Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Composite Aircraft Part 2 (Biz Jets and such)

Well, after our expose' last week on the ratio of empty weight to maximum takeoff weight, I am sure to have established my credentials as a half-wit amongst our learned stress engineer friends.

But why leave things only half done? Ignoring the advice of one of my favorite Presidents ("Don't get caught"... -oops, that was Tricky Dicky...but I imagine that's pretty much what they all say),

"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt. "

(Well, I think Abe Lincoln would not be accused of trying to not-get-caught. Although he was accused of just about everything else- politics was probably even uglier then than now, although it seemed some common sense and civility was briefly evident during the 1950's through 1980. Oh well, accidents happen).

Anyway, here we go with a review of business jets (or let's say, business aircraft- as I've included a few turboprops. All twins though, (well, or triples, or quadruples, in a few cases. And, a few Single Engine Jet's...Make that ALL the SEJs :). I deliberately did not include pistons, just to try to try to keep the scope narrowed. I'm sure I also missed a number of great foreign (and probably domestic) aircraft which would well qualify for inclusion- go ahead and mention your favorites, and I'll put them in the tables.

I believe it was Julius who mentioned the Beech Premier as being a notable exception to the laundry list of "failed" composite programs. And inconvenient truth, as it were, to my thesis that composite aircraft (commercial anyway) are:

1) Heavier than their aluminum counterparts
2) Cause cancer and baldness and explode all the time

(Okay, just kidding about that last one:)

My discomfort with a "disruptive" outliar- oops, not talking about former Eclipse stuff- some would insist that the correct terminology in that case would be out-right liar; however in this case: Outlier (interesting read, btw) variance of the Premier program, into the realm of commercially successful composite airplanes, did prompt me to compile a short list of what I had considered "failed" composite airframe programs, versus their nearest successful aluminum competitors. The results were modestly surprising, and challenged a few perceptions I have held about some of these programs. (These are the numbers I found on the web, ymmv, etc.; please post a correction if you see anything too far off, but I believe these numbers use the same methodology, allowing reasonably accurate comparisons).

ManufacturerModelEmpty WtMTOWRatio
BeechPremier I8430125000.674

Adam A-700 versus the Cessna Mustang. I had always thought the Adam looked like a porky little critter, and would surely be a heavy pig compared to the Mustang. But weight ratio wise, no- the Adam was quite respectable (the Mustang isn't too bad either). I suspect the aerodynamics of the A-700 weren't quite as good though. But, the composite Adam failed, the aluminum Mustang succeeded. Not saying it was the airplane's fault- just a data point. This round- Commercial success: Composites 0, Aluminum 1; Technical success: Composites 1, Aluminum 0.

The ,Beech Premier I (a Premier II is in development) versus the CJ2+ was also a bit of a surprise- I figured that since the Premier was successful, it would have a great advantage over the Cessna- but no, the Premier has a "heavier" ratio than the Cessna (which was also a commercial success). This round- Commercial success: Composites 0.5, Aluminum 0.5 (tie); Technical success: Composites 1, Aluminum 0.

The Grob SPn was one of my favorite development programs. Although it was still early in it's development program, with the likelihood of weight gain as certification changes dictated. But it failed commercially. Or rather, the company did. But again, it's a data point. This round- Commercial success: Composites 0, Aluminum 1; Technical success: Composites 1, Aluminum 0.

I think everyone (including me!) wants to root for the Beech Starship. But it was a financial disaster- only 50-ish were built, and all were bought back to be destroyed. (Well, most of them brought back anyway- a few still in circulation: I saw one fly by a few months ago). And it was heavy. This round- Commercial success: Composites 0, Aluminum 1; Technical success: Composites 0, Aluminum 1.

The last comparison is the Hawker Horizon/4000 versus the Bombardier Bd-100/Challenger 300. (The names of both airplanes changed over the past few years, as indicated). These two airplanes are about as close as it gets to direct competitors- they even had their first flights just 3 days apart. The Horizon is another airplane that has been a financial disaster, with a long development program, and low deliveries to date; the aluminum CL-300 has been a great commercial success. But, the Horizon is slightly better weight ratio than the CL-300, so I'll give it the technical nod. This round- Commercial success: Composites 0, Aluminum 1; Technical success: Composites 1, Aluminum 0.

So, "what's the score" for this five-pair comparison?
Commercial success: Composites 0.5, Aluminum 4.5
Technical success: Composites 4, Aluminum 1.

(I biased the technical success in favor of composites- as long as it was not deficient compared to the aluminum competitor).

To me, the surprise was not that the composite airplanes are so well represented in the financial failure category- which is mostly what I have observed. Rather, the surprise was that they indeed really ARE a bit lighter than their aluminum competitors. I guess I had attributed their financial failure to having a poor weight ratio, but it seems that is not the case.

So if the weight ratios are superior, why the financial failures? I would say, one big contributor, is the cost associated with development of a composite airframe. (Of course, it has been a difficult time economically, for all manufacturers, aluminum OR composite- but still, there seems to be some correlation apparent).

Further observations of the commercial ramifications of composite airframe development:
The A380 was 2 years late...
The 787 is over 2 years late...
Grob who was designing the composites for the Lear 85 (as well as their own SPn) went bankrupt.

I'm not saying there is a direct link between commercial fiasco and composites, but it seems the Premier is the only exception to that hypothesis so far. (Yes, there are lots of orders for the 787, so it may eventually break even. And over the course of years, be profitable. But I think it would have been more profitable, more sooner (er, something like that), if it would have been built of aluminum. (And yes, most of these airplanes are largely aluminum. But I still say there is a correlation between using composites and financial success- or lack thereof).

SO- if that was fun, how about comparing ALL the biz jets (and some select turbo props) ??

I strove to use comparable weights (empty without crew). In general, it seems differences in the empty weight:MTOW of 0.02 are where it gets "out of the noise", and 0.05 seemed to be especially relevant.

Another surprise- while the "sturdy" Kingair line dominates the bottom of the empty:mtow ratio table- but it's interesting to note what's at the second-to-last position. (Hint: Hondajet. And rather dramatically so. (We'll be discussing the Hondajet in a future "headline" thread). Almost as surprising, the Bombardier/Canadair Challenger-series came in at the top- in spite of having the appearance of being rather short and, well, dumpy. (Beauty is in the eye of the beholder though- no offense intended. And it has a great weight ratio!)

So, how did "our favorite VLJ" do? The Eclipse EA-500 scored a very respectable 0.597. Given the rumored weight gain, and deviation from the optimal configuration (rumored to be 40% or so)- that competitive number is all the more impressive. (Congratulations to the structural design team!)

ManufacturerModelEmpty WtMTOWRatio
LockheedJetStar I18450389400.474
DassaultFalcon 7X34072700000.487
DassaultFalcon 900EX23875483000.494
DassaultFalcon 900B22611455000.497
BombardierGlobal Express48800960000.508
DassaultFalcon 5020170388000.520
CessnaCitation III11670220000.530
DassaultFalcon 50EX21700407800.532
CessnaCitation SII8060151000.534
GulfstreamG-200 (Galaxy)19200354500.542
LockheedJetStar II24178445000.543
CessnaCitation I6631118500.560
IAIWestwind II13250235000.564
IAIWestwind II11750207000.568
DassaultFalcon 20018290320000.572
DassaultFalcon 1010760187400.574
CessnaCitation Ultra9395163000.576
DassaultFalcon 10011145193000.577
DassaultFalcon 200020735358000.579
DassaultFalcon 2016600286600.579
GulfstreamG-100 (Astra)14400246500.584
CessnaCitation X21700364000.596
Aero Commander690A6126102500.598
EmbraerLegacy 60030000496040.605
CessnaCitation X22100361000.612
BeechKingAir 3509326150000.622
CessnaCJ1+ (source1)6765107000.632
CessnaCitation XLS+12800202000.634
EmbraerPhenom 30011450180200.635
SwearingenMerlin IIB6452100000.645
PiaggioAvanti II7500115500.649
Aero Commander10007289112000.651
SwearingenMerlin IIC8150125000.652
EmbraerPhenom 1006932104720.662
BeechPremier II9120137000.666
BeechPremier I8430125000.674


Phil Bell said...

