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General Aviation Is A Museum?

Sun Nov 24, 2002 5:23 pm

A friend of mine and I dropped in on a small town airport this past Sunday for some $100 pancakes and I realized that, had I been time-machined there from the year that I got my PPL (1960), I could have identified every airplane parked on the line without much trouble. The only thing that might have given me some difficulty was the P210 but it would have easily been identifiable as some sort of 210 with strange windows.

When you realize that the C172 is really just a C170 (circa 1947) with a nosewheel, or that the C152 is a C140 is a C120 with its rag wings metallized and the tailwheel on its nose, it can give you pause. Even the instrumentation is the same; the airplane that I routinely flew in 1960 had the same gauges as the latest 172 out of the factory. Nothing really stunning has happened in 45 years except for avionics.

Why have we seen so little innovation and progress in the basic GA field in almost half a century?
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RE: General Aviation Is A Museum?

Sun Nov 24, 2002 5:45 pm

There is some innovation out there, but definately not changing the industry yet. I'm mostly thinking of the technology homebuilts have brought to GA. Such as what Lancair and Cirrus plants are turning out, all composite single-unit construction in some cases. Then, wow, think about Scaled Composities.

Socata is working on GA piston singles that burn Jet-A. I've read that FADEC systems are on their way through development right now. ELTs are widespread as are panel mount GPS, Transponders, DME, fuel injection, etc.

If you think about what you want out of a GA piston single, at least on the outside you're going to get something that resembles a 172 or a PA-28, depending on if you want low-wing or high-wing. Everything else is in the construction or the technology on the inside. This technology is on its way though, slowly creeping down into lower and lower priced aircraft.

The product liability problems in the 80s and early 90s really put a hold on the progression of GA. And due to this, most of the airplanes you're going to see out there are going to be from before that time period. They're still reliable good airplanes that get the job done, and are most importantly, a lot cheaper than what can be bought new. Look at right after WW-II, same kind of halt of GA advancement. What happened? Everybody flew Stearmans and Cubs for quite a while, then Bonanzas started coming out, then we got the 172, etc...
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RE: General Aviation Is A Museum?

Sun Nov 24, 2002 6:18 pm

I agree, though I believe we are finally seeing change. The basic design of airplanes will always remain: wings, a fuseulage, some kind of propulsion and instrumentation, so your basic design will always remain (until possibly the very distant future). With new composite material construction we have better wing designs (complete without rivets), and are able to shape the bodies of aircraft to new and more aerodynamic specifications. New instrumentation (like glass cockpits) is finally starting to leak down into the mainstream of avionics. Newer and better engines are up and coming, with better fuel consumption and more power output due to more efficiency. Just look at Diamond's lineup: the DA-42 Twin Star, the composite twin that burns 9gal / hr TOTAL. It comes with options for anti icing and a glass cockpit for a reasonable price (this first hasn't yet been delivered, so we will ilkely see a few kinks to be worked out...). The Cirrus and Katana are also innovating designs, simple with their fixed gear, yet strong and fast with their composite construction. The DA-40, Diamond's four place single, will have also options for a glass cockpit soon. The way we use our avionics will change as well. Would you have recognized a GPS unit way back in 1960? How about a linked weather display, giving up to date weather conditions at all airports with a reporting station? The one area I believe still has a lot of room for growth is engine design. We need turbine reliability in piston engines which will require a revamp of engine design. We need lower fuel consumption and more power output at the same price. We will eventually need to switch fuel sources, as the price of 100LL is rising, and the supply is diminishing. Desil is an option, and so is Jet-A. Who knows, maybe some kind of fuel cells are in the crystal ball. These kinds of engine changes will only come with new materials and construction, but it is something we will see in the future. The problem is phasing all of this in. With such a strive for uniformity, it is difficult to even add handheld instrumentation under the FAA, much less change fuel sources. Necessity will instigate the change in time, but for now we can rejoice in new airplane designs, cockpit instrumentation, and slightly better engines.
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RE: General Aviation Is A Museum?

Sun Nov 24, 2002 11:52 pm

Couldn't the same be said about cars? Trains? Boats?

RE: General Aviation Is A Museum?

Mon Nov 25, 2002 12:31 pm

Let me reference you to such aircraft as: Cirrus Design SR-20/22, Lanceair Columbia 300/400, Adams Aircraft, Raython premier I, Eclipse 500, Piper Meridian, Citation Mustang, Diamond Aircraft, Extra 400/500 ... and many more... All brand new GA aircraft!

