By Russ Niles, Newswriter
Eclipse To Follow?...
They share the same basic philosophy and their performance and capabilities are almost identical: Will Cessna's Mustang and the Eclipse 500 now share the same basic engine? Pratt & Whitney Canada announced Thursday it will build a new type of small, efficient turbofan to power Cessna's new entry-level Mustang, which is seen as a direct competitor to the Eclipse 500. Eclipse has also been negotiating with Pratt & Whitney Canada since parting company with Williams International, the original supplier of engines for the Eclipse. Williams was also in the running for the Cessna deal, according to a Cessna press release. Eclipse claims to also be in negotiations with another yet-unnamed engine maker. On the same day the Cessna deal was announced, Eclipse CEO Vern Raburn was sending a letter to 1,357 Eclipse position holders telling them they'd be the first to know when the company had found an engine to replace the Williams EJ-22. "The bottom line is you are going to get a superior airplane as a result of this change, there is no doubt about it," Raburn's letter is quoted as saying in the New Mexico Business Weekly. Eclipse has acknowledged that the new mill will be larger and heavier, but will also put out more thrust than the EJ-22, which was supposed to develop 770 pounds of thrust from an 85-pound engine. Pratt & Whitney Canada's new PW600 series, of which the Mustang engine is a variant, would seem to match that description.
...Engine Series Designed For Mini-Jets...
Cessna chose the PW615F to power the Mustang. The engine is flat rated at 1,350 pounds of takeoff thrust and has a dual-channel Full Authority Digital Electronic Control (FADEC) system. The PW600 series is a new family of engines being developed by Pratt & Whitney Canada specifically for the mini-jet market and can be built to thrust ratings anywhere between 1,000 and 3,000 pounds. The company says the new engines have some 40 percent fewer parts than other engines it makes. "The key drivers for this new engine series have been defined as low cost of ownership and operating economics without compromising reliability, performance or durability and with minimum program risk," reads part of the description on the Pratt & Whitney Canada Web site. In the news release touting the Cessna deal, Pratt & Whitney Canada clearly hopes other mini-jet makers will hop on board. "This represents an important strategic win for us and sets the stage for additional orders for variants of the new PW600 engine family," said John Wright, VP of Business Aviation and Military Engines. Weight and fuel consumption figures are not available on the Web site; however, the TBO is set at 3,500 hours and there's a three-year, 1,000-hour warranty.
...Engine Certification In 2005
If Eclipse picks the new Pratt engine, it will set its development program back at least two years. Eclipse had hoped for FAA certification by the end of this year and deliveries in 2004. But Pratt & Whitney Canada only test-flew a 600-series engine for the first time last October and certification is planned for the end of 2005, a year before Cessna has said it can start delivering Mustangs. The other variable for Eclipse is cost. The financial terms of the Cessna/Pratt & Whitney Canada deal were not released but Cessna has pegged the cost of a Mustang at $2.3 million. Before the deal with Williams collapsed in November, Eclipse had promised to deliver their jet for $837,500. To our knowledge, Eclipse has not speculated on any price changes as the result of new engines. Stay tuned.
Operations Head Let Go...
There's been another change at the top at Mooney Aerospace Group Ltd. (MASG) but CEO Nelson Happy said he believes there is stability ahead for the reorganized company. Jack Jansen, the senior vice president of operations at MASG's Mooney Airplane Company Inc., in Kerrville, Texas, was let go in December. Happy said the decision was an economic one. "We had to eliminate the position. There were too many salaries for such a small company," Happy told AVweb. Jansen joined MASG last March after similar stints at Piper and Mooney. AVweb contacted Jansen's home four times but he did not return our phone calls. Senior production managers will take over Jansen's duties and Happy said he's confident they'll be able to handle the extra load. Happy said he believes Jansen's was the last in a series of executive departures in the past four months. "Now things seem to be fairly stable," he said.