Thanks to everyone for their emails. And I certainly DO mean everyone.

I have read them all as they have been coming in, and am getting caught up with some behind the scenes correspondence to touch bases on some earlier topics.

Sincere Thanks!!

No_Skids said...

Belated Kudos to CWMOR for winning the 787 first flight prediction contest. I never heard what the prize was.

I will take note that the problem with a 787 brake that was partially applied during takeoff roll (first flight, second aircraft) would have been avoided if they'd gone with hydraulic brakes.

Phil, thanks for posting the composite weight ratio information. Certainly worth pondering. A lot of work on your part, which is appreciated.

The composites engineers I've worked with reinforce the notion that the application of materials with drastically different strengths in different axes is still immature in aircraft.

Composites have worked great in my tennis rackets-but failure is abrupt and catastrophic-like my backhand.

One company I've worked with, Spectrum, has claimed they do get it (composite design), and that the S40 will have an empty weight of 4,500 and MTOW of 10,000. Not bad-dang near the top of Phil's charts.

But Spectrum has a problem in that they're looking for investors while being run by a guy (Linden Blue) who probably fund it out of pocket. If Linden was broke, they might actually have a better chance!

ColdWetMackarelofReality said...

Thanks No-Skids!

FWIW, Linden Blue is rumored to have exceeded an 'unlimited' budget when at Beechcraft (he was in charge when the Starship was built).

I like the Spectrum concept, as I like the Aerion SSBJ concept, but am not sure either has a chance in the current environment and unfortunately the partners and investors these promising startups need lack the forward view to understand that now is the time to invest/prepare for the eventual uptick.

airtaximan said...

the spectrum aircraft designs are "engineer's" designs. They will never make it to market IMO.

Could I elaborate?

While most of you care?

Keep track... these planes will never captivate a merket sufficient to make any money.

gadfly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gadfly said...

airtaximan . . . If I were to develop a new aircraft, the airframe would be of materials that the common "A&P" already finds comfortable in handling and repairs, with a "friendliness" with all conditions. Think of the durability of a DC-3, and easy to understand systems. Anything beyond that would be "disposable" . . . that is, units that are not repairable in the field, but plug and play components. Critical components like "spars" would be the exception, yet damaged areas would be designed for either section replacement or complete unit replacement.

The so-called "unibody" method would be avoided . . . giving up a small amount of efficiency in exchange for an easy to repair/maintain aircraft.

All major sections would be completely exchangeable . . . using the precision that has never been fully exploited in major modern aircraft, but as old as early "sewing machines" and "repeating rifles".

It isn't that difficult, but involves a brand new thinking . . . a philosophy that runs counter to most thinking for prototype/limited production design.

In our own shop, we applied an entirely new method for limited prototypes and scaled it up . . . beginning with single unit tooling/machines, going on to neurosurgical tools/devices, and then for jet engine tooling/inspection devices/laser units, etc., etc.

The methods we developed meant that anything we designed and built could be modified at any time without ever again handling the original, but simply modifying a component, knowing that whether "one of a kind" or "one of many", the new component would perfectly match the existing machine in the field, and a mechanic of average intelligence, without specialized equipment, could replace the earlier component with the new component, and continue use without calibration of any kind.


(The "RPN" calculator has no "equal" . . . users will understand . . . Our method has no "adjustment", ever! If there were a way to "adjust it", someone will adjust it . . . and we stop that nonsense at the outset.)

gadfly said...

Someone, here, will object that the "user" needs to have control over the product and be able to "adjust" things. But who in their right mind would presume to say, "tweak" the code for something like "Adobe Photo Shop", or a high end "CAD" system?

Yet, the Boeing 787 is being produced "by hand", and put out into the world for thousands of "A&P" mechanics to maintain, etc.

Here's a device that involves an entirely new form of understanding . . . good, to be sure, yet requiring a high level of understanding and "artistic feel" for an almost organic thing, with subtle differences in stresses depending on any of a thousand differences in bonding and fiber directions.

My memory brings to mind my kids learning to play instruments in grammar school . . . and enduring those early concerts. They went on to better things, and played in the Youth Symphony, earning top honors in national competition.

But placing the "787" or other composite aircraft into the system is expecting a bunch of grammar school kids to properly handle a fine five or ten thousand dollar violin or bass clarinet with not only musical expertise but the artistic feeling that justifies the instrument. And beyond that, we are not risking a badly played bit of Anton Devorak, but human lives.

In GA there is little if any room for error, or playing the same old tune over and over. The methods are available, but requiring a precision that violently destroys pre-conceived methods, and stomps on stupidity (parading as "pride").


gadfly said...

A couple of days ago, I took my wife's Lexus to the dealer. The "left rear-view mirror" wouldn't move, left or right. Now, it would be something if the local dealer had a technician "in house" that was skilled in repairing "left rear-view mirrors", or that sort of thing. But the entire unit was replaced while I looked over the magazines in the waiting room . . . it took about seventy five minutes, including a free car wash . . . and I was on my way, knowing that the unit was "brand new" from Toyota (Lexus), with apologies, etc., for my having to wait for this service on a 2006 Lexus.

Point being? . . . When the GA gets the big picture of service and customer trust in the product, and honesty . . . don't under-rate that honesty part . . . then the customers will begin to line up placing orders.

In a couple weeks, I'll have lunch with someone who could buy out our compnay ten times over, with "pocket change". He has full use of a private jet at any time day or night. Is it brand new? Is the fastest, highest flying private jet ever? . . . well, close. But he simply needs a reliable personal jet, that always "works", 24/7/365 . . . even in and out of ABQ. Car? He could write a check for the dealership. But he drives a leased "Audi".

People who buy jets are not "hot rodders", and don't invest in new stuff . . . they have no need to make an impression. While the "Eclipse" is struggling to move through a "front" without violating FIKI restrictions, the "market" is another ten thousand feet higher, snoozing, on their way to another apointment.

The "gadfly" lives in another world . . . glad to support those that have the privileges of flying almost ten miles above the earth. And I want them to succeed, safely. In fact, my very business depends on that sort of thing.

Maybe in another time, my kids or grandkids will travel in such vehicles . . . and consider it "normal". Not that it truly matters. In the mean time, there is a need for honesty in business and design, and to recognize the limits of human understanding and skills.

In other words, the designs should be the products of those with a true understanding of aircraft and manufacturing. And the final product must conform to the abilities of those that must operate and maintain them.

We're not there yet!


gadfly said...

Wasn't it "Dirty Harry" that made the famous comment: "A man's gotta know his limitations!"

That sums up much about the demise of Eclipse, and a string of other attempts to darken the skies . . . etc. Inflated egoes . . . presumed knowledge . . . and a long list, with unobtainable promises, all contribute to the demise of many great goals . . . whether aviation or just about any other great enterprise.

Do something "simple", do it well, and do it as under God. 'Not to gain favor (it doesn't work that way), but 'just because it's the right thing to do. If you do well, the "right people" will take notice. But even if no one else takes notice, you have the satisfaction of having done it to the best of your ability . . . and when you wake in the morning, you have no reason to be ashamed of the work of the past, and no need to make excuses.


(Excuse: "Skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.")

baron95 said...

Another very informative post Phil - and I'm sure this was a lot of work. So thanks.

I wanted to pick up on a few points regarding the question of comercial success. First of all, I hope you do realize, that your very small sample (3) for composite scoring included start-up companies (like Adam) and new to jet, semi-startup companies like Grob. It should be no surprise that startup companies fail more often.

Secondly, on your comments of A380 vs 787 implying that the aluminum one was commercially successful, while the composite one may not be for a long time. I hope you are aware, that Airbus itself has declared the A380 a financial disaster. They have written off billions of dollars and just this week, announced that the A380 will continue to be a drag on the company. I posted about it at the end of last thread, and will repost here, so you have the details.

So, yes, the 787 has problems, but so far, they are nowhere near what the A380 financial nightmare has been to Airbus.
------------ repost below -------------

gadfly said...

