Ebace 2003: Special Report

 - October 11, 2007, 7:08 AM

The third running of EBACE, the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition, has established the Geneva, Switzerland event as a solid entry in the world aerospace calendar, with three major business aircraft manufacturers (Cessna, Gulfstream and Raytheon) choosing to attend EBACE instead of this month’s Paris Air Show.

When the first EBACE show ran in April 2001, nobody could have predicted how much the world would change in the ensuing two years. The combined effects of
9/11 and a global recession have battered aviation particularly hard, but EBACE this year enjoyed its best showing yet. Attendance reached 5,984, an increase of more than 24 percent on last year’s 4,824, and 248 exhibitors occupied 615 booth spaces (each measuring 10 feet by 10 feet).

As General Aviation Manufacturers Association president Ed Bolen remarked to AIN on the eve of the show, “Up is a word we haven’t used too much lately, and we’d sure like to see more of it.”

Newly installed Gulfstream Aerospace president Bryan Moss observed, “People just aren’t buying airplanes; they are deferring their decisions. I have never quite seen the mix of factors that are in the marketplace now, whether it’s economic or political or what have you.”

The strong showing by business aviation companies at EBACE stem-med from a desire to put pressure on that deferral process and get business, and business aviation, moving once again. The caliber of visitor at EBACE was good, with Moss expressing satisfaction with the quality of attendees from his perspective as a business jet marketer.

Two new aircraft types made their first public showings anywhere at EBACE–the Gulfstream 550 and Hawker 400XP (a derivative of the Beechjet 400A)–while the Bombardier Challenger 300 (née Continental) made its first showing out- side North America. And FAA Administrator Marion Blakey saw fit to work into her schedule an appearance as keynote speaker at the EBACE opening general session.

Fernand François, president of EBACE co-organizer the European Business Aviation Association, reported good news about business aviation in Europe: the 2,300 business aircraft now based in Europe represent an increase of 15 percent over the fleet of two years ago, a clear indication that business aviation in the region is far from stagnant, and the average age of aircraft in the fleet has dropped to 10.8 years. “Fuel sales at Paris Le Bourget are also up, by 5 percent over this time last year,” François noted.

“Five years ago the typical business aircraft was flying 400 hours a year. Today that number has climbed to between 700 and 1,000 hours a year, as corporate aviation gains more recognition for its role as a business tool,” he added.

Moss: ‘A Very Tough Market’
With the pride of his fleet (a green G550) parked on the ramp beside the Geneva PalExpo convention center, Gulfstream pres- ident Moss admitted that the Savannah, Ga.- based company is working overtime in a “very tough market” and announced the sale of two G300s to Royal Jet, a new international charter service based in Abu Dhabi. The two large-cabin, mid-range G300s are multipurpose aircraft (MPA) that feature convertible interiors to meet the needs of two types of mission– VIP/executive charter and medical transport. Moss said these special-mission aircraft are an increasingly important area to the company.

The newly developed G300 MPA cabin converts from a 14-seat VIP passenger configuration to a medical transport by replacing removable club seats with self-contained medical beds. The two self-contained bed modules are equipped with oxygen, compressed air, suction and AC power, and they provide privacy for the patient, family and medical staff.

In other news from Gulfstream, Moss revealed that the enhanced vision system (EVS) that is standard on the G550 and optional on the G500/400/300 might be offered as an option on the super-midsize G200. Moss said the 34 aircraft already equipped with EVS will be joined by 38 more by the end of the year. For the G200 installation, Gulfstream is exploring a smaller camera that would preserve the jet’s aerodynamic properties, as well as a more compact installation inside the G200’s smaller cockpit.

Gulfstream has received an STC to install the BAE Systems infrared countermeasures (IRCM) system on the G550 and G500, and for retrofit on the GV. The IRCM aircraft protection system has been available for both the G400 and G300 since they were introduced at last year’s NBAA Convention. First certified by the FAA for use on the GIV in 2000, the IRCM continues to be available as a retrofit for the GIV and GIV-SP. Moss said that seven have been sold at prices “in the $3 million range.”

