Aviation Technology - Page 4 Aviation Articles

The Rise of the Angle of Attack Indicator for General Aviation Airplanes

Earlier this year, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) added the prevention of loss of control accidents in general aviation to its Most Wanted List, a list of advocacy priorities the organization releases yearly.

Loss of control accidents (stalls, spins, etc.) made up 40 percent of fatal fixed wing general aviation accidents between 2001 and 2011, according to NTSB statistics. More than 25 percent of all fatal general aviation accidents occur during the maneuvering phase of flight, and more than half of these maneuvering accidents result in a stall/spin scenario. The NTSB continues to emphasize an industry-wide need to focus on preventing these accidents in order to reduce the accident and fatality rates for general aviation pilots. Preventing loss of control accidents should include awareness, as well as educating and training pilots, says the NTSB, and the organization is taking their own advice - in October the agency will host a forum to discuss some of the ways the industry can improve. The topics of discussion will include a statistical review, new training techniques, and equipment and technology improvements, and will most certainly include the installation and use of angle of attack (AOA) indicators in light general aviation aircraft.

Over the past few years, the NTSB, FAA and General Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC), with support from industry groups like AOPA, have been working together to advocate the use of AOA indicators in light airplanes as a way to encourage recognition and prevention of stall accidents. In the past, pilots and aircraft owners haven’t been all that eager to install them, though, based on cost and the red-tape problems associated with the installation process. In 2014, the FAA streamlined the process of installing AOA indicators, making it easier for aircraft owners to enjoy their benefits.

We know that a stall will occur any time the wing’s angle of attack - the angle between the chord line and the relative wind – exceeds its critical limit. But historically, pilots have been trained to monitor and fly precise airspeeds in order to prevent stalls. This is helpful, but only when the aircraft is in straight and level, coordinated, unaccelerated flight, when the aircraft’s stall speeds are quite low and where they are known and familiar for that particular flight configuration. But an aircraft can – and will - stall at any airspeed, any weight, any configuration, and any attitude when the critical angle of attack has been exceeded. While airspeed is a good guideline to use, it shouldn’t be the only one. Pilots should understand that the angle of attack, which is invisible, matters much more than the airspeed.

Enter the much talked about angle of attack indicator. It’s designed to help pilots determine the aircraft’s true angle of attack in real time, allowing the pilot to "see" the angle of attack in a way that’s not possible otherwise. This will be especially valuable to new pilots, who, through its use, will better understand the concept of angle of attack as it relates to different aircraft configurations and phases of flight.

So what will it take to install an AOA indicator? According to this article on AvWeb, not much. After the FAA approved the more streamlined process, most general aviation aircraft will not require an STC and the modification can be done by any A&P mechanic with just a logbook entry. AOA indicators for small general aviation aircraft like the Cessna 172 cost between $400 - $2000, depending on whether it’s electrical or mechanical, heated or not, pressurized or not, and other variables.

The Hidden Costs of Maintaining Outdated Avionics

By Mark Wilken – Vice President of Avionics Programs and Operational Logistics

King Air C90B

With many companies currently budgeting for 2016, it’s important to consider some of the hidden costs of maintaining outdated avionics, specifically old CRT (tube) EFIS displays. CRT display manufacturing is becoming obsolete and will inevitably become non-existent. This means that the pricing for these units is going to increase substantially and the availability is going to continually decrease. Let’s take King Airs as an example.

Avionics Maintenance Costs

By current market pricing, typical yearly costs just to maintain a Collins Pro Line 2 equipped King Air is about $20,000 per year. If you plan on keeping the aircraft for another five years under current market conditions and a traditional ADS-B mandate solution for about $75,000, you would be paying about $175,000 just to continue to maintain your current avionics package.

Traditional Upgrade

If you want to make additions to a Pro Line 2 avionics system, a WAAS/LPV upgrade would cost about $95,000 and RVSM would cost another $83,000. Combined with maintaining current avionics and ADS-B compliance, the total cost for five years of ownership with traditional upgrades is going to cost around $353,000. Not only are these costs high but these upgrades do not add value to your aircraft.