Reviewing my earlier comments, I am reminded a an old story of the aging lumberjack, bragging about his "axe". He claimed it was of such fine quality that in the fifty years he had owned it, he had worn out seven handles and three heads.

Corny! . . . right? But think about it for a moment or two . . . apply it to "GA" . . . and you have precisely the method of which I was earlier speaking.

The precision of present day machining/tooling is such that replacement parts/components/assemblies have an indefinite future, allowing selective improvement/innovation, without the need to begin every endeavor from "scratch".

But there is a caveat: It takes a new and fresh look at machining/tooling/manufacturing methods, so long held by the continuing industry as a "religion", which must not be changed. Until there is a willingness to take that "fresh look", don't expect any great and mighty improvements in the system.

We're not speaking of a "throw-a-way" car (which may go a couple hundred thousand miles), but something with a much greater value . . . a major investment, even for the "rich".

Well, this man knows his "limitations" . . . I shut down the CAD system for the day, and run out of anectdotes, and drilling for new humor has produced a dry hole. Enough!


Shane Price said...


Yes the A380 (and it's bloody huge...) has drained Airbus, as the delays in the 787 have hurt Boeing.

But that's not the nub of the question. The aircraft follow different philosophies, and I'm not alone in thinking that the 787 may struggle in a changed landscape.

The A380 is a 'bulk carrier', intended to fly both long distances and carry much more than any other commercial airliner. The 787 is a 'frigate', designed to be fast, over great distances, but does so by sacrificing payload.

In a way, it's a bit like Concorde via the 747. The market responded to the 1973 oil crisis by voting for the 'bulk carrier' and the only civilian supersonic aircraft was relegated to a niche role flying, TV personalities, jockeys and 'captains of industry' between London/Paris and New York.

In my opinion, the average punter chooses long haul carrier by a matrix which is combined of cost, comfort and convenience. For some it will be how close the airport(s) are to origin and destination, followed by the reputation of the airline and the comfort of the aircraft. For many others it will just the price of the ticket.

I don't think most will care if a 12 hour flight can be done in 10, just as it will matter little if the flight goes from Atlanta, GA to Paris. instead of Raleigh, NC to Lyon.

Both Boeing and Airbus have government backing, so neither will be allowed to go bust. Airlines seem prepared to split their orders between them, and the market will keep these 'big two' more or less honest.

Time will tell who made the 'correct' choice. Airbus are prepared to back stop their position with the A350 variants. Boeing don't have an effective counter for the A380.

Did I mention it's really, really big? If you get the chance, go and see one, especially alongside an 'old fashioned' aircraft.

Like the 747...


BassMaster said...

747 and Concorde = 380 and 787? Thanks for playing. Try again.

Phil Bell said...

Hello No_Skids (and CWMOR!)

Thanks for the reminder about CWMOR winning the 787 contest- let's make it a copy of Shane's book on me!

(Well, it's on Eclipse, but, if you know what I mean... :)

Shane Price said...


747 and Concorde = 380 and 787? Thanks for playing. Try again.

OK, I will.

Concorde, a huge technical leap (but with two governments picking up the tab) took on the 747, a huge commercial gamble for a private company.

One had listened to its customers, the other went on ego trip.

The winner continues to crowd our airports and make money for everyone involved.

The other, well, doesn't.

Now, lets look at the A380 and the 787.

One is flying commercially, appears to appeal to users, occupies a 'known' slot in the market and has a significant order backlog which only shows signs of growing.

The other has one test flight bird that's grounded while 'debris' is extracted from it's fuel systems, is two+ years behind a schedule that was too ambitious to start with and is designed for a role that is currently (at best) commercially doubtful.

Plus, Airbus have a response (A350XWB) to the 787 in first stages of assembly, but Boeing have decided to ignore the market they identified in the first place. There is no 'bulk carrier' in sight from Seattle...

History has a way of repeating itself, but this time I think it's Boeing who've headed off on the 'wrong' track, just as Concorde turned out to be a superb technical achievement but a commercial black hole.

Maybe, just maybe, the 787 will be to aviation in the 21st century what Concorde was to the 20th....


baron95 said...

Hi Shane, some comments on your post....

"Yes the A380 (and it's bloody huge...) has drained Airbus,"

Not has drained. IS draining, with no prospect of generating operating profit (if ignoring the R&D costs) any time soon.

"In a way, it's a bit like Concorde via the 747."

Concorde was 2.5x faster, burned 4-5 times more fuel, had half the range of the 747.

787 has more range, is only 2-3% faster, and uses about the same fuel per seat, if you assume, as must be, that it is easier to fill all the seats of a 787 than all the seats of an A380.

"I don't think most [punters] will care if a 12 hour flight can be done in 10, just as it will matter little if the flight goes from Atlanta, GA to Paris. instead of Raleigh, NC to Lyon."

Perhaps, but long haul airlines don't make money off the punters. They make their money out of the F and J fliers, and those guys won't be caught dead making LHR connections (like taking the decrepit trip on the shuttle buses from terminal to terminal). They will choose direct ALL the time.

Shane - look at ALL the trends. Average plane size over the Atlantic had been decreasing ever since the 767 was introduced - now lots of 757 and even some 737s are flying the Atlantic. Same in the Pacific. 747s are being retired in droves in favor of 777s.

If anything, the A380 is a niche airplane. It is perfect for hub to hub on very high density routes - like say LHR to JFK. But even there it will face competition from 757s, 767s, A330s, 777s, 787s, A350s. The twins are simply more flexible. Example, in the winter, you can divert one 787 from LHR-JFK to LHR-GIG. The LHR-GIG will never support an A380.

baron95 said...

Oh, I miss this one from Shane..."and has a significant order backlog which only shows signs of growing."

Really? The A380 Backlog is Growing? That must be news to Airbus - please check your facts and post again.

The A380 backlog is DECLINING.

baron95 said...

But good discussion anyway - didn't mean to pick on you Shane.

There are varying opinions about long and thin and long and fat airliners (A380/748 - 787/777/A350).

The answer of course, is that both have merit. One size fits all is seldom the answer for long haul.

The real question is what size plane can provide the best ROI.

I'm willing to bet that 787 will provide a lot more return to Boeing than the 748I (leaving the F out). Similarly, the A350 will provide a much greater return to Airbus than the A380.

And in the end, lets not forget that Airbus and Boeing make their real money selling and servicing the 5,000+ 737s and A320s single isle massive flotilla.

airtaximan said...

"semi-startup companies like Grob"

38 years and Grob delivered more than 3,500 aircraft that have flown over seven million hours on five continents

nice start up

This sort of thinking and characterization (jumping to conclusions) is what enabled this debate to go on for 15 years and $3Billion...


KnotMPH said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
airsafetyman said...

The Concorde wasn't really competing with the 747; it was Europe's answer to the US's moon landing program and it suceeded wonderfully, actually generating something worthwhile and useful to mankind versus incinerating taxpayer cash. It would have had a fautless safety record if Continental Airlines had managed to keep their s#*t bolted to their airplanes and off the runways. The Concorde is, hands down, the most elegant aircraft ever made.

baron95 said...

On Grob - That is right - The comment was "New to Jets, Semi-Startup".

Their entire approach to the Grob SPn Jet was that of a start up - it was a plaything with to definitive funded to completion program.

Just look how Embraer and Gulfstream go about it. Identify the funding, do the research, launch the plane with an announced in-service date and deliver.

I could say the same thing about Cirrus and Piper. Regardless of how many planes they have delivered. Their approach to their first jet is "New to Jets, semi-startup".

None of these companies has a funded program to insure delivery of the plane. If you place a deposit for a Cirrus Jet or Grob SPn YOU ARE NO BETTER OFF THAN PLACING A DEPOSIT FOR ECLIPSE last decade.

If you place a deposit with Gulfstream or Embraer YOU ARE SAFE.

Understand the difference between a Jet Start up and a credible company?

I hope you do.

baron95 said...

KnotMPH said...Forty years ago one would arrive at LAX, SFO or SEA if they were flying from the far east. Now that aircraft are more numerous with greater volumes of passengers the transportation system responded by adding nothing. Not one extra measly international port of entry.

