New Product: Pro Pilot Autopilot

Trio Avionics will introduce its new Pro Pilot autopilot at AirVenture Oshkosh next month. The Pro Pilot, which is compatible with Trio’s Gold Standard intelligent servos, makes all of the company’s current systems available in a single, panel-mounted instrument that offers precise horizontal navigation capability, vertical navigation functions including altitude hold, and altitude pre-select. Climb/descent on airspeed can also be set by the pilot. The company says upgrades soon to come are GPSS, GPSV and fuel management. The unit features backlit buttons and illuminated faceplate nomenclature. It fits into a 3.125-inch instrument hole.

Standard features include automatic servo disconnect on takeoff, track offset, G force limiting and Trio’s “automatic 180° turn” feature for VFR pilots who fly into IMC. Planned is a backup battery that will allow the autopilot system and an independent GPS to operate for an hour if the aircraft’s power is interrupted. The price is $3995, and deliveries are expected to begin in September.

For more information, visit Trio Avionics.

Three Bearhawks Make Maiden Flights on the Same Day

We're not sure what it is about Bearhawks, but they seem to arrive in clumps. Back in 2007, five new Bearhawks flew in a 30-day period. Now, says kit seller AviPro, three Bearhawks have made their first flights on the same day.

Says AviPro's Budd Davisson:

In the desert north of Los Angeles, Russ Erb of Rosemead took off in his scratchbuilt Bearhawk, powered by a 250-hp Lycoming 0-540, signaling the end of a 12-year project. He dubbed his airplane "Three Sigma," meaning it’s three standard deviations out past the usual build time. An aerodynamics instructor at the USAF flight test center at Edwards, Erb is widely known for the information-rich CD he publishes about scratch-building the Bearhawk.

In another desert location, in Aquilla, Arizona, John Sample flew his 250-hp Bearhawk, and reported no problems and amazing performance. His airplane is an AviPro quickbuild kit that, because he spends a large portion of each year at his place in Alaska, took him four years of part-time building. His airplane will soon be headed for Alaska.

Another scratch-built Bearhawk emerged from Eric Newton’s hangar in Mississippi, proudly wearing the name "Mississippi Mudbug" on the cowl of its 180 Lycoming. Newton publishes a series of manuals for the Bearhawk scratch-builder and had a lot of cleaning up to do after Hurricane Katrina came to visit, but it slowed him down only temporarily.

The Bearhawk is a 150-mph, four-place utility and touring aircraft that can be built either strictly from plans or from quickbuild kits or components supplied by AviPro Aircraft, Ltd. The company says more than 100 kits have been delivered, and approximately 30 are flying.

For more information, contact AviPro Aircraft, 602/971-3768.

Take Aviation Consumer's Headset Survey, Win Valuable Prizes

Do you like the headset you own? KITPLANES sister publication, Aviation Consumer, would like to know. It is conducting an extensive customer survey on headset quality, performance and comfort. They would love to hear from readers everywhere about their headset experiences. The survey takes just a few minutes. Click here to take part.

The prize? Feedback to the manufacturers might just get you the headset of your dreams.

Aussie Outback SLSA to Debut at AirVenture

There’s now another Special Light Sport Aircraft (SLSA) distributor and training provider in the West. Airgyro Aviation, located in Spanish Fork, Utah, is the exclusive sales outlet for Higher Class Aviation’s Sport Hornet and the new Outback SP 2000 from Australia’s Light Wing. Airgyro also distributes the Sportcopter 2 gyroplane, certified last year.

The new Outback SP 2000 will make its first appearance at AirVenture, and all three designs will be on display at Booths 37 and 38. Says Airgyro President Nate Oldham, “Our primary focus at Airgyro Aviation is to bring the fun and affordability of sport aviation to a generation who may have thought recreational flying was simply out of reach. Our aircraft are chosen for their ease of flying and their safety features. Our flight training is personalized to meet the customer’s schedule or accelerated to help folks become certified [Sport] pilots in as little as 15 days.”

Described as an “LSA trainer and starter plane,” the two-place Outback is “one of the safest planes to train in,” Airgyro says, using “modern composites, like many other new aircraft, to create the aerodynamic shape.” But under the composite is a steel airframe complete with a roll cage. The Outback also features a lightweight rotary engine, which offers less vibration and easier maintenance, the company says.

For more information, visit Airgyro Aviation.

Amy's RV-10: ADs Already

The dreaded letter. Every airplane owner (practically) has gotten one at some point. A problem has been detected with a particular part or piece of your aircraft, and the manufacturer is notifying you via a service bulletin, or the FAA is notifying you via an airworthiness directive, of both the problem and the solution.

The difference between the manufacturer's notice and the FAA's notice is that one is optional (don't do it at your own risk), and the other, bearing the FAA's seal, is mandatory (don't do it in the time allotted, and your airplane is legally grounded).

Kitbuilt and plansbuilt Experimental aircraft do not come under the FAA's Airworthiness Directives. However, the prudent manufacturers do issue the occasional service bulletin when a structural problem with the parts they manufacture or the aircraft they designed comes to light.

