March 4, 2013
One characteristic of government is that it seldom opts for clear communication when confusion and obfuscation are available options. Take “sequestration,” for example. It’s a heretofore relatively unheard word–and still would be–had the White House not proposed it as leverage to force Congress to compromise dealing with the nation’s fiscal irresponsibility. When Democrats proved even more stubborn than their mascot, and Republicans, likewise, displayed the nimbleness (or lack thereof) of theirs, onerous, supposedly unacceptable budget cuts were triggered on March 1. Never mind that 90% of the American populace still doesn’t know what “sequestration” means and the other 10% define it simply as “dumb!” The fact is, it’s probably not that big a deal. The President has disavowed the idea came from his White House, despite clear evidence to the contrary. Rather than offering an alternative or taking a stab at cutting the budget where it would be the least painful or relatively unnoticed, he abrogated his leadership responsibility and, instead, suggested that sequestration is really just another word for “Republican blunder.” Then he went out and blamed all the potential–and overblown–consequences on his opposition. For their part the GOP reacted like the Generally Outmaneuvered Politicians many of them are, and ran for cover.
The facts are, the sequestration cuts actually aren’t cuts at all–they’re simply limits to how much current spending can grow–and the amounts that they actually diminish that spending will take us back to roughly the same level at which the government was operating in 2008. In other words, it won’t be that bad. It actually represents paring some of this Administration’s bloated spending. The only problem, really, is that the President and his Administration are using it to try to score political points. The law he signed in 2011 gave them broad discretion on what cuts would be mandated–and they’ve had two years to work on avoiding the situation altogether or, at least, coming up with a plan that would minimize pain. The President did neither. Instead, he trotted out Cabinet Secretaries and other officials to offer non-specific solutions–all of which included increasing taxes– and spent virtually all of his non-golfing hours trying to scare the public and the opposition into caving in. Actually, while he was blaming them, he implied that the Republicans could avoid sequestration’s dire circumstances by simply “addressing it in a spirit of bipartisanship.” That’s Obama-speak for “doing it my way…or the highway!”
So how does this foolishness really impact the aviation community. The FAA has stated emphatically that safety will not be compromised as a result of the Operations funding used to comply with sequestration requirements. That said, the agency’s day-to-day operations will inevitably be impacted. It plans to furlough employees on a one day out out of every pay period (every ten business days, or two calendar weeks) basis, starting in April and continuing through at least the end of the government’s fiscal year on September 30. As the National Business Aviation (NBAA) pointed out in reviewing the potential effects of sequestration, Air Traffic Control facility managers will have the flexibility to schedule those furloughs so that they have the least-intrusive impact on each facility’s efficiencies.
In terms of the contract work, the agency will likely focus most closely on the air traffic control towers managed under the Federal Contract Tower Program. The FAA has identified both these FAA-funded contract towers, as well as government-run control towers, with less than 150,000 total operations, or less than 10,000 commercial operations that will potentially be closed to meet sequester requirements. In recent public remarks, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta has suggested that service reductions at FAA control towers could have a disproportionate impact on general aviation.
The FAA also anticipates a denigrated ability to provide upkeep on its facilities and services, including, as just one example, navigational aids (NAVAIDs). It is generally assumed that preventative maintenance of some NAVAIDs may require much longer intervals, or if deemed not a high enough priority, may not be restored to service at all. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made the situation as dire-sounding as possible and even invoked the possibility of security delays and lost efficiency on the part of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Such an intimidating prospect was designed to cause the traveling public to convulse, en masse. The sheer thought of the TSA creating delays and being more inefficient might well cause some people to literally get out of line at the airport and go home!!
In the end, sequestration will probably prove to be a mixed bag: it’s actually accomplishing something a majority of voters have indicated they favor–a slow down in out-of-control government spending. Unfortunately, the Administration has chosen to target areas for across-the-board cuts that will cause some pain, rather than seek to avoid it. Sequestration is really just a political tool, being wielded by a President and Administration that cares more about winning elections than saving money. That’s a pretty pointed explanation for it. It still falls short of communicating what it truly is…bipartisan stupidity!
