Judging by the mood at last month’s NBAA Convention in Las Vegas, the good old days are most assuredly back for the business aviation industry. A record number of companies were shoehorned into more than a million square feet of exhibition space at the Las Vegas Convention Center, and there was a seemingly endless line of aircraft at nearby Henderson Executive Airport. Parked in a line on the runway, 87 aircraft of various types and sizes on display stretched more than a mile, making tire kicking advisable only in the most comfortable of shoes.
The tone of the show was also undeniably upbeat, with exhibitors agreeing that customers were generally in a buying mood–in sharp contrast to the mood of the last few years, when everybody seemed to be holding firm to a “Thanks, I’m just looking” mindset. As an example of the enthusiasm apparent at the three-day event, the newly merged Garrett Aviation, Piedmont Hawthorne and Associated Air Center, exhibiting under a single flag for the first time, reported booking more than $50 million in new business from the time the convention center doors swung open on October 12 until the convention ended three days later, according to Shawn Vick, executive vice president for sales and marketing.
“It was a truly amazing convention,” Vick said. “There was tremendous interest from customers, prospects and OEMs from the start. Overall I would call the mood positive and upbeat.”
The most complaints centered on the layout of the show. Split into two giant halls separated by an expansive lobby, exhibit space was separate, but not at all equal, according to many exhibitors.
Getting to the Central Hall, where roughly half of the 1,087 exhibiting companies were camped, was an easy stroll from the convention center’s main doors. The dreaded North Hall, on the other hand, was hidden beyond NBAA’s main information desk, a busy cafeteria and a Starbucks. Companies that were assigned to the North Hall complained of far less foot traffic than there seemed to be in the Central Hall, and a few of the more peeved exhibitors who were polled by AIN said they would not return to an NBAA convention with a similar split-hall arrangement.
Other major complaints concerned the static display at Henderson, which is farther away than McCarran International Airport, site of the display at NBAA 1998. Neither the BBJ nor Airbus ACJ was permitted at Henderson and slots at McCarran were scarce. Beoing decided not to bring a BBJ, but Airbus did have an ACJ–but nowhere nearby to park it. Not surprisingly, Airbus officials were unhappy.
Alas, the NBAA Convention in many ways is a victim of the industry’s success. Only three convention centers in the entire country have enough exhibit space to accommodate the show and have a nearby airport suitable for the aircraft static display. Together with Vegas, the others rounding out the list of cities that serve as host to bizav’s biggest annual bash are Orlando and New Orleans. Las Vegas is the most popular destination among attendees (a near-record 31,259 showed up this year), but the convention will rotate between Orlando and New Orleans for the next four years. Both are factors that could help mute exhibitor criticism by the time NBAA next visits Glitter Gulch after 2008.
Still, the watchword from NBAA’s 57th Annual Meeting and Convention was optimism, thankfully minus the “cautious” prefix caveat that has been affixed to the term for the last several fiscal quarters. You need only flip back to the front pages of this magazine to reach the conclusion that NBAA’04 generated its share of attention-grabbing news. Of course, the unveiling of two proposed supersonic business jets at the convention grabbed more headlines than most other stories, if only because the plans seem so audacious yet at the same time appeared to be very real efforts, based on early performance figures and the well known faces behind the ventures.
Industry reaction to the SSBJ designs was mixed, with officials for the major business aircraft OEMs generally agreeing that the airplanes were interesting, but fraught with risk. Aerion, a company backed by billionaire Robert Bass, on the eve of the show unveiled a Mach 1.6 SSBJ that would be powered by the venerable Pratt & Whitney JT8D-219 turbofan engine, which flies today on a third of all airliners. Price of the airplane was set at about $80 million. The next day, Supersonic Aerospace International (SAI), a Los Angeles company headed by J. Michael Paulson, the son of aviation icon Allen Paulson, announced its own plans for an SSBJ. That airplane would cruise at a similar speed and sell for about the same price.