Like other business jet manufacturers, Gulfstream plans to shut down its primary manufacturing operations in Savannah for four weeks this summer, placing more than 1,000 employees on temporary layoff from June 30 through July 27. Earlier, the company announced that it plans to cut as many as 1,000 employees from the payroll and build 77 airplanes this year, compared with 101 delivered last year.

Moss’ appraisal of the outlook for business jet manufacturing was sobering. He said that while there are some early signs of activity in the pre-owned airplane market, which historically lead to an overall recovery of new-airplane sales somewhere in the six-month timeframe, “I’m not sure that is the case today.” He pronounced the outlook for the long term to be positive, but for the near term it remains “very, very guarded.”

Beechjet 400 Is Now a Hawker
Raytheon Aircraft pulled off a surprise at EBACE by flying to the show a Hawker 400XP. Were it not for the N number (N400XP) and the name Hawker on the side, visitors could have overlooked the airplane as simply a Beechjet 400A. But beneath the paint and the rebranding lie a 200-pound mtow increase, seating for eight in the cabin (plus a place for a ninth on a belted lavatory seat) and a new nose-to-tail five-year full warranty. Also standard on the airplane are thrust reversers, a vapor-recycling air-conditioning system, TCAS and an ELT. No doubt sensitive to the airplane’s international pedigree–it began life as the Mitsubishi Diamond before becoming the Beechjet and now being renamed as a member of the previously British Hawker brand– Hawker division president and general manager Brad Hatt emphasized, “This is not a Beechjet 400XP.”

Explaining the subtleties of branding, Hatt noted a basic philosophical difference by those who fly the Beechcraft line–the Premier I, the Beechjet 400, the turboprop King Airs and the piston-powered Baron and Bonanza. Beechcraft airplanes are often owner-flown for both business and personal use by those who “live to fly.” Hawker owners, on the other hand, see their business jet primarily as a business tool and they are more inclined to “fly to live.”

Hatt reported that the Hawker Horizon program is progressing “apace,” and that one of the test aircraft was recently aloft for 7.6 hours, making that the longest flight ever by a Hawker aircraft. The flight validated performance predictions, evaluated extended system operation and checked navigation, communication and autopilot equipment. Several days later, with three aircraft now in the flight-test program, there were seven sorties in a single day, totaling 11.2 flight hours. A fourth aircraft is slated to enter the flight-test program as the inspection authorization aircraft. With a complete interior, it is scheduled to make an appearance at the NBAA Convention in Orlando this fall, as well as EBACE next year. “We are on track for deliveries next year, which is the key goal for the program,” noted Raytheon Aircraft CEO Jim Schuster.

Hatt also promised improved customer support–an area in which Raytheon has not excelled in recent years–and he noted that this improvement is already in evidence with a new system for tracking parts worldwide.

Possibly inspired by Aviation Partners’ program to equip the Hawker 800 series with winglets (due to be certified this summer, and costing $350,000 installed), Raytheon also announced it is considering its own program to add winglets to the 800XP, the current production version of the venerable midsize business jet. (The Wichita manufacturer from the outset had declined to share engineering data with Aviation Partners.) An engine upgrade might also be in the works for the 800XP, Hatt reported.

As for the Hawker 450, that program has been shelved due to an economy that has rendered it “cost prohibitive” for Raytheon Aircraft, which only relatively recently concluded the protracted development program for the Premier I and is still deeply into the costs associated with certifying the Hawker Horizon. Hatt noted, however, that the emergence of the Hawker 400XP has not spelled the end for the Hawker 450 program, which remains “on a back burner.”

Challenger 300 Crosses the Pond
Showing its face in Europe for the first time, the 3,100-nm-range Challenger 300 made the trip from Wichita to Shannon, Ireland, in a total of 8 hours 15 minutes’ flying time before embarking on the final hop to Geneva. Ed Grabman, lead experimental test pilot for the Challenger 300 program, said the crossing was made at an average speed of Mach 0.80 and with seven people aboard. The aircraft made one fuel stop at Bangor, Maine, and the Bangor-to-Shannon leg took 5 hours 15 minutes at a cruise altitude of 45,000 feet. “The aircraft still had 5,000 pounds of fuel when we arrived at Shannon and could easily have made it to Geneva,” he said. “We overnighted at Shannon to allow a convenient 3 p.m. arrival at EBACE on Monday.” Grabman noted that the Ireland stop was also necessary because the 300 is not yet RVSM certified and the neighboring UK is blanketed by transitional airspace. From Shannon to Geneva, the 300 flew at the non-RVSM altitude of 25,000 feet.

