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97-year-old WWII Naval Intelligence Officer takes first flight in a B-25J Mitchell

B-25 Mitchell - Show MeWorld War II era B-25J Mitchell lands on the runways of Bowman Field (KLOU) to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Normandy Invasion. World War II veterans are being treated to honor flights during WWII Operation Gratitude.

The B-25J Mitchell, affectionately nicknamed “Show Me”, is best known for its role during the raid on Tokyo on April 18, 1942. This raid, led by Col. Jimmy Doolittle, is often cited for boosting America’s morale after the attack on Pearl Harbor just months before.

“Show Me” flew from the Missouri Wing of the Commemorative Air Force, which is located in St. Charles County Smartt Airport (KSET), to Louisville’s own Bowman Field Airport (KLOU) specifically for the celebration. 

WWII era B-25J Mitchell, Bowman Field, June 2019

 

Twenty veterans from all branches of the military were carried five at a time in “Show Me” across the rolling hills of the Bluegrass State.

 One of those passengers, Norma Lewis, admits she spent most of the flight with her hands clenched. Not in fear, however, but exhilaration.

“The engine is like a thousand violins in my ears,” she said before pausing. “The feeling of being in the air is just… wow.” Norma smiled, recounting the flight in “Show Me”.

At 97 years-young, as she will be sure to remind you, Norma has lived an altruistic life.

In 1943, at the age of 21, she joined the Navy. She was stationed in Charleston, South Carolina as part of a mission of tracking German submarines.

After three and a half years as a Naval Intelligence Officer, Norma retired from the Navy.

She came to Louisville in the 1960s as a sign language interpreter, something she picked up around the age of 10 after having been raised by her deaf aunt and uncle in Connecticut.

In 1977, “Mass of the Air”, a televised weekly mass on local news station WHAS, began to air. Norma volunteered for the program as an interpreter and has since been with the station for 40 years. 

WWII Operation of Gratitude is presented by Honor Flight Bluegrass Chapter during the week of June 3-7 to recognize the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.

Jeff Thoke, chairman of the board of Honor Flight Bluegrass, said: “I am thankful to be able to put on such a truly special event for these veterans.”

From left: Norma Lewis, Jeff Thoke, and Ernie Micka pose
in front of the B-25J Mitchell, Bowman Field, June 2019

 

Honor Flight Bluegrass was selected as a recipient of a $75,000 grant from the Kentucky Veterans Program Trust Fund, administered by the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs to fully sponsor the honor flight.

For more information, visit www.honorflightbluegrass.org

B-25J Mitchell lands at Bowman Field to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, June 2019

 

What’s Good About Used Aircraft Sales? Market Changes Could Stimulate Used Jet Sales…

Article written by and with permission:
Michael D Chase
Principal
Chase & Associates
1628 Snowmass Place
Lewisville, TX 75077
www.mdchase.aero
Cell: 214-226-9882 • Office: +1.972-966-1440
services@mdchase.com

Questions about the Business Aviation recovery still linger as there has not been much market movement to date. With most of 2017 behind us, however, we may be on the ‘cusp of change’. ‘For Sale’ inventories are down and aircraft transactions are up, while business jet prices remain weak.

Real gross domestic product (GDP) increased at an annual rate of 3% percent in Q3 2017, according to the ‘advance’ estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In Q2, real GDP increased 3.1%. This is welcome news because, as we have historically seen, when GDP is at the 3% growth mark (or higher) Business Aviation traditionally does well.

These quarterly GDP changes between 2009 and 2017 can be viewed in Table A. Highlighted in yellow are the quarters that GDP was 3% or higher. Historically, we have not seen two back-to-back quarterly GDP increases of 3% or more since Q2 and Q3 2014.

 

 

The ‘For Sale’ Inventory

Chart A illustrates that the ‘For Sale’ inventory of Business Jets has decreased steadily from a high-point in July 2009 (2,938) to 2,225 jets in September 2017. That’s a reduction in the percentage of the in-service fleet from 17.7% in July 2009 to 10.4% now. This is a positive sign as the inventory ‘For Sale’ is dropping, albeit slowly.

