– Steve Hitchen
Sometimes silence speaks louder than words, which means that which is unsaid is more poignant than that which is said. You can see that in action when you read Piper Aircraft's comments about sales growth: turbo-props, M350, trainers ... all going great guns. What is missing is any mention of the classic twin Piper Seneca. That is to be expected; the company hasn't reported any sales of the PA-34 since one very lonely airframe was shipped in 2020. Ten years ago, Piper was reporting sales of 22 Senecas for the year. Now the Piper website no longer lists it as a model, gone the way of other classics like the Arrow and Warrior. They're not on their own; Textron's much loved Baron was scoring up in the high 30s for shipments in 2013, but has been in steady decline into low single returns since. To find out why, all you need to do is chart the fortunes of these two against the Diamond DA42 and DA62. The rise of carbon-fibre airframes dragged along by diesel engines and packed with technology has sounded the death knell for older-style all-metal twins. Textron, however, is persisting with the Baron and shipped one out in Q1 this year, but it does make you wonder for how long they will make the type available given the amount of daylight between demand for the G58 and the demand for the DA62.
CSIRO and Boeing have mapped out the future of SAF in a document released just before the first meeting of the Jet Zero Council. Although it primarily focuses on SAF, the roadmap also contains the important recognition that widespread adoption of SAF is not enough to reach net zero targets. The roadmap points out that SAF has four stablemates: aircraft design, other propulsion technologies like electricity, carbon offsets and alternatives to flight like high-speed rail or meetings over the internet. I had to chuckle a bit at the last one: Boeing advocating for alternatives to flight. What this all means to me is that the aviation industry is in for a massive overhaul in the next couple of decades if there is any chance at all of hitting the 2050 net-zero targets. The focus of all the efforts of the CSIRO and the Jet Zero Council is naturally heavy RPT, because that's where the bulk of carbon emissions come from, but there will be a cascading effect on GA as well. Design and materials technology is likely to have the most immediate impact on GA because alternatives to avgas are still many years away, and we're still introducing new motors that run on fossil fuels. Carbon offsetting has been tried in GA, but failed spectacularly quickly. It may stage a comeback one day if a better program is instigated. So, for GA, reducing carbon emissions is so much more than SAF (which could be used in diesel engines if approved), and it's good to see the need for a holistic approach recognised in such an important paper.
Pacific Airshow Gold Coast (PAGC), which starts this weekend has kicked a couple of big goals even before the first propeller blade is turned. Ticket sales have hit the upper stops for Saturday and Sunday, and the weather for the weekend is 22-24 degrees sunny with accommodating winds. PAGC was always a bit of an experiment and there were signs creeping in of organisational confusion, but in the end it's the show in front of the punters that counts, and so far it's looking the goods. Pictures and videos reveal a rampant enthusiasm and the pilots themselves are more than keen to be cleared onto the display line. Unless all this is deceiving, we can virtually guarantee a repeat performance next year.
May your gauges always be in the green,