The aircraft flown to EBACE was S/N 20-004 (the fourth of five flight-test aircraft), equipped with a “working” experimental interior. S/N 20-005 will attend the Paris Air Show, complete with a full executive interior. Grabman, who has been a part of the Challenger 300 program for all of its four years, said a great deal of pilot input went into the design of the aircraft, making for a user-friendly environment in the cockpit. Bombardier solicited input from its own test, production and demonstration pilots, as well as customer pilots and pilots of competitors’ aircraft. Pilots also met daily with avionics suppliers Honeywell and Rockwell Collins to determine the panel and avionics designs. “Every switch, knob and panel was placed exactly where we pilots asked for it to be placed,” said Grabman. “After spending one hour flying, new pilots not previously exposed to this aircraft have remarked how clean the cockpit is and how easy it is to fly.”

Bob Horner, Bombardier regional vice president for Europe, told AIN the company has orders for 150 Challenger 300s, 15 of which are destined for European operators. Horner added that all paperwork had been filed for Transport Canada certification, which was imminent.

Two-thirds of the Learjet 45XR program is now complete, reported David Schenk, Bombardier’s vice president of aircraft development programs. The 1,000-pound mtow increase was approved last July, and the new cabin interior is due to be approved next month. Honeywell’s new TFE731-20BR engine will be ready by the first quarter of next year, and this powerplant upgrade will be provided retroactively to initial customers, who will start receiving their aircraft this summer.

The Learjet 40 (also derived from the existing Learjet 45) is set to achieve certification in its uncompleted form by July, with service entry on track for the first quarter of next year.

Boeing 717 Business Express
Having struggled to find a market for the 717 twinjet regional airliner, Boeing Commercial Airplane at EBACE launched the 717 Business Express, an executive version that it believes will find ready acceptance in the business aviation world as a corporate shuttle. Boeing vice president Tom Lindberg told AIN at EBACE that the decision to proceed with the project came as a result of “a very positive response” following extensive discussions with a number of Fortune 500 companies that might be interested in such an application.

In response to the focus group’s input, Boeing made extensive “adjustments” to adapt the 106-seat airliner to the corporate mission, uppermost being a price reduction from $37 million to $27 million. Lindberg emphasized that the dramatically lower acquisition cost does not come at the expense of performance, support or warranties.

To appeal to what Boeing believes is a potential market for five to seven aircraft a year, Lindberg listed the following enticements:

•    Extension of the airframe warranty from three years to five years.

•    Extension of the avionics warranty from three years to four years.

•    Extension of the service life policy from 12 to 15 years.

•    Creation of a rapid response “roadside assistance” program similar to Boeing Business Jets’ Gold Card support plan and initially dubbed by Lindberg as “Rabbit Response.”

•    Standard flyaway maintenance support kit carrying 20 dispatch-critical parts.

•    An optional flyaway ground support kit that includes a collapsible towbar.

•    Standard pilot and maintenance training, including appropriate manuals.

•    On-site service representative support for the first 45 days of service, and on-site assistance of a Boeing pilot for the first 30 days of service.

•    A cabin airstair door as standard.

The standard corporate shuttle version of the 717 would offer a range of 2,060 nm with 60 passengers in first-class seats, but with the addition of a 1,290-gallon auxiliary fuel tank in the belly, the aircraft could offer U.S. coast-to-coast range of 3,140 nm. The tank has already been designed by DeCrane Aircraft subsidiary PATS, though it is not yet certified.

The 717 Business Express interiors would be installed at Boeing’s 717 manufacturing facility in Long Beach, Calif. Standard configurations would accommodate between 30 and 80 passengers in a four-abreast center-aisle arrangement. The anticipated max takeoff weight of the Business Express would be less than 100,000 pounds, some 10,000 pounds lighter than that of the 717 airliner, with corresponding benefits on the amount of noise the airplane generates on takeoff. The aircraft’s max weight would allow it to use Teterboro Airport in New Jersey.

