One of the coolest stories in general aviation is the birth and growth of the Quest Kodiak, an airplane that’s purpose was to be used in the mission field to provide material and medical support for remote populations of people without any other practical transportation options. The Kodiak, a single-engine unpressurized high-wing tricycle gear model is reminiscent of Cessna’s wildly successful Caravan, just slightly smaller. While Quest has had some challenges as it ramped up its business, it’s handled them in stride. The latest news surely qualifies as the “good news” variety. In January Quest announced that international business syndicate, Mitsui & Co., LTD, signed an agreement to invest in their company. The Japanese corporation will acquire an equity stake in Quest, however the headquarters will continue to remain in Sandpoint, Idaho. Quest will still be undergoing some big changes though, with a 75,000-sq. ft. expansion planned that will practically double the size of the manufacturing facility.
This business venture will make Quest Aircraft the only aircraft manufacturer established by a US manufacturer to be acquired by a Japanese company. (Honda Aircraft Company, maker of the FAA certified HondaJet, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Japanese company Honda Motor Company, which founded the company and located its aircraft manufacturing activities in the United States.)
The new investment, said a Quest spokesperson, will allow for added global access to different markets around the world.
Big Bore Diesel: EPS engine enters next phase of testing
If you’re the owner of a high-performance airplane equipped with a legacy six-cylinder piston engine such as the Lycoming IO-540 series or Continental IO-550 series, a range that covers tens of thousands of airplanes, then prepare to get a little excited: a new big bore diesel is under development that targets just that market and is slated, if all goes well, to come to achieve certification and start selling engines within the next 18 months.
Startup engine manufacturer EPS is in the process of testing the first pre-production version of its clean-sheet turbo-diesel Graflight 8 engine. EPS is hoping for certification in 2017, and the testing so far, the company says, is promising. It has already run the engine for 100 hours, tearing it down for inspection twice along the way. It found no major issues, it reported.
The company is looking to offer the engine for both new airplanes and for retrofit into existing ones. There are a number of new airplanes that seem a perfect fit.
Unlike the few diesels on the market already, the EPS engine is not an auto conversion. Because it’s a clean sheet design, EPS can target the size and output of the engine, instead of having to work with the core that the original auto engine manufacturers created.
The engine, which will be manufactured in the United States, will burn around 18 gph while producing 350 hp. That’s a remarkable figure, as the Continental TSIO-550, which powers the Cirrus SR22 and Cessna TTx, produces only about 250 hp at that fuel burn at lean of peak operation. One can imagine the speed, range and cost savings incentives at different altitude and power settings. Not surprisingly, the possibilities are intriguing to airplane manufacturers as well. EPS says that it hosted “a number of aircraft OEMs” during 2015, while also meeting with a number of military contractors interested in the technology. We’ll keep you apprised on the progress at EMS during 2016.
New PS Engineering Audio Panel: PMA8000BTi
Longtime audio panel maker PS Engineering has come out with a newly updated model, the PMA8000BTi, that adds the company’s IntelliAudio feature to the mix. The new model is priced the same as the previous version. The audio panel is a plug-and-play slide-in replacement for the popular Garmin GMA 340, of which there are many tens of thousands installed.
IntelliAudio is PS Engineering’s version of what Garmin calls 3D Audio in its audio panels with that feature, which uses stereo audio imaging to render audio from different inputs as though they were coming from different places. The result is pretty dramatic and, somewhat surprisingly, really useful too. Most commonly pilots will use this feature to put Comm 1 and Comm 2 in different “places,” allowing the pilot to be able to focus more effectively on the different audio streams. In real terms, this means that the pilot can monitor one frequency while listening in a focused way to the other one, such as we all do when jotting down the ATIS while listening to ATC should they make a call to us. Positional audio makes it far easier to pull off what can otherwise be an anxiety provoking mental task.
PS Engineering’s flagship model, the PMA450 was the company’s first model with IntelliAudio, a technology that the audio panel maker licensed from the United States Air Force Laboratory. The PMA450 has a display, which makes it easier to make and change settings, and it also gives the pilot the ability to change the apparent audio position of the different inputs, whereas the PMA8000BTi places them at the preset 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock positions.
One of the most attractive features of both PS Engineering audio panels is their easy installation. It can in theory be done in 20 minutes by the end user with an Allen wrench, but in practice, an approved shop needs to do it. It is such an easy installation when replacing a compatible competitors’ unit that many shops, PS Engineering’s founder and president told us, don’t even charge for the labor or charge just for an hour. Check with your shop to verify their pricing, of course.
