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"Days of Future Past"

This year was the 10th time I visited Aero Expo, but the first time as pilot of a light aircraft, the CT-MC. Our dear Editor had given me a Reporter’s Hat to wear and I am tasked to write about this grand European and International Exposition of Aviation held at Friedrichshafen.

First impressions first. “Days of Future Past” (title of the latest X-Men film) sums up the aircraft seen at the show. Many aircraft first designed in the 1990’s are now updated with the latest electronic flight instrumentation and Engine management systems as well as built in GPS. The development and fine-tuning of airframe shapes has been helped tremendously by computer simulation software and government funding given by nation states to their manufacturers.

Second impression. New Acronyms and strange sounding words will be added to the lingua franca of the next generation of pilots: -

  • HMI-HA (Human Machine Instruments for Hybrid Aircraft otherwise known to us old pilots as Flight and Engine Instruments and controls)

  • HBC HV (Hybrid Cooling controllers to cool electric motors of High Voltage; known to us as engine radiators and oil coolers)

  • IGBT (Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor; throttle control)

The vocabulary of the Pilots Operating Handbooks and Maintenance Manuals of Electric Aircraft now on show and in flight-testing include terms like “Inverters”, “3-phase”, “Discharge Times” (no not the UKIP newsletter) “Electrodes” and “Cycle Times”.

The Alpha Electro from Pipistrel is the first practical and affordable electric flying machine that can be used by flight schools. A fully charged Alpha Electro can do circuit training for more than one hour. It is already cleared for flight as a micro light in France and a few other countries.

Third impression: - If the UK CAA survey indicates that the British General Aviation economy is worth 2 Billion Sterling every year, I am willing to bet both my hats (Pilot & Reporter) that the German, French, Czech, Polish, Swedish, Finnish, Swiss, Slovenian, Slovakian General & Sport Aviation industries put together are worth more than 100 Billion Euros! The number of dinners provided by the caterers to the visitors over the 2 days I was there, was evidence enough of this upwards trend in sports aviation and small aircraft.

Going back to the “Days of Future Past”, Vulcan Air, from Napoli, Italy have built, tested and EASA certified the V1 (yes, really an Italian V1) 4 seater designed by Prof. Luigi Pascale more than 40 years ago, now available with glass cockpit and modern ergonomic seating better than the C-172, for a very affordable price of £130,000. With a Continental O-360 Alternate Fuel engine with fuel injection and which uses unleaded petrol, makes it a very current and desirable alternative for flight schools wishing to upgrade their fleets.

The Flight Design C-4 was on static display after having completed its first set of flight tests. The EASA test pilot commented “do not change anything, you can’t improve it any more” to indicate that it did everything as well as designed. Further tests continue and EASA certification is expected in 2016 with first production aircraft delivered in 2017 at an extremely competitive price tag of £165,000.

A new aircraft from Switzerland called the Risen was very impressive with its V tail and retractable gear with a Rotax engine. Sleek enough to look like it could easily fly at 250 mph. I look forward to flight testing it sometime later this year.

From our insular British point of view, most aircraft and technology seen at this show will not be available in the UK, unless the bosses in the CAA (Mr. Tony Rapson and his team were spotted lurking at the show on both days) have developed feelings of jealousy and inadequacy looking at all the goodies that their European counterparts can claim to have allowed to develop and flourish. Some of the aircraft I have admired and flown in the past 10 years have now made their appearance in the UK market, notably the Breezer (all metal kit built) and the Blackshape (all composite with EASA TC), though at eye-watering prices that reflect the work put in for development and paying fees charged by the Eurocrats in Köln.

Where is the light sport market going in the next few years? My ticket would be on current aircraft designs costing more even with de-regulation in many nation states. The “torrent down” effect of electronic cockpits from larger aircraft, the cross over of technology from drones and UAV into LSA is certainly creating a buzz in the market place and increasing the customer base due to the relatively low cost of using LSA and Gyrocopters with latest remote sensing devices for practical commercial purposes, thus leap frogging over the delay-ridden and overly expensive current state of aerial surveillance technology.

Trixie Aviation makes gyrocopters fitted with under-slung remote sensing equipment also makes a gyro, which has an electric motorcycle as part landing gear and cockpit. Seems like a perfect blend of a practical and inexpensive flying machine, which can multi-task!

And last but not the least, a unique British flying machine completely representing the “Days of Future Past” a superb looking Autogiro with a radial engine and puller prop up front, a tail dragger design resembling a Renegade Spirit on steroids with a curved pylon sporting a large rotor on top. Designed and built by British ex-military helicopter pilots bringing to modern life the design of Juan de la Cierva y Codorníu, (1st Count La Cierva). Now appropriately called the Bulldog. You may probably see it at Damyns Hall Aerodrome on 19 July 2015.

I have not mentioned the scores of trikes, sail-planes, helicopters, business jets, aero-models and drones on display and sale at this Aero Expo, the largest and most inclusive held annually in Europe.

All this leaves the poor old pilot with his outdated skill set wonder if tomorrow’s world was already here yesterday.

Post script.

The one unusual display stand that caught my eyes and immediately drew me towards it was that of Pilotessa Design. The German artist Kathrin Wötzel digitally repaints airplanes from photographs and prints them on different materials, ranging from canvas

to brushed aluminium. Being a glider Pilot herself and three times German champion with two silver medals from the world championship, she puts great effort into detail and focuses mainly on vintage airplanes. She also undertakes special commission artwork for planes, autos and weddings!

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