Blog about aviation & marketing

Airplanes that were innovative, but never sold in the market – Part 4

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So…an innovative airplane is one that takes engineering to a new level.  Sometimes these challenges are something that general aviation seems to gravitate from, as in “we can build it, let me show you it can be done!”  That is a great attitude to take, but lets slow down and figure out what we want to do with the airplane once we put all our talent into it.  Because in reality, general aviation needs to take the approach – what does the market want?  In other words, do we have demand for the product once we build it?  If you aren’t going to be able to sell the concept, whether it is an invention, or an airplane, it won’t be around very long. At the end of the day –  it is MONEY that makes an airplane fly!

For Part 4, we take a look at an innovative airplane, with a very talented designer that took the view – how cool would this be, I KNOW I can build it!  Fantastic, and when you look at the technological innovation, it was very ahead of it’s time AND satisfied the method of proving the design can fly.  This is the paradox of being an engineer and designer, in that you need to bring the business aspect of not only does this make sense, but how to find the buyer that is willing to step up and buy the airplane.  This has never been more evident today, when we have these unique airplanes being introduced into the market, whereby there has not been a demand study or a projected sales forecast that gives the go/no-go for the project.  THIS analysis has to be strongly considered when attempting a project that will take tens of millions of dollars just to bring it to the market.  My question is – are we currently going down the wrong road toward expanding general aviation piston flying, or is it that we are just trying to have fun regardless of making a real business of building airplanes? Read More

Airplanes that were cool and well designed, but never sold in the market – Part 3

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Every once in a while, there is an airplane design that changes everything. Whether it is performance, capabilities in the category, innovation, or the construction of the airframe.  For part 3 in the series, this piston powered single engine airplane not only was an innovator, but had all the elements to make it a great airplane.  What I found most interesting about the development of the airplane, was the facts it was a project that had a two year certification from first flight to completion!  This is unheard of in today’s world, especially when you consider the most recent certifications like the Eclipse 500 VLJ, and the Icon5 LSA.  Even an experienced manufacturer like Cessna couldn’t get the Skycatcher LSA this quickly, as it was over three years before the airplane went from prototype to certification.

This particular airplane really was poised to be a market leader, as the high performance piston single category was going great guns.  The Beechcraft Bonanza was in it’s prime with the V35 and 285 horsepower leading the way in performance, Bellanca’s Viking was in the same class, while the Piper Comanche C was in production for 1969, and Pipers Arrow had a new 200 horsepower Lycoming, while Cessna was selling the Centurion with the new cantilever wing. Everything was looking good, deliveries for this type of airplane were on the increase, and the timing for the introduction of it was perfect.  Why did it fail?  This is the most difficult one to figure out, other than it takes a lot of capital to get involved with design, development, and production of a certified airplane….just ask Honda about the Honda Jet. Read More

Five airplane designs that never sold in the marketplace – part 2

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The second airplane on our list, is an airplane that I believe if it were brought back into production, it would be a successful airplane and would be very profitable.  This airplane was the bomb performance wise when introduced, because it had the capabilities to knock off it’s turboprop driven rival, and as a business airplane, could actually take on many of the lighter corporate jets at the time and in many cases, exceed the performance in climb and cruise.  The business turboprop is the most flexible category of aircraft, based on the economy of operation, and the most useful for most business needs. The turboprop business airplane has enjoyed probably one of the most stable production runs in the history of aviation, as the other categories seem to swing more based on the economy at the time.

What makes the turboprop airplane appealing, is what it can do for a business, especially during the growth phases as it is the most practical airplane to use. The airplane that is the subject of this post, is an airplane that exceeded the performance level of turboprop aircraft being produced at the time, while coming very close to the next step up Citation II business jet.  Being able to carry up to nine people more comfortably than the jet, that ability to fly in and out of shorter runways, and be able to do it at a per mile cost less than the competition and the jet, you would think this airplane would be a winner. However, production was shut down in the early 90’s, when the prices continued to rise much faster than the GDP, whereby demand for these airplanes became very soft.  That being said, the aircraft still would be the performance champ, and can still compete with a lot of the smaller corporate jet, it is amazing to me this airplane has not been brought back into production.   Read More

Five great airplane designs that never took off! – part 1

Aviation Thoughts 3 Comments

There are many unique airplane designs, or just practical airplane designs that never made it to the marketplace, or were set up for production and never built in any numbers that made it a profitable airplane.  This series will examine these five airplanes that had an approach to the marketplace, but never were put into serious production or taken out of production because of a company decision.  The point of this series, is to demonstrate how important the market place is relative to the uniqueness of the design.  In reality, the only way to be successful is to produce a product that ultimately sells, which leads to a long production cycle and continued refinement.  MONEY is what makes an airplane fly, aerodynamics is a close second if we can smile at that. Read More