Expectation Bias

Gulfstream on Ice

I don’t know who first described flying as “hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror”, but it wouldn’t be shocking to discover the genesis was related to flying a long-haul jet. I was cogitating on that during a recent overnight flight to Brazil. While it was enjoyable, this red-eye brought to mind the complacency which can accompany endless hours of straight-and-level flying – especially when an autopilot is involved.

This post was halfway written when my inbox lit up with stories of a Boeing Dreamlifter – that’s a 747 modified to carry 787 fuselages — landing at the wrong airport in Wichita, Kansas. The filed destination was McConnell AFB, but the crew mistakenly landed at the smaller Jabara Airport about nine miles north. The radio exchanges between the Dreamlifter crew and the tower controller at McConnell show how disoriented the pilots were. Even five minutes after they had landed, the crew still thought they were at Cessna Aircraft Field (CEA) instead of Jabara.

McConnell AFB, the flight's destination, is the Class D airport at the bottom of the chart, about nine miles south of the non-towered Jabara Airport.

McConnell AFB, the flight’s destination, is the Class D airport at the bottom of the chart, about nine miles south of the non-towered Jabara Airport.

As a pilot, by definition I live in a glass house and will therefore refrain from throwing stones. But the incident provides a good opportunity to review the perils of what’s known as “expectation bias”, the idea that we often see and hear what we expect to rather than what is actually happening.

Obviously this can be bad for any number of reasons. Expecting the gear to come down, a landing clearance to be issued, or that controller to clear you across a runway because that’s the way you’ve experience it a thousand times before can lead to aircraft damage, landing without a clearance, a runway incursion, or worse.

I’d imagine this is particularly challenging for airline pilots, as they fly to a more limited number of airports than those of us who work for charter companies whose OpSpecs allow for worldwide operation. Flying the Gulfstream means my next destination could be literally anywhere: a tiny Midwestern airfield, an island in the middle of the Pacific, an ice runway in the Antarctic, or even someplace you’d really never expect to go. Pyongyang, anyone?

But that’s atypical for most general aviation, airline, and corporate pilots. Usually there are a familiar set of destinations for a company airplane and an established route network for Part 121 operators. Though private GA pilots can go pretty much anywhere, we tend to have our “regular” destinations, too: a favored spot for golfing, the proverbial $100 hamburger, a vacation, or that holiday visit with the family. It can take on a comfortable, been-there-done-that quality which sets us up for expectation bias. Familiarity may lead to contempt for ordinary mortals, but the consequences can be far worse for aviators.

One could make the case that the worse accident in aviation history – the Tenerife disaster – was caused, at least in part, by expectation bias. The captain of a KLM 747 expected a Pan Am jumbo jet would be clear of the runway even though he couldn’t see it due to fog. Unfortunately, the Clipper 747 had missed their turnoff. Result? Nearly six hundred dead.

"Put an airliner inside an airliner?  Yeah, we can do that."  Boeing built four of these Dreamlifters to bring 787 fuselages to Seattle for final assembly.  As you can imagine, this thing landing at a small airplane would turn some heads.

“Put an airliner inside an airliner? Yeah, we can do that.” Boeing built four of these Dreamlifters to bring 787 fuselages to Seattle for final assembly. As you can imagine, landing one of these at a small airport would turn some heads.

The Dreamlifter incident brought to mind an eerily similar trip I made to Wichita a couple of years ago. It was a diminutive thirty-five mile hop from Hutchinson Municipal (HUT) to Jabara Airport (AAO) in the Gulfstream IV. We were unhurried, well-rested, and flying on a calm, cloudless day with just a bit of haze. The expectation was that we were in for a quick, easy flight.

We were cleared for the visual approach and told to change to the advisory frequency. Winds favored a left-hand pattern for runway 36. Looking out the left-hand window of the airplane revealed multiple airports, each with a single north-south runway. I knew they were there, but reviewing a chart didn’t prepare me for how easily Cessna, Beech, and Jabara airports could be mistaken for one another.

We did not land at the wrong airport, but the hair on the back of my neck went up. It was instantly clear that, like Indiana Jones, we were being presented a golden opportunity to “choose poorly”. We reverted back to basic VFR pilotage skills and carefully verified via multiple landmarks and the aircraft’s navigation display that this was, indeed, the correct airfield.