The 717 Business Express will use the same avionics suite as the airliner. At its core is the Honeywell versatile integrated avionics (VIA) 2000 computer with six 8- by 8-inch LCD flat-screen displays, working in concert with a Honeywell FMS and making the airplane fully Cat IIIb ILS capable.

Lindberg noted that Boeing is convinced that as the scheduled carriers continue to frustrate business travelers with long delays and canceled routes, the 717 Business Express will fill a resulting all-business-class corporate niche.

PrivatAir ACJ Shuttle
On the eve of EBACE, BBJ operator PrivatAir flew its inaugural service with an Airbus Corporate Jetliner (ACJ)–appropriately enough, for Airbus itself. The Hamburg-to-Toulouse flight, using one of two newly leased ACJs, was the first revenue-earning service to be operated by the Geneva-based company under its wet-lease corporate shuttle contract with the Toulouse manufacturer. According to PrivatAir CEO Greg Thomas, the deal “showed the will of Airbus to move its people in its own equipment.” The so-called Airbridge service is currently operated by BAE 146s carrying an average of 70 people a day between the Airbus facilities in Toulouse, Hamburg and Bristol, but demand already exceeds capacity and continues to build particularly in conjunction with Airbus A380 development. The two IAE V2500-powered ACJs that will replace the BAE 146s are in a high-density configuration with 126 seats, approximating to an all-business-class airline layout, said Thomas.

Richard Gaona, ACJ vice president, said that the toughly negotiated package with PrivatAir was required by Airbus management not to exceed the overall cost of the BAE 146-based operation, although this envelope did include the extra costs associated with the shortage of capacity on the 146s–scheduled airline tickets, for example, for those who couldn’t get an Airbridge seat.

Apart from the greater capacity, other advantages cited for the new ACJs include improved reliability, reduced maintenance and the fact that it is still the only new-generation aircraft in its class certified for Cat IIIb auto-landings, meaning substantial time savings at certain times of the year when any of the three Airbus locations can be fogbound and diversions can be costly.

The next stage in PrivatAir’s Airbus experience came on May 19, when the first of two long-range 48-seat A319LRs began to replace BBJs currently wet-leased to Lufthansa for its pioneering all-business-class transatlantic services. By June 2, these specially configured A319s will be operating regularly from Dusseldorf and Munich in Germany to Newark and Chicago in the U.S.

As a wholly owned subsidiary of the Latsis Group, with interests in banking, mining, oil, shipping and property development, PrivatAir is tight-lipped about sales, results and details on its activities. The only figure it revealed is an overall revenue total of about $100 million last year, roughly the same as for 2001. According to CEO Thomas, sales were evenly spread on both sides of the Atlantic last year, but he expects substantial growth in Europe this year–growth that should raise overall revenues to $110 million.

“Charter rates are definitely down,” conceded Thomas. “The U.S. market is currently hampered by single-aircraft owners and fractional-ownership companies with insufficient income that discount their charter rates and sometimes offer positioning flights for free. This leaves us the choice of either flying less or at a lower profit,” he told AIN.

BBJ Fleet Reaches 61
At a time when large business jets are not exactly selling like hotcakes, Boeing Business Jets president Lee Monson announced at EBACE that the worldwide fleet of BBJs has reached 61 aircraft in service with 41 operators worldwide. As to backlog, Monson said “some inventory aircraft are awaiting sale” and that the company expects to have all its aircraft off the books by the end of this year. He declined to discuss specific numbers.

As for a market for the BBJ in shuttle service or as an all-business-class airliner for high-yield passengers on thin routes, Monson did not dismiss the idea. “If they’re willing to pay for it, we’re willing to sell it,” he said with a grin. But he was not as enthusiastic as some in the industry as to the long-term potential of that market, saying, “I suspect it is in the double digits.”

Monson said that plans for a BBJ3 based on the 757 or 767 airliners, discussed a couple of years ago, are highly unlikely to reach fruition. He noted that Boeing Business Jets is a 50/50 partnership with General Electric, and part of that agreement stipulates that the division’s aircraft will be powered by GE engines. The BBJ and BBJ2 are based on the Next-generation 737 platform, which offers only a GE powerplant. Other Boeing products, including the 757 and 767, come with a choice of engines supplied by other manufacturers. The agreement with GE would preclude any other choice.