I don't know what you are smoking, but the number of international city pairs has skyrocketed in the past few decades.

There has also been MAJOR expansions of terminal and runway facilities of pretty much all international airports that existed in 1980. Some, like Denver International, move to totally new locations and occupy an area that is several times the size of the previous airport.

There is absolutely no constraint to international flight growth - if we move to open skies and enable annual slot auctions (only sane way to go) - you'll see an even further expansion of flight counts and city pairs.

Count how many 45 seat American Eagle planes take off and land out of say JFK a day.

Go to open skies and slot auction and those will be displaced by bigger planes flying longer haul.

At the same time that airports grew in number and size, airlines actually reduced available seats by a good amount over the past few years.

There is *A TON* of spare airport capacity. That is why we continue to burn slots with 45-seat planes at our international airports.

Very few airports are truly stressed - e.g. LHR. But even there, slot allocation can be much further improved and Terminal (e.g. BA T5) and runway capacity continue to increase.

baron95 said...

ASM said ...It would have had a fautless safety record if Continental Airlines had managed to keep their s#*t bolted to their airplanes and off the runways.
Yep, unfortunately another "kill" for the DC-10. Very tragic and accelerated the demise of the Concorde.

I agree - it was truly a gorgeous plane and a technology marvel.

Unfortunately, it will be *AT LEAST* many decades before passengers can cross the Oceans as fast as they did in the Concorde in the 1970s.

But hey, at least they can go on lie flat F/J pods, with internet access, video-on-demand for all at 1/5th to 1/20th the price.

That is a different type of progress.

baron95 said...

Oh, and by the way what was once Grob is no more. There is now Grob Aircraft, which is brand new entity created by H3 when they bought the training aircraft and service business from bankrupt Grob.

And there is Grob Aerospace, which holds on to the the remnants of the SPn project. They don't build anything, don't do anything, other than looking for funds.

So both are not only semi-start-ups they are true startups.

In particular, Grob Aerospace (the one that has the SPn paper bits that Phil put up as if it were a real aircraft) is actually a zombie startup.

But hey - some people will tell you that the current Pan Am, Inc is a great airline. Can't make a distinction between a name and a company.

KnotMPH said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Floating Cloud said...

Gadfly said...
"Do something "simple", do it well, and do it as under God. 'Not to gain favor (it doesn't work that way), but 'just because it's the right thing to do. If you do well, the "right people" will take notice. But even if no one else takes notice, you have the satisfaction of having done it to the best of your ability . . ."


KnotMPH said

"There remain two ways to knock Heathblow down a few pegs, one - add more runways (sorry SFO, LAX, SEA) or two - use big donkey, Mogambo airplanes."

Amen to that too!


airtaximan said...

I love watching a desperate attempt to vercome a silly statement, which could have just been addressed as :

Wow, I didn't realize I called a 38 year old company with 3500 aircraft produced "a start up"


Eclipse had the same mentality - refuse to admit and learn...

You can always try to "fit" your idea of who they are or what they did into your worldview. Does not make it right, just makes for a sqirmish argument.

baron95 said...

Fact remains, that the ONLY start-up or new-to-jets company that has managed to certify a VLJ is..... drum roll....ECLIPSE.

The ONLY one. Diamond has an outside chance. Piper a very, very long odds shot.

Grob, never even came close. They proved in spades their amateurish approach and cratered the company.

Cirrus almost cratered as well, until the board/investors came in and clamp the Mr. K and kicked him out and the Cirrus Jet to the back of the garage. Maybe they did it in time to avoid Grob's fate, maybe not. We'll see.

airtaximan said...

Grob, never even came close.. to certifying a VLJ.

Well this is correct, neither did GUlfstream or Bombardier for that matter... or...

Bottom line the VLJ is considered by most OEMs a dumb thing to chase.

Imagine a 14,000 MTOW VLJ - not that's confusion at its best.

Once again, some guy has some thought in his head, trying to bend reality to match or make an argument.

airtaximan said...

The Grob SPN MTOW was 14,000 lbs or so. This is far cry from a VLJ - if not, there are quite a few old planes that qualify...


julius said...


Fact remains, that the ONLY start-up or new-to-jets company that has managed to certify a VLJ is..... drum roll....ECLIPSE.

Isn't this too simple!

What do you tell your kids if you find them at home with a bag of $1M? "Great, you got your first $1M, your the best of your classes!"

Are the current fpjs - with or without FIKI/AVIO NG 1.5 update - something anyone can be proud of?

There is no drum roll - there are only the words of suppliers, and customers - asking for their money!


P.S.: JetBird a European wannbe airtaxi operator is TU...

airtaximan said...

JetBird a European wannbe airtaxi operator is TU...

based on Phenoms... its not just the VLJ BS thing, its the air-taxi BS thing, as well. They managed to pollute aircraft manufacturing and aircraft service all in one fell swoop.

gadfly said...

No-Skids said: "Composites have worked great in my tennis rackets-but failure is abrupt and catastrophic-like my backhand."

Any and all who build aircraft or any other device from high strength composites should keep this thought ever before them.

Whether the solution is found in a fiber mix, with Nylon, aramid, or even "Rayon" fibers, . . . or in a "curly" carbon fiber, . . . a solution must be found. This is not new technology, but possibly just out of the thinking of the aeronautical engineers that un-knowingly come to work (or they did a few years back) in their polyester/cotton mix white shirts and wrinkle free trousers (or dresses).

On Cable TV the other night, a man was talking about hooking into a monster fish, somewhere up in Canada . . . and after six or eight hours of fighting the beast, his rod snapped into four pieces, suddenly, without warning. I was under the impression that he was using a carbon fiber rod . . . excellent for a casting or fly rod. But that's not the sort of thing you need as you approach the limits of wing loading, etc. It's nice to know you're getting close, before something critical goes "bang".

Until the engineers wake up to this sort of thing, aluminum (or is it "aluminium", Shane), has the practical edge.

And then there's that old problem of designing "by the book" without an understanding that much of manufacturing is an "art", and not a "computer science" . . . especially with fiber re-enforced composites. Or, for that matter, the design of a simple trash-can or laundry basket. You know . . . those things that have a tendency to "split" around the rim because the mold designer still doesn't understand how to design/mold something as simple as a waste basket?!


(Years ago, the safe bending radius of a stainless steel belt [probably a "302, 304,or 316" alloy], manufactured by "Sandvik" of Sweden was a thousand times the thickness of the belt. Keep within those limits, and the belt should last "forever". Think what it should be for "carbon fibers" . . . probably 10 or 100 times that ratio, and apply that to fiber re-enforced composites in an aircraft wing that undergoes as many, or more "flexes" in its life, compared to a conveyor belt.)

(Phil was asking for discussion on fiber re-enforced composites, was he not?)

gadfly said...

Thinking back over fifty years, the submarine service had gone from “hemp” lines (rope, to you land-lubbers) to Nylon. Our own submarine would sometimes stay submerged for a month at a time (“snorkeling” at night, to re-charge batteries, and replenish the air so we could breath for another eighteen hours or so) . . . so the lines were always completely submerged in sea water . . . actually for two months at a time while on patrol. “Hemp” is subject to “sea worms” and other crustaceans that eat organic material. But Nylon seems impervious to everything, from sun to anything in the ocean.

And sometimes, while tying up to a “finger pier” at home base in Pearl Harbor, the one-inch-diameter Nylon lines (four total) would be snapping tight, as a twenty-four-hundred-ton submarine would attempt to stretch them out to the breaking point. But that was hardly possible, as the Nylon would have to stretch an additional 50% before failure. However, this was still a dangerous situation. Those Nylon lines, wrapped around the capstans, were tight enough to “play a tune”, or instantly give a sailor a “split personality” if they should ever part. I’d hate to think what it would be like if the Navy ever decided to use “carbon filament” lines . . . no give, no warning, etc.

This is the sort of thing that doesn’t come from “books” or “bearded college professors”. A book can never fully explain the tension on a “line” . . . but watching a line come up tight, with water turning to an almost “mist”, as the man on the capstan releases a little slack, and then snubs it tight again. That gets a man’s attention . . . never “straddle” a line, but step on it, if you have to get to the other side.