January 28, 2013
As we have occasionally in the past, we’ve opened up the WAC AirViews Blog to a guest blogger. Charles Lloyd, a loyal WAC member and contributor to both Cessna Pilot and Piper Pilot magazines, offers his take on refurbishing and updating owner-flown aircraft, a hot topic in the industry with the advent of so many high capability but lightweight and compact navigational and communication systems that can be easily retrofitted into older aircraft. In his blog entry below, Charles discusses how to acquire and modify a Cessna 172 or Cessna 182 to NextGen standards for $100,000 or $130,000.
How can you get a NextGen equipped 172 or 182 for that price. Today, a new Cessna 172 is $350,000 or 182 is $500,000. I did not say it is a new one. Thirteen years ago I bought a 1966 Cessna 182 for $50,000 and gradually over the next seven years added $50,000 in avionics upgrades to create a nice IFR flying machine. This Garmin based package includes dual Garmin GPS WAAS navigators, NEXRAD satellite weather, Stormscope, electric attitude indicator with 1-hour battery backup, single axis autopilot and no glass.
You can still use this approach today and meet the budget in the title. The assumptions are a late seventies aircraft with a King Silver Crown radio stack with a mid-time engine. Paint and interior are OK and you can live with what you see. The plan is to create a IFR package that you plan to fly for 10 years. This is not a fix up to sell and get rich scheme. NextGen is slowly coming alive and ADS-B is just around the corner in 2020. Garmin 430 and 530 GPS navigator are great but the manufacturer is committed to supporting these units 2021 period. Be careful on planning your approach around a 430/530 foundation.
If I did it today my plan would be slightly different. One GPS navigator either a GTN650 or 750 will be adequate. For the second NavCom, use the King KW155 with glide slope capability that was your number 1 unit. If you don’t have a KW155 then get your shop to find a good used unit. Narco Mark 12s or King 170B will not provide the reliability you will need for IFR reliability.
Garmin’s GDL 88 is a good price performer for ADS-B in and out. While the NEXR weather is not a crisp and the Sirrus MX weather, the price is right at no charge and you will receive traffic advisories from the UAT ground stations with your current Mode C transponder.
Finally, glass is here and proving is worth. Glass is more reliable with no moving mechanical parts. Aspen offer a modular one step at a time approach to the glass cockpit. Starting with the Evolution 1000 Pro PFD, you can add one or two additional MFD panels. Garmin’s 500 glass six pack is a all or nothing approach and is a bigger investment all at once versus the Aspen one step at a time method.
The S-TEC Cobham System 30 is a rate based two axis autopilot that is self contained in the turn coordinator, and my thirteen years experience with a slightly more expensive Model 40 is excellent. It works fine last a long time.
How do we mix and match the above overview. For the Skyhawk here are my recommendations. Start with a Garmin GNS 650 and move the King KW155 to the number 2 NavCom position. A PMA xx will slip into the King xx audio panel slot. Single pilot IFR in a GA aircraft is some of the highest workload flying there is. It is time for the S-Tec Model 30 autopilot installation. Add a Garmin GDL 88 to work with you King KT76A Mode C transponder for traffic and a weather data link. The final addition is an Aspen Evolution 1000 Pro PFD that adds solid state AHRS reliability for your glass ADI and HSI. How much will this cost? Working with Bevan Rebel’s Kent McIntyre the cost today for this package is $47,500. Add this to your $45,000 late 70’s Skyhawk and you have an aircraft equipped to fly you well into the future. Finally remember you don’t have to install this package all at one time. Get with a good shop and plan you approach to IFR flying to get a lot of bang for your buck.
For the Skylane, start with the big screen GTN 750 and move the King KW155 with glide slope to the number 2 position. Add the Midcontinent Lifesaver Electric ADI with one-hour battery backup. Everything else is the same at the Skyhawk.
November 28, 2012
Since my youth, I’ve spent most Thanksgiving weekends either playing or watching football. This year was no exception. But, for some reason it seemed like the games I watched involved more fumbles than usual, including one miscue in the Michigan-Ohio State game that must have been touched by nearly every player on the field. The net result was that MIchigan ended up losing the ball, about 20 yards, and a late opportunity to score in a close game.