At EBACE, Boeing Business Jets signed an agreement with Lufthansa Technik designating the Hamburg, Germany company as an authorized warranty repair facility and service center. The authorization gives BBJ operators another service option in Europe, in addition to Jet Aviation in Basel, Switzerland. Lufthansa Technik has already installed interiors in 10 BBJs. One BBJ and two BBJ2s are currently in the completion process at the Hamburg facility.

Manfred Schindler, Boeing Business Jets vice president of international sales, told AIN at EBACE that of the 61 BBJs in service, 15 percent are based in Europe, 45 percent in North America, 23 percent in the Middle East and 13 percent in Asia.

Legacy’s Leg Up
Brazil’s Embraer has delivered 16 examples of its Legacy, the business jet based on the ERJ-135 regional airliner, and–here’s something you don’t hear much about these days– is ramping up production by 50 percent this year to eat into the backlog of firm orders for 74 aircraft and options on another 92. Sam Hill, vice chairman of U.S.-based Embraer Aircraft Holding, said that 12 of the 18 aircraft being delivered this year will be Legacy Executives, and the remaining six Legacy Shuttles. “A year ago at EBACE,” recalled Hill, “we were just starting operations and had an aircraft with a 6,400-foot balanced field length. Now we have the uprated [Rolls-Royce AE3007-A1E] engines, balanced field length down below 5,800 feet and better climb performance without losing our 10-passenger range of more than 3,000 nm. These are particularly important considerations for European customers.”

Five 13- to 14-seat Legacy Executives have been delivered in four European countries, three more aircraft than originally expected at this stage of the program.

Forty Years of Falcons
For Dassault Falcon Jet, the dominant theme at EBACE was “40 Years of Passion,” marking the 40th anniversary of the first flight of the Mystère 20, the airplane upon which the entire Falcon family has since been built. The celebration kicked off with ceremonies at Dassault’s Bordeaux-Merignac Falcon manufacturing facility, attended by honorary chairman Serge Dassault, current top brass and Erik Lindbergh, grandson of Charles Lindbergh. It was Charles Lindbergh’s vote of confidence in the Mystère and the subsequent order from Pan Am Business Jets for 140 Fan Jet Falcons in 1963 that laid the foundation for the Falcon family. Noted Serge Dassault: “I would like to say a special thank you to Charles Lindbergh and Pan Am. If it wasn’t for the confidence they showed in the Falcon, there would be no program today.”

As for a supersonic business jet in the wake of Concorde’s retirement, Dassault Aviation vice chairman Bruno Revellin-Falcoz told AIN that, five years on, Dassault continues to study the concept–with the collaboration of Boeing and former Gulfstream SSBJ study partner Sukhoi. Revellin-Falcoz said that the twin issues of demand and of a suitable powerplant remain the two big questions awaiting development of an SSBJ. “We still need to identify the market. It’s a chicken-and-egg question. When we survey the market to gauge demand for an SSBJ, the price is one of the first questions asked by potential customers. The price to a large extent is decided by the demand.

“It is the same with the engine, the cost and feasibility of which will depend on how many airplanes we can sell. The engine is not a technological problem, but an economic problem,” Revellin-Falcoz contended. A Dassault SSBJ would likely cost between $60 and $80 million, and it would be a 10-year program to take the airplane from launch to certification, he said.

Dassault’s next-generation Falcon, the 7X, is taking shape piece by piece, and a 10-foot model is destined shortly to undergo testing in a low-speed wind tunnel in Holland. Wing panels for the first airplane have been cut on a high-speed milling machine; the fly-by-wire system has been “flown” on a developmental simulator by Dassault test pilots Philippe Deleume and Yves “Bill” Kerherve; a full-size nose section is ready for birdstrike tests; and the new 7X manufacturing facility at Bordeaux-Merignac is scheduled to open next month.

