Big News Year at AirVenture

From brand new single-engine jets, to huge LSA orders and big airspace changes, announcements at this year's show have gone from strange to just fantastic.

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Eclipse Shows off Single-Engine Concept Jet As some had speculated for a some time, Eclipse Aviation did indeed introduce a single-engine jet at AirVenture. Eclipse CEO Vern Raburn made a surprise, dramatic entrance in the jet, taxiing up to the company's display tent at show center as reporters looked on, before emerging from the jet and briefing the press on the new program. Like the company's twinjet, the new concept single-engine jet features sheet metal construction for the most part, though its large V-tail is built from composites. The single engine-the same Pratt & Whitney PW615F turbofan that's on the 500--is mounted on a pylon on the back of the airplane. The Concept Jet is a four-seater, with conventional two-in-front, two-in-back seating. Projected performance is impressive with a hoped-for cruise speed of 345 knots, a ceiling of 41,000 feet (though how that will happen without a backup source of pressurization remains to be seen), a range of 1,250 nm. Raburn insisted that the airplane is simply a "concept jet" at this time, a point Eclipse underscored by naming the airplane just that-the Eclipse Concept Jet--and painting that right on the airplane. Raburn is understandably sensitive to what might be perceived by some customers as a launch or soft launch at a time that the company is still going through the last throes of getting its twin-engine Eclipse 500 twinjet up to snuff and out to customers. So as not to commit existing resources, Eclipse went outside of house to build the proof of concept article, using an outside design and prototyping firm, Swift Engineering, to do the heavy lifting of the project. The proof of concept jet, still unpressurized, had flown about 30 hours by the time it got to AirVenture. Raburn said that there was no set timetable for deciding whether to go ahead with building the single-engine jet, though he implied that a launch decision would most likely take place in a year to 18 months. It's Official: Cessna Launches its LSA The day before the start of AirVenture, Cessna president Jack Pelton announced that his company was going ahead with its Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) design, which now has a name and designation: the Cessna 162 SkyCatcher. The airplane is mostly made of sheet metal, with strut-braced wings. For power Cessna evaluated the Rotax 912 aero engine, but decided instead, after talking with its customers, to go with the Continental 0-200, the same engine, interestingly enough, that powered the company's archetypal two-seat trainer, the Cessna 150. The 162 will feature a flat-panel avionics system from Garmin designed expressly for the SkyCatcher. The G300 will feature one or two displays, with many of the features of the G1000 that's in the company's larger piston singles but optimized for the more compact panel of the 162 and the sport/training mission of the smaller airplane. The timetable for the introduction into service isn't quick. First flight is slated to take place in the first half of next year, with ASTM compliance-it's how LSAs are "certified"-scheduled towards for the latter part of that year, with first deliveries in the second half of 2009 and a ramp up to full production by 2011. Cost of the basic airplane is around $110,000. At last year's AirVenture when Cessna announced that it was studying a possible LSA entry, Pelton said that it would consider a cutoff price of $100,000. But at the launch event Pelton admitted that such a cutoff price had been unrealistic. He also argued that the SkyCatcher, when compared with LSAs that are comparably equipped, represents an equal or better value even at the higher price point. After AirVenture, Cessna might have revisit those plans. It received more than 400 orders for SkyCatchers the first two days of the show.

** Cirrus Jumps into LSA Fray with SRS** Following up on its splashy introduction of its "the jet," Cirrus introduced an airplane at the other end of the spectrum at Oshkosh when it unveiled its light sport entry, the SRS. The two-seat low-wing bubble-canopy composite construction single is very "Cirrus-looking," even though it's based on a design, the Fk Polaris, from European company Fk Lightplanes. Cirrus plans to modify the design to its specifications, installing a BRS chute and as-yet unspecified flat-panel avionics. The SRS will be powered by a Rotax 912-S 100-hp engine. Cirrus' Alan Klapmeier said the target price for the SRS is "around $100,000," though a firm price and certification date have still not been announced. Cirrus plans to sell the SRS with a removable wing, giving owners the ability to trailer the airplane to and from the airport. Cirrus hopes to have the SRS ready for first deliveries by this time next year. Diamond DA50 Super Star Makes U.S. Debut At AirVenture Diamond Air Craft made the U.S. unveiling of its fastest, most powerful single, the five-place, fixed-gear DA50 Super Star. Powered by a 350-hp turbocharged Teledyne Continental engine, the Super Star will be around a 200-knot airplane, says Diamond, with a range of 900 nm, which Diamond hopes to expand by 100 miles as it works on wing and fuel tank enhancements. While the Super Star will be among the fastest piston-powered singles, it's real claim to fame will be its size. the rear seat is a three-across bench seat that will two adults and a child easily, and have exceptional room for two adults. The baggage area behind the seats is by far the best in class, with room enough for a worst-case scenario family vacation. The other notable difference with the DA50 is the remarkably wide panel. With rich wood grain accents, the panel is both attractive and capable. The TSIOF-550J engine features full authority digital engine control (FADEC) for single-lever control of power. The G1000 avionics in the airplane features three screens, a first to our knowledge for an airplane in this class. Price of the Super Star will be around $600,000, and Diamond expects to earn certification for it by spring of 2008.

Honeywell Introduces Retrofit Flat-Panels for GA On the day before AirVenture, Bendix/King showed off a pair of new products, an MFD and a PFD, both with bright, high-resolution screens, that are designed to replace analog instruments in the panels of general aviation airplanes at an attractive price point. The KSN 770 MFD is an all-in one navigator communicator, with built-in GPS, nav and comm radios, and TAWS while being able to integrate with other Bendix/King safety systems as well, including charts, EGPWS, and maps. The cursor control device, developed based on the CCDs used on the company's high-end Epic systems, let's the pilot select and change values on the MFD. Bendix/King hasn't yet set a price for the MFD, which it expects to go on sale in late 2008. The new PFD, the KFD 840, will come with a built-in AHRS, altitude and heading bugs and slaved horizontal situation indicator. Bendix/King expects the PFD to sell for less than $20,000 and to be available, along with the yet-to-be-priced MFD, by late next year.