PARIS 2001: France's aero salon a sales shootout

 - May 21, 2008, 5:13 AM

The 2001 Paris Air Show was no epic in terms of new models unveiled and mega-developments launched. It was nonetheless an exceptionally businesslike event, achieving a record tally for announced sales of some $40 billion. Even so, this grand tally was somewhat down from the $52 billion sales bonanza at last year’s Farnborough Air Show and some chose to interpret this as evidence of the long-anticipated cooling in demand.

No fewer than 126,000 trade visitors attended this year’s salon at Le Bourget Airport, in addition to 186,000 members of the public on the event’s three non-trade days. Forty different countries were represented among the exhibitors and official delegations. There were 199 aircraft on static display and 70 in the daily flying displays.

Airbus and Boeing once again generated much of the transatlantic competitive tension vying for the hearts and minds of the air-transport industry with their now divergent takes on future long-haul needs–the super-large 555-seat Airbus A380 vs Boeing’s proposed Mach 0.98 hub-buster, the Sonic Cruiser. While the A380 is a launched program supported by a growing number of firm orders, the Sonic Cruiser is still very much in the product definition phase and the U.S. airframer used the show to shed just a little more light on this still somewhat mysterious would-be market entrant.

Airbus Books New Business

Airbus announced airliner orders and commitments valued at around $17.3 billion during Paris 2001, lending weight to the contention of CEO Noel Forgeard that the air-transport industry would be blessed with a “soft landing” in the long-anticipated economic downturn. Importantly, the European airframer’s show announcements included a firm order for 10 A380s from Air France and a firm contract for 10 more of the super-jumbos from International Lease Finance Corp. (ILFC).

For the first time in its 28-year history, ILFC now has more outstanding orders for Airbus equipment than for Boeing designs. In addition to the 10 A380-800s (including five freighters), the $8.7 billion deal ILFC signed with Airbus at Le Bourget also called for 21 A330 widebody twins (including an unspecified number of -200F cargo carriers that ILFC is working with the manufacturer to define) and no less than 80 A320s. In fact, Airbus’ plans to launch the A330-200F freighter did not materialize at Paris 2001, with the company claiming that currently it does not have capacity to introduce the new variant.

The A380 contract with Air France, which includes a firm order for five cargo versions of the double-decker design and options for four more, calls for first deliveries in November 2006. The French flag carrier plans to fly the aircraft on long-haul services out of Paris to North America and Asia, gradually supplementing its Boeing 747-400 fleet to match traffic growth.

Boeing Focuses on Deliveries

Boeing laid claim to some intellectual high ground by arguing that it is not prepared to resort to stockpiling order announcements at air shows for purely public relations purposes. Furthermore, argued sales executive vice president Seddik Belyamani at a Le Bourget press conference, the U.S. airframer now takes the view that deliveries are a more meaningful measure of market share than orders. Apparently anticipating unflattering comparisons between its Paris 2001 sales tally and that of Airbus, Boeing pointed out that last year it delivered 489 airplanes vs 311 from its European rival.

With or without this moving of the goal posts, Boeing was able to announce a $525 million firm order from Japan Airlines (JAL) for three of its 777-200ERs. These are scheduled for delivery between 2003 and 2006 and will replace the carrier’s fleet of 15 DC-10s. The manufacturer is expecting further additional commitments for the 767-300ER, for which JAL is the launch customer.

Sonic Cruiser a Changing Design

Plans for the much vaunted Sonic Cruiser are expected to spend much of the next 12 months at the product definition phase, as Boeing works with a broad constituency of potential customers and suppliers to nail down its configuration and characteristics. Already, said Boeing Commercial Airplanes president Alan Mulally, the new aircraft is expected to fly 20 percent faster (Mach 0.95 to 0.98) than today’s transports, while maintaining current-day operating costs. The company is now seeking to finesse the delicate range, payload and speed equation.

Two slightly different models displayed at Le Bourget gave some clues as to Boeing’s provisional proposals. The design is basically a canard configuration featuring a double-delta wing with an engine slung tight under each side and twin tailfins to provide directional control.