A spokesman for Raytheon Aircraft declined comment, but officials from the other major airframe OEMs were willing to share their thoughts on the programs. Gulfstream and Dassault have been exploring SSBJ designs for years, but neither company appears close to launching a supersonic program anytime soon–despite a potential market for about 400 SSBJs, according to analysts. Many of these would go into service with fractional providers, with NetJets founder Richard Santulli saying he can sell SSBJ shares if someone builds and certifies an airplane.
A Gulfstream spokesman said the airframe maker’s position on the SSBJ market has not changed from earlier statements it has made on the subject, which is basically that the company is looking into the idea but still sees too many uncertainties.
“We continue to carry out basic sonic-boom suppression research and have made some advances in that area as evidenced by the patent Gulfstream received for its telescopic nose boom earlier this year,” the spokesman said.
He added that even while Gulfstream continues to perform SSBJ research, the company is concerned about the government regulations that prevent supersonic flight over land, and thinks such barriers could be the biggest obstacle for ambitious start-ups such as Aerion and SAI.
“If the regulations are not changed, assuming of course that noise and environmental issues can be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, is there really a market for a business jet that can fly only over water at supersonic speeds but must slow down to subsonic [speeds] when flying transcontinental?” he asked. “Sounds like the fate that befell Concorde.”
Dassault took a similar position, saying that an SSBJ design will be difficult to bring to market.
John Rosanvallon, Dassault Falcon Jet president and CEO, said the company’s engineers have done considerable work on boom suppression, but that the in-development Falcon 7X takes priority over any SSBJ design work. Rosanvallon, however, did not rule out the possibility that Dassault could join an SSBJ team at some point.
“We have not given up and we continue to believe that if and when there is a project, we should be a part of it,” he said.
Bombardier, meanwhile, had little to add to the discussion of whether a marketable SSBJ will emerge from Aerion or SAI, but the company made it clear this is one market niche it will steer clear of.
“This just doesn’t fit our plans,” a Bombardier spokesman said. “We wish both of them luck. It’s a very challenging endeavor, with numerous environmental issues.”
The spokesman added that Bombardier has been approached about SSBJ concepts before, but doesn’t see supersonic aircraft in its future.
“We’ll focus on our bread and butter,” he said, noting that a key limiting factor of SSBJs, in Bombardier’s view, is the question of how to deliver a sufficient return on investment given the exorbitant development costs.
Cessna president and CEO Jack Pelton was perhaps the most effusive in doling out any type of praise, saying the SSBJ ventures could help advance the technology even if they are not immediately successful.
“These are ambitious undertakings by any company,” he said. “They are very technically competent companies and certainly pursuing the technology is a benefit to everyone in general aviation.”
OK, so other than the paper-airplane SSBJs, there were no new airplanes announced at this year’s show–still, upgrade programs for existing models announced by business airplane makers easily filled this void. From the Cessna Citation CJ1+ and CJ2+, to the Learjet 40XR and even a Piaggio Avanti II, the OEMs seemed content to improve on current models, a low-risk strategy that perhaps indicates there’s still enough “cautious” optimism to go around (see page 3). Raytheon joined the parade by announcing that the Hawker 400XP (formerly the Beechjet 400A) light twinjet is receiving some customer-requested improvements and new optional equipment, while the midsize 800XP is getting an extensive cabin makeover and a new cabin-management system. (The upgraded Cessnas, Learjet and Avanti, meanwhile, all get more power, improved avionics and new cabin amenities.)
According to Raytheon, the two customer-requested improvements on the 400XP are based largely on input from one of the Wichita manufacturer’s biggest clients–NetJets. The first involves moving the external oxygen fill access from inside the right avionics bay, which currently requires removal of the bay door to refill or check oxygen levels, to a dedicated access forward of the door.
