The Textron AirLand Scorpion Jet – Audio Episode Show Notes

Scorpion First Flight 05a

These are the show notes to an audio episode. You can listen to the show audio by clicking here:  Better yet, subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or your other favorite podcatcher. It’s all free!

Last week, Textron AirLand flew its prototype Scorpion Jet for the first time.  The first flight lasted 1.4 hours and concentrated mostly on slow-speed handling.  We took advantage of the occasion to talk to Bill Anderson (president of Textron AirLand and SVP of Cessna Military Business Development) and Dale Tutt (the Scorpion program chief engineer).  This episode contains the full interview covering everything from the aircraft generally to the development process to the first flight.  And we talked about the plans to market and build the production version.

Apart from the interview, my impressions are as follows.

Somewhere among the capabilities of  aircraft like the the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper UAVs, the A-10 Thunderbold II (Warthog) attack aircraft, and the F-16 Fighting Falcon and F/A-18 Hornet series multi-role fighters, there’s a gap that Textron AirLand wants to fill.  A manned cockpit to provide local eyes (both human and electronic) on targets.  The ability to fly both low and in the flight levels.  Slow-speed performance to support imaging  missions and small-aircraft intercept.  Fuel efficiency to allow longer flights out and back with mission-enabling loiter time over the target.  And plug-and-play capability that allows rapid configuration for different mission types.  If the Scorpion Jet turns out to be everything it was designed to be, it will fill all of those gaps and more.

It looks like an A-10, an F/A-18, and an F-8 Crusader somehow conspired to jointly have offspring.   It has a payload bay in the belly and will have six hard points (two wet), plus enough electrical power and auxiliary wiring to  handle the instrumentation and weaponry to support widely-varied missions.  Anderson and Tutt say that test pilot Dan Hinson reported that it was fun to fly.  (Yeah, I asked.)

Beyond functionality, Textron AirLand wants to deliver a jet that’s economical to acquire and operate.  If the company’s business case pans out, it will be able to deliver copies for less than $20 million each.  For reference, a new A-10 in 1994 went for $19 million in 2013 dollars and a new MQ-1 Predator went for just over $4 million in 2010.  (Although it’s a little far afield to bring fighters into the comparison, let’s just note that a legacy F/A-18A/B/C Hornet started at around $34 million in 2013 dollars without the floor mats and mag wheels.)  

The company says that the hourly cost to operate is likely to be around $3,000.  Comparable with a C-130 or a helicopter if you buy NORAD’s numbers.  There’s really nothing cheaper unless you count a CAP aircraft (about $130 per flying hour and great for what CAP does, but not very useful for putting warheads on foreheads or launching or operating the heavier sensor packages).

This is a US-based project.  The design and build came together here in the states, mostly in Wichita.  It remains to be seen if the production copies are built here in the states.  It would be nice to see an all-American aircraft in this role.  Being fond of the T-6A/B and having time in the T-6A, it hurt a little when Hawker Beechcraft was shut out of the USAF Light Air Support (LAS) process in favor of the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano, even though the Super T will be built in Jacksonville.

Lastly, this aircraft appeals to me because I’m a pilot.  I know that it takes certain skill to fly a UAV.  And I know that there are missions that don’t make sense for manned aircraft.  But, at the end of the day, no automated system will ever equal a pilot’s eyeballs, hands, feet, and heart in the cockpit over the battlefield.  When it really matters, you want a pilot in the ship and the Scorpion Jet is one of an increasingly scarce number of platforms that leverage our favorite stick-throttle interconnect: The pilot.

Textron AirLand is continuing flight test operations and is actively courting customers.  We’ll stay close to the story and bring you updates as they occur.

In the meantime, there’s more information about the Scorpion Jet at

 Photo courtesy Textron.


Sequestration: Remarks by Rep Sam Graves – Audio Episode Show Notes

2013-12-03 017

These are the show notes to an audio episode. You can listen to the show audio by clicking here:  Better yet, subscribe to Airspeed through iTunes or your other favorite podcatcher. It’s all free!

I thought about doing a post about sequestration and its effects, but ICAS made that unnecessary by bringing Rep. Sam Graves to the podium this morning prior to the keynote.

Graves is the US Representative for Missouri’s 6th congressional district, serving since 2001. The district consists of Northwest Missouri and includes the portion of Kansas City north of the Missouri River and many northern suburbs. He is a member of the House General Aviation Caucus.

There’s not much more that I can add to this, so I thought that I’d simply put up the remarks so that you can hear them directly.

ICAS 2013 Opening Reception

Panorama Reception

The 2013 International Council of Air Shows (“ICAS”) Convention kicks off this morning after the reception last night here at Paris Las Vegas.

Although the US jet teams are back for the 2014 season, both Air Force and Navy TAC Demo support will be substantially reduced or nonexistent in the coming season, depending on the platform that interests you. I’m still working on getting a sense of the pulse of the industry and what reduced military support is going to mean for airsows in the long term if it continues. This morning is the first exhibit hall session and the first chance to really walk around and get a sense of everyone’s feelings about the upcoming season and the longer-term prospects.

Waco 01

The highlight of the reception was John Klatt’s unveiling of the Screamin’ Sasquatch, a 1929 Taperwing Waco. It has a Pratt & Whitney 985 radial engine on the nose, but the real kicker is the CJ610 (J-85) jet engine mounted on the underside. Jimmy Franklin first flew a jet Waco in 1999. The unveiling here at ICAS featured the Jack Links Sasquatch himself posing for pictures.

Perhaps the most important element of the Sasquatch announcement is the fact that Klatt managed to land the sponsorship deal that enabled the ‘Squatch. Sponsorship is critical to many airshow acts, and putting together a jet Waco isn’t something that one can do on appearance fees alone.

Waco 02

Klatt is a lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard, having flown F-16s and C-130s. Through last season, he had flown an MXS in Air Guard livery and he participated heavily in recruiting efforts at each air show that he flew.

Klatt’s migration to the new aircraft and a private-sector sponsor might be a harbinger of things to come in the industry as military support is reduced or isn’t as reliable in light of ongoing budget issues and economic conditions. Time will tell, of course. But, in the meantime, it’s a real coup that Klatt has landed what is clearly a major deal that will bring a unique aircraft to the skies of many airshows and get Jack Links and its “wild side” message exposure to airshow and other fans.

Major sponsorships like this aren’t an option for every performer.  Or even most performers.  But  Klatt showed us that he could do it and the aircraft is gorgeous.  There’s a sponsorship breakout session at the convention and I’m planning to attend it.

Sponsorship is by no means the largest moving part in the industry and it’s by no means a new thing.  But Klatt’s deal is a ray of light and I’ll be following this and other developments.