Boeing’s “baseline” layout might lose its foreplanes as it comes to terms with factors such as airport handling and behavior in gusty conditions, according to new airplane program marketing vice president John Roundhill. “If it isn’t a canard, it will have a conventional tail,” he said, “but foreplanes saved perhaps 30 feet in fuselage length at the expected passenger capacity.”

Although Boeing is planning a family of aircraft that would accommodate from 100 to as many as 300 passengers in single- or twin-aisle cabins, the basic design is shaped around 225 seats and a range of about 7,000 nm. A 9,000-nm-range variant is also possible. The Sonic Cruiser would fly initially at 41,000 ft, with noise levels “better than Stage 4 standards.” Boeing expects to be able to enter an aircraft into service in 2007 or 2008.

In a potentially landmark Internet-in-the-sky deal, Lufthansa announced it will equip all 80 of its long-range passenger jets with Boeing’s Connexion service. This is subject to a three-month trial next year involving a 747 in revenue service on North Atlantic routes from Germany to the U.S.

A week before the Paris show, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines reached an agreement with Boeing to install Connexion in some 1,500 airliners on a joint-venture basis. However, Lufthansa declined to take equity in the program and will be a straightforward commercial customer.

Airbus countered these deals by announcing that it is buying a 30-percent share in
on-board connectivity specialist Tenzing Communications. Seattle-based Tenzing is to be the European airframer’s preferred supplier of in-flight e-mail and Internet services as part of the new Airbus Inflight Information Services (AFIS) operation.

Regional Jet Battles Continue

Paris 2001 did not provide the anticipated conclusion to a long-running contest for a $1.5 billion order from Northwest Airlines for some 60 to 75 regional jets. Brazil’s Embraer admitted that it was fighting a rearguard action to prevent the order going to its main rival Bombardier, with the Canadian government having offered loan incentives amounting to some $2 million per airplane. (In the end, Bombardier eventually won the order.)

In fact, Bombardier was to be the beneficiary of another $1.5 billion deal that saw German lessor Deutsche Structured Finance order 30 of its CRJ-700s and 20 CRJ-900s. The customer also optioned a $1 billion mixed bag of 30 Series 200, 700 and 900 aircraft and deliveries are set to run from early 2003 to mid-2009.

Bombardier also logged a conditional sale from Austria’s Tyrolean Airlines for a pair of its Dash 8Q-400s. The manufacturer said that it is close to securing approval for the 78-seat turboprop to operate into London City Airport, which has a 3,900-ft runway with a steep 5.5-deg approach.

The CRJ-900 prototype made its international debut at the Le Bourget show, having undergone some 12 weeks of test flying since its maiden flight in February. The 90-seater is due to complete certification in the third quarter of next year.

Alongside its order for the Airbus A318, TAM Brazil also graced Embraer with a contract for at least 25 of its new 108-seat ERJ-190-200. The deals were announced at a joint press conference to underline the fact that the similarly sized aircraft will fill complementary roles for the operator, with the Embraer aircraft offering shorter field capability.

In some $1.4 billion worth of business concluded by Embraer at the Paris show, Chautauqua Airlines of Indianapolis converted options for 28 of its 44-seat ERJ-140s. Trans States Airlines of St. Louis placed a firm order for 10 of the same type.

A long-anticipated partnership between Embraer and the French-Italian Avions de Transport Regional came to fruition at Le Bourget when they jointly announced a teaming with Oracle and KPMG Consulting to create a new Internet-based customer-support network. Embraer is contributing 84 percent of AeroChain’s $21 million startup costs, with the other partners providing the rest of the cash. In the process, Embraer will gain access to ATR’s Toulouse warehouse, providing much needed product-support capacity in its most dynamic marketplace–Europe.

ATR itself appeared at Paris having just restructured into the new ATR Integrated corporate format. It was also led by a new management team under CEO Jean-Michel Leonard, who just replaced Antoine Bouvier. The change follows a decision by ATR shareholders, European Aeronautics Defence and Space Company (EADS) and Italy’s Finmeccanica, to regroup their ATR activities, which were previously divided between their respective regional aircraft subsidiaries.