Now, with all this in mind, scale down your mental images to lines/fibers with a thickness the tenth of a sheet of normal paper, allow no “stretch” (as in Nylon), and consider that the failure of a single fiber can suddenly multiply a hundred thousand times to adjacent fibers, and cut through a “spar” or “stiffener”, faster than you can snap your finger.

Most common metals are “friendly”, with a long stretch before failure, but glass and carbon are an entirely different animal . . . “a horse of a different hue”, as it were.


(So why is Rayon used instead of Nylon, in tires . . . Nylon takes a “set” when it gets cold . . . Rayon doesn’t, although not as strong. ‘Just attempting to anticipate the obvious question that I once asked.)

gadfly said...

A final anecdote for the evening:

On the blogsite, there is little if any thought about “rotor craft” . . . you know, those things that go “Whop, whop, whop . . . in the night”?

Yesterday, quite late, such a machine picked up a dear friend of mine, near the southwestern border of New Mexico . . . near the town of Reserve . . . actually over the border in Alpine, Arizona. My friend, whom I call my “twin”, because he and I have been such close friends. Sam is as black as Morgan Freeman . . . looks like him, too . . . but we have been very close. A few weeks ago, Sam Way, his wife Lisa, and I had supper together at a little buffet on Central, near our shop . . . it was our last visit together in this life.

A helicopter transported Sam to Mesa, Arizona . . . he had serious pains in his gut . . . and was going into and out of consciousness. “Tell Lisa that I love her” . . . over and over. He had asked my oldest son to preach the sermon in his church, Sunday morning. He will . . . and also his memorial service this coming Saturday.

But back to the helicopter . . . to transport a person a couple hundred miles in an emergency is no small thing. Sam died “on the table” in “ER”. Maybe a few extra minutes could have made a difference . . . I don't know.

Whether in a distant, remote, county in New Mexico, or in Haiti, the helicopter has come to full maturity . . . or has it? Igor Sikorsky had some great ideas about the “heleo-ca-peter” (as I like to call it) . . . even my own father’s inertia harness restraint system was first used on a Sikorsky, and saved a few lives in the Swiss Alps that first summer of 1957 (and is found in almost every American built commercial aircraft, today.) Daddy died in March, 1957, and never learned of the success of his invention . . . except in the 1955 Mexican Road Race, saving the lives of Bill Vukovich and his partner, when their Lincoln went over a 100 foot cliff at 90 mph. Vukovich died later that year at "Indy", wearing the same restraint harness system, but he hit his head on impact, and didn't live to escape the fire.

Funny thing . . . I remember sitting by my Dad in Sunday morning church service, watching him sketch on the "bulletin", the early concepts of that inertia harness reel, and the five-point quick disconnect buckle . . . and learning to connect the Bible teaching with an “image” on paper. Strange? Hey, that’s how the gadfly operates . . . even today. I draw pictures, and connect the events of the moment with the picture.

Frankly, I’d like the aircraft industry to take a new and fresh look at helicopters . . . and consider the tremendous benefits of vertical and “not-so-rapid” horizontal flight, that may prove to be far more efficient and time saving than fixed wing travel. Are we there yet? It would seem so, but me thinks there is a vast opportunity of advancing the technology into wonderful opportunities, in rescue, and common transportation.

Consider this: Horizontal flight seems to be limited by the velocity of the “advancing” blade . . . to keep sub-sonic. Question: Is that a true limit?

“On load” and “Off load” time . . . a few seconds here and there . . . big difference when a patient has seconds or minutes to live.

And what about landing in restricted areas . . . or at high altitude (Reserve, NM, is at 7,000 feet).

It’s nice to talk about a personal jet . . . nothing wrong with that. But there’s a “higher calling”, even in aviation. Quest Aviation got the picture with “fixed wing”. But helicopters seem to be the “orphan” . . . the un-wanted “step child”. Me thinks a person with “means”, imagination, and a proper attitude . . . can carry on the thinking of Igor Sikorsky.


(Attempting to tweak your thinking . . . and get out of a rut. Sure, the "anecdotes" are "repeats" . . . Yes, I know that. But sometimes repetition gets a point across.)

eclipse_deep_throat said...


Your last comment got me wondering. Could we create a "civilian" version of the V-22 Osprey? Ok, ok ....I admit that I just watched Avatar last nite. And 'the visionary' James Cameron used tilt-rotor craft like in 100 different shots....

So perhaps with a little disruptive technology, a spare $2-3 billion to burn, 10 years of time to kill, under the leadership of an egomaniac, we could create a new biz / charter vehicle. But what would the mission profile look like for this vehicle? Could it be engineered to perform better than the cheapest Gulfstream? And most important, would the market accept it even if it met all its price and performance targets?

IMHO, Gordon Gekko biz-types will NEVER use helicopters / tilt-rotors as their sole means of air transport. I think Trump has a helicopter, but I could be wrong. The term "business jet" is in the vernacular as even a class identifier. "Let's take the jet." Perhaps it is just a problem with my perception of high-net worth people: I can't see 'em telling their cronies that "I took the tilt-rotor to Aspen, CO."

I'm not hip on the properties of a turboshaft (turbine) engine either, if such an engine would make sense in commercial or GA/biz applications. I'm thinking of the MTBF and the presumed lack of qualified A&Ps that could service the engines. But again, I think the biggest issue is the "Snob Factor" if this isn't a real jet plane, as my quick scan of Wikipedia has the V-22 limited to 350 knots @ 15k feet. But it has an impressive 60,500lbs MTOW which could likely be scaled down to 20,000lbs in a civilian version. Someone more skilled than me would have to draft a spec sheet for this kind of vehicle to **profitably** transport 10-20 people at least 1,500 miles, in a pressurized cabin @ 35,000ft.

Dumb question: um, is there a technical issue that prevents turboprops from flying at 35k feet? Perhaps the thin air at 35K ft?? Assuming that a turboshaft engine is/could be just as efficient as a jet, I figure a tilt-rotor could eventually be designed to do what Gad suggests. But wouldn't it be more practical to design a 'tilt-jet' aircraft, like a civilian version of a Harrier jump-jet. Hmmm, that could change the snob value of personal transportation in being able to take-off / land where there are no runways!!


baron95 said...

ATM is correct - I used VLJ incorrectly - should have said light jets.


EDT asked ... Dumb question: um, is there a technical issue that prevents turboprops from flying at 35k feet?

Why are you asking that? Many TP fly at 35K ft(e.g. King Air 350, Conquest IIs). Some fly at 41K ft (e.g. Piagio Avanti II).

Fact is that turbofans will increasingly be lighter, cheaper, more economical to maintain and safer than Turboprops.

I think eventually the GA industry will leave TPs behind, just like the airlines did.

Yes, TPs are more economical for shot hops or if ATC keeps you down low. They also provide better runway performance and are more efficient below about 350 kts or so.

But the trend is to turbofans for a variety of reason.

When you fly 100 hrs/year as is average of personal GA, acquisition, depreciation and maintenance costs are the determinants of operation cost. Fuel inefficiency is not a major cost concern and its real impact is on range.

Now for long haul airliners that is a different story.

billmiles15 said...

Are you sure about empty weights in hour table?
Many larger bizjets are quoted green (no paint or interior).
For example, B&CA lists a CL-605, which shouldn't be much different than a CL-604, as 26,915 BOW. This includes crew, charts, cabin supplies, but still has to be 26,000+ empty, much heavier than your CL-604 listing.

baron95 said...

And then there are news that annual expenses of supercars run higher than private jets. Yet, they sell much better....

There are frightening bills, horrific bills, and Bugatti Veyron bills. The legendarily expensive to buy, it seems that the Veyron is equally expensive to keep running, with some pegging yearly running costs at $300,000. It's so expensive, in fact, that Autocar says there's an owner who trailers his car to a particular driving route, then follows behind in a private jet.

Let's just take the tires, for example: in the U.S., the Michelin Pilot Sport 2s fashioned with the Veyron's unique compound cost about $30,000; in the UK they're £23,500 ($38,216 U.S.). Bugatti recommends you change them every 4,000 kilometers, or 2,500 miles, and at every ten thousand miles the company recommends changing the wheels and tires, which runs north of $50,000.

