July 2010 - Page 3 Aviation Articles

GPS-based communication system helps helicopters in oil spill rescue effort

Aviation plays a big role in the cleanup of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, as fixed wings and rotors carry workers and supplies throughout the region.

EMS Aviation promoted through a statement released last week its FLEET tracking system, now being used by a private contractor for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Florida-based Heli-works Inc. uses the system between biologists in Bell 206Ls outfitted with the equipment and rescuers on the ground to locate and recover oiled birds.

The system is backed by a web-based Automated Flight Following (AFF) map that shows a helicopter’s location, speed, heading, altitude and flight history.

The FLEET system also offers text and phone capabilities to crew, in addition to automated tracking. The FLEET system is composed of an iridium antenna and transceiver with integrated GPS.

Read more about the technology here. 

A new trend in glass panel avionics suites: Using your iPad?

An iPad-mounted avionics panel? There’s an app for that. Or, rather, make that several apps.

SportairUSA, based in Little Rock, Ark., recently unveiled its iCub, a light-sport aircraft that will set you back $92,000 for the standard iCub, while an optional Bush iCub with stronger axles and larger wheels costs $99,000.

The model evolved from the company’s Cruiser-model taildragger.

 It’s most original feature is a panel-mounted iPad that runs a WingXpro7 GPS-enabled terrain-aware moving map, ForeFlight Mobile HD, ForeFlight Charts,  an iHUD (EFIS) and MotionX GPS HD. Other software includes a Knot-tying guide, an Army First Aid manual, an SAS survival guide, and FAR reference guide among several others. Check out a complete list of programs here.

A 100-hp Rotax 912 ULS motor, along with a 2-blade wooden prop, gives the LSA power for its 18-gallon tank. The interior features leather seating and a baggage area / cargo net.

“Light, tough and powerful, the iCub delivers 565 lbs of useful load along with short take-offs and landings in an affordable light sport aircraft,” the company’s web site says. See more features here.

Get a glimpse of the Bush iCub at AirVenture 2010 in Oshkosh, Wisc., July 26 – Aug. 1. The SportairUSA exhibit will be located in space 62, across from the LSA Mall.

 

Aviation: Serving 500 or 5500 Airports?

Anybody interested in providing the solution?

The DOT’s Future of Aviation Advisory Committee recently met and comments made in the meeting  indicate that small market airports are not in the airlines’ future plans – at least not the large carriers.  In fact, if not for the DOT’s Essential Air Service program, many cities currently receiving airline service would be in the no- airline zone. You can’t blame the airlines for not wanting to lose money; and, the current airline business model doesn’t work to serve smaller cities without government subsidies.

So, if the airlines cannot provide the solution, who can?

With fewer service options and more time spent processing through the system, the time to travel between small cities by airline often exceeds the time it takes to drive. Why fly when the drive costs less and doesn’t take much, if any, more time? Because flying often doesn’t make sense with the current options available, more people are opting for other means of transportation, drawing resources away from small airports.

What those airports and their communities don’t know today, but could know, are the true travel intentions of the people they are trying to serve. The airports must find out who, when and where.  In other words, they must identify the demand. 

Identifying the demand could be as simple as finding physicians in a community who are all attending an AMA convention.  This is just an example of the concept of group-buying, using an eight-passenger jet or a 30-seat regional airliner for the day to meet the specific demand to connect a group directly to another city.  Other examples could be alumni traveling to sporting events, golfers going to a new course or hunters traveling to a new lodge, etc.  If there is known demand, then supply will surely meet it. So, how do we find the demand?

Can Social Networking be a tool small communities can use to solve their air transportation problems through aggregating demand for travel?

Yes, it can.   Business Aviation, including small and large air charter operators, and small regional airlines, are in the perfect position to solve those air transportation problems.  We are sitting on a highly flexible (mobile), underutilized and diverse fleet of aircraft. Travel needs could be met on demand and by the seat with the right knowledge.  This may not provide a low fare airline solution that everyone thinks they want in their hometown; but, it could provide time-efficient and point-to-point travel at a reasonable price.

Isn’t that what we really want anyway?

Retractable floats for your amphibian aircraft

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Australian company Tigerfish Aviation has developed a way to get your amphibian plane from lake to lake while increasing the distance and decreasing the fuel cost when you and Crocodile Dundee fly from barbie to barbie.

The company says its retractable floats reduce fuel consumption, while increasing range, payload, speed and operating cost.

Tigerfish says the design, which pulls the floats into a belly beneath the fuselage, can be retrofitted to regional airliners, utility aircraft, executive aircraft, UAVs and military transports.

Of course, if you are looking for a new toy to go from lake to air, you can check out our complete list of amphibian aircraft for sale here.

Is Now A Good Time To Lease An Aircraft?

If you are looking at acquiring an aircraft, you may be evaluating whether to lease or buy the aircraft.

What is a Lease?

In a lease, the owner such as a bank (the lessor) allows you (the lesee) the use of an aircraft for a fixed period of time. An operating lease is a lease whose term is short when compared to the useful life of the asset. For example, an aircraft which has an economic life of 30 years or more may be leased to a company for five years as an operating lease. This can be a simple leasing transaction where at the end of the lease, the aircraft is returned to the lessor. There may also be the option to buy the aircraft at Fair Market Value (FMV) at a set point during the lease and/or at the end of the lease itself.

In an operating lease, the residual value risk shifts to the lessor.

In today’s market, pre-owned aircraft values have plummeted and selling prices are relatively low.  Most aircraft values are likely to recover in the next few years. In such a market, why would you want to have the lessor accept the residual value risk? You, as the lessee, have a lower residual value risk than at any time in the last decade. Buying a good quality aircraft now leaves you with a minimal risk of the aircraft losing a substantial amount of its value in the future.

Leasing is better than financing if you do not need the tax write-off from tax depreciation. Aircraft can be written off to zero value for tax purposes in eight or fewer years. If your company isn't making a profit, tax depreciation is of reduced or no value anyhow. Your business, as the lessee still can write off the lease payments as an expense.

You can't use the tax write-off for a personal aircraft. In that case, lease payments/terms may be more favorable than a loan.

If you are a company, leases may be "off balance sheet" as far as long term debt goes.

As a company, the operating lease may be considered as “off the balance sheet” as it is not technically a long term debt. This can improve the financial ratios used to evaluate the fiscal heath of a company. However, the SEC and investors are getting savvier about "off balance sheet" deals. New rules may also affect the ability to qualify a lease for this accounting treatment. This consideration requires tax advice from someone knowledgeable about your business.

Getting out of a lease early is easy, just pay it off!

Are you certain to need the aircraft for the full lease term? You can walk away from a lease at any time: just pay off the remaining lease payments. This can get quite costly. Read your lease terms carefully. If there is a possibility that you will want out of the lease early, you may not be a good candidate for a lease.

Lease or loan: both require financial disclosure.

Credit is tough these days, the financial institution will want to know your full financial picture. If you don’t want to disclose your full finances, then a lease (or loan) may not be in the cards for you.

Need it now, pay cash.

I wrote in 2009 that cash is king in the aircraft transaction. That is still true. You will get the best deal and the quickest closing in a cash transaction. There is no need for pending approval of financing conditions in the purchase and sale.

Leases can work for some companies and individuals. You need to examine your ownership, tax and risk requirements and review the lease documents carefully to fully understand all the terms and restrictions.

 

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