In the middle of the best of Spring Break air show times it became, for a day, the very worst of times. On what will remain in the memory of thousands of exhibitors, show goers—and insurance agents—as Black Thursday, tornado-force winds clocked at more than 90 mph ripped across the tarmac at Lakeland, Florida’s Sun ’n Fun 2011 event. When horizontal needle-sting rains and catastrophic winds abated, up to 70 aircraft lay damaged or completely destroyed. Mud-splattered display tents dotted the grounds like huge torn flowers. Tents and flagpoles were bent and broken, tiedown anchors yanked out of the ground or snapped like twigs. Even cars were lifted and repositioned by the force of the storm. Dollar estimates of losses were horrendous; all agreed the final tally would be in the millions. A sad day for airplane owners and builders.
To the credit of Sun ’n Fun head John Burton and his hardworking crew and many volunteers, a Show-Must-Go-On resolve set in. Working feverishly, the clean-up force restored the devastated area, and by Friday morning, sunshine literally and figuratively reigned again. If the show was short on new GA and LSA aircraft, there was no shortage of innovations, intriguing new products and new wrinkles on familiar concepts, such as enhanced flight-training applications and the revival of an instrument as old as manned flight itself. The Blue Angels danced their inimitable aerial ballet above appreciative crowds in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Naval Aviation. Not to be outdone, a single Air Force F-22 Raptor purely dazzled with its physics-defying demonstration of advanced 21st- century aerodynamic maneuvers. Rain ’n Pain was, by the end, restored to Sun ’n Fun; the LSA Tour headed northwest to Georgia for another round of local airport demo shows, the buzz renewed for all the great flying just ahead.
GIFT To Flight Training
Cessna Aircraft, King Schools and Redbird Flight Simulations debuted their new Guided Independent Flight Training (GIFT) program, a promising synergy of technologies that marries guided video instruction and demonstrations with hands-on simulator work. The program combines proven King Schools self-study video clips with all the Redbird simulator models. The result: focused and highly individualized training.
Students pick a topic, such as crosswind landings. The simulator plays a John and Martha King video discussion and demonstration of the flight maneuver. Then the simulator serves up a practice maneuver for the student to fly. After the round, the sim grades the student and gives feedback, which are saved on a USB-enabled storage card the student carries. Students can “fly” modules as often as they want. The benefit is twofold: deeper skill building and lower expense, since an instructor isn’t always required. Contact: www.cessna.com.
Fastest Gun Alive
Cessna Aircraft rolled out the latest iteration of its sleek fixed-gear four-seater, the Corvalis TTX. The elegant composite speedster isn’t only the world’s fastest fixed-legs single (cruise—235 KTAS) but has extended range—1250 nm. Two legs, and you’ve hopped the U.S.! The TTX sports new interiors and paint scheme, and new standard and optional gear, including the Intrinzic Garmin G2000 flight deck, designed by Cessna around two 14-inch touch-screen LED displays to maximize pilot/passenger ergonom-ics and comfort, and simplify the high-permission workload.
Standard onboard instruments include remote digital audio panel, dual AHRS, Garmin GTS800 traffic warning system, Garmin GTX 33ES transponder with ADS-B, GFC 700 auto flight control and even a pulse oximeter. Upgrades include Garmin’s GSR56 Iridium satellite datalink for global weather, and the Avidyne TWX670 lightning-detection system. Four new interior schemes feature leather upholstery and removable rear seats for more cargo capacity. Contact: www.cessna.com.
Lightspeed Aviation, having already turned the aviation headset biz on ear with its super-comfortable, noise-canceling flagship Zulu model, isn’t resting on its laurels. The latest Zulu features an attractive new look and technology enhancements. New features include patent-pending Microport Vent technology, and new electronic noise-cancellation hardware to broaden ANR (active noise reduction) consistency over a broader portion of the low-frequency sound range.
The new version also has a patent-pending Dual Aperture Disc microphone, redesigned speakers for improved noise rejection and “studio-quality” audio for rich multimedia audio. The stainless-steel headband is low profile for overhead clearance, and Bluetooth connectivity is there, along with auxiliary input for cell phones, music players and other audio gadgets. One cool feature: ComPriority lowers all peripheral audio volume when radio or intercom transmissions are made. Weight is just 13 ounces and new softer plush ear seals reduce side pressure by 15%. Contact: www.lightspeedaviation.com.
Fifty Years And Going Strong
Maule Air celebrates its golden type-certification anniversary with the latest version of the airplane that started its line of FAA-certified production aircraft. The new M-4-180V Jetasen II reinvigorates the M-4 Jetasen that got its FAA birth certificate in 1961, and led to a line of rugged, fun-flying, all-American made STOL airplanes. The new Jetasen represents several updates to the venerable design.
Jetasen II is a two-place, side-by-side STOL bird that echoes the fun-flying, high-tech aspects of LSA flight, although at 2,300 pounds and a useful load of 930 pounds, it goes way beyond LSA performance. The new model comes with two versions of the Lycoming 0-360 180 hp engine, and includes a baggage compartment rated to 200 pounds. Maule has produced more than 1,800 aircraft since the late founder B.D. Maule started the company. The sale of four IFR-equipped MXT-7-180 models was announced during Sun ’n Fun. Happy anniversary, Maule! Contact: www.mauleairinc.com.
The Right Touch
Garmin’s new GTN 650 and GTN 750 are aviation’s first certified touchscreen devices, but Garmin points out other innovative features, like larger screen area (allows viewing entire Garmin FliteCharts and ChartView pages), integrated audio/intercom, higher-resolution displays than earlier GNS 430W and 530W units, and a computer-like, intuitive desktop interface with big-button menus, audio/visual feedback, and animation to tell pilots which module responded to touch. Traditional button and knob entry is also enabled.