Another improvement is an engine oil level check system, which can be reached from ground level, where a pushbutton provides an OK status. This system eliminates removal–and possible improper reinstallation–of the oil filler cap, access to which requires a ladder. Both the oxygen and oil check access doors will be the production standard starting with S/N RK-393.
In addition, a host of new optional equipment will be available for the 400XP. One option is the Honeywell Ovation C series cabin-entertainment system backbone. This system will include Honeywell source equipment (CD/DVD player, monitors and so on), audio amplifier and passenger controls. Another option is the Heads Up Technologies XM satellite radio receiver, which will integrate into the Ovation system.
The Teledyne AvVisor and AvVisor Plus cabin display will also be in the optional equipment line-up. Both versions offer an 8.4-inch display that provides 13 parameters of real-time flight data for passengers, including current altitude and speed, as well as estimated time of arrival. The AvVisor Plus goes a step beyond by displaying the present position on a moving map. NetJets has chosen as standard all three of the new options for the 70 Hawker 400XPs it has on order.
First on the list of upgrades for the Hawker 800XP, meanwhile, will be a change to LED lighting throughout the cabin, including cabin upwash, reading and table lights. Raytheon said it is making the move to LEDs because of their longer life and higher reliability, as well as reduced power consumption. Along this line, the sconce light will have a lower profile thanks to the smaller LED lights.
Another cabin refinement will include cleaner-looking cabinets that eliminate the “framed door” appearance in current 800XPs, and a new continuous-height side ledge, which Raytheon said yields a more open look. Cabinets and drawers will also come with sturdier latching hardware, Raytheon said. Additionally, the seatbelt buckles will be changed to a push-button style, much like that found in cars.
Perhaps the most noticeable cabin change is that the divan will switch sides with the aft closet. This will put the closet on the right side, with the divan on the left. In doing so, the aft closet will be combined with the crew cabinet behind the now oval lav mirror, which allows more efficient use of existing baggage volume.
Also part of the upgrade package in the 800XP is the new Collins Airshow 3.9-inch LCD touchscreen cabin management system (CMS). The LCD control panels throughout the cabin will share a common part number, and the individual displays are software-configurable, meaning that the VIP panel can be easily placed at any desired seat via a software change. Additionally, the touchscreens are menu-driven, thus passengers no longer have to cycle through options. A companion RF-frequency remote control, complete with a color LCD touchscreen, will allow crewmembers to control everything that the VIP panel does, including cabin temperature, lighting, audio and video. The 800XP is the launch platform for the new Airshow CMS.
Would-be makers of very light jets (VLJs) were very much in the headlines at the NBAA Convention, with Eclipse announcing a reduction in production times and efforts to create a world-class service and support network, and Adam Aircraft teasing showgoers with word that an established fractional provider (as yet unnamed) has ordered 100 A700 twinjets.
VLJ Makers Make News
Eclipse said it has accelerated its production schedule for the Eclipse 500 to meet demand (see story on page 8). Vern Raburn, Eclipse president and CEO, said the program is on track and that he believes the first deliveries will take place in March 2006. Over the first 12 months of production, the company plans to build 260 aircraft. During the second 12 months, it will build 880 aircraft. This translates into earlier deliveries for 99 percent of its current customers, Raburn claimed, saying the company chose to be conservative in releasing production figures “until we could test our progressive manufacturing processes.” Everything the company has learned from its test fleet production experience validates the faster production rates, Raburn said.
Also on track is the planned first flight by December 31 this year of a preproduction 500 powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PW610F turbofan engines. Raburn said the company holds firm orders for 2,126 Eclipse 500s, with about one-third going to owner-pilots, about 10 percent to “others” and the balance to air-taxi operators. Current price of the Eclipse 500 (in 2000 dollars) is $1.175 million. If you ordered one today, you’d have to wait until February 2008 for delivery. Before the production schedule was accelerated, you would have had to wait until September 2008.
