First Word: 09/06

At EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Eclipse CEO Vern Raburn was ceremoniously handed a conditional type certificate for the Eclipse 500 light jet. This sent me scurrying into the archives to see how Eclipses original claims stacked up to the final, certified reality. Well examine that later when we get a look at the 500s POH but one thing caught my attention. The small jet revolution has taken the better part of a decade to get to this point and no production models are in the hands of customers yet. My interview with Raburn took place six years ago, long enough for the language to evolve; we called them personal jets then, now theyre VLJs or very light jets. In 2000, Eclipse was the leading VLJ contender. Now we have Adam, Diamond, Cessna and Honda in the fray with well-developed projects and Cirrus says it has a jet underway, too, with New Piper to follow.

In 2000, the phrase du jour to describe the Eclipse was “disruptive technology,” which is a new development so fundamentally significant that it displaces what went before it. Digital photography, for instance, disrupted film-based photography. Whether VLJs in general and the Eclipse specifically will do that is still an unknown. There are more doubts than certainties in the VLJ market but, nonetheless, Eclipse deserves kudos for getting the jet designed and certified. Even though it took longer than anticipated-and what certification doesnt?-its still an impressive feat. A tip of the hat to Eclipse.

But in walking the grounds at OSH, I have to say I was just as impressed-maybe more so-with another company: Cirrus. Propelled by Alan Klapmeiers idea-a-minute personality and what appears to be one of the more realistic and sensible market approaches in GA, Cirrus continues to demonstrate why its challenging Cessna for the king dog title of the leading piston aircraft manufacturer, something I wouldnt have said was possible six years ago.

Cirrus continues to evolve its aircraft incrementally but, more important, its approaching its self-declared mission to make GA more accessible to everyone in creative ways. At Oshkosh, Cirrus announced a list of buyer initiatives meant to make spending a half million bucks for a new airplane more palatable. These include favorable financing, Cirrus-specific insurance, tailored warranties and an aggressive program to help buyers find a used Cirrus. While those are good ideas, other companies have tried them, although never all at once, as far as I can recall. But how about this for out-of-the-box thinking? If youre a Cirrus buyer with no pilot certificate, you can pay Cirrus $85,000 and theyll provide you with an instructor 24/7 to use as often as you please for a year. Cirrus is trying it-its called Cirrus Access-and has already had several takers. It may not be disruptive technology, but if it brings new pilots into GA in onesies and twosies, Id call it something even better: a success, one pilot at a time.


In the August issue, we reported on our extensive tests with the Zaon XRX portable traffic minder. Shortly after our deadline, David Ansley, who oversaw the trials, sent the unit back for recalibration. Zaon said it found that the antenna gain was short by about 3 dB, a significant shortfall. After realignment, they sent the device back and we repeated the tests.

We noted improved performance in seeing targets behind the airplane. Where the XRX couldnt detect them in the 5 to 7 oclock positions before, it did much better with the tweaked antenna. However, range continued to be overestimated and we noted some target dropouts, but fewer than during our first two rounds of tests.

Clearly, with the antenna properly adjusted, the XRX performs better. Unfortunately, without doing mutual target tests-as far as we know, were the only ones whove tried that-a misadjusted antenna might not be obvious to an owner. If you have questions about an XRX youve bought, our tests are explained in the August issue. Meanwhile, Zaon was helpful and patient in getting the device sorted out.

-Paul Bertorelli