A key design feature: Pilots are seldom more than two finger taps from all primary pages and functions—no more head-in-cockpit deep-menu cycling on bumpy days. Graphical flight planning includes “rubber-band” dragging of course lines to new waypoints, Victor airways and jet routes overlaid on moving maps, and awesome IFR tracking capability. Check P&P’s website for our full video rundown. Contact: www.garmin.com.
Honda-Based LSA Engine
For aircraft owners seeking aftermarket, automobile-fuel power plants, Viking Aircraft Engines takes a Honda 1.5 liter engine block—same basic engine that the Fit car, marine outboard and Sports Car Club of America Formula F race cars use—and builds it up into the HF-110 as a power choice for Light Sport and other light plane kit builders. More than 50 Zenith models alone have Viking HF-110 engines installed. Sonex, RV-12, Searey, Just Highlander, Savannah, Jabiru, Storch and other builders also use the engine.
The HF-110 cranks out 110 hp at 5,800 rpm (prop rpm, through an integral, Viking-built geared prop-speed reduction unit, is 2,500 rpm). Interesting note: The engine can push out 117 hp at the 6,600 rpm redline for “extreme situations.”
TBO (Time Between Overhaul) is 2,000 hrs. Weight, size and performance are comparable to Rotax 912 and Jabiru 3300 engines. Price (considerably less) is another story. Contact: www.vikingaircraftengines.com.
AOA Is Where It’s At!
The Wright brothers, carrier jets and the Space Shuttle used it, so why not the rest of us? We’re talking angle-of-attack (AOA) indicators. AOA refers to the angle that the relative wind meets the airfoil. It’s a consistently accurate method of divining the critical near-stall condition because stall, as our instructors taught us, can occur at any flight speed. By measuring AOA, we’ll always know when we’re close to stall. We’ll also have more accurate best climb, glide and approach speed indications, too.
Alpha Systems gauges sense pressure changes at the wing, and give precise AOA readouts with digital and/or audible voice warnings of stall. Installation takes an A&P six to eight hours. In-flight calibration is needed since, although any fixed-wing aircraft always stalls at the same critical angle of attack (CAA), different wing designs stall at different angles.
The company makes several flavors of AOA devices. Sensor probes typically install in wing-inspection cover holes in undisturbed air. Contact: www.alphasystemsaoa.com.
Global Emergency Alert
Kannad Aviation has two compact units that will let anyone know exactly where you and/or your airplane are in an emergency. The Integra 406 GPS ELT is a small, lightweight reworking of the basic emergency locator transmitter with several attractive features. There’s GPS signal alert with .03 square-mile accuracy, 406 MHz internal antenna (no external needed) and portability for postcrash relocation.
Kannad’s XS-4 PLB takes personal-location beacon technology another step by providing search-and-rescue alerts through its subscription-free international satellite system. It broadcasts on two frequencies: the 121.5 “mayday” band and 406 MHz. The XS-4 has a pop-up antenna, fits in a shirt pocket, has a five-year battery, can operate for a minimum of 24 hours, and even has an SOS Morse Code LED flashlight. Both devices communicate with the Cospas-Sarsat global search-and-rescue system, which is operational 24/7 anywhere in the world. Contact: www.kannad.com.
RA Vision makes titanium-frame wraparound sunglasses that are so light, you hardly know they’re on, and so thin they won’t press a groove into your cranium when you’re wearing headsets. The flexible frame hugs your head, so well you can wear them under helmets, too. The triangle design of the temples adds strength, and each temple is cut from a single sheet of titanium: no welds to fail or screws to fall out.
Lenses are made of Trivex, a plastic similar in optical quality to glass, but lighter and more scratch resistant than polycarbonate, yet also impervious to UVA and UVB rays. They block out light from the side very well, and are nonpolarized so they won’t turn modern digital cockpit displays dark, or hide slick spots or standing water on taxiing surfaces. Contact: www.ravisiongear.com.
Matchbox Aeronautical Systems makes a diminutive, featherweight line of handy devices to reduce in-flight monitoring workload at an affordable price, with a high degree of accuracy. The FC-1 Flight Companion measures just 1.5 x 2.5 inches, about the size of a matchbox. Designed and engineered “by pilots, for pilots,” the FC-1 combines a number of features in such a tiny package: sophisticated audio interface system accepts external MP3, GPS and cell phone products; digital Altitude Alert System; digital Tank Timer for fuel management; and power management system to maximize onboard 9V alkaline battery life to 25 hours continuous use.
The altitude alert keeps the pilot within 100 feet of set cruise. If you diverge, a blue LED and high-frequency tone let you know. The tank-timer function alerts the pilot every 30 minutes of run time to switch tanks. There’s also an ATC Auto Mute function. Contact: www.matchbox-systems.com
Fly Your Own Airliner!
A new flight simulator company lets customers build authentic cockpits to their own specifications. CockpitSonic USA sims serve up a ton of real-world feel, features and details from Big Iron cockpits and other famous aircraft. Made in Germany, the new line offers comprehensive multiwindow visual displays, and realistic throttle levers and other cockpit controls. The first model, recreating the Boeing 737, debuted at Sun ’n Fun and was mobbed by visitors. The company says it will soon be followed by Airbus 340, Boeing 747-400, Cessna 172 and Robertson R22 chopper versions. And maybe a P-51 cockpit, too!
Complete flight decks can be built to simulate the entire range of pilot cockpit workflow. The simulator’s software engine is based on either Microsoft Flight Simulator or X-Plane. Additional software suites such as glass cockpit software, can be screened up to complete the sense of realism sufficient for airline refresher or ATP training. Contact: www.simatrix.us.