In the area of customer support, Eclipse has decided to build a network of seven factory service centers in the continental U.S., positioned so that every 500 owner will be no more than 1.5 hours’ flying time from the nearest center, according to Eclipse. Pending necessary city and state approvals, the first two centers, at the company’s headquarters in Albuquerque, N.M., and Gainesville, Fla., are planned to open in 2006 by the time the first customer airplanes are delivered.
Englewood, Colo.-based OEM start-up Adam Aircraft’s announcement that it has signed an agreement to deliver 100 A700s to a known, established fractional provider ignited much speculation. Asked if the customer was based in Columbus, Ohio (home of NetJets), Cleveland (Flight Options) or Dallas (Flexjet), a senior official said only that the two parties had agreed to provide no more details until the agreement was made final, probably before year-end.
There was no word on how a fractional provider would use the airplanes, but speculation centered on several possibilities. One would be the sale of traditional fractional shares, another would consist of some sort of air-taxi network and yet a third supposition was that a large fractional operator may want an airplane such as the A700 for crew positioning.
In any case, if completed the order would increase the A700’s order book to 205 aircraft, of which 30 are said to be from owner-pilots and 75 from Pogo, the start-up air-limo operator announced earlier this year by Robert Crandall and Donald Burr. List price for the A700 is $2.1 million.
Other OEM Developments
While not quite fitting the SSBJ category in terms of earth-shattering announcements, the airframe OEMs had much to report at this year’s convention. Gulfstream announced it has received an STC for the first installation of its Broad Band Multi-Link (BBML) high-speed Internet connection, on a Gulfstream IV (see page 94). The system, which was in flight test for more than 12 months, typically provides connection speeds of 800 kilobytes to 1.6 megabytes per second, with a maximum speed of 3.5 megabytes. That’s far faster than current Swift64 connections from Inmarsat.
BBML is composed of a dish antenna mounted under the tail radome, an antenna control unit, a transceiver router and a Gulfstream-exclusive cabin server that connects to the Internet through Arinc’s SkyLink broadband service. The dedicated satellite-based system can also tie directly into an existing office voice-over-Internet protocol telephone network. Gulfstream expects to obtain approval to install the BBML on G550, G500 and GV models in the fourth quarter and on the G450 and G350 by the first quarter of next year.
At NBAA Gulfstream also unveiled the fuselage mockup of the G150. Displayed for the first time anywhere, the new cabin is more a traditional Gulfstream than most people would think considering the airplane’s lineage. The G150 builds on the G100 (former Astra SPX) but with a cabin that is 12 inches wider and incorporates bigger windows, Pro Line 21 avionics and improved engines. First flight of the G150 is on track for the second quarter of next year and certification in the first quarter of 2006, Gulfstream said. Entry into service is planned for the third quarter of 2006.
Dassault made the announcement that CMC Electronics will provide the infrared camera/sensor package for the Rockwell Collins Flight Dynamics integrated EVS/HUD in Falcons. The CMC SureSight IR units will be integrated with the Collins Flight Dynamics HGS-4860 HUD in a package offered to all future Dassault Falcon 2000EX, 900EX, 900DX and 7X operators.
The French airframe builder also touted its most recent airplane programs, the Falcon 7X and 900DX. Officials noted that the first 7X sat on its own wheels for the first time on September 28, just nine months after the design was frozen. The trijet’s Pratt & Whitney Canada PW307A engines have logged 2,200 hours in ground tests and 380 hours in flight. Engine certification is expected in the second quarter of next year.
Dassault said the fifth 7X nose section is in assembly, and more than 10 of the trijets will be built by the airplane’s expected certification late next year. First flight of the 7X is slated for this coming spring, and three flight-test aircraft will participate in the certification effort.
Dassault also highlighted the attributes of the 900DX, announced earlier this year at EBACE in Geneva as a replacement for the 900C. The 4,100-nm 900DX will cost considerably less to operate than its competitors, Dassault claimed. As an example, the company told attendees that on a Chicago to Hanover, Germany flight, the 900DX will cost $10,390 to operate versus $14,670 for an “unidentified competitor.” Ground tests of the 900DX are expected to start in February, with first flight expected in the summer. Certification is penciled in for December next year.