Embraer made a big impression on showgoers with its full-scale fuselage mockup of the ERJ-190-200. Weighing more than 35,000 lb and measuring 92 ft in length, the structure featured a three-class, four-abreast seating configuration.

Fairchild Dornier announced contracts collectively valued at almost $300 million from three customers, for a total of 13 aircraft. Most of this business came from CSA Czech Airlines, which ordered eight of the U.S.-German manufacturer’s 728JETs, four of which are to be leased through GE Capital Aviation Services. The deal allows the Czech carrier to upgrade two of the aircraft to the larger 928JET.

Africa’s Air Namibia announced it will buy two 328JETs. The 32-seaters will be delivered at the end of this year. Fairchild Dornier also sold three corporate versions of the 328JET, the Envoy 3. One went to Spanish financial house Grupo InvestBlue and the other two to undisclosed clients.

To meet the manpower demands of its 728JET program, Fairchild was busy hiring at the Paris show. The firm is currently recruiting about 50 technicians and administrative personnel each week and will need to continue at this rate to meet its goal of getting the new 70-seater airborne by next spring and certified by the middle of 2003.

Former Fairchild executive Earl Robinson was in Paris as CEO of his startup company, Alliance Aircraft. At the show he signed a co-production contract with China’s Harbin Aviation, giving it production rights for Alliance’s proposed StarLiner SL-100-35 regional jet. The Chinese group is assuming risk-sharing responsibility for the development of the 35-seater. It will be contributing an unspecified amount of capital as well as purchasing the first batch of aircraft for resale to operators in the People’s Republic of China. Alliance still plans to built the 44- and 55-seat SL-100 models at Martinsburg, W. Va.

In another collaboration, Boeing signed an MOU with Russia’s Sukhoi and Ilyushin on a joint feasibility study for a new regional aircraft. The model in question would carry 50 to 90 passengers up to 1,000 nm. The idea is that it would be jointly designed, produced and marketed in Russia.

Ukraine’s Antonov debuted its new An-74TK at Paris 2001, barely two months after it made its maiden flight in April. The model differs from the basic An-72/74 family in featuring ZMKB Progress D36 engines on underwing pylons. The turbofans have a reverse thrust system derived from that on the D18T engines of the company’s An-124 Ruslan heavy freighter. Previously, An-72 and An-74 jets had their engines mounted distinctively on top of the wing to produce a Coanda over-wing thrust effect and also to protect them from foreign object damage.

BAE Systems was not able to drag the new Avro RJX prototype away from its recently started flight-test program. However, it reported that the 85-seat version of the new family has completed more than 40 hr of certification flying. The manufacturer is now preparing to add second and third test aircraft (of the larger RJX100 variant) and these will be powered by “Block 2” versions of Honeywell’s AS977 engine that will be more representative of the final production powerplant.

The RJX is aimed at providing 15-percent lower fuel burn, 20-percent lower maintenance costs and improved field performance. It is due to complete certification by the second quarter of next year.

Meanwhile, AIN has learned that the Bahrain Air Force has ordered one of the last few Avro RJ85s for VIP/government transport use. BAE has four more of the existing 85-seat models and a pair of RJ100s to sell before the production line is turned over to the RJX model.

Dassault Launches New Falcon FNX

Reflecting the continued buoyant demand in their sector, business aircraft manufacturers enjoyed a high profile at Paris 2001. Dassault Aviation had arguably the busiest show of them all, unveiling plans for a new addition to its Falcon family and a major order from United Airlines’ new fractional-ownership operation.

That Dassault was preparing to launch a new model was not one of the industry’s best kept secrets. But the French manufacturer’s chairman and CEO, Charles Edelstenne, was able to put plenty of flesh on the program’s bones when he announced that the aircraft, codenamed Falcon FNX, would offer a 5,700-nm range and a cabin that will be 20 percent larger than that of the existing Falcon 900EX. With a new wing of “high transonic design,” the FNX also promises to be fleet of foot with a Mach 0.90 Mmo.

