The aviation industry propels forward—driven by the lift created by innovation—that’s why FLYING honors the best in disruptive, creative effort each year as part of its awards program. We recognize outstanding contributions to GA, as well as those within the greater aerospace industry with our Editors’ Choice Awards. This year, for the first time, our readers had the chance to weigh in as well—and they gave the nod to a milestone flight in space—on another planet—for our inaugural Readers’ Choice Award for 2022.
FLYING’s Innovation Award
National Business Aviation Association (NBAA)
For the association’s ability to guide a broad range of constituents to deliver and use a game-changing way to power our aircraft, we present this year’s Innovation Award to NBAA in acknowledgment of its efforts to lead the industry both vocally and behind the scenes in the adoption of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
NBAA has joined with other associations (such as IBAC, GAMA, and NATA), and aircraft manufacturers, such as Embraer, Gulfstream, Textron Aviation, Daher, and many others, to make SAF—made by producers like Gevo and Neste, and distributed by AvFuel, World Fuel Services, and others serving FBOs around the world—a viable and timely fuel for the GA marketplace.
Readers’ Choice Award
To execute a first flight of a new aircraft marks a significant milestone for any organization. But to achieve a first flight of a tiny rotorcraft on a distant planet—and have it go far beyond its original mission—that’s what set NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter team apart in 2021.
Our audience agreed with the National Aeronautic Association, which bestowed upon those responsible for its design, development, and execution the Robert J. Collier Trophy, awarded annually for the “greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America.” And at FLYING, we too watched in high anticipation on April 19, 2021, as the diminutive craft—just 19.3 inches tall—lifted off the dusty surface on what would become the first of its 29 missions… and counting.
Editors’ Choice Awards
Best New Aircraft
A clean-sheet design created through a collaborative effort between Textron Aviation and launch customer FedEx Express, the Cessna SkyCourier represents one of the few aircraft to cross the FAA type certification finish line in 2021 and early 2022. But it’s certainly big enough to carry the honor well, as the company made its first deliveries this spring and through the summer of 2022.
Powered by two Pratt & Whitney PT6A-65SC engines driving four-blade McCauley aluminum props, the Cessna Model 408 comes in two standard configurations. In its freighter role, it can carry a payload of 6,000 pounds, and take off in a distance as short as 2,700 feet. In the passenger layout, up to 19 people can ride along to a range of 920 nm and at a max cruise speed of 210 ktas.
Best New Avionics
Garmin GI 275
When Garmin passed the milestone this summer of 25,000 integrated flight decks installed, the company had not been riding merely on the wave of its success in revolutionizing the instrument panels of GA aircraft. Its next grace note is a small, unassuming replacement instrument first introduced in 2020 that appears to be on its way to becoming as ubiquitous as the G1000 series avionics suite.
The GI 275 slides neatly into the round dial cutout left when a traditional analog instrument is removed from the instrument panel—and what it does from there is left up to the pilot’s desires. As a backup electronic flight instrument, it can take the place of an attitude indicator, airspeed indicator, and altimeter with its primary flight display function. Or it can segue into a multifunction display, with traffic, weather, and engine information system options, depending on the airplane.
Best New Gear
A bag for every pilot—created by pilots and tested thoroughly by FLYING staff throughout the past three years. That’s what Flight Outfitters has developed over its lifetime, and we’ve found their flight bags, backpacks, duffels, luggage, and kneeboards to be some of the most durable and well thought-out designs on the market.
The brand encompasses an entire aviator’s lifestyle, but this is serious equipment that doesn’t just look good. With the tagline “Pilot Your Own Adventure,” the folks behind the company practice what they preach…which is likely why their products have hit the mark so solidly for pilots of all stripes.
Best New Training Innovation
Pipistrel Velis Electro
With so many great ways to train—and many tried-and-true airplanes in which to learn to fly—it takes a big disruptor to truly bring us a new way to fly through the standard syllabus. Enter Pipistrel’s Velis Electro. Now type certificated under the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the Velis Electro takes the tested Virus single—powered by a Rotax 912—and electrifies it with two battery packs onboard for an endurance of around 45 minutes, plus VFR reserves.
While not yet enough to complete a full private pilot course without supplementing with traditionally powered aircraft, the Velis Electro can seriously drive down the cost and environmental footprint of initial training—when charged using a renewable energy source. With aircraft in testing at a handful of flight schools and universities in the U.S., it’s only a matter of time before the Velis Electro goes all the way.