New technology, ie carbon-fiber airframes, FADEC, AHRS, to name a few, is coming to GA, and along with it, new aircraft. So no, "NEW" airplanes may not flood the GA industry, but that is because there is just as good of a design lying around from the '70's... The truth is that the classic designs are classic for a reason: THEY WORK, and work well! And some of those old designs are great to fly! However, innovation is very prevalent in this industry.

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RE: General Aviation Is A Museum?

Mon Nov 25, 2002 3:51 pm

The question 30E how many expirmentals did you see? Thats the only sector where you can make those improvements affordable. You can build a IO-540 power Lancair 4 for about the same price as a new Cessna 172.

But the inovations are there and coming, the Cirrus SR-20, Diamond DA-20 (the Cirrus I don't like the Diamond I do) brought composites to the world of GA, and many other new inovations (such as the side stick, the CAPs system, and MFDs) to certified aircraft.

New ones such as the Diamond Twin Star will be Diesel powered, and we have conversion coming for the C182s in the future.

Change is coming but alot of the old aircraft still fly perfectly fine, and probally will until they stop selling 100LL.
At worst, you screw up and die.
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RE: General Aviation Is A Museum?

Mon Nov 25, 2002 6:42 pm

I have to agree with that. GA in comparison to other forms of Aviation is in the stone age. Here in Australia GA is a very important part of commercial Aviation since we have aircraft charters in the outback. Almost all of the GA charter airplanes e.g C210/C182/C206/PA-31/C-402 are from the early to mid 1970's models and if you're lucky maybe an early 1980's model. It's funny how most people would consider say a 1975 model car to be ancient and yet they pay money to fly on a 1970's model airplane. I'm not saying that these aircraft aren't safe- sure they are if they are maintained correctly but they are very old. Probably the only new instrument on board is GPS(in some cases). As far as single engined trainers/touring planes go i think it's hard to beat the Socata series of airplanes. I learn't to fly on a PA-28 which was a great plane and also flew the C-172 and then the Tobago. The TB-10 is a real eye-opener in comparison to the PA-28/C-172 and it really feels like a modern airplane and looks it. The new TB-20 must be a delight to fly.
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RE: General Aviation Is A Museum?

Mon Nov 25, 2002 6:46 pm

Are any of those aircraft AAcam showed under $90,000.00.

I doubt it, and if there are any it won't be by much.

A lot of those older aircraft you can find in the $30,000 and up range. Much less expensive then the newer aircraft.

We can also blame a lot of the lack of new airplanes on the product liability lawyers who decimated the industry in the early to mid 1980's. At one point I think have to the purchase price of a single went to cover the liability insurance bill for the manufacturer.

Besides those are all fiberglass and friends don't let friends fly fiberglass.

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RE: General Aviation Is A Museum?

Mon Nov 25, 2002 10:35 pm

That Citation and the Meridian sure as hell aren't fiberglass.... then again, they are both in the upper 1M dollar range...

One of the cool things is, with working at a New Piper dealer- as of Friday just acquired new territory and one of the biggest in the US- one of our guys is working on their "skunk works." He' is sworn to secrecy on what is going on, but around the middle of next year look for something completely amazing from Piper... can only really speculate what it is, but from what i have heard it will be probably in the 6 seat category.

Was down at Vero last week and their test operations facility is BUSY.
Chicks dig winglets.

RE: General Aviation Is A Museum?

Tue Nov 26, 2002 6:05 am

Hey guys, I'm back. We've been moving to another house here in town and I've been pretty busy for the past couple of weeks and haven't had very much time to devote to

I happen to agree with 30E's sentiments. The only area where there has been any real advances in technology in light general aviation aircraft is in the area of avionics. Compared to what we had to fly with 30 years ago, today's avionics are nothing short of amazing!!! Imagine, knowing your position to within a meter or two and doing it with an inexpensive hand-held receiver. As far as engines and composite airframes, forget it. Our mainstay horizontally opposed aircooled engines are little changed from the late 1930's. My grandfather's mechanic would be quite at home with nearly all of "today's" engine technology. For Pete's sake, we're just now getting around to coming up with a substitute for the 19th century technological innovation - the magneto.

Composite airframes are nothing new - gliders have been using composite construction for over 40 years. If anything, using composites as an example of "innovation" is counter productive. The only reason that some companies are trying to incorporate composites is as a cost saving measure. Look at these companies, many are under-funded and struggling financially. The long-term survival for several of them is questionable.

There have been some attempts at real innovation in the past, for example, the Dyna-Cam engine. Unfortunately, these have met with little real success. My opinion is that as long as the expenses associated with designing and certifying anything aeronautical remains "sky high", we will see little real innovation. We will continue to buy brand new 1947 tricycle converted Cessna 170's (Cessna 172's) and 40 year old clipped-wing motorgliders (Diamonds).


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