The FNX fuselage is very similar to that of its Falcon predecessors, as is the trijet engine configuration around the tail. The major driver of change for the model will be the high-sweep wing. According to Olivier Villa, v-p of Falcon programs, it will provide a double-digit lift-to-drag ratio over current Falcon wings. He said that the goal is to optimize its shape to simplify the structure and reduce weight and construction costs, while also maximizing internal fuel volume and keeping it “safe and pilot-friendly.”

The new wing will have a higher aspect ratio and a more pronounced sweep, allowing more efficient high-speed cruise performance. Using technologies already being applied to current Falcon horizontal stabilizers, the wing will have a simplified structure comprised primarily of metallic alloys but also of composites to save weight and add stiffness.

The FNX will carry an upgraded version of Dassault’s new EASy flight deck (a demonstrator of which was on display at Le Bourget). It will offer four 14.1-in. displays to provide everything from flight planning and automated checklists to a presentation of the aircraft’s precise location, situation and environment. A graphical interface will permit pilots to keep their heads up while adjusting flight plans or doing route mapping. The idea, according to Dassault, is to reduce pilot workload and increase situational awareness.

Honeywell’s AS905 and Pratt & Whitney’s PW306 engines are in the running for selection as the FNX powerplant. Total thrust for the trijet will exceed 18,000 lb and TBO will be 7,000 hr out of the box.

The FNX cabin will have the same height and width as the Falcon 900EX–7 ft 8 in. by 6 ft 2 in. However, at 47 ft 1 in. long–eight feet longer than the 900EX and barely two inches less than the cabin of the Bombardier Global Express–the total cabin volume will be 20 percent more than that of the current largest member of the Falcon family. To reduce passenger fatigue, a new cabin pressurization system will maintain 6,000 ft at 51,000 ft altitude. A basic floor plan would offer variations on a three-compartment configuration, with two lavatories, a private crew rest area and a galley.

First flight of the approximately $37 million FNX is projected for 2004.

If Dassault is looking for cash-flow to fund the FNX development it found a good chunk of it in the 100-aircraft contract received from United BizJet Holdings. The deal includes orders for 10 Falcon 900EXs and a mix of 30 Falcon 2000s and 2000EXs. United has also optioned up to 10 more 900EXs and 50 2000EXs.

Dassault also announced that the Falcon 50EX is to be equipped with the new carbon-fiber horizontal stabilizer that is already available for the Falcon 2000 and 900. The unit’s dimensions are the same as the original but it has 180 fewer parts than the original and weighs 30 lb less.

Gulfstream Grows Its Product Line

For Gulfstream, Paris 2001 was the occasion to underline its recent absorption of Galaxy Aerospace by formally nixing the Galaxy brand name. The company was also the beneficiary of a substantial order from the new United fractional program, which awarded a $1.25 billion contract for seven GIV-SPs and five GVs with options for nine more GIV-SPs and 15 GV-SPs.

Gulfstream president and COO Bill Boisture announced that the super-midsize Galaxy business jet and the midsize Astra SPX have been respectively rebranded as the Gulfstream 200 and the Gulfstream 100. The Savannah, Ga. manufacturer has assumed responsibility for outfitting, marketing, sales and support for both aircraft and will also handle sales and support for Galaxys and Astra SPXs already in service.

Including the G100 and the G200, the Gulfstream backlog is now valued at some $8 billion and the company has already boosted its sales force with another 30 people. With a broader portfolio of products, Gulfstream expects at least to double its share of the “move up” market of those buyers upgrading from smaller business aircraft. It currently receives about 20 percent of this sector of sales and estimates that, with the G100 and G200 in its fold, this will rise to 40 percent or more.

Boisture also argued that the addition of the G200 (nee Galaxy) has given it a significant edge over competitors in the super-midsize arena. While the G200 is available now, Bombardier’s Continental is not due to complete certification until the third quarter of next year and Raytheon’s Hawker Horizon isn’t scheduled for FAA approval until next summer.

The first delivery to United, a GIV-SP, is scheduled for May next year, and deliveries will continue through 2006. The deal signed at Le Bourget also calls for long-term maintenance support for the aircraft.

Gulfstream also reported that flight testing of the GV-SP is on track to begin in the fourth quarter of this year. Engineers have installed the PlaneView cockpit in the modified GV prototype and have begun preliminary wiring and software tests. Certification is expected late next year and first deliveries are scheduled for 2003.