In between those wheel changes will be things like routine maintenance, with a major annual service setting you back about $20,000.

BassMaster said...

Edt BA 609 is civil.

airsafetyman said...

"Dumb question: um, is there a technical issue that prevents turboprops from flying at 35k feet?"

Nope. The Piaggio P-180 Avanti II trues out at 400 knots at 41,000 feet. If Beech offered a turboprop designed in the last half of the 20th century at least or Cessna updated their Conquest or Piper had not destroyed the tooling (what idiots!) for the Cheyenne, general aviation might not be as demoralized as it is today. Future businesses will fly "green" or take the bus and turboprops are considered by the public as green. Turbofans - of any stripe - are not.

ColdWetMackarelofReality said...

Since Beech sells more turboprop aircraft than anybody else (one of every 3 turboprops delivered in '08 came from Beech) I doubt we can say they are somehow missing the boat or contributing to demoralization. They are kicking ass, everyones'.

Beech sells nearly as many planes as Cessna and Pilatus, combined (the next two leading companies), in fact, Beech delivers more aircraft than the bottom 3 OEM's combined (Socata/Daher, Piper and Piaggio).

Turboprops are here to stay, you may recall that the original Citation (which was a good plane) was supposed to destreoy the turboprop market, that the PC-XII (which is a great plane) was supposed to kill the King Air, and yet, Beech was responsible for 34% of all GAMA reported turboprop deliveries in '08.

Even today Cessna STILL is compelled to advertise the Citation series against the best selling turbine aircraft family in history, which is manufactured just across town, and which still have propellors.

baron95 said...

ASM said...Future businesses will fly "green" or take the bus and turboprops are considered by the public as green.

I hope you realize that the "public" has no idea what a turboprop is, right?

Don't believe me? As 10 people of the street what the difference is between a turboprop and a turbofan.

For crying out even FBO line people on more than one occasion tried to top off a P210 I used to fly with Jet-A, just because it said Turbo Centurion on the cowl.

If Honda calls "Hybrid De Icing" their boots/electric FIKI system on the Honda Jet, the public will think that is a two mode hybrid and is "green".

Fact is, no-one, given the choice, wants to fly on a turbo-prop compared to a turbo-fan. They don't know why, but they know it.


Diesels are much more fuel efficient than gas engines. Yet, in the US, no one buys them. They buy them in Europe only because taxes artificially make gasoline so expensive.

Now, slap a "Hybrid" label on a 460HP BMW 7 series, and it sells as green image ;)

Yes, CW, it is remarkable how well Beech's King Air line does. They should be extinct a long time ago, but still soldier on. Reason, of course is that they stuck to it, while all other twin TPs left the market.

baron95 said...

When change comes to GA engines, it will not be gradual. It will be "disruptive" to use the blogs favorite word.


Anyone here heard of Garmin 20 years ago? Have you heard about their near monopoly in personal GA avionics now?

Some non-traditional player, somewhere will make a play some-day. It may take another couple of decades, but it is guaranteed to happen. One thing is certain. TCM and Lycoming will not be the ones doing it.

julius said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
airtaximan said...

There is at least one "air taxi" business plan using the tilt-rotor... no joke. Actually, for the desired route, it makes perfect sense, IMO.

There IS a mission for this plane... as there is amission for most every successful GA plane still in production or supported.

Just becasue they are older models.... does not mean they are easily competed with.

As for GArmin avionics... "Garmin Corporation was formed in Taiwan in January 1990 by two electrical engineers, Gary Burrell and Dr. Min Kao. (The company's name is derived from the first names of the founders.) Burrell and Kao had been employed by Kansas-based King Radio Corporation, a maker of radios and aircraft navigation equipment, which was acquired by Allied Corp. (later Allied Signal) in 1985. Burrell displayed in interest in integration early on and is credited with designing the first combination navigation/communications radio for general aviation while at King Radio.

Garmin introduced its first product, the GPS 100AVD, in January 1991. Aimed at boaters and pilots of small planes, it was about the size of a paperback book and sold for about $1,000. By 1992, GPS devices were a $100 million-a-year market.

Garmin subsequently introduced another GPS unit for pilots called the GPS 95. This one, which sold for $1,795, incorporated a display of the plane's position on a moving map, as well as nearby airports and radio beacons. It could also backup the aircraft's built-in instrumentation with groundspeed, heading, and altitude readings.

Sales reached $102 million in 1995, producing net income of $23 million. Garmin International, the U.S. unit, moved to a new $8 million, 100,000-square-foot headquarters in early 1996. Its offices had previously been housed in four separate buildings."

So a rich history IN aviation at one the foremost avionics shops produced some entrepreneurial minded folks who ran with it... and somehow this is problematic for you, OR it indicates something?

BTW there are amazing new turbofan technologies all over the world, right now, which when proven will increase efficiency and lower cost and operating cost. There's just some wringing out to be done. May take another 15 years... sorry if this does not fit with your schedule. Just a fact of life.

PPS. the auto example you gave, as if it supports some argument of your, fails - the aircraft cost 10X the car you refer to. The market universe is MUCH smaller for any jet.

I'll give you a hint, at $1M the total market for jets is around 25,000, at 1.5 million its around 8,000.

Or should I say, some percentage of this total market universe.

Its small.

Beedriver said...

As far as commercial tilt rotors as far as I know the Bell tilt rotor has stalled out.

the site for the 609 is http://www.bellagusta.com/air_main.cfm

Sikorsky is betting on a coaxial counter rotating twin rotor helicopter which will have a 250 knot cruise speed


I could not find any new information on the 609. does anyone have recent information.

airsafetyman said...

CW, My point was that the King Air line is an outgrowth of the recip Queen Air that goes back to the, what, 1950s? With the same airfoil and basic cabin dimensions? They are overpriced antiques and still manage to sell! If Beech had come out with an updated design they would be even farther ahead. Ditto Cessna with the Conquest.

Beedriver said...

Most buyers of airplanes are pragmatic buyers. they will only buy proven technology. the king air line is very proven. thus if you want to buy a reliable proven fixable anywhere airplane that is economical for medium distances the king air is the choice.

The Piaggo p189 may be much faster and more efficient but it is new and in the mind of pragmatic buyers unproven.

to make a pragmatic buyer take the risk on a new product you typically need to show at least a 30% advantage somehow.

so far nothing has had enough of an advantage over the king air for its mission to start impacting the king air sales to the pragmatic buyer.

gadfly said...


. . . from the beginning, I thought the Osprey was a great idea. But that was many decades ago. The transition for vertical to horizontal flight is not as easy, nor as inexpensive, as was once assumed.

But let’s take that thought of a double “side by side” rotor, mix in a little “auto-gyro” . . . add a plain old six-cylinder “boxer” (flat-opposed/pancake) Lycoming or Continental or ? with a fixed pitch prop . . . hang in on a “chrome-moly” steel frame, etc., and let the testing begin. (Leave the turbines out of the mix until you get the first things figured out.)

In this scenario, I’m thinking of possibly an ultra-STOL aircraft, able to carry four people (including pilot) maybe five hundred miles at somewhere around 120 knots, land and takeoff on a highway or frontage road, in a hundred feet or so, with all the glory, bells and whistles, of a “M-A-S-H” unit chopper (but without the complexity/vibration/expense of a fully articulated main rotor, and the need for a tail rotor).

The old “auto-gyro” was not a bad idea . . . just needed a little refinement. And me thinks, maybe, a “Sprague-type clutch” between engine and rotors, to initially bring them up to speed. And use an idea off the “Osprey” . . . a shaft to maintain synchronous rotation . . . and possibly bring the two rotors close to a “diameter” of separation (like a common hand-crank egg beater, but skip the tilt rotor part . . . far too expensive, etc.). With two rotors instead of one, the rotor rpm may increase, without going “sonic” at the advancing blade tips. And, should power fail, landing is normal with full control . . . little different than a power-on landing.