Van's Aircraft is particularly good about issuing service bulletins, which is good. And they just issued a major one for the RV-10, which is bad. To date Van's has issued few service bulletins on this generally well-designed machine. The nosewheel construction change (see earlier blog) is an excellent example of an optional fix, which left "unfixed" will eventually bite the flier. That change came about because of builder feedback to the manufacturer. This new service bulletin addresses damage in a tail F-1010 bulkhead, which is integral in the attachment of the forward spar of the horizontal and vertical stabilizers. Cracks have been found in the 500-hour-old factory demonstrator.

The fix? Two doublers for the suspect bulkhead must be installed within five hours of discovering any cracks. The choice? Owners can ignore the issue (not smart), or if upon inspecting their tail bulkheads they see no cracks, they can opt to re-inspect the area every 25 hours until the next scheduled condition inspection (typically done yearly and known as the Experimental's annual), at which time the factory recommends that the doublers be installed.

Doesn't sound too bad until you look at the diagrams in the how-to section. Inspecting the area requires disassembling the tail, removal of the tailcone and its electrical contents including any actuators for the elevator trim, and then drilling out key rivets--about nine steps in the bulletin. To perform the insertion of the doublers one must carefully disassemble the area obscuring the suspect bulkhead--18 steps in all. How long will it take? That's up to the builder, but an educated guess is a couple of days' work at a normal pace.

Our airplane is being shot with primer, prepping for its first coat of paint as I type. Oh well. Timing is everything. And, no, I don't wish we were just now building the tail section (the introductory kit in this airplane). I'll take a couple days of disassembly and repair time over three and a half years of building any day.


Your hand-held GPS works great and gets you where you want to go. Why would you want to take up precious panel space with a version that costs three to five times as much? Those panel-mount versions are just bigger, heavier computers, so shouldn’t they be cheaper?

Understanding starts when you turn on your GPS and get a cute little map of GPS satellite positions; Is that important? Does it matter where the satellite is positioned? You need only three, right?

The answers are yes, yes, and sort of. For now…

We sat in on a “Wings” seminar recently where the subject was WAAS; what is it, why is it, why you should know, what does the future hold, and why should you, the day VFR, don’t-go-more-than-an-hour-or-two-from-home pilot care.

The speaker, Larry Oliver from FAA Flight Standards was very clear on a couple of things: one, VOR stations are expensive to build and maintain hence they’re not being repaired as they fail; two, GPS is here to stay but portable units will never be certified for IFR use.

It’s that last one that caused some mutterings of “Well, why aren’t they?” from the audience.

The answer lies in three factors: antenna position, satellite position, and clock accuracy.

First there’s the unpredictability of antenna position; On your lap, tied to the yoke, or mounted to the side of the window frame all look nice and work fine for day-VFR, but the antenna is the key; without it having a clear shot at the sky there’s no way to ensure that it’s receiving as many sat signals as possible.

When your vanilla GPS sees three satellites it can give you a position fix within about 100 meters. And that’s good enough to get you to that two-hundred dollar hamburger (that’s the price of AvGas for you). But to get the accuracy needed for night flight to a cloudy airport you need better than that.

Second, if the satellites are grouped together it’s not going to be a high resolution picture. And if they’re low on the horizon the signal degrades in the slant-distance through the atmosphere.

And third there’s the clock factor; Contrary to popular opinion, the clocks on the satellites are not those hyper-accurate atomic models that keep time to one second in a gazillion years. Your portable GPS takes the signal from several satellites and averages the answers to give you a position. But because it’s an answer with a relatively fuzzy key factor in the calculation, you get a relatively fuzzy position of somewhere in a 100 meter circle.

The WAAS system, however, uses those satellite signals and compares it to ground based super-clocks. Mind, this is so precise that even at the speed of light, the distance to the satellite is a factor. Indeed, without Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity factored in, the system wouldn’t work.

The WAAS system takes those satellite signals in on a net of ground stations, corrects them, and broadcasts to a pair of geo-synchronous satellites over North America, which then sends them to the WAAS-enabled receiver on the panel of your airplane.

The result is that where your vanilla GPS is accurate to 100 meters, a WAAS-capable GPS refines your position to within 7 meters.

Additionally, the more expensive WAAS certified GPS on your panel is heavier because it has the circuitry to receive that signal and check it for errors. If something is amiss it will then inform you within six seconds that all is not right and you can pull up for a go-around or whatever you need to do, but you know better than to continue thinking that you’ve got good information.

This will allow airliners to use parallel runways in poor weather; shorter transcontinental routes with closer spacing; and shorter approaches to landing. And all of this is done without airport-based hardware thereby enlarging the number of IFR-capable airports. With this in mind it makes sense to spend money on new WAAS stations instead of maintenance on VOR and Loran stations.

So, keep those VORs for a few more years, but it won’t be long until they’re sitting on the shelf with the sextant. But should you buy that big-bucks panel-mount GPS for your baby? Only if IFR is in your future.

If you’d like to know more, visit the FAA web site.