditions. Statistics suggested you’d be safer to simply continue on the ILS and take your chances.)
Adam also feels he can amortize development expense on the A500 between both a piston and jet version of very similar airplanes. Though Adam’s step-up A700 jet isn’t a push-pull design (engines are mounted Citation-style on opposite sides of the aft fuselage), parts commonality with the A500 is high—the jet uses essentially the same basic fuselage, landing gear, empennage and wing. Both airplanes are made primarily of carbon-fiber composites with metal control surfaces and utilize similar systems—all-electric gear and flaps, trailing link gear, side-stick flight controls, etc.
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Labels: Piston Twins