That sounds easy to do, but there’s pressure inducted by the fact that this left downwind puts the airplane on a direct collision course with McConnell Air Force Base’s class Delta airspace and also crosses the patterns of several other fields. In addition, Mid-Continent’s Class C airspace is nearby and vigilance is required in that direction as well. Wichita might not sound like the kind of place where a lovely VMC day would require you to bring your “A” game, but it is.

Expectation bias can be found almost anywhere. I’d bet a fair number of readers have experienced this phenomenon first-hand. In my neck of the woods, MCAS Miramar (NKX) is often mistaken for the nearby Montgomery Field (MYF). Both airports have two parallel runways and a single diagonal runway. Miramar is larger and therefore often visually acquired before Montgomery, and since it’s in the general vicinity of where an airfield of very similar configuration is expected, the pilot who trusts, but – in the words of President Reagan – does not verify, can find themselves on the receiving end of a free military escort upon arrival.

Pilots in the Southern California area have been known to mistake the former home of Top Gun, MCAS Miramar, for the smaller Montgomery Airport at the bottom of the map.

Pilots in the Southern California area have been known to mistake the former home of Top Gun, MCAS Miramar, for the smaller Montgomery Airport at the bottom of the map.

Landing safely at the wrong airport presents greater hazard to one’s certificate than to life-and-limb, but don’t let that fool you; expectation bias is always lurking and can bite hard if you let it. Stay alert, assume nothing, expect the unexpected. As the saying goes, you’re not paranoid if they really are out to get you!


This article first appeared on the AOPA Opinion Leaders blog at http://blog.aopa.org/opinionleaders/2013/12/03/expectation-bias/.

The “Opinion Leaders”

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Whoever coined the phrase, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” must have been knee-deep in the general aviation industry. But among The Addicted, life in the skies is more of an imperative calling than a casual pastime, so we adapt, innovate, invent, and press on. That’s the positive side of GA’s current trials: we may end up with a better mousetrap. Tough times foster creative solutions, things that will benefit future generations of aviators.

It’s all part of my theory that GA isn’t dying, it’s just changing. For instance, new factory-built aircraft are incredibly expensive — a new Bonanza costs a million dollars — so a burgeoning aircraft refurbishment industry is developing to rebuild and retrofit existing airframes. I’ve written many times about the rapidly growing homebuilt sector, which is a direct response to the crushing limitations placed on FAA-certificated designs. Organizations like Redbird, SAFE, and AKIA were recently founded to fix what ails our flight training segment. High fuel prices are being fought with balanced fuel injectors, electronic ignition, better operating techniques, diesel engines, and alternative fuels. Companies like Icon and Cirrus have given us compelling new aircraft designs.

And don’t even get me started on avionics! Garmin, Avidyne, Dynon, etc. have obliterated the traditional cockpit and replaced it with what can only be described as the bridge of the starship Enterprise.

Speaking of computers, the big industry associations like EAA and AOPA have been adapting as well. Improved web sites, digital magazine editions, multimedia offerings, and an increasing presence in the world of social media. Each of these is vital, because this is where the next generation of pilots is going to be found. Gone are the days of seeing them on their bikes, hanging out by the airport fence (I doubt the TSA would allow it anyway). The fence is now electronic, and it goes by names like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

It’s not just about the future, though — indeed, we’re already using this stuff today. It impresses the hell out of me to see people like Richard Collins bringing Air Facts to the Web — he’s gotta be pushing 80 years old. Collins started flying in an era of four-course ranges, a time when the kids who fought World War II were still kids. I hope I’ll have the flexibility to adapt like that in the year 2055!

Social media is absolutely vital to connecting with pilots, whether they’re 8 or 80. That’s why AOPA recently decided to give a group of 10 select voices a common microphone through what they call the “Opinion Leaders” blog. I first heard about this venture a few months ago when, much to my surprise, I was asked if I’d like to be one of the writers.

AOPA has brought together 10 leaders in different segments of aviation ranging from business aviation to flight training to share their opinions, analysis, and forecasts of the industry. They tackle controversial topics—subjects you may have spent hours debating at the hangar with friends. Will you agree with their points of view? Share your own viewpoint in the comments area of each blog to generate a dialogue with your fellow pilots.

“We brought together a diversity of leaders from different segments of aviation to one platform for AOPA members to be able to join the conversation on issues at the heart of our community,” said AOPA Editor in Chief Tom Haines.

The blog is aimed at starting a dialogue about the future of aviation, sharing ideas, and building a sense of community.

