An elite collection of aircraft and products have earned our highest level of commendation, the Flying Innovation Award, chosen for the Editors’ Choice Awards by our team—and debuting in the March 2020 issue of Flying. Last year at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, we announced that Gulfstream’s G500 business jet secured the 2019 Flying Innovation Award, not just for the aircraft itself—which exemplifies style and performance—but also for the layers of innovation within Gulfstream’s development program, setting the bar high for aerospace manufacturers.
For 2019, we applied the same criteria to the host of aircraft, products and enterprises around our industry: an innovation had to be certified, if applicable, and available as of the year’s end. We’ll make the announcement at AirVenture 2020. Let us know what you think should win, and long may the innovative spirit continue to grow general aviation.
It has been a long journey to certification for Epic Aircraft—a tale that started more than 20 years ago. The Epic LT launched in 2004 with plans by the former company owners to bring that experimental turboprop to the market while, at the same time, pursing certification for a future version. The story turned into good news under the leadership of LT owner and entrepreneur Doug King. He took on the role of CEO—backed by different owners and then a Russian company—and set out to fulfill the challenge of turning a kit-built aircraft into a Part 23-compliant mount.
In 2019, after seven years of pursuit, the FAA signed off the E1000 following its last test-flight hour in the fall, with type certification granted on November 6. Propelled by a Pratt & Whitney PT6A-67A producing 1,200 hp, and flying at a top cruise speed of 333 knots, the E1000 is now poised to make challenges of its own, in the hot single-engine-turboprop market.
Texas Aircraft Colt LSA
If ever there were an airplane tough enough to carry on the banner of a solid future-pilot training machine, surely, it’s the Texas Aircraft Colt. Think of this light-sport, metal and composite aircraft as a Cessna 150 on steroids, an airplane that solved many of the concerns expressed by pilots and instructors over the years.
Climbing into the Colt is a snap, thanks to doors designed to hinge open 180 degrees because of wing struts built to fit behind the doors rather than in front. Once inside, the Colt offers enough room for even large people to move arms and feet freely. The Colt was designed with a welded chromoly passenger safety cell and a glass-panel Dynon EFIS system powerful enough to drive high-resolution graphic displays and a truly useful autopilot. The Colt also offers an optional ballistic parachute.
Student pilots on a solo will love the 31.7-gallon fuel tank that delivers nearly six hours of flying while miserly gulping just 5 gph. Dramatically highlighting the results of modern aerodynamic design, the 1,320-pound Colt, powered by a 100 hp Rotax engine, delivers a sprightly climb rate.
If you want to know the truth, we considered the uAvionix skyBeacon for recognition this past year, but our admiration for the ADS-B Out device—and its new brother, the tailBeacon—solidified in 2019 as a rush of owners installed the units in order to meet the final ADS-B compliance date of January 1, 2020.
The avionics take an elegant approach to a problem that plagued many aircraft owners: how to comply with the requirement without spending a lot of money and adding another box to their instrument panel. First, uAvionix debuted the skyBeacon, a self-contained replacement for the airplane’s left-wing navigation light that a reasonably handy owner could swap out on their own—only a maintenance technician with inspection authority needed to sign off on the work. Then, in summer 2019, the company launched the tailBeacon, which had the same concept of just replacing the nav light on the empennage of the airplane.
In talking with owners, though there have been hiccups unique to various airplanes, the certification covers such a broad range of needs at a reasonable price point—making it a friend, indeed, for pilots needing to keep flying in ADS-B-required airspace.
Tecnam P2012 Traveller
In the very last week of 2018, Tecnam gained European Union Aviation Safety Association certification of its 11-seat P2012 Traveller, a piston-powered twin aimed directly at the commuter-aircraft market. On paper, perhaps that doesn’t sound like a slam-dunk, but the Traveller proved in 2019 that it fills a niche few aircraft can.
In October, the mighty mini airliner made a transatlantic trip to gain FAA certification, with a delivery to its first and—at least for now—most important customer, Cape Air. Yes, the regional airline famous for its flights to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, Massachusetts, but with bases around the US, it worked hand in hand with Tecnam on the airplane’s development. And they didn’t just have their own specs in mind, though the airplane’s easy baggage loading and passenger-centric entry/exit door sure make the case for it. They, along with the manufacturer, also envisioned a green future for the airplane, placing it firmly within the airline’s own road map for alternative fuels and efficiency of consumption.
Powered by two Lycoming TEO540C1A engines actuated by full authority digital engine control, and with Garmin G1000 NXi avionics in the cockpit, the airplane’s operating costs are projected to run at $391 to $405 per hour. With the ability to complete a 500-nm trip at 155 knots at 10,000 feet, there’s a lot of application for the P2012 Traveller we’re just beginning to see.
While glass cockpits abound these days, hardly anyone thinks much about a communications failure anymore, but it still happens. That’s why plenty of pilots carry a backup two-way radio in their flight bag. However, the problem with most of them is, when they’re needed, trying to communicate with a small handheld radio demands that the pilot needs to pull off their headset to talk, and that means picking up a serious amount of background noise.
Late in 2019, Sporty’s unveiled a solution to the cockpit-noise problems inherent in handheld radios. Called the PJ2, Sporty’s backup doesn’t require removing a headset, only unplugging it from one location and plugging it into the jacks conveniently located on top of the handheld PJ2. The result is a transmitter able that takes advantage of the noise-canceling microphone on a good headset.
The PJ2 includes 20 scannable memory channels, a last-frequency button, an oversize backlit screen, and even a quick access button to listen to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration broadcasts. Press and hold the number “2” key for three seconds, and the PJ2 automatically switches to 121.5. Sporty’s PJ2 runs on six AA batteries but includes a USB-C plug for backup power.