At its annual Aviation Forecast Conference, held recently in Washington, D.C., the Federal Aviation Admin-istration (FAA) released its forecast for general aviation (GA) from fiscal years 2004 through 2015. The FAA defines “general aviation” as “a diverse range of aviation activities and includes all segments of the aviation industry, except commercial air carriers and the military.” The report gives us the FAA’s perspective on everything from single-engine piston aircraft to corporate jets, gliders and even homebuilt airplanes, both now and over the coming 12-year period.
After being shoved out of the spotlight for the last year by the new gaggle of personal jets, the pistons are back. Liberty Aircraft’s XL2 earned final certification from the FAA, becoming the first GA aircraft to come direct from the factory with Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC). Developed by Teledyne Continental, FADEC puts power management into the hands of a computer, resulting in a 15% to 20% fuel economy.
For those of us who routinely fly in busy airspace, the need to constantly “keep your head on a swivel” competes for our attention with ATC instructions, terminal area charts and instruments on the panel. The folks who fly “heavy iron,” on the other hand, have had options like TCAS (Traffic Alert/Collision Avoidance System) for more than 20 years, which they can rely on for warning of other aircraft on a collision course. But the cost of such a system (which can run into the tens of thousands of dollars) has been prohibitive for most of the GA fleet.
Whether it’s passive or active, this year’s models offer plenty of “oomph” for your ears
Over the last decade, headsets have become a mainstay for almost all aviators. A continuing flow of information on potentially damaging noise levels has led to greater headset use, and any doubt we may have had can be challenged by an idle conversation with an older pilot who has experienced hearing loss due to a lack of hearing protection. Cockpit noise not only can result in damage to the eardrum, but high ambient noise also can cause pilots to experience fatigue. Whatever the reason for wearing headsets, few people now argue against their merits.
What began only a few years ago as a little more than a tease, glass cockpits have made their way to the general-aviation mainstream. Steam gauges are giving way to dream gauges. Upstarts Lancair and Cirrus were the first to show up with the big display screens in certified aircraft and neither has looked back. Last year, Cirrus announced it would sell only glass-paneled SR20 and SR22s, and immediately began shipping its aircraft equipped with the Avidyne Entegra.
A few pieces of equipment make cross-country flying easier and more relaxing. Here are suggestions on what to bring to make far-reaching flights pass in a flash.
Believe it or not, there are still lots of pilots out there who are flying without a GPS. There are many portables, such as the Airmap 500, Garmin 196 and 295 and the Skymap IIIC, that will not only make flight navigation easier, but also help you find a friend’s house, a favorite restaurant or the best fishing spots around town.
Like most of you, I’ve been flying with one or another ELT for years, hoping I’d never have a reason to use one. In truth, I took them for granted, assuming the technology would save my life if it ever became necessary.