Monday, March 17, 2008

POGO IPO Delayed - maybe indefinitely

POGO is another start-up Air Taxi operator, basing their business on the much maligned Eclipse 500. They were planning a stock issue of approximately $100 million, mainly for the purchase of aircraft. POGO is led by Robert Crandall, ex-AMR / American Airlines Chairman.

This week, their investment bankers were supposed to set the price, but has since delayed the offer due to lack of interest.

Everyone knows of the turmoil in the capital markets so it clearly is not the best time for any company's IPO, let alone anything aviation related. Airlines have a long history of exaggerating market cyclicality. If we are in a recession, airlines will suffer more than most.

Nevertheless, I have serious doubts about the POGO model. According to their last S-1, they were planning on using the Eclipse 2000 hrs / year. I can't imagine how they would get that kind of dispatch ratio. The Eclipse is having significant problems with delayed FIKI, Moving map / GPS, Autopilot and EASA certification. The shortest of due diligence would see through this.

DayJet, the major current operator of Eclipses as Air Taxis, is expanding but still significantly under utilizing their fleet of 28 planes, as you can see in these detailed stats. DayJet is in the Southeast US. POGO was supposed to operate in the Northeast. For reliable business purposes, it is simply impossible to operate a non-FIKI plane of any type in the Northeast winter.

So even if the economy and IPO market were favorable, I'm skeptical of the Eclipse and Air Taxi operators that base their business upon it.

Friday, March 14, 2008

D-Jet Gets Bigger Engine

Diamond announced yesterday that their upcoming single engine jet will be upgraded from the FJ33-4A-15 to FJ33-19. This will increase thrust from 1,564 lbs to 1,900-lbs.

This larger engine is the same Williams engine planned for the Cirrus Jet.

Rumors have been circulating for awhile that the -15 engine was too small for the plane.

The problem with both of these single engine jets is that they are limited by certification to 25,000'. At 25,000' the fuel burn will likely be 400-500 lbs / hour. In contrast, a Mustang or P100 at 41,000' will burn only 10-15% more fuel. For that you get two engines, less weather and more redundancy in all systems.

Both SEJs also have less efficient engine configurations that the traditional pylon mount on the tail. The D-Jet has two narrow intakes which will cause some turbulence and inlet drag. The Cirrus Jet engine is vectored so both intake and exhaust are angled.

These two single engine jets certainly have lower acquisition costs than a Mustang or P100, but their fuel burn and therefore fuel cost, will be very similar to the twins.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Registration Sticker, not Duct Tape

An update to my post about Duct Tape Destroying a Wing: The plane was being delivered from Independence (KIDP) to Croatia. The Croatian registration sticker, not duct tape, had been placed over the fuel vent. Many countries require the tail number be displayed under the wing as well. In this case, the registration was a similar white color to the wing.

At least this makes it a little easier to understand why the pilots missed the sticker - perhaps they didn't know the plane well enough to know where all the fuel vents were. When they saw the sticker, they probably didn't assume there was a vent hiding underneath it. An official looking sticker is a lot less obvious than a big piece of duct tape.

There does not appear to be an NTSB report yet, but there is one from the FAA. Two months after the incident, the plane was repaired and was apparently delivered to Croatia.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Mustang vs. Phenom 100 Comparison

Here is the definitive Cessna Citation Mustang vs. Embraer Phenom 100 Comparison. There's probably way too much detail. Want a one minute answer? From the first page:

The Mustang is right for you if:

  • It will be owner-flown, often single pilot, with part-time, short distance revenue rides.
  • You are stepping up from something smaller.
  • Passengers are typically 3 F’s: family, friends, and free-loaders.
  • Cabin comfort and convenience is not that important. You are willing to spend $3M on a jet yet would be ok with using a bag in a bucket as an emergency lav and having only half the passenger seats able to recline.
  • Minimal operating expense is important.
  • You need the comfort of an established, reputable service organization.

The P100 is the right for you if:

  • It will be mostly professionally flown, with maybe an occasional owner/operator.
  • You are stepping down from something bigger.
  • You will get paid to carry people.
  • Your wife won’t let you buy a jet unless she’s happy – cabin comfort, color/style, and variety of options are very important. You must have a fully enclosed lav even if it is dry chemical.
  • 5-10% higher acquisition and operating cost won’t break your budget.
  • You rarely use runways less than 4,000’ long.
  • You are confident and willing to bet that Embraer will figure out how to service these planes including AOG issues. Once the factory maintenance is in place, you need a high dispatch rate, say greater than 1000 hrs per year.

Now read the gory details.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Embraer Phenom 100 Review

I've received permission from Embraer to make available the public version of my Embraer Phenom 100 Review. A detailed comparison with the Mustang and part 2 of my Brazil trip report will coming by the end of the week.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Another Use for Duct Tape - Destroy a Jet's Wing

At Cessna's Independence, KS manufacturing facility, a new Mustang's wing was significantly damaged. How? Someone inadvertently left tape covering the fuel vent on the Mustang wing. The fuel pump is strong enough to suck the aluminum skin right through the metal posts. Whoever started up the plane obviously did not do a sufficient pre-flight.

In searching the NTSB records, I found only one other occurrence (ref: FlightSafety, NTSB):

BA HS 125 Series 700A. Substantial damage. No injuries.

VMC prevailed and an IFR flight had been filed for the morning flight from an airport in the US. The captain said that the airplane was being flown at 4,000' when the flight crew heard a bang and believed that the airplane had struck a bird. They conducted a normal landing at the destination airport.

An inspection revealed that the left-wing fuel tank was compressed, the left wing distorted and the left-wing fuel vent was blocked with duct tape. The left-wing fuel-tank stringers and the left-wing ribs also were damaged. The captain said that the fuel tanks had been repaired and pressure-tested before the flight. After the pressure test, the maintenance technician removed duct tape from the right-wing fuel vent, but the maintenance technician and the flight crew did not observe the duct tape covering the left-wing fuel vent. Because the fuel vent was blocked by tape, air could not enter the fuel tank as the fuel pump began pumping fuel out. The resulting low pressure inside the fuel tank led to the collapse.

The final report said the the probable cause of the accident was "the pilot-in-command's inadequate preflight inspection, which resulted in a flight with a blocked fuel-tank vent." The report said that a contributing factor was the failure of the maintenance personnel to remove the duct tape.