Today’s market remains good for buyers because the aircraft ‘For Sale’ inventory remains over 10%. If jet owners are retaining their business jets longer since the downturn began in 2008, perhaps that would help explain why the used business jets ‘For Sale’ inventory has remained at such high levels since the Great Recession.

The percentage ‘For Sale’ has dropped from 11.0% in January 2017 to 10.4% at the end of September 2017. Indeed, most aircraft business jet dealers and brokers today would tell you that the pristine used jets that were on the market a few years ago have become more challenging to locate.

 

 

Used Full Sale Transactions (Including Whole Sales & Leases)

Further analysis of January-September 2017 shows mixed results for the six segments reported by JETNET in the September 2017 YTD Market Information release that included full sale transactions increase for business jets (5.9%), turbine helicopters (5.7%) and Commercial Airliners (8.8%) in YTD numbers (YTD September 2017 versus YTD September 2016).

The remaining three segments reported double-digit decreases in transactions with piston helicopters (-14.1%) showing the largest drop in YTD 2017 vs 2016.

Charts B & C depict the 12-Month used business jet and turbine helicopter moving average, displayed for the full retail transactions from January 2012 to September 2017.

From January 2012, used business jet transactions steadily increased until 2014—from 2,300 to over 2,800. A leveling-off followed in 2015, and 2016 produced mixed activity (while remaining well above the 2,800 line of transactions).

Since dropping to 2,652 transactions in January 2017 the used business jet market segment has shown a sharp recovery through September 2017 (2,833). This could be a result of built-up demand in the US after the newly-elected government administration finds its footing and the stock market continues to climb to record highs.

 

 

Since reaching a low point in January 2017, the used turbine helicopter market segment has shown a very rapid recovery leading into September 2017 (see Chart C). This is great news, and could indicate better days ahead for the turbine helicopter market.

 

US Jet-A Fuel Price

As of November 6, 2017, US Jet-A average price was $4.76/gallon and appeared to be on the rise. This fuel cost increase could have a negative impact on some of the progress we have been making in business aircraft flight activity. Nevertheless, today’s price is still around $2.00 less than the 2012 record fuel price of $6.84/gallon, as shown in Chart D.

 

The past 12 months of flight operations from September 2017 have been running 2.3% ahead of last year. Flight operations have not reached the peak of 2007 yet, but the trend is a positive sign nonetheless.

 

 

In Summary

Historically, the fourth quarter of the year reflects the most sales growth over the other quarters. We expect to see further growth in Q4 2017 to round out a very good year for used business jets and turbine helicopters. ‘For Sale’ inventories are slowly coming down and sales transactions continue to trend in a positive direction. We keep our fingers crossed and will continue to monitor business aircraft activity through future articles.

5 Major Items Pilots Miss During Their Preflight Inspection

Perhaps the most critical part of any general aviation flight is the preflight inspection of the aircraft. For most pilots, the preflight inspection follows a checklist along with a routine flow around the aircraft. Most pilots and student pilots perform what would be considered a sufficient inspection, following their checklist and routine items.

Surely 100% of pilots would be able to find discrepancies if they were present right?

Well...not exactly. Sit down, strap yourself in and get ready to read some interesting real-life statistics!

Every year at the Sun N Fun airshow the FAA partners with a local flight school to host the Project Preflight event. The purpose of the event is to test the preflight efficiency of pilots and student pilots of all ages, hours and experience. A flight school volunteers one of their airplanes for the event. Participants are invited to preflight the aircraft like they would before any other flight – checking the fuel, oil, tire pressure and anything with blue tape is unnecessary. The catch is, the aircraft has several intentional discrepancies, some are major squawks! This year we hosted the event and gathered the data from 144 total participants.

Here are the results...

Water Bottle Lodged Behind Rudder Pedals – Out of 144 participants only 30% found this major discrepancy.