G1000 Upgrade

While an average base install of a Garmin G1000 in a King Air costs around $325,000, it adds an average value increase to your aircraft of around $275,000. In addition, it includes all of your upgrades like WAAS/LPV, ADS-B, RVSM and is safer, lighter, more reliable and can be completed in just 15 days.

Upgrade or Maintain

While some operators may choose to maintain their current avionics system, older avionics are becoming obsolete and will continue to increase in price and be less reliable. Your avionics system is critical to the operation and safety of your aircraft. An upgraded avionics system will ensure you are getting the most out of your aircraft.

Mark Wilken joined Elliott Aviation in 1989 as an Avionics Bench Technician. He was promoted to Avionics Manager in 1996 and joined the sales team in 2003. Mark has led many highly successful avionics programs such as the King Air Garmin G1000 avionics retrofit program. He recently led efforts for Wi-Fi solutions in Hawkers, King Airs and Phenom 300’s. Mark holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Aviation Management from Southern Illinois University and is a licensed Pilot.

Elliott Aviation is a second-generation, family-owned business aviation company offering a complete menu of high quality products and services including aircraft sales, avionics service & installations, aircraft maintenance, accessory repair & overhaul, paint and interior, charter and aircraft management. Serving the business aviation industry nationally and internationally, they have facilities in Moline, IL, Des Moines, IA, and Minneapolis, MN. The company is a member of the Pinnacle Air Network, National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), National Air Transportation Association (NATA), and National Aircraft Resale Association (NARA).

The Evolution of In-Flight Entertainment

By Conrad Theisen, Avionics Sales Manager

Historically, cabin entertainment systems have been very heavily reliant on hardware. They have required several cabin monitors, potential cabinet modifications to accommodate other monitors, DVD players and large receivers to run the system. In addition to bulky equipment, older systems included complex and expensive repair to mounted in the drink rails and armrest. Many times, when a switch was added, interior had to be sent out for plating adding additional cost and downtime.

Also, many membrane type switches were notorious for going bad and could be very expensive to replace. Eliminating all of the switching saves literally hundreds of hours in engineering, custom design and installation.

Luckily, cabin avionics has evolved with consumer electronics to allow streaming entertainment, nearly eliminating the need for a heavy and expensive cabin entertainment system for many customers.

Gogo Business Aviation recently announced business aviation’s first turn-key, on-demand in-flight entertainment system, Gogo Vision. Gogo Vision is an in-flight streaming entertainment system that works directly with your laptop, tablet or iPhone to give you a full library of movies, TV episodes, news, destination weather, flight progress and moving maps.

This service is available with the installation of the Gogo Business Aviation UCS 5000 smart router and media server, which can be purchased for about $40,000 plus installation cost and requires Gogo Biz or Swift Broadband on board.

Compared to other cabin entertainment options, Gogo Vision is lightweight and affordable. In addition to equipment and installation, the Gogo Vision service fee is $395 per month and includes 3G/4G modem service, mailed USB updates, unlimited content updates at participating Gogo Cloud locations, news, weather, flight progress and moving maps. Each movie is $10 extra and each TV episode is an extra $6. Gogo Vision’s costs will be in addition to your monthly data provided by your Gogo Biz or Swiftbroadband package.

Comparatively speaking, the Gogo Vision can be cheaper, lighter weight and easier to maintain than most cabin entertainment options out there today.

Conrad Theisen has been with Elliott Aviation since 1996. He started his career as an Avionics Installer and was promoted to Avionics Manager in 2001. In 2009, he led the Customer Service and Project Management teams for all in-house aircraft. He joined the Avionics Sales team in 2012.

Retrofitting a Hawker to Meet Your Mission

By Adam Doyle, Paint & Interior Sales Manager


When modifying an aircraft to meet your mission, there are many factors that must be considered. Recently, a customer requested their Hawker 800XP be retrofitted to a double club when it is currently designed with a standard divan. Though it may sound easy, this modification is anything but simple and includes a list of items that need to be addressed which will determine the possible solutions.

