When Vern Raburn talks, people listen. Recently, the visionary behind the Eclipse VLJ was talking about a new light-sport amphibian, the ICON A5. Raburn is an adviser for start-up ICON Aircraft, which aspires to create a sport aircraft that will “do for recreational flying what personal watercraft did for boating.”
The most highly anticipated aircraft in Cirrus Design Corporation’s history, “the-jet,” made its inaugural flight on July 3. The 45-minute flight was conducted from the company’s headquarters at Duluth International Airport in Duluth, Minn. The aircraft performed flawlessly. Designed with the Cirrus signature full-airframe parachute system, the aircraft looked beautiful in its red and white paint (the model and mock-up have been displayed in gold and white), and its roof-mounted Williams FJ33-4A-19 put a 1,900-pound blast through the “V” of the distinctive tail.
L-3 Avionics has received STC and TSO authorization from the FAA for its SmartDeck Integrated Flight Controls and Display System. The STC has been awarded for the Cirrus SR22-G2, and L-3 will offer the STC through authorized dealers for retrofit. The system’s menu structure is designed to support pilot functions in three clicks or less, making pertinent flight information more rapidly accessible. SmartDeck includes a display dedicated to flight-plan management and communication information in its standard configuration.
On March 8, 2008, Cessna completed the first flight of its Model 162 SkyCatcher. The one-hour SkyCatcher flight departed from Cessna Aircraft Field Airport and consisted of flight maneuvers evaluating the controllability and stability of the aircraft. Test pilot Dale Bleakney, of Cessna Engineering, then proceeded to Mid-Continent Airport, where the SkyCatcher will continue development testing. “The first flight of the SkyCatcher is a significant step ahead toward our goal of bringing an affordable training aircraft to market,” said Cessna CEO Jack Pelton. The SkyCatcher is priced at $111,500 and is expected to reach cruise speeds of 118 knots with a maximum range of 470 nm. Visit www.cessna.com.
The latest iteration of the turbine-single Pilatus, which received FAA and EASA certification in March 2008, has two big improvements that are split by the firewall. Up front, improvements in the 1,200 shp Pratt & Whitney PT6A-67P include the single-crystal blades and a new compressor design. Power upgrades make for faster climb and more stamina in fast-cruise power settings. Running off the back of the P&W powerplant are two monster 300-amp generators that ensure full electrical power and redundancy. These big dynamos are cooled and exhausted through special ductwork that ends in a tiny grill on the lower left side of the cowl, the only external clue that this is the newest PC-12.
Cessna Aircraft Company will offer Garmin’s G1000 Synthetic Vision Technology (SVT) on all its G1000-equipped aircraft. The Citation Mustang will be the first bizjet to integrate Garmin’s SVT, and Cessna expects to offer SVT on the Caravan family and all Cessna single-engine piston aircraft in the future. In most cases, SVT will be available for retrofit in earlier-production, G1000-equipped Cessnas.
The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) announced that the 2007 year-end shipment figures for the general aviation industry have led to another record high in industry billings. At the organization’s Annual Industry Review and Market Outlook Briefing, GAMA Chairman and Cirrus Design CEO Alan Klapmeier reported that a strong worldwide market, especially outside of North America, was a driving factor for general aviation in 2007.
In early February 2008, Cessna finally admitted its big, big secret: The Model 850 will indeed go into production. Named “Columbus,” the largest-ever Citation was teased at NBAA in late 2006, refined for 2007 and slated for customer delivery in 2014.
Aviat Aircraft announced that the first Husky A-1C is on the flight line; it will be delivered to a buyer in Wichita, Kans. The new 200 hp model has strengthened main and tailwheel gear components and a total gross weight of 2,200 pounds. Other changes include a lowered angle of incidence for the horizontal stabilizer and a new tachometer.
General Aviation brings election results home faster!
When the voting polls closed last night in California, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s aero department was set into motion. We joined them in an AS350-B2 Astar flying the ballots in sealed, locked bags, from the ramp at Santa Monica Airport to the counting station at the office of the Registrar Recorder in Norwalk. These shuttle flights were part of a larger network encompassing six general aviation airports, all aimed at bringing in election results as soon as possible.
In late November 2007, Cessna’s bid for Bend, Oregon–based Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing Company was accepted, bringing the speedy Columbia 350 and 400 under the Cessna banner. As with all current Cessna products, Cessna Parts Distribution and the Cessna network of authorized dealers and service centers will take care of sales and support of the rebadged Cessna 350 and Cessna 400 aircraft.
With an auction bid of $26.4 million on November 28, 2007, Cessna Aircraft finalized its purchase of select assets of Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing Company, which had declared bankruptcy. The Bend, Ore., factory will now carry the Cessna name and the Columbia low-wing, high-performance, all-composite, single-engine aircraft will be branded as the Cessna 350 and the Cessna 400. Cessna Parts Distribution and the company’s network of authorized dealers and service centers have already begun plans to integrate sales and support of the new Cessna 350 and Cessna 400 aircraft.
Cirrus Design announced that its fleet surpassed a milestone of two million flight hours with just more than 3,500 aircraft. Cirrus likened this mileage to more than two round trips to the sun, or more than 15,000 trips around the world. “When we began development of the SR line, it was our intention to produce a product that gives our customers great utility, based on comfort, performance and, most importantly, safety,” said Cirrus CEO Alan Klapmeier. “Achieving the two million flight-hour mark demonstrates our commitment to our customers and determination to grow the industry.”
Liberty announced the closing of a major debt financing, arranged by Kuwait Finance House (Bahrain), which will allow the company to expand its production capacity. “The decision to raise finance was based on the strong worldwide demand for Liberty’s XL2 aircraft,” said the General Manager of Kuwait Finance House, Abdulhakeem Alkhayyat. “The finance is important, as it gives strength, stability and resources to Liberty, which will culminate in Liberty’s further success in aircraft sales.”
British race pilot Paul Bonhomme was victorious at the penultimate stop in the 2007 Red Bull Air Race World Series. More than 50,000 spectators gathered around the San Diego Bay as competing pilots sped around a challenging course marked by inflatable pylons. Bonhomme’s finishing time was 1:23:80; placing second was U.S. pilot and last year’s series winner Kirby Chambliss at 1:24:69, only fractions of a second behind. This year’s series champion will be determined in November at the final race in Perth, Australia.
After introducing the 300 Knot Club, Columbia began to receive photographic evidence from aircraft owners of groundspeeds in excess of 300 knots. The company has subsequently inducted these pilots into the club. “The 300 Knot Club is simply a way to celebrate what a purpose-built speedster can accomplish in the hands of a skilled aviator,” said Columbia Aircraft VP of Sales Randy Bollinger.
The latest version of the world’s best-selling business jet model, the Citation XLS+, recently completed its first flight. “With the flight progressing as planned and the aircraft performing as expected, this first flight was a great success,” said Cessna Citation XLS+ Program Manager Kevin Steinert. “The integration of the new Collins Pro Line 21 and Pratt & Whitney’s FADEC-equipped engines went smoothly, and we look forward to continuing this program on schedule.”
More than 560,000 visitors and 10,000 airplanes flocked to Oshkosh, Wis., for EAA AirVenture 2007. There was something for everyone, including daily air shows featuring performers such as the Red Barons, Patty Wagstaff and Michael Goulian.