...Production To Resume
While job security at the upper echelons of the company has been tenuous, there's been a rejuvenation of sorts on the plant floor, bolstered by strong fourth-quarter sales and the imminent resumption of assembly-line production. Happy said he's hired nine people in recent weeks and is well on the way to rehiring all the former employees laid off in recent years. There are now 160 employees. In the last half of 2002, the assembly line was shut down as staff finished 21 airplanes that were in varying stages of completion before the company closed. "They have sort of been hand-built," he said. All but one of those airplanes has been sold, including 16 in the last three months of the year. Happy said all future aircraft will be custom-built at the rate of six a month. He said there are enough orders to keep the line moving for three months.
There had been elevator problems on the previous eight flights of a Mesa Airlines Beech 1900D that crashed on takeoff at Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, killing all 21 aboard. The NTSB said the flight data recorder showed the elevator hadn't worked properly since cables to the elevator tab were adjusted during maintenance the previous Monday. Therefore, the focus of the investigation has shifted to the Raytheon Aerospace LLC maintenance facility in Huntington, W. Va., where the maintenance was performed. Investigators said the aircraft pitched up 52 degrees after takeoff and witnesses said it appeared to stall twice before clipping a US Airways hangar and exploding. The final flight lasted 37 seconds. Pilot Katie Leslie declared an emergency just before the plane crashed. The FAA asked the aircraft owners to check all 43 of its Beech 1900Ds for elevator problems. The inspections on nine aircraft, including three that had been to the same maintenance facility, were done by Friday and no problems had been found. The NTSB has discounted previous reports that the plane was tail-heavy.
As you squeeze aboard a commuter aircraft that started flying long before you did, ever wonder just how long an airplane like that can last? The youthful graduate students at Wichita State University hope to have an answer for you ... in a couple of years. The aerospace engineering students are taking a Cessna 402 with 20,000 hours on it apart piece by piece examining every part for cracks and other signs of wear. "Every airplane at some point will develop cracks," said Dale Cope, manager of the Aging Aircraft Research Lab's two-year project. Cope thinks there are thousands of commuter aircraft in the air beyond their projected service life. After the plane is disassembled, almost every piece will be examined under optical and electron microscopes. So far, the Cessna, which flew sightseers over the Grand Canyon, appears to have held up well. The next aircraft to go under the knife will be a later-model Cessna 402A, which toiled for CapeAir, of Hyannis, Mass. Cope said the information gathered from the Cessnas should apply to other commuter aircraft because they share basic construction and maintenance techniques.
For the first time, two pilots are in command of their respective parties. Senate majority leader Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and minority leader Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) are both AOPA members, and Sen. Daschle has twice been the recipient of its Hartranft Award for his work on aviation legislation in the past. Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), also a Hartranft recipient, heads up the aviation subcommittee. AOPA President Phil Boyer said this Congress will make some key decisions that will affect all pilots and he's pleased to have "two of our own" in charge. A comprehensive aviation funding package known as FAA reauthorization will be tackled in this session as will spending bills for all manner of service improvements for pilots. The Senate wasted no time getting an aviation bill on the table. The bill to protect Chicago's Miegs Field was introduced on the first day of the new session. That bill died in the Senate last year after having been passed by the House of Representatives. A companion bill is expected in the House soon.
If pilots are experiencing problems in flight, airline dispatchers shouldn't try to talk them into continuing the flight -- and pilots shouldn't let themselves be talked into anything, either -- in a loose interpretation of the NTSB's recommendations resulting from the Alaska Airlines Flight 261 investigation. The NTSB is asking the FAA to issue a flight standards information bulletin to airlines telling them to train pilots to go by the book if they experience flight-control problems and not try corrective measures beyond those on the approved checklist. The NTSB also wants the FAA to make sure dispatchers and maintenance managers don't encourage the pilots of faulty aircraft to press on in the interest of flight scheduling. The human-factors recommendations topped a lengthy list that also included specific measures to ensure that the elevator trim jackscrew assemblies on all MD-80 and related aircraft are properly and regularly greased. The NTSB found a worn jackscrew assembly on the MD-80 ultimately led to the loss of the flight into the ocean off California, killing all 88 aboard.
NOTE: The NTSB recommendations are available at their Web site as an Adobe PDF document.
