AERO 2015 – the Bulldog spirit

Pilot Editor, Philip Whiteman, reports from AERO 2015 in Friedrichshafen in southern Germany. Buoyant US manufacturer Cirrus refines the ‘digital’ SR series, Diamond pursues turboprops and experiments with a hybrid-engined tilt-rotor, Flight Design says the C4 prototype flies so nicely ‘nothing needs to be changed’, Trig announces new 8.33 panel radios, Jepp’s Mobile Flight Deck VFR now speaks to you via Bluetooth… and BJJR’s Bulldog Autogyros steals the show with a (very modern) retro rotorcraft.

This in headline-speak was the story of the opening days of AERO Friedrichshafen, the biggest, best and most exhaustive – and, frankly, exhausting – show in the world of GA. We’ll be running a full report in the June edition of the magazine. Meanwhile, here are the highlights, as seen by Pilot’s editorial team at the show.

Besides the range of natty new colour schemes – made possible by the adoption of ‘high temperature’ composites that do not lose strength when painted in darker tones and exposed to strong sunlight - the most obvious distinguishing factor of the 2015 ‘digital’ Cirrus SRs is the glass-screen stand-by display that replaces the familiar mechanical instruments. Through its own pilot training initiative, Cirrus has made a huge improvement to the SR’s safety record: one technical refinement with new models is linking the parachute recovery system with the emergency location transponder (ELT), which is now activated automatically.

The jet-engined SF50 is on target for certification by the end of this year, Cirrus holding 500 orders for the $1.96m aircraft.

CEO Christian Dries replied “Next question!” when one journalist asked him what had happened to Diamond’s own D-Jet. This was of course a typically tongue in cheek response from Dries, who also volunteered that for once he would probably not be test flying the hybrid diesel/electric-engined tiltrotor the Austrian company intends to develop. While Diamond continues to develop and expand its range of Austro diesel engines – both at home and in a new, jointly funded centre in China – it says demand for the turboprop DA50 JP7 (jet prop, seven seats) has been surprisingly high. Fingers are crossed all round that the situation in Ukrain does not affect supply or development of the power unit, developed jointly between that country and Russia. A turboprop recce aircraft/trainer using the same engine and – aha! – the D-Jet’s wing, the DART-450 is promised for next year’s Farnborough airshow.

Flight Design’s four-seat C172 rival, the C4, uses a conventional powerplant in the form of Continental’s IO-360-AF (where, as we’ve reported in the magazine, AF stands for ‘alternative fuel’). Sporting a structural safety cell that is designed to protect the cabin occupants in the event of a crash and claimed to be much faster than the traditional, all-metal Cessna, the sleek, composite-structure C4 is being held to a launch price of 220,000 euros. Flight Design says Part 23 certification will be completed by the time AERO 2016 comes round.

On the avionics front, we were impressed by the way Jeppeson’s now very impressive Mobile Flight Deck VFR both works as a GPS navigation app and has been configured to give warnings through Bluetooth-compatible headsets. The initial development work was done jointly with Sennheiser, but there should be functionality with other manufacturer’s units.

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Waving the flag for Britain, Trig’s new TY96 (10W) and TY97 (high-altitude capable 16W) radios really look the business. We were very taken with pilot-friendly features like the one-touch emergency frequency button (which also increases audio volume automatically) and the ‘say again’ button, which stores up to 35 seconds of the incoming call.

Finally, amid the fantastic array of machinery on display, a further British effort that stood out by virtue of its sheer style was the Bulldog autogyro. Due to be flown later this year, the Rotec radial-engined machine looks like a cross between a WACO biplane and a modern ‘gyrocopter’. The ‘tractor’ engine installation goes back to the Cierva Autogiros [sic] of the 1920s and 30s – very 39 Steps we thought (remember the autogyro that featured in the original Hitchcock movie?). However, the Bulldog’s rotor is mounted on a cantilever boom that also serves as fin and incorporates the rudder. As this sets the rotor hub well away from the engine, the run-up system has been made hydraulic. More information from www.bulldogautogyros.comNow your reporters must get back to the show: read all about it in detail in the June issue of Pilot magazine!