Bizliner Makers Square Off
Surprising nobody, Boeing Business Jets and Airbus traded jabs at NBAA’04, with each of the bizliner makers claiming victory in the race to be the number-one seller of super-size business jets. It all started when Airbus took a swipe at Boeing Business Jets for what it called sluggish sales, referring to a sharp production slowdown for the U.S. company in Seattle, where the BBJ is built alongside the 737. But Boeing Business Jets president Steven Hill told AIN that his company could “easily” sell more than the five BBJs that the company will produce next year.
“It’s a matter of supply, not demand,” he retorted.
This supply shortage, he said, is due to the fact that the BBJ and BBJ2s are members of the 737 Next Generation family, and demand for these airliners right now is high, making their production a priority for Boeing. This leaves very few slots for BBJs on the production line–in fact, there are only five BBJ production slots for all of next year, he said. The company announced at NBAA’04 that those five aircraft positions were just filled, selling out the entire BBJ production lot for next year.
Hill said he intends to get more positions on the 737 line for BBJs in 2006, adding that this is something Boeing Business Jets will look at more closely before year-end.
“We’d like to increase supply to better meet the demand,” he said, “but because we’re part of Boeing there is a 10-month lag between the time we ask for a production boost and when it actually happens. Also, any production increase would have to happen in groups of four, per Boeing.”
Final assembly of a BBJ currently takes 12 days, Hill noted. This is down dramatically from 22 days when BBJs first started rolling off the line, though the company would like to eventually get assembly time down to eight days.
Meanwhile, Boeing Business Jets is working on an enhanced vision system for its bizliners. Hill noted that CMC Electronics and Rockwell Collins are teaming to provide the system. Collins, provider of the BBJ’s HGS-4000 head-up display, is responsible for the video card while CMC Electronics will provide the EVS sensor. Boeing engineers are currently determining the best location to install the EVS sensor.
Airbus reported that nearly 30 aircraft in the Airbus Corporate Jetliner family are now in service, of the 38 ordered since the ACJ was launched in 1997. Richard Gaona, Airbus vice president of executive and private aviation, proudly told AIN that for the first time annual sales for the ACJ family (which includes Long Range and Executive models) broke double digits, with 11 aircraft ordered this year, one of which is an option.
The orders logged this year include one ACJ each for the Azerbaijan and Brazilian governments; one A319 Long Range (and one option) for Eurofly, an Italian-based airline; two A319 Executives for National Air Services of Saudi Arabia; one A319LR for Qatar Airways; and four aircraft for undisclosed private customers. The current price of a green ACJ is about $44 million. Completion of the interior, which depends on the needs and desires of the customer, brings the total price to about $50 to $60 million.
Forecasts Agree: Good Times Are Back
Underscoring the optimism that was present throughout NBAA’04 were market forecasts from engine makers Honeywell and Rolls-Royce, both of which predicted the down cycle of the last few years is over and the upswing is just starting in earnest.
Honeywell’s 13th annual business aviation outlook projected increasing demand for new business jets beginning this year, with customers expected to purchase more than 8,300 jets valued at about $131 billion from now through 2014. The forecast also projects sustained near-term sales for business jets, welcome news for an industry weary of the doldrums since 9/11.
Manufacturer backlogs remain at nearly 1,500 aircraft orders, options and deposits, according to Honeywell. About 40 percent of them are attributed to fractional ownership programs. Close to two-thirds of the total order backlog is for new designs, amounting to more than 1,000 aircraft. Examples are the Bombardier Challenger 300, Gulfstream 150, Cessna Citation Sovereign, Citation Mustang, Dassault Falcon 7X and Raytheon Hawker Horizon.