EAA is hoping the FAA will give the long-suffering pilots based at the airport in Killeen, Texas, a break from the disruption that occurs every time President George W. Bush drops into his Crawford ranch. Such visits trigger a 30-mile TFR that comes within 700 feet of the north end of Killeen's Runway 1/19. That means all flight training involving pattern work must cease and it forces pilots to use Runway 1 for landings and 19 for takeoffs -- regardless of wind direction. EAA maintains that an exemption area extending about four miles into the TFR will accommodate the Killeen pilots without endangering the president. There are two flight schools at the airport and it doesn't help that the president usually heads to the ranch on weekends and holidays when the flight schools would otherwise be busiest. There are 54 aircraft based at the airport and 41,000 operations each year.
Almost 12 years and about $1 billion later, Boeing has rolled out its first Boeing 737 with an enhanced rudder-control system. Boeing 737 crashes in 1991 and 1994 were blamed on rudders that suddenly swung without pilot input. In both cases the aircraft rolled over and crashed. A total of 157 people died. U.S. operators have until November, 2008, to install the kit and foreign aviation agencies usually follow the FAA's lead. The new jet was number 1,268 of the modern version of the 737 and all subsequent production aircraft will have the new system. This year, the company will make the system available for the 4,000 737s already in service.
It accommodates only the pilot, has never flown more than a couple of feet off the ground and, if you buy it, you have to sign a contract saying you'll never try to duplicate even the meager test flight. So, why would anyone pay $1 million for the SoloTrek XFV strap-on flying thingamajig? "It has a tremendous amount of historical value," claims Trek's CEO Michael Mosier, who put the ducted-fan device on eBay on Friday. The aircraft is the first-generation prototype of a contraption designed to whisk soldiers over swamps and minefields. The two ducted fans are driven by a gasoline engine and are designed to take a 180-pound soldier as high as 10,000 feet, as far as 100 miles and as fast as 69 mph. This particular model has only hovered a couple of feet over the ground. "We didn't want to test it higher than we were willing to fall," said Moshier. The updated version has a better engine and controls. The U.S. military is funding the project. There's no word, however, if the taxpayers will get a refund on the first machine, which went on eBay with a minimum bid of $50,000 and which Moshier expects will attract more than $1 million.
NOTE: AVweb's previous coverage of this contraption includes stories in 2002, 2001 and 1999.
If you thought your Bonanza or Baron missed a January, 2001, AD for the installation of missing rivets on the airframe, think again. The company has since discovered that not all affected aircraft serial numbers were included. A corrected AD has been issued by the FAA.
If you've had a new hub installed in your two-bladed Hartzell prop recently, this AD might be for you. The company has found defects in some hubs and replacements must be carried out within 50 or 100 hours depending on the type of aircraft installation.
Through the power of words, AVweb Thursday relocated a New Hampshire airport to Manchester, England. The news writer has been dispatched on an all-expense-paid trip to the United Kingdom to gain an appreciation for the geographical, cultural and culinary differences between the two locations. The rest of the writers are now busy with creative relocations of Turks and Caicos...
Pilots who want to participate in EAA's 50 Flags to Kitty Hawk program can now get application forms online at the EAA site. One EAA member pilot from each state will be chosen to take his or her home flag to Kitty Hawk during the year. On the day the flag arrives, there will be ceremonies and it will fly at the National Memorial there...
About 800 workers will stage a walkout at a General Electric plant at Strother Field in Arkansas City Tuesday and Wednesday to protest increased health and other costs. The nationwide strike will affect 20,000 workers at the company's engine, turbine and appliance plants...
Malaysian Airlines is the latest to jump on the A-380 bandwagon. The state-owned airline announced it would buy six of the 555-seat super jumbo aircraft for about $1.5 billion. Airbus now has orders for 103 A-380s from 10 airlines. It needs to sell between 250 and 300 of the massive planes to break even...
And really, what else could it be? The theme of this year's 51st anniversary EAA AirVenture at Oshkosh will focus on the 100th anniversary of sustained powered flight. As usual, there will be hundreds of forums, daily air shows and plenty of entertainment at the event, which runs July 29 to Aug. 4 at Wittman Regional Airport.
More from our How they handle the stress file...
Part of the passenger arrival briefing from the lone flight attendant on a United Express O'Hare-to-Memphis flight.
"Please remove all personal items from the aircraft. Any items left on board can be found at my yard sale next Sunday."
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