Bombardier Breaks Records

Bombardier made a dramatic entrance to Paris 2001 with the arrival of all five of its current production aircraft after record-setting or record-breaking flights (AIN, July, page 81). Once the show was open, Bombardier and cabin specialist DeCrane Aircraft Holdings unveiled plans to develop high-speed Internet services for business-jet passengers. Scheduled for initial flight trials in a Global Express this summer, the partners anticipate that the new e-CabinConnect system will be certified by the end of the year.

The idea is that digital data will be sent to the airplane through a network of Ku-band satellites at speeds of 512 kilobytes per second, faster than the connections available in many office buildings. As the service is expanded, Bombardier and DeCrane believe data-transfer rates from the satellites to the aircraft can be increased to two megabytes per second.

Bombardier also reported that it is preparing to open a new Middle East service center at Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The new facility is scheduled for completion in the second quarter of next year as a joint venture among the Canadian airframer, South Africa-based ExecuJet Aviation and Alpha 55 of Dubai. It will feature two maintenance bays with room for two Global Expresses and will also house a new spare-parts depot.

Bombardier Business Aircraft’s new president, Pierre Beaudoin, also announced that it is market testing the viability of an Asian executive aircraft charter network. This would leverage technology pioneered by Bombardier Skynet, the company’s North American online charter broker. Information about the availability of jets in the region would be consolidated at the network hub in Hong Kong, with 24-hr access via phone or Internet.

During the show, Middle East distributor TAG Aeronautics ordered five of the new eight-passenger Bombardier Continentals in a deal valued at around $75 million. French racecar driver Alain Prost signed for a one-sixteenth share in a Learjet 31A through the manufacturer’s Flexjet fractional-ownership program.

Bombardier has been offering MedAire’s MedLink aviation medical support system as standard equipment on the Learjet 31A, 45 and 60 since July. The service, valued at just under $5,360, allows crewmembers to consult directly with MedLink emergency doctors on how to handle medical situations in flight or on the ground.

Raytheon Aircraft’s New Boss Goes to Paris

Raytheon Aircraft came to Paris 2001 with a new boss in Jim Schuster, who had just succeeded Hansel Tookes as CEO, and went home to Wichita with plenty to encourage him in his new role. During the course of the show, the manufacturer announced sales of no fewer than 45 aircraft in deals collectively valued at around $300 million. The sales tally included the following: two King Air 350s, four King Air 200s, two King Air C90s, two Beech Barons, a Beechjet 400A, 22 Hawker 450s, one Hawker Horizon and 11 Premier Is.

Schuster has already been re-evaluating the Raytheon division’s financial performance. Consequently, production rates for both the King Air family and the Beechjet 400A are to be reduced, while output for the Hawker 800XP will be maintained at current levels. The company had a Hawker 800XP on show at Le Bourget and began a European tour with the Premier I immediately following the event.

Raytheon also announced performance guarantees for the Hawker 450. A typically equipped aircraft with full fuel, two pilots and a 1,000-lb payload will have a guaranteed NBAA IFR range of 2,000 nm. The takeoff field length guarantee will be 4,700 ft and max cruise speed will be 472 kt.

BBJ’s New Boss Makes Paris Debut

Boeing told a Paris press conference that it is to “slightly” scale back production of its Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) this year. According to newly appointed BBJ president Lee Monson, this is due to “a softer economy.” During the show, Monson was announced as successor to Borge Boeskov, who is retiring.

Monson also predicted that by year-end, 25 percent of BBJ sales will be for the new BBJ2. The company has just delivered the first four green BBJ2s and the first of these is expected to enter service early next year.

The manufacturer is also set to see the first BBJ go into service in Latin America, with a delivery scheduled for early next year to Mexico’s Grupo Omnilife. Boeing has just delivered the green aircraft and it will now be completed by Piedmont Hawthorne in Dallas.

Two of the rival Airbus Corporate Jetliners (ACJs) graced the Le Bourget static display line. One had just been delivered to Paris charter operator Aero Services Executive and the second to Qatar Airways.

