New Planes New Pilots
After nearly a decade of many birthing pains, the new sport pilot’s license as well as light-sport aircraft category has become a reality. The new 4,700 pages added to the FAA rules and regs went into effect on September 1st of this year, and while no one quite knows what’s next, aviation’s general consensus is positive.
New sport pilots can earn a rating with as little as 20 hours of overall training (and that’s just a minimum), which is intended to make the cost of learning how to fly significantly cheaper. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey noted the cost of attaining a private pilot’s license is approximately $9,000, while a sport pilot’s license is estimated to cost roughly $2,600. Sport pilots do fly with some restrictions: They’ll be limited to day-VFR below 10,000 feet and can only carry one passenger. To fly aircraft with speeds in excess of 87 knots (don’t ask us where that number came from) or to fly in Class B, C or D airspace, additional endorsements from a CFI are required.
The new legislation also creates the new light-sport aircraft (LSA) category, which covers a variety of flying machines, including gliders, powered parachutes, gyroplanes, weight-shift control, airships, balloons and, of course, conventional airplanes. Current LSA-eligible aircraft must not exceed a gross weight of 1,320 pounds (1,430 pounds for floatplanes) and can’t exceed 120 knots. Only a scant few aircraft currently fit the bill—some Aeroncas, Piper Cubs and Taylorcrafts—and you can expect virtually none of them to show up on the flight-line as sport-pilot trainers because of insurance difficulties in using tailwheel aircraft as primary trainers.
The light-sport aircraft requirements also take the role of certification out of the hands of the FAA and put it in the hands of an industry consortium. These relaxed and streamlined standards should allow a wealth of new aircraft to start showing up early in 2005.
“We’ll see incremental growth,” says EAA (www.eaa.org)president Tom Poberezny. “There’s tremendous interest in the kit and homebuilt industry to transition their products to certified LSAs.” The current traditional certified aircraft manufacturers have yet to announce any formal plans to begin building LSAs, but rumors of their interest are widespread.
For pilots of less traditional aircraft, i.e., ultralights, gyrocopters, etc., the new FAA rulings now impose stricter and more uniform training requirements. Also, the alphabet groups of non-FAA acknowledged flight instructors for such aircraft will have to become certified flight instructors. Current CFIs may begin teaching in light-sport aircraft immediately with a minimum of five hours of flight time in the aircraft in which they’ll be teaching.
A key component of the new license was to allow pilots to fly with only a driver’s license in lieu of an FAA medical. The hope was not only to make flight training more easily accessible, but also so that pilots who had lost their medicals could return to flying. The final results were a mixed bag. The new regs do allow sport pilots to fly with only a driver’s license. For pilots who have lost their FAA medicals or had them revoked, however, a driver’s license will not suffice. Ironically, pilots who had lost their medicals could fly ultralights and a potpourri of other aircraft without a medical before the new sport-pilot legislation, but are now effectively grounded without petitioning the FAA to reexamine their case. For more information, log on to the FAA’s Website at www.faa.gov.
Filling Your Glass
General-aviation manufacturers are continuing the trend toward replacing the familiar cockpit steam gauges with glass panels. Beechcraft (www.raytheonaircraft.com) will be adding the Garmin G1000 to its Bonanzas and Barons as standard equipment for its 2006 line (which becomes available in 2005). Cessna (www.cessna.com) announced Garmin glass for its 172 Skyhawk and expects certification of the same system in its heavy-hauling 206 before the year’s end. New Piper Aircraft (www.newpiper.com) added Avidyne FlightMax Entegra glass panels to its line of Cherokees, which includes the Warrior, Archer and Arrow models. Tiger and Mooney have announced intentions to begin delivering their aircraft with G1000s by the first quarter of 2005.
|Cessna 172 panel with the Garmin G1000|
|New Piper Archer III|
|New Piper PA-28 panel with the Avidyne FlightMax Entegra|
To address issues of transition to glass-panel aircraft, Cessna and Cirrus (www.cirrusdesign.com) offer entry-level versions of their popular aircraft, the C-172 GA and the SRV-G2, respectively. Both aircraft should prove to be popular trainers, easing pilots into the 21st century of avionics.
Avidyne (www.avidyne.com) announced a variety of new talents for its FlightMax Entegra glass panel. The system will offer broadcast datalink weather via the XM satellite service. The new capability will not only provide continuous weather data, but also instantaneous lightning information. Added to the output of a Stormscope, the Entegra offers a more complete look at convective activity. Also on the list of upgrades for Avidyne is a terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS) using a worldwide terrain database. The Avidyne system also is ready to use the new updated Jeppesen JeppView Electronic Airway’s manual charts (www.jeppesen.com) to significantly reduce the paper requirements in the aircraft. Currently, JeppView 3.0 can be used via the Internet or a CD. It includes electronic approach charts, en route charts, airport diagrams, SIDs, STARs and text pages. In the meantime, Avidyne says that a flight director for its FlightMax Entegra glass panel also is in the final stages of development. Implementation of these upgrades may vary from airframe manufacturer to airframe manufacturer that uses the FlightMax system, but Avidyne says that the full symphony of improvements is imminent across the board.