Many aircraft manufacturers have been reporting higher sales activity this year than last, said Honeywell, which supports strong planned increases in production next year. This is also consistent with the pickup in economic growth combined with the positive effect of bonus depreciation, which has been extended for another year.
At the same time, the Rolls-Royce long-range forecast, covering 2004 to 2023, showed a market for 23,000 aircraft with a delivered value of $284 billion. These numbers included bizliners through VLJs, which Rolls-Royce included in its forecast for the first time. When the VLJs are left out of the Rolls-Royce forecast mix, the company predicts 15,000 business jet deliveries through 2023, up slightly from last year’s forecast.
The Rolls-Royce forecast also calls for more bumper sales to fractional providers. Today, the forecast noted, fractional operators account for about 10 to 15 percent of annual deliveries. The forecast shows this proportion increasing to up to 22 percent in the coming years.
Engine Makers Tie the Knot
To the disappointment of scores of buyers who no doubt imagined plunking down a couple of million dollars for the Honda Civic of light business jets, the Japanese carmaker made it clear that it has no plans to bring its developmental HondaJet to market. The good news is that the CEOs of Honda Motor and GE Transportation, a division of General Electric, signed the definitive agreement at the convention to create GE Honda Aero Engines, a joint company that will pursue the launch of Honda’s HF118 turbofan engine for the light business jet market.
Takeo Fukui, president and CEO of Honda Motor, and David Calhoun, president and CEO of GE Transportation, signed copies of the agreement after a short presentation on the show floor on opening day. The new company will begin operating by the end of the year in Cincinnati with about 10 employees, said Gary Leonard of GE Transportation, who, with Atsukuni Waragai of Honda Aero, will jointly lead GE Honda Aero Engines. Honda and GE had previously announced their strategic alliance plan last February.
GE Honda Aero Engines’ first product is the 1,600-pound-thrust HF118, which is being offered to OEMs developing four- to six-passenger business jets. Later derivatives of the engine will be offered with thrust ranges from 1,000 to 3,500 pounds, accommodating up to eight-passenger jets. Leonard said the company is talking to several business jet airframers and hopes to announce a launch customer within the next year and begin delivering production engines by late 2007.
It was Fukui who confirmed that Honda has no current plans to market its very light HondaJet, now being used as the flight-test vehicle for the HF118.
In other engine news, Williams International provided detailed figures for the two improved versions of its FJ44 turbofan engine to power the Citation CJ1+ and CJ2+. Gregg Williams, president of Williams International, discussed the FJ44-1AP (advanced performance) engine now flying on the CJ1+, as well as a new derated version of the Williams FJ44-3A, which will be used on the CJ2+. He said the new FJ44-1AP incorporates an all-new, highly efficient advanced fan “as well as an infusion of new component technologies developed as part of the recently certified FJ44-3A.” It will provide up to 2,100 pounds of takeoff thrust, a 12-percent increase in altitude thrust, and more than a 5-percent reduction in cruise specific fuel consumption, all at reduced operating temperatures compared to the previous 1,900-pound-thrust FJ44-1 model, he added.
The FJ44-1AP is reported also to have significantly lower idle thrust, allowing Cessna to eliminate the thrust attenuators from the CJ, thereby reducing weight and systems complexity.
NBAA’s new president, Ed Bolen, former head of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, was happy to be at the convention and settling into his new position. During the show he met with top-level industry executives, FAA leaders, the head of the TSA and Commerce Secretary Don Evans, who was on hand at NBAA’04 to talk about industry growth, trade promotion and access to foreign markets.
Ironically, Bolen highlighted airport and airspace access as the number-one challenge to business aviation, saying that unless business aviation can freely operate in North America, the potential of this form of travel is going to be artificially constrained. On the last day of the show, October 14, a presidential TFR blanketed the three Las Vegas airports for several hours as President Bush and Senator Kerry arrived for some late race campaigning. All departures and customer demonstration flights had to be put off until the afternoon at Henderson Executive and North Las Vegas Airports, leading to delays and scheduling headaches.