Often, it isn’t so much the cruising speed between A and B, but “getting to the airport”, if there is one, and reversing the process at the other end. If it were me, I’d focus on a single market (at first) for emergency service in and out of remote locations . . . with an aircraft so inexpensive and simple that it can be kept “in the barn” next to the volunteer fire station in far off communities, ready at a moments notice for little places that presently cannot afford even an air strip, and certainly not a 24/7 on-call helicopter service. Get that right, and the next step up might be simple “taxi service”.

Bottom line . . . whatever is attempted should be “dirt simple”, using “off the shelf” components for everything possible. In the above scenario, the major component expense is possibly the two rotors (composite?).

Although I certainly don’t have the answer . . . sharing how I would approach a “real” existing potential market might get someone thinking about “how to fill a market niche” using existing (for the most part) technology.


(Insanity doesn't run in my family . . . it gallops! And it has brought a certain level of successful inventions.)

Beedriver said...

The Sikorsky s 69 experimental twin coaxial helicopter was able to go 322 mph . thus the twin coaxial concept might be the real competitor to the tilt rotor.

gadfly said...

Beedriver . . . the "Sikorsky" is an wonderful concept . . . no argument. But from what I can tell from the info, it's certainly not going to fill the bottom end of the food chain for inexpensive quick transportation for most of the US of A.

A half century ago, this discussion would be about Cessna 185's . . . or even possibly, Helio Couriers, etc. But even in those halcion days, they were pushing the upper limit of financing quick transportation in and out of rural areas . . . considering either the expense of equipment or airport facilities.

Helicopter manufacturers recognized the market and exploited it fully . . . leap frogging over the "back woods" needs, of communities that cannot afford the latest and greatest that technology has to offer.

It's sort of like the introduction of Dr. Porsche's little "Bug", (Uncle Adolf's "People's Car") into the US of A.

A friend with his Dad's new "Bug", and me in my folks "'51 Chevy, with "Powerglide" ("Powerslide") had a drag race one night (Burbank, Califorina) . . . the VW with about 35 hp won. Within a year, the VW was here to stay. That's the GA portion of the market that seems to be un-filled in the year 2010. 'Dirt cheap, dirt simple, "even a caveman can fly it". Henry Ford did it to a "Tee" a half century earlier.

If I'm having a heart attack, or have a bleeding aneurysm, I rather be in a "VW" type aircraft on the way to help (with an "off-the-shelf" Garmin "GPS", from Costco), than waiting for the arrival of a 320knot ultra-expensive counter rotating twin-screw flying machine . . . coming into the area . . . soon!

Each has its place. The problem (and opportunity) as I see it is that there is a vast market "out there", unfilled, because most folks only want the best, when a life-boat with "oars" might be more valuable than a motor yacht.

And once the oar design is worked out, it might even turn into a ship-to-shore taxi service.

Who knows? But I've recently seen a lot of money spent trying to develop a "yacht", while totally ignoring the "life boat" (if you get my drift).


(Disclaimer: Not responsible for stomach cramps from un-intended "puns", and other attempts at humor.)

gadfly said...

Since I may have the attention of a few . . . for a moment, let’s take this “inexpensive emergency vehicle” a step further in practical application . . . and a step farther in practical distances. (“Further” and “farther” . . . two good words with different definitions . . . examples of “precision tools of communication” . . . but I digress).

Remote areas have need to get emergency equipment in and out of desolate areas . . . in a hurry. Drive along the northern side of VLA (Very Large Array) Radio Telescopes (the Plains of San Augustin . . . looking like the backside of the Moon) . . . between Magdalena and Datil . . . and think of getting a high speed helicopter into the area, and back out to, say . . . Albuquerque, etc. . . . it’s a long, long way between “potty breaks”. And there aren’t a whole lot of airports out that way. Well, there’s a flashing light in Datil, I think, but at last count not a single traffic signal in Catron County, the largest county in New Mexico . . . almost 7,000 square miles with 3,500 residents . . . a whole lot of cattle, wild life and a bunch of “pseudo-Mexican wolves”, being re-introduced by certain folks . . . bottom line, the “wolves” own the land . . . but again, I digress) .

There’s plenty of space for a Cessna to land on the common highways, provided the pilot knows the location of the “high tension” lines. On Sunday morning, a certain pilot has been known to bring his family to church at Horse Springs, landing on the highway and pulling up into the parking lot. And the teenagers go “rabbit hunting” out back, between the morning worship service and the potluck dinner served every Sunday noon. .But furthermore, the Cessna would need to come into the area from somewhere else, and at night . . . there’s little to identify in the dark.

But if there were a local aircraft, such as mentioned in my earlier comments, “take-off”, even in the dark, is a no brainer . . . with help a hundred miles away . . . an hour by a simple aircraft . . . no faster with the high-speed rescue helicopter by the time the rescue unit gets there, finds its way back to ABQ airspace, etc.

Bad things happen in remote areas . . . and often need medical assistance, immediately. Again . . . in my humble (or not so humble) opinion, there’s an unfilled market out there . . . repeated throughout most of the fifty states. Someone with the “right” tools and attitude have a great opportunity to get with the program. Again, do the “right thing” at the right time . . . and you may be surprised at the other opportunities that open up . . . later.


(Or, again, you may have little in the bank at the end . . . but sleep with a clear conscience that you did your best with the tools that God provided . . . and leave the results for higher authority.)

KnotMPH said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Bell said...

Traveling this 3-day MLK weekend- back in town Monday- new headline up Tuesday.


gadfly said...

Thanks for your input, which I’ll review tomorrow after a good night’s sleep. But this I did pick up . . . a “flying car” sort of thing. Please go back over my comments and carefully review that not once did I mention “flying cars”, nor did I once even allude to that sort of thing. Everything I mentioned was within the bounds of standard aircraft design, flying and landing at normal altitudes and under normal FAA regulations (although with the possibility of making the very first "turn-off" to taxi to the terminal) . . . “chrome-moly” steel tubing (Piper J-3, etc.), nothing that is acceptable for driving down the highway, ever, except for a couple hundred feet in emergency take-off. Hey, Sweden has jet fighters designed for such things (SAAB), as well as European nations . . . remember the “Autobahn” in the days of the “Third Reich” (yeh, even I was a “kid” back then). This is not about that. The potential ultra-STOL could just as easily take-off on the hard-packed desert floor, given a couple hundred feet of relatively “brush free” surface. Auto-gyros were not uncommon in the “1930's” . . . pancake engines are common “off the shelf” from Continental and Lycoming . . . any A&P can, or should be able to, put together an airframe from 4130 “chrome-moly” steel tubing, with an oxy-acetylene torch . . . or he should lose his license. The rest of the project has virtually nothing that is not readily “off the shelf” except for the two rotors . . . one “left” and one “right”. Shucks, if this “old man” can “lay a bead” and join thin-wall 4130 tubing (almost with my eyes closed), after all these years, surely there’s someone out there that can put together a test vehicle, and either prove, or dis-prove what I have earlier proposed. Hey, although I’ve had a major role in “rocket science”, this isn’t that. OK . . . use “MIG” or “TIG” . . . there’s nothing in this equation that borders on the “air cars”, but stays well within the limits of known and past success. We're talking about an "EMERGENCY" vehicle, to respond to emergencies in remote areas, to carry a patient and necessary "EMT", with minimal equipment, to a medical facility . . . not commuting nor recreation.


(Now, let's see . . . where was I? . . . Oh yes, an emergency vehicle to save lives based on earlier success . . . avoiding the novel and stupid entries, attempting to compete with common vehicles, etc. And staying focused!)

(Comments on a blogsite are like attempting to sweep up a puddle of mercury with a whisk broom . . . you'll miss someone, no matter how careful you choose your words. But I'll continue the attempt.)

(Flying car? . . . Come on, folks, let's at least attempt to keep it real!)

gadfly said...

Out at the camp (Oroquay.org), my grandkids use "all terrain vehicles", to maintain the grounds . . . without them, there would be far too much time lost in getting around to all the needed daily chores.

Who would have thought of such a thing forty or fifty years ago? Well, believe it or not, some of us were thinking of such things . . . and an early vehicle, built by my Dad, is in our shop. It didn't have "four wheel drive", etc., but it was a start. Today, these things are commonplace.