In this case, the floor plan requested was not available for the Hawker 800XP due to safety regulations. Though this option was impossible, the next best option is to add seven cabin seats instead of the eight. Eliminating a seating position when opting for seven over eight cabin seats allows for an upgrade to either a cabin seat with a cabinet or even a full berthing seat.

Although possible, changing the floor plan of the Hawker 800XP from a standard divan to seven cabin club seating is a significant amount of work. However, the average retrofit of this caliber may cost less than you might think. Each modification is specific in need and pricing will vary due to the amount of parts and work needed to complete each retrofit.

Since there is not currently a STC for the Hawker 800XP with a double club configuration, an STC will be required before the modification can be done. Next, proper burn documentation will be needed for all interior mods to be included in a 8110 package before the aircraft can be released.

Adding the new seating will affect many things. The left aft closet and the divan will have to be removed to make room for the new seating. By doing this, new up-wash lighting will be needed along with modifications to the headliner, window, lower cabin panels, and carpet since they are currently not there where the closet and divan once were. The headliner, window, and lower cabin panels will have to be extended while the carpet will have to be patched or replaced.

Changing the seating positions also affect the oxygen requirements. If the O2 boxes are positioned incorrectly for the new arrangement, they will have to be moved and in most aircraft, the masks are out of date or deteriorating which will require replacement. By moving boxes, the headliner will then need to be modified or unfurnished to accommodate the new box placements.

The lav door operation will be affected and will only be able to open a third of the way due to binding against the seat’s inboard armrest. The only option is to change the door style to accommodate the door movement.

When adding the new cabin seats, the new frames must match the original frames. If matching frames are unavailable, purchasing all new frames is the next option.

If a 7 place modified double club configuration is desired, the aft closet would need to be removed. The seat pictured would move back and the lav door would need to be modified. Lower sidewalls and window panels would need to be extended.

Additionally, new card tables will need to be constructed, as they were not originally there. If the aircraft has existing front card tables, the process can be smoother. It is possible to reconstruct new aft card table structures based on the original front under the stipulation that the floor plan is approved. If the aircraft does not have any existing card tables, then an STC must be obtained for a new approved floor plan.

Once having approval for the card tables, modification or refurbishment of drinkrails will be needed since the closet and the divan covered where they would typically be. Also because of this, relocation of the cabin switches, phone, and new outlets to match the rest of the aircraft will be needed. Lastly, if there are existing tables, plated accents from the front will need to match the new aft tables if they are available.

There will be further choices to consider when doing the Hawker 800XP retrofit to meet your mission. The above describes a small number of them that will arise with this type of modification of a standard divan to double club retrofit. Modifications can be done but proper information is needed to do it. A simple modification may seem easy, but nothing is simple in aviation.

The best time to do any modification is when a major evaluation is scheduled. This timing would allow the aircraft to be modified simultaneously instead of grounding the aircraft at two different times. A down aircraft could result upwards of $1K/day loss in revenue. We strive to maximize evaluation, maintenance, and modification schedules and minimize down time. Instead of an aircraft being down for eight or more weeks, maximizing the schedule for both the evaluation and the modifications to a possible six weeks is essential.

Standard divan in a Hawker 800XP

What may seem like a simple modification can be incredibly complex. Remember to think about having all the proper information before starting a modification. Think about what the retrofit could affect and if the floor plan is approved, what is the most cost effective option, when and how long is the downtime, and finally, would it be better to sell the current aircraft and purchase another with the desired floor plan.

Adam Doyle joined Elliott Aviation in 2000 as an interior technician after graduating from Wyoming Technical Institute. While at Elliott Aviation, Adam has earned many different promotions on the shop floor including Install Team Lead, Soft Goods Team Lead, Assistant Interior Shop Manager and Seat Shop Manager. Adam’s most recent promotion has been to Paint and Interior Sales Representative for Elliott Aviation. He uses his experience with various vendors, products and processes to educate our clients by providing direction and helping plan for future investment with realistic and accurate figures.