CAE To Build Northeast Training Center
CAE SimuFlite disclosed that it is negotiating with Teterboro, Newark and Morristown Airports as the finalists for the company’s newest business aviation training center.
The Northeast Training Center in New Jersey will join more than 20 CAE centers worldwide and is expected to be operational by summer 2006. The date is significant, the company said, because that is when entitlement training is scheduled to begin for the Falcon 7X. Dassault awarded the 7X training contract last July that calls for CAE to provide training for pilots, maintenance personnel and cabin crew.
Initially, the Northeast Center will house six full-flight simulators including a Dassault Falcon 7X, Falcon 900EX EASy/2000EX EASy convertible and a Raytheon Beechjet 400A sim. The remaining three simulator types have yet to be determined but the initial floor plan calls for eight simulator bays with the potential for future expansion.
WSI InFlight Now an Option on Citation XLS
WSI’s InFlight AV200 weather information system is now available as an avionics option on the Cessna Citation XLS, bundled with a Garmin AT MX20 multifunction display. InFlight uses satellite technology to broadcast weather information, including radar images, to any aircraft equipped with the product’s antenna and receiver. Prices for certified AV200 systems begin at $4,995 plus installation.
Users pay an additional fee for the data, with subscription plans ranging from $479 to $999 per year for unlimited usage. Graphical TFRs are available on the higher-priced plans, according to WSI. Other versions of the InFlight system are compatible with Garmin’s GNS 430/530 multifunction displays, as well as some portable units. Pricing for the Citation XLS installation is available through Cessna.
Arinc Approved To Write STCs In-house
Arinc announced that the FAA has awarded designated alteration station (DAS) authority to the company’s Colorado Springs, Colo. repair center, making it one of the few facilities in the country specializing in repairs and modifications related to this status. “This was a huge step for Arinc because it allows us to write STCs in-house,” said Thomas Robeson, director of aircraft services for Arinc and the person who spearheaded the effort more than seven years ago. “It’s a pretty high level of trust by the FAA to turn over the entire STC process to a company.”
Robeson said Arinc went through a trial period of sorts for several years, establishing Colorado Springs as a certified repair station and working with the FAA to document and prove that the company could handle the responsibility of operating a DAS there. Arinc plans to expand its physical presence in Colorado Springs to accommodate the increased workload it expects to gain as a result of the DAS. The company currently has about 20,000 sq ft of hangar space and about 25,000 sq ft of manufacturing and engineering space there, Robeson said.
Jet Aviation Introduces a Jet Card
Hoping to cash in on the next bizav travel trend, Jet Aviation last month launched Privileged Travel, a jet-card program that includes an introductory level with blocks of time starting at just 10 hours. The card lets customers asses their travel needs while making a limited financial commitment, according to Jet Aviation. If they decide they need more time, customers can apply their unused balances to 25- and 100-hour cards. Cards range in price from $50,000 to $1 million.
P&WC Anticipates R&D Payoff
Pratt & Whitney Canada is preparing for entry into service of new engines for the nascent very light jet market and Dassault’s Falcon 7X trijet, confident that the fruits of its labor are about to be realized. “Our investment in R&D is paying off and we feel very optimistic,” said Alain Bellemare, P&WC president. “I believe that things are starting to move in the right direction.”
The first two production turbofans in the PW600 series, the PW615 and PW610F for the Cessna Mustang and Eclipse 500 VLJs, respectively, are slated for certification between late next year and early 2006. The PW615F had accumulated 118 flight hours aboard a CJ1 testbed aircraft by the beginning of last month. The PW615F is scheduled for first flight aboard the Mustang early in the second quarter of next year with certification by the end of next year.
Selected to power the Eclipse 500 in February last year, the PW610F is being prepared to fly on the company’s Boeing 720 testbed early this month. P&WC plans to ship engines to Eclipse’s Albuquerque plant by the end of the year for test flights and is on track for certification in the first quarter of 2006.