My earlier comments were a "flying" version of that sort of thing. 'Given a choice, you would use conventional transportation. But in remote areas, it's good to have an emergency vehicle, that can go into areas without a road . . . or an airstrip, and doesn't cost a king's ransom to purchase and maintain.

That's all! Should be a simple thing to understand.

There's a definite need. And the technology is available to meet that need. And isn't that expensive.


Phil Bell said...

Good morning to Knot_MPH and Gadfly,

(I made a rare use of the delete button this morning, to start the week off right).

I quite agreed with (and enjoyed!) your comments about the flying car, (and air taxi subsidies).

I didn't read Gadfly's comment about realism as a criticism, but sense it might have perceived as such. I think we are all in agreement on such ideas, but present our parodies of the idea in slightly different light. For me, it's comparison's with the Moller contraptions.

And even I have to admire Moller, for his perseverence (and his ability to raise money! :)

"Welcome To Moller-
New Technology goes through three stages:
First it is ridiculed by those ignorant of its potential
Next, it is subverted by those threatened by its potential
Finally, it is considered self-evident.

(That's a bit edgy for Doc Moller- could it be funding is getting a bit tight? Let's hope not- the entertainment industry will never be the same if he folds! :)

I DO seriously admire the guy though, even if I'm a bit less than enamored with his vehicles- I still admire the attempt, and how he's been able to keep the attempt going over the decades.

StuckInNM said...

KnotMPH --

For all the (debatable) faults of LSA and Sport Pilot, I do need to adamantly correct you on a very important point -- sport pilots are NOT limited to uncontrolled airports, as long as the pilot has the proper endorsements. I know this because I've done it.

As the same goes for operations in Class B airspace, there's no reason a properly-trained-and-signed-off sport pilot can't operate in the Los Angeles basin... apart from, I admit, some common sense.

baron95 said...

LSAs are not for transportation. They are about flight training and fun flying around the local area and for the Sunday burger. That covers *a lot* of personal GA flying.

Helos, also are not for long hops - they are specialized for short hops, to congested areas or areas where fixed wing cant go. (Ignoring the utility role for a moment).

Flying cars, make absolutely no sense. And likely won't make sense for a long time. No one wants to fly in a car nor drive in a plane. People that can afford these things, are used to driving in cars that have 1/2 ton of safety equipment, high-performance, good handling and great looks.

A 300 KT rent on demand plane, combined with a rent on demand car at destination is much more appropriate and within reach. There are multiple such car services in many metro areas, such as iGoCars.com. You book the car via iPhone drive and drop when you are done.

Just like some residents of Boston are ditching their cars to use iGo when needed, GA owners would do well, expense wise, to dump their wholly owned planes for a similar concept. Not the fractional crap. But a true use on demand model. A D-Jet if it ever gets certified and if the FAA ever drops the stupid type rating requirement for that class of plane, would be a good choice.

Realistically, we are still a couple of decades away from it though. But experiments can begin.

Ingredients missing are still another round of cockpit and ATC automation, regulatory easing, and mass availability of D-Jet class planes.

It will probably take an US administration that gets behind personal air transportation as a worthy cause.

Else, we'll have to wait an additional 2 decades for the Chinese and Brazilians to do it.

KnotMPH said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
StuckInNM said...

KnotMPH --

Not quite sure what to make of your attitude.

All I did was clarify the limitations of the sport pilot certificate -- that you can legally fly an LSA into a busy controlled airport like Van Nuys.

I'm not disputing the fact such actions -- "flying car" or not -- would be pretty damned harebrained. Just that, yes, one legally could.

Beedriver said...

why would anyone buy a skycatcher.

the 152 has basically the same specifications except the sky catcher will carry 490 lbs while the 152 will carry 100 lbs more at 590 lbs. they both use a 4 cylinder engine with the 152 having maybe 10 hp more. the only difference I can tell is that I hear that the skycatcher is 4 inches wider.

you can buy an excellent 152 for $30,000 while a skycatcher costs at least three times that. For the difference you can put in the best IFR glass panel available.

if you look up the specs in the wikipedia they are virtually identical with the 152 winning in almost every catagory.

gadfly said...

The more I think about the potential of the “autogyro”, or a derivative (such as a “twin”, either side-by-side, or tandem main rotor placement), and the more I investigate, I come to realize a great potential for serious aircraft development . . . to fill a “niche” that has remained almost empty since around 1940.

At that time, two key things happened . . . the US government decided to “fund” the helicopter (because of the obvious advantages of full control vertical flight), which was at the opposite end from “fixed wing speed”, etc. . . . and the sudden death of the “father” of the autogyro, in the crash (1936) of a DC2 commuter flight, killing Juan de la Cierva.

Since then, the concept has not been forgotten, but is now within the domain of single or two-place sport aircraft.

Take a look on “YouTube” of any number of ancient films: Watch (and listen) carefully to this video . . . even those who continue to “get their kicks” with the flying car will be satisfied, or at least “amused”:


You are watching a five-cylinder radial engine power what I predict will be in the next generation of emergency vehicles (not the engine, of course) . . . filling in something lacking for the past seventy-plus years. This isn’t “pie in the sky” dreams, but actual footage of successful aircraft . . . that at the time didn’t tweak the public’s interest.

Look up and watch the Japanese video on YouTube . . . the old film is damaged, but the ones that brought us the A6M were serious about the “autogyro”, and proved it over seventy years ago.


Fast forward to “now”: We still have needs for quick and cheap emergency services in vast reaches of the US of A . . . and in far off lands.

Often, unlike the greater Los Angeles basin, the availability of a quick trip for a hundred miles . . . maybe to a central location, spells the difference between life and death. And this isn’t the thing for someone living in Santa Barbara and commuting to Irvine, or doing the evening traffic report over KNX or KFI. (Being a native of Southern California, I fully understand the narrow mind-set that evaluates everything in terms of the "PCH", "5", "405", or a weekend to the desert . . . and knows the difference between the diamond lane, and how going below the speed of other traffic, regardless of the posted speed limit, will get you pulled over by the CHP (California Highway Patrol) for holding up the flow of traffic.

What a concept . . . “get a life”! What’s the question about maximum speed, on my first driver’s license exam, when the written state limit was “55 mph”? . . . “A speed that is safe and prudent under existing conditions.” . . . (and “hang the written law”). And once I was pulled over by the CHP for traveling at the speed limit in the “#1" lane (That’s the “far left” to you who don’t know!) . . . I got a warning . . . and I never forgot the lesson.

Back to “autogyros” . . . they’re coming back. Someone will figure out the big picture and make it happen on the “large scale”, or should I say the "Emergency Vehicle" scale! How soon? . . . If I were twenty years younger, and had the money, I’d do my best to make it happen. But for now, I've other fish to fry.


airsafetyman said...

"why would anyone buy a skycatcher.

the 152 has basically the same specifications except the sky catcher will carry 490 lbs while the 152 will carry 100 lbs more at 590 lbs."

Why would anyone buy EITHER? The amount of money a student pilot will save on gas during the 40 hours or so of instruction and solo flying until he gets his liscense versus flying a 172 or a Cherokee is not worth considering. The bigger airplanes are much, much more crashworthy in case of a mishap.

baron95 said...

I'm told the Skycatcher climbs faster, cruises a bit faster, has a much wider cabin for instructor/pilots, better ventilation/visibility, is more crashworthy, with better seatbelts/etc, more reliable fuel and electrical systems, and of course, the REAL reason is:

You can fly it without a medical and maintenance is less expensive.

I would not buy either.

Phil Bell said...

New headline post is up!

airsafetyman said...

"I'm told the Skycatcher climbs faster, cruises a bit faster, has a much wider cabin for instructor/pilots, better ventilation/visibility, is more crashworthy, with better seatbelts/etc, more reliable fuel and electrical systems..."

More crashworthy than WHAT, since it does not meet any certification standards and is even more of a lightweight toy than the 150? Cessna had the option of installing a fuel-injected engine In the "Skycatcher" which would have prevented the whole fleet from ever having a carburetor icing accident. Ever. Cessna declined. That should tell you quite a bit.