However, the Middle East carrier’s plans to use the ACJ for scheduled passenger service have been frustrated as it awaits clarification of the Qatar ruling family’s travel requirements. The bizliner, outfitted in 36-seat configuration, had planned to offer service from Doha to London, Geneva and Singapore, with spare capacity being offered for ad hoc charter.

Other Bizjet Manufacturers

Having just secured fresh cash to complete certification of its SJ30-2 entry-level business jet, Sino Swearingen has now forged an agreement with Aerostructures to build the wing and fuselage assemblies for the model. The Nashville, Tenn. company will deliver these components to Sino Swearingen’s new plant in Martinsburg, W. Va., for final assembly.

The SJ30-2 prototype now has more than 32 flight test hours toward its ambitious 1,400-hr certification program. It now expects to complete this in the third quarter of next year. Two further test aircraft will take to the air early next year.

Sino Swearingen currently claims orders for 175 aircraft, backed by $75,000 non-refundable deposits. The company is set to exhibit SJ30-2 S/N 002 at next month’s NBAA show in New Orleans.

Cessna brought the whole Citation family along for the ride to Paris–the CJ1, CJ2, Bravo, Encore, Excel and its own take on the Sonic Cruiser, the Mach 0.92 Citation X. With some 130 aircraft now on order from European customers, the manufacturer announced that it has expanded the operating hours and staffing of its European Citation Service Center at Le Bourget Airport. It has now added a second weekday shift to allow normal operations between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., with AOG response available anytime.

The Wichita company also announced that it has added a hot-section inspection package to its Citation Triple Crown maintenance program for Pratt & Whitney Canada JTD15D-1, -1A, -1B, 4, -5A and -5D engines. Also, the Cessna parts distribution organization is now offering online parts ordering at a just-launched Web site, www.cpdxpress.com.

Ibis Aerospace, the joint venture between the Czech Republic’s Aero Vodochody and AIDC of Taiwan, pulled its number-one prototype Ae270P out of flutter testing to debut at the Paris show. The company now claims firm orders for 27 aircraft and MOUs for 24 more.

Most of this $100 million backlog has been spoken for by the following three newly appointed distributors–CDC Aviation of Johannesburg, South Africa, which has ordered 12 aircraft; Piedmont Hawthorne of Winston-Salem, N.C., which has ordered nine units; and Australia’s Ibis Aircraft Sales, which has ordered six of the new turboprop singles. MOUs have also been signed with distributors Elliott Aviation and Stevens Aviation in the U.S. and Field Aviation in Canada. Each will provide product support, and Ibis Aerospace wants to have a worldwide network of 20 distributorships.

France’s Reims Aviation launched the new Mark II version of its F406 twin turboprop. The new model features improved cabin comfort and more choice in avionics, as well as better endurance and takeoff performance in hot weather. The Mark II uses more powerful P&WC PT6A-135A engines (635 shp vs the 500 shp on the Mark I’s PT6A-112s). First deliveries are set for the summer of 2003.

Celebrating the 90th anniversary of the Morane-Saulnier company on which it is founded, France’s Socata displayed a 1913 Morane H aircraft alongside its new GT family of single-engine piston aircraft and a pair of TBM 700s. The Morane H was the first aircraft to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

Grob Aerospace exhibited its yet-to-fly G140TP four-seat turboprop for the first time. The all-composite design is powered by a single Rolls-Royce 250-B17F turboprop driving a five-blade Muhlbauer MTV-5 propeller.

First flight for the German light utility aircraft is set for next month, with certification due to be achieved 12 months later. It promises a maximum cruise speed of 213 kt at 10,000 ft and sea-level climb rate of 2,300 fpm. With all seats occupied, the G140TP has a range of 575 nm with 30-min fuel reserves. With full tanks and a single pilot, the range rises to 1,065 nm.

Three New Eurocopters

The Franco-German Eurocopter alliance brought not one but three new models to the Le Bourget show. Shown for the first time anywhere were the new EC 145 and the EC 225/725. Making its first appearance outside the U.S. was the EC 130B4.