Elliott Aviation is a second-generation, family-owned business aviation company offering a complete menu of high quality products and services including aircraft sales, avionics service & installations, aircraft maintenance, accessory repair & overhaul, paint and interior, charter and aircraft management. Serving the business aviation industry nationally and internationally, they have facilities in Moline, IL, Des Moines, IA, and Minneapolis, MN. The company is a member of the Pinnacle Air Network, National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), National Air Transportation Association (NATA), and National Aircraft Resale Association (NARA). More information can be found at www.elliottaviation.com



Is It Time To Replace Your Aircraft?

In general there are two reasons to replace an aircraft. One is that the mission changes rendering the current aircraft unable to perform the job in an effective manner. The other reason is that the aircraft is no longer cost effective in doing its job.

Mission changes can be obvious. The regional company goes national. Or the company goes global with acquisitions and mergers in different companies. Big changes tend to happen from the top down.

Mission changes may also be subtle. Passenger loads may be increasing at a gradual rate. The users will understand the limit of how many passengers the aircraft can hold. They tend to adjust their requirements to fit the seats, versus asking for more seats. Passengers may avoid the company aircraft due to its lack of range, but if you don't know the travel needs within your company, you may not notice the opportunity. 

The aviation manager needs to be on the lookout for unmet travel needs within the company that the business aircraft can serve. This can be done by user survey and spending time in meetings. Make sure the entity responsible for corporate travel is aware of the capabilities of the flight department and that aviation is able to understand the corporate travel needs. There may be a potential for both efficiencies and cost savings by creating a corporate shuttle but if the flight department doesn't know of the need, they can't respond. 

Falcon 10

The cost effectiveness of the aircraft is measured in terms of dollars and time. Our data shows that aircraft  age has a profound impact on maintenance costs. The early years when the aircraft are young and warranties are in effect show very low maintenance costs – less than half of what they are at year five. As the aircraft ages, wear and tear is takes its toll. Maintenance costs can easily be double or triple for the older aircraft. The increased maintenance cost is due to increases in unscheduled maintenance and the cost of major airframe and engine maintenance.

Aircraft age also extracts a toll in the areas of reliability and availability. Availability is defined as the number of days an aircraft is available for flight operations divided by the total number of days in the operating year. Reliability is usually measured as the percentage of departures that leave within a specified number of minutes of the scheduled departure time and is referred to as the “dispatch reliability”.  In order to keep dispatch reliability high, older aircraft tend to spend more time in for maintenance. This detracts from the time the aircraft can be made available for flight. Our data suggests that availability drops from the 95% range for aircraft up to 15 to 20 years of age to an average of 70% at age 25 and 55% at age 30. Thus, it typically takes two older aircraft to have the same availability as one newer one!

Spare parts availability can also wreak havoc on aircraft downtime, especially for aircraft with limited production runs or that have components from vendors no longer active in producing spares.  At some point, the fleet will be too small to warrant extensive support. This will be due to the lack of a supplier for some critical components and lack of incentive of another supplier to enter a shrinking market. If you fly a lot of hours, the TLC needed for an older aircraft may not be possible with your flying schedule.

Aircraft aging issues can be subtle, like increased downtime. It can be a shock, as in finding corrosion or getting the quote for that second begin overhaul. We recommend that operators keep track of these key parameters:

- Mechanical Dispatch Reliability

- Aircraft Availability

- Maintenance Cost per Flight Hour (parts and labor)

LearJet 45

Upgrading your aircraft can help extend its economic useful life. New avionics can keep an aircraft capable of using the air navigation system, as well as increase safety. Some older aircraft models benefit from having a robust airframe but lack modern, fuel-efficient engines. For some, an engine retrofit is a good alternative. 

Costs for these turbine aircraft upgrades can run several hundred thousand dollars to several million dollars. Today's resale market does not give much value to older turbine airframes. Upgrading a 20-year old aircraft may not be cost-effective in terms of adding market value, but if it has value to your operation, it may be worth doing just for the operational benefits. 

Each case for when to replace the aircraft needs to be evaluated on its own. You need to look at the costs of keeping your aircraft and the costs and benefits of the alternatives. Don't forget to keep in mind the ability to maintain the desired flight schedule. The replacement questions needs to be thought out in advance and not done in an ad hoc manner. Manage your time by managing the time-machine asset that is the aircraft. 

What factors do you look at for decing it's time to replace your aircraft ? 

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