Many Mustangs

Cessna reported at EBACE that the order book for the Citation Mustang stands at 330–way ahead of the Wichita manufacturer’s hopes when it announced the six-seat very light business jet at last year’s NBAA Convention in Orlando, Fla. Stephen Saflin, Mustang program manager for sales and marketing, told AIN at EBACE that the airplane remains on track for a first flight in the second quarter of 2005, followed by certification in the third quarter of 2006 and first deliveries immediately thereafter. Wind-tunnel testing has been conducted in San Diego and Wichita, with the result that Cessna’s design engineers might sweep the wing a little more. This is not definite, but a possibility, according to Saflin.

The big news for the Mustang broke earlier this year with announcements of Cessna’s choices for the engines and avionics suite. Pratt & Whitney Canada was tapped for the engines (PW615Fs rated at 1,350 pounds of thrust and equipped with dual FADEC). In a surprise pick, Garmin was selected to provide its G1000 avionics suite, beating two heavyweight contenders–Honeywell Bendix/King and Rockwell Collins. “Garmin did not stand out in any one category alone, and it was a difficult decision. But overall, the Garmin system was the best choice for the Mustang,” said Saflin. The G1000 will consist of three glass displays and integrate FMS functions with depictions of traffic, terrain and weather. In view of the Mustang’s positioning as a step-up airplane for pilots of turboprops and high-performance piston airplanes, Cessna ranked simplicity of operation high on its wish list, and the Garmin system promises to deliver.

As of next month, the standard Cessna purchase agreement takes effect for Mustang orders, which will then require a $75,000 deposit.

Cessna also announced three European fleet agreements that will see multiple aircraft put into commercial use. Delta Aerotaxi of Italy will take seven Mustangs; Britain’s LEA, five; and Macaviation of Spain, five. The 330 Mustangs spoken for are divided equally between U.S. and international customers.

Pilatus on Home Turf
“Given the economic environment, Pilatus performed relatively well in 2002,” asserted Oscar Schwenk, president and CEO of the Swiss aircraft manufacturer, when he announced the group’s latest financial results in early April. But this optimistic view cannot conceal the fact that sales dropped by 26.6 percent, from $356 million to $261 million, while the number of aircraft sold declined by just over one third from 75 (71 of them PC-12s) to 49 (all but three of them PC-12s).

Of the 46 PC-12s sold last year, 34 went to U.S. buyers–indicating an increase in North American market share because sales of competing aircraft declined more. For this reason, Pilatus is counting on a strong rebound in the U.S. market as soon as economic conditions improve.

The effect of the drop in aircraft sales was softened by the company’s “three-pillar strategy” whereby Pilatus spreads its business among general aviation, military trainers and maintenance. The company’s maintenance activity has been strengthened by its acquisition of FFA at Altenrhein on Lake Constance in eastern Switzerland. That new subsidiary was renamed Altenrhein Aviation and integrated into the Pilatus group on January 1.

Beefed-up TBM
At the smaller end of the turbine set represented at EBACE, the EADS Socata TBM 700C1/2 was there in the form of the yet-to-be-certified European-spec C1–similar to the recently FAA-certified C2 for the U.S. market. Like many airplanes before it, the TBM 700 has gained weight as it gained capability in the 13 years since it was first certified. Particularly for U.S. owners, who often need to cover great distances, the airplane’s range and payload were suffering as it continued to be saddled with a max takeoff weight of 6,579 pounds. The C2 raises mtow to 7,394 pounds, an increase made possible by the adoption of beefed-up wing structure, wheels and tires. Only the strengthened wing structure is incorporated in the European-spec C1, along with the C2’s interior and Garmin avionics suite. The C1 carries a price tag of $2.87 million, while the C2 for the U.S. market costs $2.97 million.

Metro Business Now Harrods Aviation
Metro Business Aviation took the opportunity of the EBACE gathering to announce word that it is changing its name to Harrods Aviation. Metro was formed in 1995 when the former Hunting Aviation group was acquired by Harrods Holdings. Harrods chairman Mohamed Al Fayed would not allow the company to adopt the famous name until it had established a sufficiently strong reputation for service quality associated with the fabled London department store of the same name.
“We have reached our goal after much hard work. The directors, management and staff are to be congratulated and I know they will carry the name Harrods Aviation with great pride,” commented chief executive Steve Grimes.