EFB Supplier Introduces Pre-certified Mount
Advanced Data Research (ADR), which produces a variety of electronic flight bag (EFB) portable computers, is now offering a pre-certified mounting kit that will get the units off pilots’ laps and onto the airframe for a lot less time and money, the company claimed.
According to Jeffery Geraci, vice president of business development for ADR, physical installation of the mounts is relatively simple, but the paperwork required to get the installation approved by the FAA can be time-consuming and expensive, often costing several times as much as the hardware itself. “The big deal about these kits is that we’ve done most of the work,” Geraci said. To help ease the burden on operators, ADR is offering mounting arm installation kits that are already FAA 8110 certified. The kits also come with the field certification paperwork that the operator can take to the local FSDO.
The company is offering a complete installation kit for its 8.4-inch FG-3500, 3600, 4000 and 5000 models, for $2,495. The kit is approved for use in the Citation Bravo/CJ, Beechjet, Hawker 800 and, soon, the Falcon 50. ADR also offers an STC package to install its FG-5000 unit in the Challenger 604.
Shell Announces Contract Fuel Program
Starting in the first quarter of next year, operators using any of the approximately 300 Shell-branded FBOs in the U.S. can look forward to having the option of joining a contract fuel program. Shell Aviation officials said the program will mean fuel will be available at “competitive prices” across the Shell FBO network. Contract fuel customers may also add any of Shell Aviation’s more than 800 international locations through a separate pricing process. Customers will be able to find current, individual pricing information on the Web as well as enroll in the program and receive online contract fuel cards for each pilot and aircraft.
EMS Satcom Inks $50 Million Supplier Deal
Ottawa-based EMS Satcom signed a seven-year agreement to develop custom avionics products to complement the Honeywell/Thales Avionics MCS-4000/7000 satellite communications system. The agreement–which EMS values at more than $50 million over the next five years–covers high-power amplifiers and high-speed-data units. The products will support Inmarsat Swift64 and be upgradeable to SwiftBroadband, which is expected to be available in 2006 and to provide bandwidth speeds of 432 kbps per channel.
Flight Options Touts JetPass Card’s Success
Flight Options’ JetPass card membership program, launched in July, has grown more rapidly than anticipated, the company said at NBAA’04. “We wanted a 10-percent market share within six months,” said John Nahill, chairman and CEO of the Cleveland-based company. “We feel we achieved that in our first 60 days.” When asked how he calculated the 10-percent figure, however, Nahill said only that the market he had in mind encompassed both the jet cards and block charter. “The number of memberships we’ve sold is proprietary,” he added.
The JetPass program resembles other jet cards in several ways, most notably in that it makes private-jet travel available in 25-hour increments for one upfront fee with no long-term obligations. According to Nahill, however, JetPass differs from most competitors in that unused flight time is refundable, hours never expire and interchange rates incorporate no penalties for members who want to switch to larger or smaller aircraft.
Honeywell Engine Gains First EASA Approval
Honeywell announced that it has received European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification for the TFE731-20BR turbofan. “We believe it is the first propulsion engine to receive EASA certification,” said Barry Eccleston, the company’s vice president and general manager, propulsion systems enterprise. The TFE731-20BR powers the Learjet 45XR light business jet. The engine delivers 3,650 pounds of thrust up to 104 degrees, for improved performance from high-elevation airports in hot conditions. Learjet 45XR deliveries began in June and there are currently 19 aircraft in service in the U.S. Following European approval of the engine, EASA certification for the 45XR is expected by year-end.
Duncan Unveils ‘Signature’ Interior Designs
Duncan Aviation and Duncan Design publicly unveiled The Duncan Design Collection for business aircraft interiors at NBAA’04. The collection includes a silhouette headliner for the Learjet 30 Series, a Falcon 50 shell package and a Gulfstream IV forward lavatory. More signature interiors are planned.