Cotter Pin Missing In Right Wheel – Only 28% found this one!

Elevator Nut Missing – 39% found the nut to missing from the right side of the elevator.

Rag Behind The Alternator – Easy to spot but only 63% of participants found the rag!

Cotter Pin In Control Lock – Only 42% found a small cotter pin in place of the control lock, hard to miss but deadly if left in.

Interesting right?! The statistics are concerning to say the least, but what a great insight into a previously unknown sector of general aviation that can be used to educate pilots and future pilots.

So how can we improve these statistics?

Yes, of course we can say “pilots need to be more thorough in their inspections” or “we need to apply more focus and attention to detail during a preflight” but what are some other realistic strategies we can implement to actually achieve that?! Here’s one – maybe it’s extreme and definitely hypothetical but it’s worth pondering.

Again, hypothetical but let’s break it down. We need pilots to perform thorough inspections, how can you put yourself in that “attentive” frame of mind? If you’ve ever rotated the tires on your vehicle yourself, isn’t it likely that you’ll double check and triple check the tightness of the lug nuts before you call it a job done? The theory is that you’ll be taking more responsibility for the state of the aircraft rather than assuming the mechanic or previous pilot left the aircraft in an airworthy condition. This doesn’t mean you should become an aircraft mechanic or add an hour to your preflight, the goal is to find a way to improve our attention and focus when preflighting an airplane.

Project Preflight was certainly educational and we had an absolute blast hosting the event. On behalf of SunState Aviation we would like to thank all of the 144 participants for stopping by and giving us your time, without you this educational piece and the safety of future pilots would not be a reality!

By Alec Larson – May 8, 2017
Flight Training, SunState Aviation

2017 Thoughts - No Recovery Quite Yet?

I recently returned from the excellent Corporate Jet Investor CJI-Miami conference. The two-day conference was attend by over 200 financiers, brokers, lawyers, manufacturers, appraisers, consultants and others involved in the transactions of buying and selling corporate aircraft. This includes helicopters, too (see footnote) . There were individual speakers and panel discussions. And way too much good food. Congrats to the CJI team for putting on a great event. Much of the discussion centered around the state of aircraft sales, residual values, and when the "recovery" is coming and where. Here are some things that stood out for me.

Flying is still down. There were three sets of data points supporting this. Jet Support Services (JSSI) has their Business Aviation Index built from the utilization of about 2,000 aircraft flown by their program customers. For third quarter 2016 (2016Q3) flight activity was up 1.4% versus 2015Q3. Sounds good until you see the number, about 29 hours per month, is only 84% of the overall peak utilization. Separating out Part 91 operations showed utilization of 22.5 hours per month - only 270 hours per year. That is not high utilization for the business jet fleet. 

Wingx, using FAA data, was not promising either. They show an average of 101 hours per year for all light jets and 159 annual hours for heavy jets. Not sure how accurate the FAA data is, but trends are trends and they are well off peak levels. Promising is that turboprop and light jet activity is on the rise. 

JetNet's JetNetIQ report also showed increasing aircraft fleet cycles. But total fleet cycles flown this year are only at about 2003 levels even though we have 50% more aircraft in 2016 versus 2003. So we have more business aircraft flying fewer hours and cycles versus peak periods. But flying is slowly increasing. The utilization trend is positive.

Aircraft sales, new or pre-owned, are still flat and pre-owned values overall show no signs of recovering. Several commentators blamed an over supply of business aircraft and buyers in general just not being all that interested in acquiring aircraft.  A couple brokers did note increasing sales activity in turboprops and light jets here in the US. 

Here is a tidbit I got from looking at AMSTAT's data. For business jets globally, about 25% of the fleet, 4,140 jets, is aged over 25 years. Heavy jets are the youngest fleet with only 17% of their number aged over 25. For midsize jets, 24% and for light jets, 33% of the fleet are aged 25 years or older. On the surface, I'd say the time is ripe for those older jet owners to upgrade. Why aren't they doing so in big numbers? 

