"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.