Harrods Aviation is adding an 8,000-sq-ft facility at London Luton Airport with direct airside access to an enlarged 90,000-sq-ft ramp and 55 car parking spaces on the landside. The building, due to be completed this month, will include passenger and crew lounges, a conference room, flight-planning room and ramp office. Sales and marketing director Alan George said Harrods had planned to build a much larger hangar and terminal complex at Luton–located 30 miles north of central London–but decided to downsize the scale of the development because of reduced business aviation activity. He said traffic volume this year is expected to show no improvement over last year but that Harrods expects an upturn next year.

Also at Luton, Signature was planning to open a new 74,000-sq-ft hangar at its facility last month. Alongside the hangar is 10,000 sq ft of office space (half of which has already been leased to based corporate operators), and another 5,000 sq ft for stores or more offices will open next month. Trevor King, manager of Signature’s Luton operation, said the number of movements has increased 10 percent over the same period last year. However, in recent months there has been a decline in the number of long-haul flights received, especially from the Middle East.

Jet Aviation: Same Owners as Last Year
Jet Aviation came to EBACE this year under the same ownership as it did last year, although until three months ago it looked as if the FBO/charter/completions giant would have a new parent this time around. Last year Jet Aviation was up for sale, its owners seeking access to a broader financing base, and rumors about who would be the successful bidder were a persistent topic from month to month. But on January 29 the Hirschmann family took down the “for sale” sign and opted to retain control of one of business aviation’s leading operations and service providers. None of the 40 prospective buyers offered terms acceptable to all members of the Hirschmann clan.

Although precise full-year figures will not be released until later this summer, early indications are that the year 2002 for Jet Aviation was even better than the previous record performance in 2000, when profits of $35 million on sales of more than $500 million were realized.

Evidence that business aircraft are ever less isolated from the human bustle of Mother Earth far below surfaced at EBACE with the introduction by Honeywell and Thales of their new HS-700/702 package, which enables satellite communications systems to handle data at up to 128 kilobytes per second (kbps)–twice the speed of a typical office modem and more than 50 times faster than traditional satellite systems. Honeywell introduced a 64-kilobyte first-generation high-speed data system last year for use with conventional satellite communication systems transmitting data at just 2.4 kbps, but the new system will bring greater productivity to the cabins of business jets. First installations of the HS-700/702 will enter service this summer, according to Ken Snodgrass, director of radio frequency communications systems for Honeywell’s business, regional and general aviation avionics division.

Adding the new HS-700/702 to a Honeywell/Thales MCS-4000 or MCS-7000 satcom system provides the user two options: operate two independent data channels at 64 kbps; or link both channels for a data rate of up to 128 kbps. When used in conjunction with the seven-channel MCS-7000, the HS-700/ 702 will provide access to nine channels to support communications, including telephone, fax, Web browsing, e-mail and video conferencing. The system uses Inmarsat’s satellite constellation and associated ground infrastructure.

Honeywell also announced at EBACE that its AIS-2000 OneView multi-region satellite television has received FAA certification for four business jets–the Gulfstream IV, Bombardier Global Express and Challenger 604 and the Boeing Business Jet. The system provides worldwide television viewing in airspace above the U.S., Canada and Western Europe, where the tail-mounted antenna has provided “exceptional reception performance,” according to Snodgrass.

Over the U.S. the system relies on the DirecTV feed, BellExpressVU over Canada and a variety of service providers in Europe. More regions are being added to the system’s capabilities this fall, including the Middle East, Asia and Latin America.

Teledyne Controls’ Swift64 High Speed Data 128 and 64 (HSD-128/ 64) aeronautical terminals on the BBJ and Global Express have been STC’d by the FAA. The BBJ installation was completed in Switzerland by Jet Aviation for client Star Aviation, which was the actual STC applicant for the HSD-128 installation, according to Matthew Wing, Teledyne marketing director of communications and cabin products. The Teledyne terminal provides a dual-channel satcom solution compatible with EMS Technologies’ AMT-50 and any Arinc 741 high-gain satcom antenna. Wing said the Teledyne HSD is also compatible with Chelton’s low-profile phase array high-gain antenna.