Derived from the BK117 C-1 model, the EC 145 is the result of a cooperative effort with Japanese manufacturer Kawasaki Heavy Industries. The 145 has 7,716-lb maximum takeoff weight and can hoist a 3,822-lb payload. In a high-density configuration it can carry 10 people (one pilot and nine passengers). Its cabin is both longer and wider. The cockpit will feature the “new avionics” concept that Eurocopter pioneered in the EC 135.

The EC 225/725 (the 225 being for the civil market and the 725 for the military) is the most recent upgrade to the Super Puma family. It made its first flight last November and has since logged more than 50 hr of testing.

The main technical advance is the introduction of a five-blade Spheriflex main rotor, a new main gearbox, upgraded Turbomeca Makila engines and an integrated cockpit and avionics system. The flight display system comprises four multifunction screens and two smaller displays for various parameters.

The EC 130B4 is the newest addition to the Ecureuil family of light singles. Eurocopter has designed it mainly for the air-tour market and, with this in mind, it has demonstrated noise levels that are seven decibels below current ICAO limits and half a decibel below the limit for the U.S. Grand Canyon National Park.

The model’s cabin provides 23 percent more space than other Ecureuil models and can be equipped with either seven or eight seats, with the pilot seated on the left side of the cockpit. Features include an automatic rotor-speed control system, Starflex main rotor, dual hydraulic controls, dual-channel Fadec and integrated cockpit avionics.

During the Paris show, Eurocopter landed almost $50 million of new business, including the sale of two EC 130s to pen maker Mont Blanc of Germany; 10 EC 130s to Rocky Mountain Helicopters of the U.S, and four more to German operator ADAC; and three EC 155s to the Swedish Helicopter Service. Canada’s CHC group provisionally agreed to buy an EC 225.

Enstrom Helicopter Corp. of the U.S. has received an order for four of its 280FX piston-powered helicopters from the Venezuelan defense ministry. The aircraft will be delivered this month.

The manufacturer also reported that it has received FAA certification for the turbine-powered 480B model. The new version of the 480 has increased takeoff power of 305 shp (vs 289 shp on the original). Continuous power has been increased from 269 shp to 277 shp and max gross weight from 2,850 lb to 3,000 lb.

PZL-Swidnik of Poland was able to bring its SW-4 light single to Le Bourget for the flying display. It then rushed it back home to complete U.S. certification, slated for early next year.

MD Helicopters announced that the first MD Explorer models for offshore oil operations will enter service later this year with P.T. Airfast of Indonesia. The contract, signed on the eve of the show, calls for daily operations with a guaranteed reliability rate of 98.5 percent. The aircraft will transport crews and equipment to platforms off the coast of Java.

The Mesa, Ariz. manufacturer also reported recent single-ship Explorer sales to U.S. operators Air Methods, Mercy Air Service and Allegheny General Hospital. It displayed an Explorer on the Paris static-display line.

Bell displayed a 407, 430, 427 and 412. With its Italian partner Agusta, it also exhibited an AB139 and a BA609 tiltrotor mockup. Before the show opening, three 407s staged a race from Mont Blanc in the Swiss Alps to Paris to commemorate French pilot Jean Moine’s historic first helicopter flight across the mountain range in 1955 in a piston-single Bell 47.

Bell/Agusta reported that the second preproduction AB139 joined the flight-test program in early June. Certification is expected before the end of next year. Maximum continuous speeds of 157 kt are being routinely achieved by the test aircraft.

Meanwhile, the first two BA609 prototypes are nearing completion, with the third and fourth to follow next year. The first prototype is scheduled to begin engine run-up tests by November in preparation for a first flight before the end of the year. First deliveries are planned for early 2004.

Sikorsky Aircraft announced that, while continuing the development of the S-92, it is to make additional improvements to the 25-year-old S-76 rather than launch another new model to an uncertain future.

Engines

Visiting the Paris show on its penultimate day, French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin announced that he will permit 25 percent of shares in state-controlled engine maker Snecma to be sold through an initial public offering in the fall. He indicated that the government’s preference would be for a European, rather than American, buyer.

Rolls-Royce and China’s Aviation Industry Corporation (AVIC) signed an MOU toward the development of a Rolls-Royce-powered Z11 helicopter. The Z11, nearly identical externally to Eurocopter’s AS 350B Ecureuil, is made by AVIC subsidiary Changde Aircraft Industries Corp.

