Blog about aviation & marketing

Five things General Aviation needs to do to survive in the future!

Airplane Business No Comments

I haven’t been writing much lately, the reality is aviation has a way of bringing down someone who is trying to make it go. For many readers, the language of the posts is often unfamiliar and not understood, so explaining concepts that would revive aviation is a difficult battle.  Since I go where the money is, I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking and executing aviation thoughts and working on solutions, and I have taken my skills and applied them into other endeavors for a while.  I thought about the problems in aviation, comments by aviation owners, and the methods of operating a business, and came up with the five critical things needed for aviation to get back into a growing phase…regardless of the economy! Read More

Airventure Oshkosh – it’s that time of the year for a great airshow!

Aviation Thoughts No Comments

It has been a few years since I lasted attended the “Worlds Largest Aviation Event”, but for many years…I think 12 years in a row, I never missed the event.  What makes Oshkosh Airventure so unique, is that about any airplane you wanted to see up close and personal, is at this location for the week of the show.  Whether you like Warbirds like the P-51 or F4U Corsair, or you like unique one of a kind airplanes, they are all there too and are on display for you to take a look at.  Included in the price of admission, is a three hour airshow including a night time airshow that is very unique.  I once spent five days at the show, and still didn’t have time for everything which tells you how much is going on at this mecca of aviation. Read More

New Aircraft Certification Standards – about time!

Aviation Thoughts 3 Comments

For many years, general aviation and specifically light airplanes have been very slow in the development of new and better products.  This market segment has almost been virtually left alone with very little progress, with the main reason for this being the cost of certification.  It takes so much capital to bring a design from concept to certification, that the return on the investment money to bring the airplane to manufacture will never be recovered.  Follow the money as they say, but if there is no money to be made, then there is no money to be followed, which is exactly what General Aviation light airplanes are experiencing.

We need new and innovative designs, because overall, the single engine piston aircraft line is long overdue for new and better products.  Going to the airport and looking at airplanes that were designed in the 1940’s, as well as a majority of the fleet airplanes being built in the 1970’s, leaves very little to get excited about.  Sure, you have a few newer designs such as the Cirrus and Diamond airplanes, but they are very expensive and most people simply cannot afford these airplanes.  The cure of course, is to have a new aircraft that not only is less expensive to purchase, but also has innovation that lowers the cost of ownership.

I recently had a conversation with an avionics technician about practical application of existing technology in general aviation airplanes.  I was using my girlfriends iPad to search for a new Audi, and noted that it was fun to use, simple and had great graphics.  In addition, the price for a new iPad was approximately $460 for a base model, and the iPad has proven itself to be a very durable tablet computer that does not require a keyboard.  Ok, so lets say we take an iPad and install it in the panel of a new airplane, one iPad for the PFD (primary flight display), the second iPad for the MFD (multi-function display).  These iPad’s already have GPS input, accelerometers, gravity sensor, and other inputs that could be easily fed into the operating system for true graphical content related to flight.  With the MFD, the moving map along with the method to expand or contract the graphics by touch, including systems designed to monitor the engine, all can be easily accessed and these parameters saved for evaluation if the engine has a problem.

The beauty of all this, is that you could take existing hardware and mount it in the panel for very little money.  If the iPad goes bad, the cost for replacing the entire screen, computer, memory, etc. is less than $500.  The King Air that I fly has the G1000 w/synthetic vision and costs approximately $280,000 to install, which is a lot of development costs on the part of Garmin, along with the process of certification that is why these systems cost what they do. Considering the fact that the reliability and durability would probably be in favor of the iPad, the cost to certify this interface would hopefully be relatively inexpensive and would be highly affordable and practical for any piston powered aircraft.

The FAA truly need to lower the cost of certification, because when you take an example of the Icon5 certification process, which has taken many years with the development started in 2008 and still has yet to be produced.  Icon recently secured production funding of $60 million dollars, which is on top of the millions required to develop the airplane to the stage of being able to finally produce the product.  Being that the aircraft is an LSA or Light Sport Aircraft, the certification and costs should be much less than a full fledged IFR complex aircraft, so given that number, you can now see why there has been little development in general aviation airplanes.

Another area that needs to be simplified in the aircraft design and manufacturing process, is methods to build and assemble aircraft need to be seriously looked at.  Since the beginning of the aviation manufacturing, these airplanes are all hand built and take a lot of labor to complete the airframe build.  There has to be a way to automate the process for more precise manufacturing, and at a much lower cost to do so.  Until aviation can figure out a way to do this, the cost of new airplanes will continue to rise with fewer people being able to afford to purchase a new airplane.  If you could lower the cost of production in half, you would most likely be able to sell as many airplanes as you are able to build, and be profitable while doing so.  This isn’t an impossible task, as Henry Ford and many others like Apple have figured out how to manufacture great products at a much lower cost.

An industry example that is prevalent is the build of the iPhones for Apple.  If Apple computer didn’t figure out a way to hold the cost down for manufacture, a new iPhone 5 would cost an individual consumer approximately $3,400 if they just went at it the way we manufacture airplanes.  However, because of the efficiency and profitability that comes with volume business, they are able to hold the cost to approximately $800 per phone.  I know what you are saying, exploit the Chinese, but the truth is Apple creates so many jobs and serious income to the retailers, application developers, intellectual property rights are a huge margin of profitability, and it also brings this technology to the average consumer.  Seems like something aviation needs to think about, since it is becoming obvious that aviation is pretty much an elite group of people who can afford the product!