Blog about aviation & marketing

So you want to start your own airplane company – a few thoughts

Airplane Business 5 Comments

Will general aviation ever see another upstart aircraft manufacturer, or is building and certifying a new airplane just too complex for reality?  It used to be easier to certify a new airplane design, which brought about many new designs and choices into the single and multi-engine piston market. Some of these include the Wing Derringer two place twin engine airplane, the Mooney M-22 Mustang, the first piston single airplane that was pressurized, and as another example, the Grumman American single engine airplane line, that was actually quite successful.  Since the mid 1980’s, there have been several attempts to bring a new airplane to the market, such as the Adams 500 centerline thrust twin, the Eclipse 500, with design attempts to certify single engine jets like the VisionAir Vantage jet.  Each one of these design prospects brought an interesting design element, however, none of them sold very well.  Lets look at two successful designs, and find the elements that make an aviation manufacturer a possibility for long term viability. Read More

The classic piston engine airliner – what an era for the airline growth, and why the jet airplane took over so quickly

Airplane Business 5 Comments

I had purchased a book by Bill Yenne titled “Classic American Airliners” for a friend as a present for the Christmas Holiday season.  When the book arrived, it was in rough shape from the trip, so I set the book aside and ordered another book that would replace this one, and kept the Bill Yenne book to read for myself.  After Christmas, I set down and started to look through the pages, and was romanced by this era of airline travel, when piston engines were it! I enjoyed reading about the Martin 4-0-4, the Convair 240, the development of the DC-4 from the military C-54, etc.  It was about an era when airline flight was being developed, and a time when less than 50% of the population of the United States had ever flown on an airlane.  The 50’s era airplanes represented the continued development of the piston engine airline, and how the booming economy of the 1950’s, drove the technology for bigger and better airplanes. Sure, the jet airline with a faster cruise, higher altitude operation, and double the passenger loads meant convenience and reliability.  However, the classic piston engine airplane used by the airline industry still has a unique place in history.  We will discover how technology AND the economic factors drove the piston engine airliner to extinction in less than 15 years. Read More

The future of the drone industry – why drones will change the way we do business.

Aviation Thoughts 2 Comments

Not one of my favorite subjects, as I am not into the drones as much as I am into airplanes and aviation, but since the drone will impact aviation, I thought we should look at the subject.  As the drone industry starts to mature, the applications will be enormous AND the drone will become more of OUR airspace system, therefore transponders, ADS-B tracking etc. will become part of the technology that will be used with drones. Read More

Recreational Aviation in 2015 – a year in review and why hasn’t this been the best year ever?

Aviation Thoughts 32 Comments

Not long ago I was reading a business journal regarding how fantastic recreational sales have been in 2015!  This was for the sales of – YACHTS, MOTORCYCLES, and high end RV’s that are expensive and represent disposable income, and I wondered…why single engine piston sales, light sport airplanes, pilot starts, and recreational flying still on a downhill skid?  Is it that the era of excitement has left aviation, or is it that we deem ourselves to smart to embrace good marketing tools and sales techniques?  Knowing what I know, we have a lot of work to do to turn this ship around, here are some thoughts. Read More

A five time speed record holding airplane that was never built – part 5, the last of the series

Airplane Business, Aviation Thoughts 15 Comments

There are very few airplanes that don’t make it into the marketplace if they are an exceptional performing airplane.  The last airplane we will analyze in this series, is an airplane that when it was first one to be built, set five speed records in the first two years of it’s existence.  It is an airplane that not only had exceptional performance, but was in the hottest category of piston aviation at the time, and that was the six place high performance category.  At the time, Beechcraft was turning out Bonanza A36 Bonanza and the V35B, Piper was building the Piper Lance II, while Cessna was selling the Cessna T210.  They called them “King Kong Singles” because they all featured the largest piston engines at the time, they had six seat with the exception of the V-tail Bonanza, and had performance that was very close to most of the light twins of the day. You won’t believe the performance of the airplane we are going to examine, and it is a real head scratcher as to why this airplane isn’t currently in production, but we will try to discover why! Read More

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

Airplane Business No Comments

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

Airplane Business No Comments

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

Airplanes – for business or pleasure?

Airplane Business 1 Comment

Want to understand the general aviation piston engine airplane conundrum?  Here is a feature article by Rod Beck with the approach of practicality and reality as to achieving success in just about ANY facet of general aviation.  The reality gets down to one major factor in the market, and that is demand for the product.  In aviation this often is the last thing considered in an airplane design, or the idea of starting a flight school, when it should be the #1 consideration for pursuing your aviation dreams.  The analogy of the big bands to GA light airplanes is right on the money!  So if you are confused by why everyone says “want to make a small fortune in aviation, start with a large fortune!” then get your pen out and take some notes, I think you will discover a lot of missteps that aviation seems to want to continue to repeat over and over. Read More