I was asked to write on corporate aviation topics, but you’ll undoubtedly see frequent crossover between that and other GA segments. For example, “upset training” is a hot topic right now in airline, corporate, light GA, instructional, and aerobatic circles. Any one of us could write about it. I’ll undoubtedly touch on that subject soon because I work in all those areas.

My first tome, a defense of business aviation, was published last week. You’ll find something with my byline appearing there on a monthly basis.

I feel a little self-conscious about being referred to as a “leader” of anything in the aviation world. I’m just a guy who loves to fly. But if they’re willing to publish, I’m more than willing to say what’s on my mind. I’ve been keeping a list of potential ideas that might be of interest to the 400,000 members of AOPA, especially given that most of them are not involved in corporate aviation:

  • Corporate upset training
  • A “day in the life” of a biz jet pilot
  • Straight-in approaches & why jets often do them
  • Bizjet pilot training (our sim training, recurrent company training, safety training, FAA oral exams, and so on)
  • Why I chose charter over airlines
  • The contract pilot
  • The future of business aviation
  • What is “on-demand”, anyway?
  • Who’s the boss: “operational control” of charter flights
  • International flying

What do you think? They’re more educational in nature than opinion-based, but one needn’t exclude the other. My writing often jumps from the didactic to pontifical and back again. If my readership here at the House of Rapp has anything they’d like to suggest, I’m more than happy to consider it for an article. I’d also encourage you to visit the Opinion Leaders blog frequently, as new material will be forthcoming twice a week. Better yet, subscribe and the pieces will be delivered to your inbox automatically. There are more than a dozen features already published, and the comment section is starting to take off. I think that’s one of the best features of a good blog — participation from the readership.

Among the first batch, it was John Petersen’s write-up about the future of VFR flying which stuck with me. He’s of the opinion that VFR flight is seen as a serious threat by the Feds because it allows pilots to fly without requiring direct monitoring and pre-approval from the government. I agree with him 100%. The government doesn’t understand VFR flying and doesn’t care to understand it. They want control of everything and everyone at all times, and that’s bad news for anything which smacks of independence or autonomy.

Whoever came up with the idea for this blog collaboration is one smart cookie. AOPA will get a wealth of material at extremely low cost while leaving their staff writers free to concentrate on the big features and new multimedia efforts like AOPA Live. The launch was well-timed, because between the new AOPA president and the passing of Paul Poberezny, you can feel change in the air as a new group of individuals picks up the mantle to begin our work. The previous generation grew aviation and turned it into something truly great. It’s a gift, dropped right in our lap, and now it’s up to us to defend it.

I hope the Opinion Leaders will play a small role in giving voice to our industry and ensuring the freedom of flight is available long after we’re gone.

Taming Tailwheels

Photo by Jessica Ambats

As I’ve previously written, last October the wife and I spent a few days in Palm Springs with 5g Aviation as sales reps for a true anachronism: American Champion, a domestic company that actually manufactures things. ACA builds a line of two-seat tailwheel aircraft which are direct (albeit highly modified) descendants of the the classic 1940’s Aeronca Champ.

One thing I didn’t write about at the time was a visit to the ACA booth by Alyssa Miller, AOPA Online’s managing editor. After the show ended, she posted a “wish list” of items she’d buy on AOPA’s “Reporting Points” blog:

I’ve been weak in the knees ever since I saw 5G Aviation’s fire-engine red Super Decathlon in the Parade of Planes on Oct. 10. So, I headed straight to the exhibitor outside the Palm Springs Convention Center to inquire. For $175,000, the base airplane would be mine; plus, I’d purchase two $1,995 training sessions from them to finish off my tailwheel endorsement and take an unusual attitude recovery class.

Knowing that AOPA’s magazine has a circulation of around 400,000, it seemed worthwhile to see if we couldn’t trade some time in the Decathlon for a bit of publicity. The print edition is supplemented by an electronic version, a web site, and a weekly newsletter. That’s a lot of opportunity to connect with the target audience. Even if only 0.001% of the readership took a serious interest in the Decathlon, it would still represent 40 prospective customers. In a 21st century aviation ecosystem where prices are sky high but volumes extremely low, the math here is compelling.

My original idea was to focus on the virtues of the Decathlon, especially with the Xtreme version so close to FAA certification. As it turned out, the needs of the magazine were somewhat different. They wanted material for their “training & proficiency” section, so we elected to focused on completing Alyssa’s tailwheel endorsement. It certainly doesn’t hurt to achieve a professional goal while also reaching a personal one at the same time!

