Pilot Journal
Saturday, November 1, 2008

Nov-Dec 2008 On The Radar

On July 30, 2008, a wave of excitement washed over the crowds at Oshkosh. Fifteen hundred miles away, in Vero Beach, Fla., the PiperJet had made its maiden flight, spending an hour aloft and reaching 10,000 feet. Since then (at this writing), the PiperJet has made 18 additional flights and spent about 34 hours in the air as test pilots Dave Schwartz and Buddy Sessoms focus on exploring stability, control and handling throughout the envelope.
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on the radar
on the radar
on the radar
Fly History: Solo in “Your” Warbirds
Fly History LLC is a new-concept membership program that “makes it possible for everyday pilots to train, qualify in and have solo access to a variety of historic military trainer aircraft in a club-like setting.” Qualified membership includes “unlimited access to utilize the aircraft…without the cost, risk and maintenance hassles associated with direct ownership.” The “club” owns the aircraft (in different areas of the country), and members receive training and qualification—and can then book the airplanes for their own practice and cross-country work. Offering the AT-6 Texan, T-34 Mentor or PT-17 Stearman, Fly History counts on its members to fly these historic machines to Sun ’n Fun, AirVenture and other venues, as well as on personal flights. Thus, the company asserts, a pilot can experience all the fun and excitement of warbird ownership without the hassles, and at a fraction of the expense. Maintenance, insurance and routine operating expenses (including annuals) are all rolled into the fixed fees; there are no surprises, and the machines are maintained to high, professional standards. Flight time is charged by the hour; there’s a fixed membership fee. Charter areas include Boston, Mass.; Westchester, N.Y.; Dallas, Texas; Los Angeles, Calif.; Orlando, Fla., and Atlanta, Ga. Visit www.flyhistory.com.

on the radarAAI Acquisition’s Certification Plans
When Adam Aircraft petitioned for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on February 15, speculation reigned about who would take over its operations, and just what operations would continue. In April, AAI Acquisition Inc., a Russian-led private equity firm, placed the only qualified bid; since then, AAI has been getting a smaller, reorganized Adam Aircraft back on its feet. Under new CEO Jack Braly (of Martin Marietta, Beech and Sino Swearingen), the roughly 150 employees are still working at Centennial Airport in Denver, Colo., where they plan to finish certification of the Williams-powered A700 twin jet. Rather than requiring a restart, the FAA has allowed continuation of the certification program; AAI figures that means it’s halfway there: good news for A700 customers and not such good news for the five or so customers who took delivery of Adam’s A500, the in-line piston twin. The new company has no plans to resume production of the A500, due to economics. Visit www.a700jet.com.

on the radarRocket Engineering’s 500th Conversion
Rocket Engineering’s cofounder, Darwin Conrad, has been in business since 1989, and his company is now working on its 500th conversion and its 14th Duke. Conrad, also Rocket’s president, likes Beech designs: “My favorite is the B36 TC Bonanza. It books.” Rocket has delivered 14 of these Pratt & Whitney PT6A-21–powered bullets. “They’ll go 255 knots, climb 2,500 fpm. I go from here [Spokane, Wash.] to Las Vegas nonstop.”

The Duke, he says, “is a pretty hot number right now; we’re working on the 16th conversion. The P-Baron will be flying right after Labor Day. The numbers say it will climb 5,000 fpm, max at 300+ knots and still be fairly economical; about 6.5 nm per gallon in cruise.”

Though it’s no surprise, really, Conrad says his “biggest surprise is always how much effort it takes to get it through the FAA, even considering they’re working with you. Every time we do an STC, it gets a little harder, a little harder.” That, even after doing more than 230 Mooney conversions.

The (Piper Malibu/Mirage–based, PT6A-35) JetProp is Rocket’s most-prolific job. “We’ve done 240 (including 60 in Europe, also some in South Africa, Indonesia, and Australia), and we’ll probably do 500 of them.” Visit www.rocketengineering.com.


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