Data that we see at Conklin & de Decker suggest that as aircraft age, they require increased maintenance to maintain their reliability. This increased maintenance is in dollars and downtime.  As aircraft age, the increase in unscheduled maintenance associated with scheduled inspections also requires a great deal more maintenance down time. Similarly it will take more and more maintenance to achieve any kind of acceptable dispatch reliability. Both detract from the availability of the aircraft for flight operations. Data shows 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. 

    Aircraft Age        Availability

      0 – 20 years up to 95%

      25 years up to 70%

      30 years up to 55%

By age 30, many aircraft are spending as much time in the shop as being available to fly. Normally this is a big problem and justification enough to acquire younger, more productive, aircraft. But if utilization is low, then maybe this is not such a big deal. The JSSI data are for aircraft under their guaranteed hourly engine maintenance plans. This aircraft are likely to be newer models. Even so, 270 annual hours for a Part 91 business aircraft is not a lot of flying. The Wingsx analysis of the FAA data showing 100-160 annual hours also shows there is plenty of downtime left in the year for scheduled maintenance while meeting g the required flight schedule. 

If operators with these older aircraft are able to meet the flying schedule and they realize the residual value of their aircraft is likely close to spare parts' values, maybe they see little need right now to upgrade. What about FAA NextGen? ADS-B is due by 2020, but for many of these older aircraft with analog equipment, the upgrade may only require a new transponder. If they cannot upgrade, then they might as well fly them until December 31, 2019 and park them. If this is the case for these operators, they may see little benefit to upgrading for another year or two.  

Overall, the general mood at CJI was that things are very slowly improving. But pay close attention to the US. Europe is moribund for business aircraft. As long as oil prices stay low, along with political instability in the Middle East, sales activity there will be slow. Same for Africa.  China and India, although they have the highest rates of GDP growth globally, are growing more slowly than in the past and account for a very small percentage of business aircraft sales. Mexico? Trump, NAFTA, and other trade worries impact there. Brazil's economy isn't promising right now, but Argentina, small a market as they are, is promising. Oceana, another small market for aircraft, is stable. The US has the globe's largest business aircraft fleet. The US, with a pro-business president and Congress combined with the current economic growth that's already underway offers the best hope for the next few years' aircraft sales. 

Personally, I think as 2020 approaches, we will see an uptick in aircraft sales for those aircraft with the ADS-B mods already installed. As supply of these aircraft may be limited, that may help with new aircraft sales.  But given the supply of pre-owned aircraft, that uptick might not be noticeable for another year, or 2018. Food for thought (as if after both Thanksgiving and the CJI buffets I have any room left). 

 

Footnote 1. Most of the helicopter manufacturers are highly dependent on large multi-turbine helicopter sales. Most of those are in oil & gas.  The CJI panel offered little hope for sales unless the price of oil goes up further. However, a recent energy find in West Texas combined the shale oil recovery and fracking technologies getting cheaper point to more land-based oil exploration. Stay tuned.

 

 

3rd Class Medical Reform - What You Need to Know

Recently, I wrote about some new legislation that had come into effect in April about Student Pilot Certificates.  This seems to be a banner year for the FAA as a new piece of legislation, centered around the 3rd Class Medical was recently signed into law by the President.  This particular piece of legislation has been a long time coming and allows more people the ability to exercise the privileges of their Private Pilot certificate even if they have run/will run into medical issues.

A Law 37 Years in the Making…

As early as 1979, the American Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) has been petitioning the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for an extension in validity of a 3rd Class Medical from two years to three years.  AOPA continued to advocate for pilots with medical issues by proposing to create a recreational, or sport pilot, certificate.

The development of the sport pilot certificate took over a decade and allowed a pilot to fly aircraft in the sport category with only a valid driver’s license instead of having to hold a 3rd Class Medical.  Pilots have been using the sport pilot certificate for over 10 years now and the journey towards a reformed 3rd Class Medical started in earnest back in 2012.