Garmin showed off some of the fruits of its UPSAT purchase with the release of the GNS 480, a repackaged version of the Apollo CNX80. The new 400-series Garmin unit enables high-precision GPS IFR approaches with its 15-channel wide area augmentation system (WAAS) capabilities. Final FAA certification of the Garmin GNS 480 is expected soon. Garmin also announced the certification of its GDL 90, the first ADS-B transceiver for general aviation. ADS-B (also called Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast) is potentially a big part of the government’s plans to redesign the entire national airspace, allowing an array of broadband services. The new GDL-90 can broadcast traffic and weather in real time and, eventually, current TFR data. The new transceiver is capable of transmitting in excess of a whopping one megabyte of data per second. Garmin also introduced two new versions of handhelds, the GPSMAP 96 and 96C. Both feature a full range of navigational abilities, including tower and obstacle info. The new GPSMAP 96 offers an impressive 23 megabytes of memory, while the GPSMAP 96C offers a whopping 119 megabytes of memory, allowing both units to load a complete array of add-on databases. The GPSMAP 96C is even waterproof. For more info, call Garmin at (913) 397-8200 or log on to www.garmin.com.
Glass Half Empty, Half Full
Neither Garmin nor Avidyne has yet to address what the industry refers to as “legacy aircraft.” In plain English, that means all the airplanes that are already out there. The bottom line: Currently, you can’t yet add a Garmin G1000 or Avidyne FlightMax Entegra glass panel to any of the existing fleet of used aircraft. While both companies have made a lot of noise about navigating the federal labyrinth of paperwork to accomplish retrofitting older aircraft, several other companies have stepped up to the plate.
Sagem Avionics (www.sagemavionics.com) of Puyallup, Wash., has already certified a large, full-sized multi-function display (MFD) that pivots into either a portrait or landscape configuration to match the available real estate of your existing panel. This two-inch-deep Integrated Cockpit Display System reads engine performance, navigation and communication, as well as overlaying NEXRAD weather detail in real time. A second panel has a primary flight display (PFD), attitude, airspeed, direction, horizontal situation as well as nav data from GPS, VOR, NDB or ILS. Certification for the PFD is anticipated before year’s end. Meanwhile, a second company, called Op Technologies (www.optechnologies.com), expects certification of a single, do-it-all Pegasus Integrated Avionics System by the first quarter of 2005. It combines PFD and MFD responsibilities into a single display via a split screen. The system also includes a sophisticated flight management system and can be combined with your existing radio stack.
Sandel also has upgraded its electric HSI, the SN3500, to include a compass, map, flight plan and RMI, as well as traffic, terrain and weather. This improvement over its successful 3-ATI-sized SN3500 incorporates nav functions and support for Mode-S transponder traffic input and WX-500 Stormscope. The SN3500T unit also adds FAA-certified Class C TAWS warnings, along with relative and topography terrain mapping. WSI will provide weather data. Sandel is expecting to begin installing the new units by the end of 2004. For more information, call Sandel Avionics at (760) 727-4900 or log on to www.sandel.com.
Add more state-of-the-art technology to your own cockpit with the all-new EKP-IV Navigator from AvMap. It’s a moving map and a portable GPS display, now capable of both profile as well as landscape views. In addition, this new unit has made major strides in chart data storage by converting to a 128 megabyte compact flash card for memory. Its other improvements also allow the EKP-IV to read NT+ marine cartography, and TeleAtlas Street and Point of Interest software. For more information, call AvMap/Navigation at (800) 363-2627 or log on to www.avmapnavigation.com.
Strong-Armed Hangar Space
The prices of renting a hangar seem to be going nowhere but up. Pilots have little or no negotiating power because many airports have a waiting list. Fortunately, there’s an alternative to the high price and shortage of hangars while doubling the usefulness of existing space: It’s called high-density hangaring, or HDH.
What makes it possible is a device developed by ARM Aerospace of Tucson, Ariz., makers of the Aero-Lift. The lifts allow you to add a second airplane without having to rent a second hangar. The device can easily almost double the amount of usable space in your hangar. For more information, contact ARM Aerospace at (520) 886-7329 or log on to www.armaerospace.com.
Weather Rain Or Shine
Got a favorite runway that has no weather-reporting service? WeatherHawk makes a wireless weather system that you can access day or night via UHF/VHF radio or even your cell phone. Install a WeatherHawk weather station, then add the new WeatherTalk module. Pilots approaching a field can call the station via their cell phone or merely key the microphone to get a voice-synthesized and complete weather report, including winds, surface temps, relative humidity and barometric pressure. To find out more, call WeatherHawk toll-free at (866) 670-5982 or log on to www.weatherhawk.com.
From Russia, With Love
For those of you who have read “The Bears Of Kamchatka” in the July/August 2004 issue, you’ll be pleased to know that Charlie Russell was back in his cabin in the Russian wilderness this past summer. He’s now raising five new cubs!