Biz Av At AirVenture

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Light Jets Make an Appearance ...

While EAA AirVenture is often described as the premier aviation event in the world, the majority of aircraft on display are from the single and light-twin GA category and, therefore, onsite breaking news usually follows that trend. This year, however, the buzz came from several light jet manufacturers. While other aircraft fled from Mother Nature's fury, Adam Aircraft's brand-new (15 hours TT) A700 jet landed at EAA AirVenture on July 31, only four days after making its initial flight.

The appearance so surprised Oshkosh crowds that Adam put a sign on the nose asserting that, yes, the airplane really did fly to the show from Denver. "People keep asking if it's a real airplane," said Adam spokesman John Hamilton. He said the trip from Denver (at 25,000 feet, 220 knots and wheels down) was uneventful and bolstered earlier data that the plane is stable and predictable in the jet configuration. The surprise appearance by the A700 -- the only flying example of the vaunted mini-jet craze at Oshkosh -- gave the aviation media some welcome news, which has been in something of a holding pattern in this sector in recent months.

Eclipse's major announcement was that it has secured $87 million in financing -- including $10 million from the state of New Mexico -- that topped up the company's $325 million development fund. "We have all the cash we need to get the airplane certified," CEO Vern Raburn told reporters at a news conference. "The finish line is now in sight." For Eclipse position holders, however, the finish line is a couple of years away, when the first deliveries of the almost-$1 million jet are scheduled. Eclipse had planned to fly its aerodynamic testing prototype to Oshkosh but a test-flight gear failure on rollout cancelled the trip. Raburn said a faulty actuator casting on a part no longer used in the aircraft caused the failure.

... While Diamond's Engine Choice Looms ...

At Oshkosh, Diamond had nothing new to report on its D-Jet but that might change in the next month or so. A spokesman said an engine will be selected for its "well under $1 million" five-place jet "within 30 days." Since it's widely acknowledged that there are only two realistic choices, the announcement, when it comes, might be a little anticlimactic. The field has been narrowed to the Williams FJ-33 (chosen by Adam and Javelin) and the Pratt and Whitney Canada PW-600 series (Cessna Mustang and Eclipse). Diamond joins Cessna and Javelin in a group that hasn't built any prototypes yet, although first flight for the D-Jet is expected in 2004.

Cessna spokeswoman Marilyn Richwine told AVweb the Mustang program remains on schedule and a prototype should be ready in six months or so. "We're still working on the design," she said. Also, the Pratt and Whitney engines won't be ready for testing until next year. First delivery of the $2.9 million Mustang jet is still slated for sometime in 2006. The Aviation Technology Group (ATG) could have a composite prototype (production models will be aluminum) of its Javelin next year. The two-place "executive" version of the fighter-like aircraft will cost $2.5 million, but it's apparent from their marketing that AGT is pinning most of its hopes on military training, homeland security and light interceptor applications. But company officials insist that the fully aerobatic, Mach .95 aircraft will be as easy to fly as a Citation. More news on ATG and the Javelin can be found a few paragraphs down.

... And Pilatus, Socata Show Off Before The Crowd

Aside from the considerable number of bizjets on display, some of the turboprop manufacturers made it a point to show off as well. Pilatus assembled its customary large display area near AirVenture's main gate. Of course, the PC-12 was the company's main exhibit this year and onlookers crowded around the large single-engine turboprop to squeeze a peek inside its roomy cabin. Pilatus also participated in a rather unusual aerial display, where Jimmy Leeward, famed Reno racer and owner of Leeward Air Ranch in Florida, flew his P-51 in loose formation with his son, a PC-12 demo pilot. The younger Leeward flew the turboprop virtually every day of the show.

Socata also performed some flying displays with its TBM 700. The smaller turboprop flew during the exhibitor flyby portion of the air show and took advantage of this opportunity to show the crowd the extent of its operating envelope. During AirVenture, Socata officials also celebrated the arrival of a cousin in its aeronautical family: Airbus' Beluga Super Transporter. The eye-catching cargo jet served as a perfect backdrop and staging area for Socata's TBM 700 and Trinidad.