Everybody knows that new light airplanes cost too much and don’t do enough. This might be changing. And in this case, change is definitely good.
Part of the problem is our history, but it’s time to let go of the past. The Part-23-view of what makes for a safe light airplane is hopelessly out of date. If the point is to make the economics of building affordable new light airplanes impossible, then today’s Part 23 regulations have come close to achieving their goal.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta got the chance to experience what it feels like to be raked over the coals yesterday as lawmakers at a House hearing expressed their mounting frustration over his agency’s handling of sequester-related controller furloughs. It was uncomfortable to watch as House members bluntly told Huerta he did a poor job of preparing for the furloughs – first by not sharing information with airlines sooner and second by applying the furloughs blindly across the co
The decision announced by Cessna and parent company Textron last week to put most of the company’s light jet lineup on what it calls temporary hiatus is a sure sign of tough economic times. A year ago Cessna had a lineup of no fewer than six light jets — the Mustang, CJ1+ (discontinued last year), CJ2+, CJ3, CJ4 and the emerging M2.
The news of the bombings at the Boston Marathon yesterday hit me hard. Though I was safe at home in Austin working, I had a close connection to the events. In fact, I had a number of close connections.
When the news came in that there had been explosions near the finish line and that this was an act of terror, my thoughts turned immediately to my friends, more than half a dozen of whom were running the event. Were they okay? Had any of their loved ones been injured? Were there going to be more bombs? I was beside myself.
If you’re here in Lakeland this week for the Sun ‘n Fun fly-in, you know there’s a lot of room to park your plane. The tie-down areas in some places are nearly empty — as of yesterday afternoon, there were five floatplanes in the area reserved for them instead of the usual 50 — and there are huge grassy spaces where previously there would have been warbirds. The question is: is this a sign of the times or a sign of this particular year (or short stretch of years)?
“Pilotage” — the word spoken by my primary flight instructor, retired F-4 instructor Si Campbell, as if it were a spell. It was, he said, the complex art of figuring out where you are by reference to your surroundings. Knowing where you are from the air might sound easy to those non-pilots dwelling between 5 and 6 feet agl, but it doesn’t take many minutes to realize that at altitude, things look very different than they do on the ground. Without navaids, getting lost in the air isn’t just easy to do; it’s almost impossible to avoid.
With their wide open spaces and VFR nature, there’s something about the American deserts that seem perfectly suited for flying light airplanes. At the same time, the region, with its sky-high terrain, soaring temperatures and relentless turbulence, is by nature antagonistic to what we do.
I spent the better part of the past week flying around the desert southwest in my SR22, which while new to me is a 2010 G3 turbo with the Tornado Alley turbocharged Continental IO-550 engine.
In the FAA’s rush to shut down scores of the nation’s contract control towers, nobody within the agency saw it necessary to perform a thorough analysis of the potential safety ramifications. Nor did the agency conduct a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis to consider, among other things, the millions of dollars it took to build the towers at the airports that will now lose them. Perhaps worst of all, there is no long-term plan in place for resuming services at affected towers.
As the Part 23 rewrite proceeds, it has become more and more clear that the light airplane segment needs a boost, and rethinking how we certify airplanes is a good place to start, though it might not be the best place.
The problem is obvious to anyone in the market for a new set of wings.