So how did she do? Well, let’s go to the video:

As any experienced tailwheel instructor will tell you, the technique for landing a tailwheel and nosewheel airplane are the same: round out low, keep the nose straight, and hold it off the ground until it’s ready to touch down. Then keep the plane pointed in the same direction it’s traveling while it slows to taxi speed. Because the techniques are so similar, tailwheel transition training quickly reveals how well the student learned to land during primary training, even if it was done in a nosewheel aircraft. As such, it’s not uncommon for me to spend more time on remedial flying technique than on tailwheel-specific stuff. Typical areas of deficiency include coordination, control confusion (using aileron when rudder is required or vice-versa), crosswind correction, and drift control.

In Alyssa’s case, however, I didn’t see many of those issues. She recently received her instructor certification and had a bit of tailwheel time in the Citabria and Husky, so she quickly picked up the required skills. In the video, you’ll hear her talk about how it took 7 hours and 44 landings before she was done, but it’s worth mentioning that she would have been done sooner if not for the challenging conditions at John Wayne Airport during her training.

It’s uncommon to get “real” crosswinds out here, but while Alyssa was in town we experienced several days of gusty, direct crosswinds of up to 20 knots. The wind changed direction, allowing her to see what landing with a tailwind felt like. It rained. We flew two lessons in the dark. I put her in the back seat for one flight. Controllers kept reversing the runways. And of course SNA is famous for wake turbulence and jet blast issues from the many Boeing and Airbus airliners which come and go on a continual basis. In addition, we completed a spin flight and spent extra time getting video to accompany the print article.

Alyssa described it pretty well:

Learning to land the sporty Super Decathlon at Southern California’s John Wayne Orange County Airport on a 2,800-foot paved runway may not seem like a traditional way to earn the endorsement (a J-3 Cub at a short grass strip with trees on both ends is more like it), but wake turbulence from the airliners landing on the parallel runway effectively cut the usable length to 1,400 feet; jet blast from Boeing 737s waiting to taxi onto their active runway created an obstacle. As my skill level increased, Rapp, a mentor CFI at 5G Aviation which provided the training, instructed me to land on one side of the runway, cutting its width from 75 feet to 37 feet. (I must admit, I used most of the 75 feet on the first couple of takeoffs and landings.)

The weather conditions presented an interesting situation. While they were a fantastic training opportunity, they also extended the total time required to finish the endorsement. That can be deflating for a student who expected to reach proficiency more quickly.

While I would have felt comfortable signing her off at least a couple of hours earlier, the gusty crosswind left Alyssa feeling like she wasn’t “getting it” even though she was flying in weather she probably wouldn’t tackle on her own quite yet. The extra time was helpful in allowing her to get the icing on the cake: confidence that she really could keep the ground loop at bay.

I was impressed by the quality of the resulting AOPA article and accompanying video because it shows what a proper tailwheel transition program looks like. Alyssa also noted one of the most important things about it, that the skills developed during this training can be applied to any aircraft regardless of landing gear configuration.

So now AOPA has another tailwheel-qualified instructor on staff. I hope she’ll become an evangelist for the virtues of conventional landing gear and keep them from getting too far afield with those stinky turbines! :)

I’ll leave you with a gallery of photos from an air-to-air shoot we did with Jessica Ambats when 5g’s demonstrator arrived on the west coast.

AOPA Summit

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Even with decades of experience and thousands of hours in the cockpit, the opportunity to try something new is never far away when you work in aviation. That’s one of the factors which keeps aviators coming back, the opportunity to learn and grow. So it was not surprising that I added another “first” to my logbook recently when given the opportunity to taxi an airplane through the streets of downtown Palm Springs as part of the annual “Parade of Planes” at the AOPA Summit convention.

The Summit is an annual aviation expo put on by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the largest general aviation organization in the world. Despite AOPA’s large size — they claim more than 400,000 members — the size of the event is nowhere near as large as EAA’s AirVenture. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. You can easily get overwhelmed at Oshkosh, whereas the AOPA shows tend to be smaller and more manageable.

Anyway, AOPA Summit alternates between the west and east coasts. Palm Springs has proven to be an ideal location for the west coast event for several reasons, not the least of which is the close proximity of the airport to a beautiful new convention center. The powers that be in Palm Springs simply close a few streets for a couple of hours and voila! A long taxiway is created direct to the site of the convention. You can see the 5g Super Decathlon taxiing along the street in this video.

