With its huge, preselected aviation audience, EAA AirVenture is the ultimate dog-and-pony stage on which many companies debut new hardware and software. Significant this year are new airplanes that offer a good balance between price and performance, technology that improves the educational process, and flight schools that, one hopes, make training more efficient, economical, and palatable to today’s time-stressed prospective pilots. If properly adopted and employed, individually and as a whole, they have the potential to create a brighter future for aviation.
Cognizant of the demands on your time, I’ll share this AirVenture bounty by topic in separate posts. Let’s start with the surprise debut of the RV-14. The IO-390-powered side-by-sider is an aerobatic two-seat RV-10. Preceded by no warning and few rumors, it led a line of every Van’s RV model down to the restored RV-1, flown by Dick VanGrunsven himself, which was presented to the EAA AirVenture Museum.
The RV-14 embodies 40 years of Van’s Aircraft kit building experience, so its match-holed aluminum pieces will become an airplane quicker and with less head scratching. With an 810-pound useful load, on 210-hp it’ll cruise at 195 mph. More important to the future of aviation, two large people fit in it comfortably. That includes me, at 6-foot-5, 260 pounds, with a 38-inch inseam and size 15 feet. Estimated build cost is around $90K, depending how much glass one puts in the panel. Compare that to a new store-bought airplane of similar performance, and DIY really pays off. A taildragger version is in the works.
American Champion Aircraft introduced another aerobatic airplane powered by an AEIO-390, the Extreme Decathlon. The airplane gained 30 hp and lost 62 pounds. Aerodynamic improvements, from clipped wingtips, boosted ailerons, and an airfoil tail improved its roll rate 33 percent. The base price is just shy of $205K. More than a trainer of new pilots and those ready to meet the challenge of aerobatics, the president of the International Aerobatic Club said it would be a strong competitor up to the Intermediate category.
Aviation has been talking about a replacement for 100LL for a long time, and Cessna is doing something about it with the Turbo 182 NXT. Its 230-hp SMA engine runs on Jet-A. Made by Safran and engineered for aviation, it’s already FAA and EASA certified. It burns 11 gallons of Jet-A an hour at 155 knots max cruise. It will replace the Turbo 182, which uses more 100LL avgas to deliver the same performance.
There’s no denying that new airplanes are expensive, but that’s not totally aviation’s fault, and whining about it will not change this reality. A smaller overall customer pool is one part of the problem, and the steadily shrinking income of most of the pilots in it is another. Until something changes in these areas, the overall cost of flying will continue to climb out of reach for most people. –Scott