Unfortunately, the original miscue and subsequent mishandling of the football provides an all-too-apt metaphor for the “fumbled recovery” we’ve experienced in business aviation over the past few years. We haven’t generated much in the way of offense — or revenues — in the corporate aircraft segment of the industry since 2008 and it’s hard to relate to anyone who says the “Recovery” actually began in 2009. If that’s truly the case, why hasn’t anyone bothered to tell us Wichita. To us, it feels like we’re trying to run the ball against the 1985 Chicago Bears. And maybe that’s a big part of the problem–business aviation seems to be continually running up against “trash talkers” from Chicago–but these days they are more commonly known as the Obama Administration. The President and members of his cabinet and party have been invoking a class warfare campaign that involves vocal criticism of the “fat cats in their corporate jets” who they perceive aren’t paying their fair share. Their rhetorical blitzes have contributed to the sacking of a lot of pretty good players–around 13,000 in Wichita alone–and business aviation hasn’t really been able to get a firm grip on the situation , even three years into the so-called “recovery.” While it’s true that the number of certain, highly specialized jobs in Kansas has shown some minimal improvement over the past couple of years, the output of the state’s airplane manufacturers has been stagnant. In fact, one of the Air Capital of the World’s most venerable companies, Hawker Beechcraft, has declared bankruptcy and another icon, Boeing, has announced that it will close its Wichita facilities for good in 2014, eliminating, in one move, roughly the same number of jobs that those very selective re-hires have accounted for over the past two years. Even if Hawker Beechcraft–or as it now says it will be known when it emerges from Chapter 11–the Beechcraft Corporation, survives, it will apparently do so without it’s jet products. That means that it’s total employment will likely go down before–and if– it ever goes back up. HBC is currently completing a handful of jets for customers who haven’t cancelled their orders. Once those aircraft are delivered, the production lines will be shuttered and the workers assigned to those programs let go. At a press conference at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Annual Meeting & Convention in Orlando last month, Hawker Beechcraft executives explained that they are continuing to “operate as normal” under debtor in possession circumstances while a new, amended recovery plan that doesn’t include acquisition of the company by Chinese investors, is reviewed by the Bankruptcy Court. But, it seems that recovery may be fumbled, too,. If the company’s total employment drops below a previously-agreed upon level of 3,600 people in Wichita, Beechcraft will lose the support of the state and local governments that have been subsidizing training and providing financial incentives. The latter will be subject to payback, too, at a time when the company is trying to define its ongoing market niche and placate hundreds of unhappy jet owners who feel disenfranchised because HBC also announced they will no longer honor the warranties or provide support for the Premier 1A or Hawker 4000 aircraft.
To make matters worse, one of the more resilient firms in Wichita’s aviation fraternity, Spirit AeroSystems has finally started to show signs of being impacted by the industry’s continued malaise. It recently reported a quarterly net loss of $134 million due to struggles with the development and early production on certain programs. Spirit, with its diverse product lines and solid business base in the commercial transport segment had, up to this point, managed to weather the fiscal storm, even as it dealt with significant damage to its physical facilities from a tornado in April of 2012. Now, even the strongest player on the field seems to limping along defensively as we await the next onslaught of offense from the Second Obama Administration. If harsh rhetoric, regulatory and taxation issues don’t jar Wichita’s planemakers too much, perhaps they’ll be able to put some points on the (order) board and put some players back into the game. Some analysts are even cautiously optimistic. But the resurrected threat of user fees, the continued characterization of corporate airplane operators as evil or greedy, and the willingness on the part of government to allow our previously unchallenged leadership in innovation and aircraft production to migrate offshore could undercut any potential trend towards a measurable recovery. If the hopeful signs of the past couple of years again turn out to be fakes, Wichita’s aviation community could end up stalled in the shadow of its own goalposts again in 2013. That’s always a bad place for another fumble!