Palm Springs is famous for golf courses, resorts, and spas, but even more important for pilots, it also has the advantages of good weather and a network of local reliever airports. For those stuck on the ground, the city is easily accessed from major metropolitan areas. San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange County, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and many other locales are just a short drive away.

Getting some air-to-air shots of the Decathlons for 5g’s sales literature.

I’d been to two previous AOPA conventions as a visitor, but this was my first time as an exhibitor. A colleague recently started an American Champion Aircraft sales dealership and I was in Palm Springs to represent his company and sell a few airplanes. He had just taken delivery of a new fire engine red Super Decathlon to use as a sales demonstrator, and that was the plane we had there at the show.

It was interesting sitting on a city street with the airplane. Normally that sort of thing would bring out the authorities with sirens and lights blaring, but we were in good company with about 50 other aircraft surrounding the convention center as well. Speaking of which, I was pleased to see that about a dozen of the planes were tailwheels. I counted three Waco YMF-5s, two Aviat Huskies, an RV-8, a Carbon Cub, a Corsair, a Bearcat, a Bigfoot, a C-195, a couple of Kitfoxes, a Glasair Sportsman, and at least a few others I’ve forgotten about.

Meanwhile, Cessna was completely absent from the show. How’s that for a reversal? Ten years ago you would have seen a huge display from Independence and virtually no tailwheel airplanes.

My wife and her cousin discuss flying under the wing of the Decathlon. He’s a pilot and firefighter based near Palm Springs.

American Champion’s line of products is quite interesting. Some of them don’t really have any competition in the marketplace at all. The Decathlon is a good example. At first look it seems the Cub, Husky, and Maule would be direct competitors, but none of them are built for aerobatics. In fact, there are no other certificated aerobatic trainers being produced right now. The Decathlon not only serves that market, but also functions as a roomy and comfortable traveling aircraft with plenty of cargo space.

The Super D’s good visibility and short field performance even make it a respectable back country platform. It’d also fit right in towing banners, functioning as a primary and/or tailwheel training aircraft, or appearing in the lower levels of aerobatic competition. Even if the airplane is never used for aerobatics, the +6/-5g load limit certainly inspires confidence in the Decathlon’s structural integrity.

Just another day at the office. 5g’s Decathlon demonstrator sitting on the streets of downtown Palm Springs.

And ACA is constantly improving the airplane. Over the past few years the airplane has gained metal wing spars, aluminum gear legs with internal brake lines, modern avionics, exterior LED lighting, and a wide variety of high performance composite propellers.

The latest iteration of the airplane is the Xtreme Decathlon, which includes a 210 hp engine, a new wide-chord prop, redesigned ailerons, shorter wings with squared-off wingtips, a better cowling, and — most exciting of all — I understand they’re pursuing IFR certification for the airplane. In addition to everything else, the Decathlon will be able to function as an IFR trainer and give sufficient instrument flying capability to allow passage through the coastal stratus often present along the west coast.

Don’t be fooled. This “antique” is brand new and sports a full glass panel with IFR certification.

I know, I know: an aerobatic taildragger with IFR certification? It may sound sacrilegious, but at the AOPA Summit there were three huge open cockpit Waco YMF-5 biplanes with more glass panel instrumentation than you’ll find in any Cirrus. Like it or not, this is the wave of the future and it’s enveloping everything that flies. Anyway, suffice it to say there’s a lot of excitement over the Decathlon for what it can do, and what they’re making it capable of doing at the factory in Wisconsin.

Another interesting offering from ACA is the original Champ. Designed in the early 1940s, not many people at the show were aware that the Champ is Sport Pilot-compliant and is still being produced by American Champion. Talk about a classic and timeless design! The Champ was the progenitor of so many classic airplanes, including the the Citabria, Scout, and Decathlon.

Anyway, after spending three days at the convention, I’m starting to get a picture of what the world of light GA flying will look like in the years to come. It’s in vogue to say that general aviation is dying off; I’ve even lamented the decline in activity myself. While it’s true that things are unlikely to return to the heyday of the late 1970s when it comes to sheer numbers of aircraft being produced by the big airframe manufacturers, it seems clear that market forces are driving the GA world toward the kit-built airplanes and the refurb/retrofit market for existing airframes.

The total number of RVs being constructed each year is approaching that of the entire certificated factory-built industry. Reason? You simply get more for your money. Way more, in fact. Maintenance and operating costs are lower. Best of all, you gain additional freedom — the reason many of us got into aviation in the first place — not available to certificated aircraft owners.