Interest Groups Hard at Work…

AOPA and the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) first petitioned the FAA back in early 2012 to allow pilots seeking a 3rd Class Medical exemption to fly under the following conditions:

  • Day Visual Flight Rules (VFR)
  • Fixed gear
  • Single engine
  • Up to four seats
  • 180 horsepower engine
  • Fly no higher than 10,000 feet Mean Sea Level (MSL) or 2,000 feet Above Ground Level (AGL)
  • Carry no more than one passenger

Later, in September of the same year, the FAA closed the question period – this is referred to as a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) which lasts 90 days.  There were over 16,000 comments filed under this particular NPRM with the general consensus that thousands of pilots were in favor of a 3rd Class Medical Reform.  However, despite introducing the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act (GAPPA) into the House in December of that year, there was a long wait ahead for the aviation community.

The GAPPA expanded on the AOPA-EAA petition to allow pilots to carry more passengers (up to 5), fly a six-seat aircraft weighing up to 6,000 pounds under VFR conditions.  In March of 2013, the GAPPA legislation was finally introduced into the Senate.

The FAA Process…

Over the next several months, the FAA began a process to review the current 3rd Class Medical rules and processes.  This process was dubbed as the “Private Pilot Privileges Without a Medical Certificate”.  The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the FAA medical certification process was full of major flaws including technological issues, lack of clarity and inappropriate standards.

As 2014 went on, the GAPPA gained 100 sponsors in the House, and 10 in the Senate making it a very strongly supported piece of legislation.  Later that summer, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta announced that a rule to reform the 3rd Class Medical process was being presented to the Department of Transportation (DOT).  The DOT had 90 days to review the rule before making a decision.  EAA and AOPA continued to appeal to the DOT to quickly review the rule along with many others in both the Senate and the House that were co-sponsoring the GAPPA – however, the review was never fully completed.

In December of 2014, the 114th Congress came to an end with no progress on GAPPA and it then expired.  Not one to be beaten, the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 (PBR2) was introduced into both the House and the Senate in 2015 that included the 3rd Class Medical reform which included what the GAPPA had introduced but also added the ability to fly in IFR conditions along with VFR.  Between June and July of 2015, over 140,000 calls were made to elected officials encouraging support of the PBR2.  Support in the House and Senate for the bill grows to over 160 co-sponsors. 

All the persistence paid off when the PBR2 passed the Senate by unanimous consent on December 15, 2015.  3rd Class Medical reform language is introduced as a part of FAA reauthorization and other laws and legislation on and off again throughout 2016.  Then, the big day comes when in July of 2016, the FAA funding bill is passed in both the House and senate including language for 3rd Class Medical reform.  By July 15, 2016, the law was signed by President Obama singling the end of a very long process by advocacy groups, the FAA, and Congress.

So, What Does This Mean for Pilots?

After doing some research, it doesn’t appear that the rule will go into effect for another year.  The FAA will be going through the rulemaking process which could take up to one year.  In the meantime, here are the important facts about the 3rd Class Medical allowances:

  • Aircraft: Up to 6 seats, no greater than 6,000 pounds, and covered (unlike the previous iterations, no restrictions on complexity, horsepower, etc.) – sorry folks, no biplanes
  • Flight rules: Day/Night VFR and IFR
  • Passengers:  Up to 5
  • Aeromedical:  Pilots must take a free online aeromedical course every two years
  • Altitude:  Up to 18,000 feet
  • Airspeed:  No greater than 250 knots indicated airspeed
  • Pilot:  A pilot cannot fly for compensation or hire

Pilots looking to take advantage of this new rule need only to have a valid U.S. driver’s license and have had held a medical certificate (regular or special issuance) in the last 10 years from the date the legislation became law.

Are You Effected by the New Law?

Are you, the reader, benefiting from this new legislation?  What’s your story or thoughts?   Feel free to leave a comment with stories and/or comments on the 3rd Class Medical reform.  

More information about the reform can be found at www.AOPA.org and www.FederalRegister.gov.

Images courtesy of GoogleImages.com and the writer.

 

 

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