The next step will be to determine the specific requirements of the Z11 and how the Rolls-Royce 250 turbine can meet these. R-R is considering the use of the Soloy combining gearbox for the aircraft’s two engines.

Turbomeca announced a new version of its TM 33 2C2 engine. The 1,200-shp unit will suit twin-engine helicopters in the five- to six-metric ton class. Certification is scheduled for 2005.

Pratt & Whitney Canada announced that it has reached an agreement with Russia’s Kazan Helicopters for the sale of 20 PW207K engines for installation on its new Ansat light twin. The six- to eight-passenger model is due to complete certification in the second half of next year.

Honeywell has received U.S. and European approval of its TFE731-40 engine retrofit for Dassault’s Falcon 50. The conversion essentially gives the trijet the performance of a Falcon 50EX for the cost of a $5.3 million basic engine conversion.

Pratt & Whitney Canada reported that its PW800 geared-turbofan program should be granted formal launch by the end of next year. Tests using the advanced-technology fan integrator have been under way since April and the PW800 itself faces a 36-month certification program. The 10,000- to 20,000-lb-thrust family will likely be launched at the higher end of this power range to address the needs of the 100- to 110-passenger airliner market.

Meanwhile, the new PW625F light turbofan took a step closer to reality at the show when Raytheon agreed to participate in its development. The low-cost unit is expected to have a bypass ratio of 4:1 or 5:1. A mixed-flow compressor is targeted to give greater thrust than that of a comparable two- or three-stage-compressor turbofan, with the added advantage of fewer parts and lighter weight.

Pratt & Whitney brought its first PW6000 production engine to the Paris show. The 22,000-lb-thrust turbofan has now logged more than 2,000 test hours as it heads for certification by the end of this year.

U.S. engine designer Agilis announced a development schedule for its TF1000 turbofan. The Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. company is aiming to complete the first core test next April. The 920-lb-thrust turbofan is intended to power the Safire S-26 “personal jet.” Other potential customers include Chichester Miles’ Leopard, Maverick Air’s Twinjet and Viperjet and ATG with the Javelin.

Just before the Le Bourget salon, French engine maker SMA made a major breakthrough in the development of its new SR305 diesel engine when it received European certification. The pioneering diesel has already been selected to power Maule Air’s M7 and Cirrus’ SR21tdi.

Smiths Aerospace is to develop thrust-reverser actuation for General Electric’s CF34-10 engines to be offered on the Embraer ERJ-190 and Fairchild Dornier 928JET. It will also provide thrust-reverser controls for Dassault’s Falcon 2000EX.

Other Products

Internet applications were again prominent on the Le Bourget news agenda. L-3 Communications and Tenzing pulled a surprise by announcing an airline passenger Internet and e-mail access system that the companies claimed would provide ultra-high-speed (four megabytes per second) access to the Web, e-mail and movie channels in flight.

Honeywell launched its MyFlite.com e-commerce site, a Web portal that is designed to serve business aircraft, regional airline and general aviation customers seeking to purchase avionics. Plans for the near future call for the site to be greatly expanded to include flight planning, weather information, messaging and avionics database downloads.

Honeywell also reported that its Primus Epic CDS for retrofit has completed first flights aboard the Gulfstream II, GIII, Lockheed C-130 Hercules and Cessna Citation V. All four cockpits are scheduled to achieve certification this fall.

Exostar, the online aerospace procurement exchange, announced that Rolls-Royce has signed on as an equity partner, joining BAE Systems, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, each of which owns a 17-percent stake in the business. Currently some 20,000 transactions are taking place on its Web site each week.

TRW Aeronautical Systems has launched AeroVantix, claiming it to be “an all-encompassing aerospace e-business portal.” The service is available to TRW customers and suppliers at no cost.

Cordiem, a business-to-business exchange and application services provider, announced the launch of its initial commercial services, designed to assist customers with maintenance, engineering and general procurement needs. Both buyers and sellers will pay a subscription fee and an application service fee will also be levied for using its software.