– Steve Hitchen
Has Cirrus beaten Textron Aviation into submission? The GAMA sales figures released this week show that the Cirrus SR22 range is out-selling the rest of the GA market by the length of a KSA runway. Textron has two players in the high-speed, four-seat piston market: the venerable and idolised Beech Bonanza and the composite-bodied Cessna TTx. Neither of those two have been able to take substantial share away from the big Cirrus; indeed the Bonanza has seen its own delivery figures on a long downward slide since before 2013. And now there are rumours swirling around the USA that Textron has called it quits for the TTX. Although the company is keeping its lips locked, the model has been deleted from the company website. The TTX was supposed to be main weapon in the battle to overthrow the Cirrus supremacy, but it has proven not to be as sharp as Textron would have liked. However, it certainly had the wood over its stablemate G36 Bonanza, recording a five-year average delivery figure of 28 airframes per year against the 23 of the Bonanza. Purely on numbers, shouldn't it be the Bonanza on the chopping block? How's this for a rumour-starter? Perhaps with the re-write of FAR23 making it far easier and cheaper to certify new aircraft–particularly composite ones–Textron may have deleted the TTx to make way for a completely new composite design to take the fight up to Cirrus. That's speculation, of course, but Textron has to do something. In the spirit of "go hard or go home", they either have to cede that market segment, or give it a red-hot go with something else.
Qantas has announced it's getting back into the flight academy game. According to the company, it has to do so in order to a) address a pilot shortage, and b) guarantee academy graduates of a suitable nature to what they want. As the Flying Kangaroo already sources graduates from several established academies, are they making a $20 million statement that they think those graduates aren't as Qantastic as they want them to be? If so, perhaps the curriculum and standards at some of the academies need to be looked at.To some schools, this will may mean a reduction in the brightest students coming their way as the lure of direct entry syphons off those students to Qantas. Qantas has stated that they will continue to draw crew from the existing schools they have deals with, but you can expect that to lessen over time as their own school starts to provide pilots ready-made with Qantas attitudes. But in the meantime, one regional airport somewhere in Australia is going to get a very large flying school, possibly even the biggest in the country. Councils will probably already be wide-eyed in excitement at the thought that a big Qantas school at their airport could be the answer to their airport cash-flow woes. Wherever it ends up, that airport and its managers and tenants, will have to steel themselves for a public outcry over a significant increase in movements.
Bye, bye Barnaby. We hardly had the time to get to know you ... or perhaps we knew you too well in the end? From the moment someone said "Hang on, ain't he a Kiwi?" Barnaby Joyce was immersed in scandal. He came to us as minister in charge of aviation when he replaced the incumbent Darren Chester with himself in a move that Canberra pundits described as payback against the Victorian. Then came the whole baby and divorce thing and now another scandal in the form of a sexual harrassment claim. It seems we learned a lot about Barnaby except what he thought about general aviation. His words at Tamworth in 2016 were encouraging, but between then and when he took the aviation reins we'd heard virtually nothing. So now he's gone, and a new minister looms on the horizon. Will it be back to the future with DC back in the chair, or will the Nationals give it to the new leader, whoever that turns out to be? Standby for Monday!
The March-April print edition of Australian Flying is now ready for your reading eyes. This time we've taken a Blackshape Prime for a squirt, had a look at noise-canceling headset, analysed cloud meanings, sussed-out how drones are taking GA jobs and presented a briefing on the new CASA Basic Class 2 medical. There's plenty in this for everyone, so get your hands on a copy before they become a collectors' item!
May your gauges always be in the green,