September 21, 2012
My friend Jack Pelton, retired Chairman, President and CEO of Cessna, recently suggested that it would be appropriate and prudent to re-insert the wording originally included in the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 defining one of the FAA’s duties as the “promotion, encouragement and development of civil aeronautics” into the FAA Charter. It was expunged as part of the 1996 reauthorization bill. Now, more than ever, I couldn’t agree with him more. This important segment of the industry has been the target of almost constant negativity from politicians for the past three years and that vitriol is likely to increase as the political campaign season nears conclusion. Keep reading >
August 2, 2012
The recently concluded EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin is an amazing event. It brings everyone from kids whose interests are just being peaked by building model airplanes to high government officials such as the Federal Aviation Administrator to the same place at the same time to observe–and revel in all things aeronautical. This year, attendance once again topped half a million visitors, transforming the scenic and hospitable little town of Oshkosh (population 67,000 for 50 weeks of the year) into a major metropolis and the control tower at Wittman Airport into the busiest in the world. Keep reading >
July 24, 2012
Things are heating up at Oshkosh … and that’s not just another reference to the 100+ degree temperatures that are being registered daily in what is usually a very temperate, if sometimes humid, part of the country. This year, the humidity is in the air, but the characteristic rains have been AWOL all summer and the crops and conditions are stunted and dry. But, despite the oppressive heat and dry conditions, the annual EAA AirVenture has opened with some significant announcements for Wichita-based companies. Keep reading >
April 19, 2012
With all the Personal Digital Assistants, Tablets, Smart Phones, iPads, iPods, iMacs and “iCan’t keep track of all the devices” out there that process information, it’s amazing but true that we often find ourselves with more content than the Library of Congress–and yet we’re still unaware of important stuff! This is true at the Wichita Aero Club, too. I became acutely aware of that fact–personally, not digitally–recently when I was having an honest-to-goodness, face-to-face conversation with a couple of board members and realized that there’s a lot going on that we hadn’t really shared. I decided that this blog provides at least one medium to share some key information–so here goes! Keep reading >
February 27, 2012
When it comes to business aviation, the Obama Administration is trying. But lest you think I’m giving them credit for putting forth a reasonable effort when it comes to this extremely important segment of the aerospace industry, let me be crystal clear: they’re trying… my patience! I keep waiting for the President, his advisors, and Congressional surrogates to demonstrate that they’re overcoming what has appeared to be a steep learning curve regarding the role and contribution of private aircraft, but their comments and initiatives indicate just the opposite. Now they’re advancing the often-rejected prospect of user fees in the latest Budget proposal. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not ignorance–it’s antipathy! It’s actually an orchestrated attack, driven by polling data that says taking shots at “fat cats in their corporate airplanes” will play well with an potential voters who are ignorant or apathetic about all of the contributions to our economy, way of life and local communities–not to mention all of the jobs–people who fly in business aircraft provide. It frustrates me enough that I’ve drafted an open letter to the President. I’d actually spend the half dollar it now costs to post a letter if I thought he’d actually read it and consider a response, but since I doubt that’s really the case, I’m offering it here on the off-chance someone in the administration or Congress will take notice: Keep reading >
February 7, 2012
Sandor “Alex” Kvassay has crossed the Atlantic Ocean so many times he can’t keep track. He’s circled the globe numerous times, as well. A Hungarian native and naturalized American citizen, he has stamps in his passports from places even veteran travelers have never heard of. At many of those destinations he also managed to sell airplanes. During a career that spanned five decades and included stints working for Bill Lear and Olive Ann Beech, he met an impressive number of world leaders, business moguls, and celebrities. Through it all, he was a consistent chronicler of his experiences, writing down his recollections and taking thousands of pictures. To this day, his accounts of his encounters generate wide interest. His column, ALEX REMEMBERS in the monthly issues of PROFESSIONAL PILOT magazine recently resulted in his being chosen as the publication’s fourth most widely read author…out of a dozen contributors! PRO PILOT Publisher Murray Smith, who plans to attend the luncheon along with his wife, Eleni, will distribute advance copies of the MARCH issue of the magazine, as well. Keep reading >
January 5, 2012
Tough news greeted the Wichita Aviation community with the coming of the new year–Boeing will close its Wichita facilities over the next 24 months. After 83 years, the “Air Capital of the World” will be without one of its biggest aviation entities. The decision gives new, and unwelcome, meaning to the terms “movers” and “shakers” as it applies to the corporate giant. Their move definitely shakes things up in Wichita and in Kansas.
The local community feels betrayed–and congressional representatives and the Governor have all voiced a sense of dismay over “broken promises” from Boeing that they would build the KC-46 Tanker in Wichita. While these feelings are understandable and justified, based on impressions Boeing cultivated during the tanker competition, all of the government leaders would agree that a business should NOT be compelled to do something that is economically detrimental because of government perceptions. The crux of this situation is that Boeing utilized the clout and voice of the state of Kansas, its state and federal political leaders and the commitment of its workforce to influence the eventual decision…and now the company is taking another direction. Keep reading >