I had one guy at the Summit regale me with a 20 minute tale about how difficult it was to obtain a battery for his Champ. Even the factory wouldn’t sell him one because of some obscure FAA approval which didn’t apply to his serial number because it was built before they started putting electrical systems into those airplanes. The fact that they’re building the same airplanes now with an electrical system using that exact battery apparently meant nothing.

The homebuilt trend extends pretty far up the food chain, too, with companies like Epic and Lancair producing pressurized turbine airplane kits meant for serious high-speed, high-altitude travel.

The other emerging trend — one that will undoubtedly continue over the long term — was that of rebuilding and retrofitting older airframes with new technology. Engines, avionics, interiors, lighting, entertainment systems, airframe upgrades, etc. There were a surprising number of turbine and diesel engine conversions on display in Palm Springs. Bonanzas, Skylanes, Centurions, Caravans, Skywagons, and even a C-340 with Rolls Royce 250 engines.

The O&N Cessna 340 turbine conversion

Turbine conversions make particularly good sense as an upgrade for pressurized piston twins today, because high prices for fuel, parts, and the questionable future of leaded avgas has many twin owners headed for the exit. Instead of two finicky and maxed-out piston engines, drop in a pair of highly de-rated turboprops and you’ve got a whole new airplane. Expensive, sure, but the reliability, ease of operation, and long TBO of those powerplants should serve the cabin class twin fleet very well for decades to come.

Advances in airframe design are still occurring, but not at a sufficient pace to warrant the high price required by the OEMs. There will still be sales of new aircraft, but I would not expect the pace to return to the “good old days” — even if your definition of that term only goes back to the 1990s.

Speaking of airframes, I was intrigued by a new modification for the Cirrus from Tamarack Aerospace Group which adds winglets to the SR22. Winglets are not new technology, but the way Tamarack has gone about tackling the certification challenge certainly is innovative. They’ve adopted a design that incorporates a control surface on the horizontal portion of the winglet. It’s like an aileron, except both winglets’ control surfaces are automated and move in tandem.

The purpose of the control surface it is to aerodynamically “cancel” the added lift provided by the winglet during high load conditions, thereby moving the wing’s center of lift back to it’s original design location during turbulence. The only alternative to the “active winglet” method would be to re-certify the wing for the full range of load factors with the center of lift in a different location. That would be expensive enough on a single type of airplane, especially if the wing were found to need further modification to withstand the added stress.

Winglets are an ideal modification for nearly any airplane, as they improve efficiency and reduce fuel consumption, but this one comes with considerable added complexity. Instead of two control surfaces on each wing there will now be three. The system has only one electrical circuit, meaning any failure of the active winglet electronics will reduce the Cirrus’s maximum allowable speed to 120 knots indicated. In addition, there’s always the possibility of a “split” or even a physical jam of the control surface which would impart a rolling moment.

If the active winglet gets FAA approval, in theory winglets could be added to virtually any fixed-wing aircraft with minimal certification hassle. And that’s really what stops innovative ideas from coming to market: the cost — both in time and money — of getting the nod from the Feds. As the market gets smaller, the stifling effect of certification requirements will only continue to grow. I believe even the FAA would agree with this, as they’ve recently announced a goal of reducing the burden of certifying new products.

It will be interesting to see what kind of reception Tamarack will receive from the Cirrus community. They are, to a large degree, eager adopters of advanced technology: composites, glass avionics, airframe parachutes, side sticks, balanced fuel injectors, lean-of-peak operation, etc. But in these austere times, will that reputation remain intact? The list price for Tamarack’s SR22 winglet installation is $60,000.

Finally, I’d be remiss in not taking note of the ever decreasing cost of those glass panels. It wasn’t long ago that a Garmin G1000 added $50,000 to the cost of an airframe. In Palm Springs, the Dynon SkyView was on display for about 1/5th the price. To be sure, the Dynon is not an FAA-certified avionics suite, but it portends a future of better products, stiffer competition, and lower price points for those computerized goodies regardless of certification status.

Glass may be seen as a luxury rather than a necessity. For airplanes like the Super Decathlon, that’s definitely true. In fact, a few people remarked that the 5g Decathlon was the only airplane they’d seen at the show which didn’t have a GPS. Truth be told, we were sort of proud of that fact. But with the impending requirements of the FAA’s NexGen program, it behooves all of us to stay abreast of what’s coming onto the market. Eventually we will all be beneficiaries (or victims, depending on your point of view) of the relentless march of computer technology into the cockpit.