The PMA8000BTi has a minimum advertised price of $1,795 (the PMA450 goes for $300 more, a reasonable upgrade price in our opinion). Both audio panels are available now from PS Engineering dealers.
Update On Cool MVP Amphibian
The folks who are creating the recreational utility airplane that some outlets have glibly dubbed the “Flying Fishing Boat” showed up at the Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, FL, with a progress report. MVP Aircraft president Derrell Lynds told Plane & Pilot that the company’s progress toward production on its unique MVP amphibious flying boat is progressing well and revealed details about its design that set it apart from other flying boat designs, most notably the glitzy Icon A5, which got LSA approval last July, though which it has had just a single ceremonial delivery, at the Oshkosh AirVenture airshow.
The MVP was conceived in 2012 and made its public debut at Oshkosh AirVenture two years later in 2014. The airplane, made of a blend of carbon fiber, fiberglass, steel and even fabric is so different it looks a lot like a novelty. Unlike other amphibs, the MVP, Lynds said, is intended to be useful once you arrive at the destination. Toward that end, it features a cockpit cover that swings the avionics up and out of watery harm’s way and transforms the pilot space into a fishing platform.
Importantly, Lynds said, the wings of the plane fold while it’s in the water, the only plane, he said, he’s aware of that can do that. The end result, he said, is that the MVP pilot can stow the wings and pull into a slip at a marina intended for a small boat. Planes without that feature are left with 30-plus feet of wingspan and few practical options. Lynds added that this feature allows the MVP to be stored in a boathouse, and to be lifted by most common boat lifts, again, something the competition’s designs can’t do, he claimed.
First flight of the MVP is still 18 months off, but the company has another first it’s focusing on for now, the first float, scheduled for spring of 2017. The MVP differs from its competitors, Lynds added, in that it has been designed to be tolerant of uneven weight distribution. So if both occupants sit on one side of the plane when it’s in water, nothing much happens, which is not the case, he said, with other LSA flying boats on the market, which will drop a wing when the weight load moves left or right.
Lynds says that in addition to its float characteristics, the MVP will undergo extensive use testing in the water, so if any unforeseen problems arise, the team can tackle them at that that stage of the game.
First flight will take place about six months later, in the second half of 2017, Lynds estimates. The company is taking deposits for the $200,000-plus airplane. Buyers have the option of putting down just $5,000 for a delivery position or making a big investment with a $100,000 deposit for an early position.
TBMs Enjoy Second Best Sales Year Ever
When Daher launched the TBM 900, the latest, coolest upgrade to its successful TBM model, everybody thought it would be a hit, and was it ever. Daher reported recently that it sold a total of 55 TBM 900’s in 2015, a 10% increase from an already successful 2014. The United States was the forerunner for TBM 900 deliveries in 2015, with a total of 44 aircraft sold in the States, followed by Latin America with seven aircraft delivered, with European customers taking delivery of two.
“Last year’s TBM 900 results clearly confirm the continued value of our very fast turboprop, backed by services that definitely meet our customers’ expectations,” said Nicolas Chabbert, Senior Vice President of Daher’s Airplane Business Unit, in a statement, “Adding to this is the continued enthusiasm from a global community of dedicated TBM owners and operators–our best supporters of the TBM.”
According to Phillipe de Segovia, director of TBM sales promotion, this is the second best year of the TBM program — the best year was in 2008 during the introduction of the TBM 8500 G-1000 equipped when they delivered 60 TBM aircraft. The TBM program was launched in 1987 and the first model, the TBM 700, was certified in 1990. By the end of 1991,70 were ordered, but only 28 the first year and 42 in 1992.
French Pilot To Make History At The Red Bull Air Race
Wonder Woman no longer flies an invisible plane. The 2016 Challenger Cup will feature a historic new line up, with Melanie Astles joining the group as the first-ever female red bull air race pilot. The five-time French aerobatic champion will be one of three new faces to join the 2016 Challenger Cup lineup. The new roster will also include British pilot and leader of the Royal Air Force display team, Ben Murphy, and member of the U.S. Advanced Aerobatic Team Kevin Coleman.
All three pilots will be making their debut in Abu Dhabi in March at the Red Bull Air Race World Championship. All of the contenders in the eight-pilot field will be making multiple stops around the world, including: Austria, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary and Japan.