Ian Seager

Squawks

With Ian Seager

Opinion

AERO musings…

Up at crazy o’clock to head for Friedrichshafen… but what an uplifting experience!

At 4am on the day before AERO opened, the team met in a godforsaken hotel lobby to begin the pilgrimage to Friedrichshafen. It was my first commercial flight since Covid, and the experience had me feeling like an amateur as I bumbled my way through the now unfamiliar airport security.

We would have loved to fly ourselves, but with four in the team and the need to guarantee an on-time arrival, it just didn’t work out.

It took the best part of 10 hours to get from that hotel to the exhibition halls, but the frustration of commercial flight with its multiple queues and checks was soon forgotten as we toured the semi-built stands for signs of the opening day’s big stories, of which there were plenty.

For me, the underlying enthusiasm and optimism was the real story of the event. Clearly the fact that the show was actually running (after two missed years thanks to Covid), had some part to play in that, but pretty much every single manufacturer or supplier I spoke to was upbeat and enthusiastic – with numerous reporting full order books with delivery dates many months or even a couple of years away.

General Aviation is being affected by both supply chain issues and the lack of a skilled workforce, challenges for which there’s no quick fix.

Our coverage of the event can be found here, but while the Junkers A60 (and ambitious JU-52NG), as well as the TurboTech lightweight turbine may have been hogging the headlines, there were a couple of quieter stories that I think will have a longer, more profound effect.

First up is Textron’s purchase of Pipistrel. I must admit to my own eyebrows being raised a bit when I heard that news, and I certainly wonder if the traditional behemoth will be able to nurture, rather than stifle, the brilliantly innovative Pipistrel, but early signs are positive and apart from anything else, it seems the Panthera will, under the Textron banner, be on a fast (well, fast-ish) track to certification.

When it finally comes to market (Pipistrel has been talking about certification since about 1903) it’ll be up against the Cirrus SR22 and DA50, and in that space, having the Textron brand behind a product will be a significant strength.

 

“Expect to see a much larger number of manufacturers building and selling a much larger number of types for use throughout EASA land…”

I also had a good chat with Dominique Roland, the Head of Policy, Innovation & Knowledge Department at EASA. Dominique’s a big GA fan, has a share in a TB20 and won the Breitling World Cup of Aerobatics back in 1995 and is clearly very passionate about GA. We spoke a bit about the upcoming Part 21 Light.

Part 21 itself contains the regulations that define the design and manufacture of aircraft. For the many smaller companies in GA the regulations have been onerous, expensive to comply with and not at all in proportion to the GA aircraft or activities they sought to regulate. It would be no exaggeration to say that the traditional Part 21 requirements have stopped a significant number of smaller companies and lighter types making it to market.

Part 21 Light seeks to address that, and even contains provisions for self-declaration when it comes to design and production approvals.

Expect to see a much larger number of manufacturers building and selling a much larger number of types for use throughout EASA land… if the CAA can follow suit, and maybe even go for mutual recognition, sport aviation in the UK will be in for some truly exciting times, particularly when combined with the 600kg microlight category!

I kept my eyes open at AERO for something lighter and further away from the drudge that is the current regulatory complexity. Something that might play a larger part in my aviation future.

The MCR Sportage caught my eye, but doesn’t quite tick all of the boxes, which I guess means that I’ll have to go back next year for another look – 4am in the lobby in 12 months’ time…?

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