AVwebFlash - Volume 12, Number 15c

October 23, 2013

Nextant Offers King Air, Adds More Hawker Conversions

Nextant Aerospace was among the busiest companies at NBAA with two major announcements that will keep the "remanufacturing" company busy for years to come. The company, which launched two years ago with a plan to retrofit Hawker 400 series aircraft, announced it will give the same nose-to-tail refurb treatment to legacy King Air 90 aircraft, re-engining them with new GE turboprops. The company also announced it signed a $202.5 million deal with Travel Management Company to convert up to 50 Hawker 400XP aircraft to the Nextant 400XTI. 

The King Air conversion will use GE H80 engines that resulted from GE's purchase of Walter, a Czech company that produced the M601 turboprop used to power a number of Eastern bloc aircraft. GE bought the company as an entry to the light turboprop market dominated by Pratt & Whitney Canada with its ubiquitous PT6 line. The refurbished King Airs will sell for $2.2 million.

Video: Nextant's King Air G90XT Powered by GE

Nextant Aerospace has hade a business of "remanufacturing" the Hawker Beechjet 400A/Hawker 400XP -- offering a new aircraft experience at a used aircraft price.  Now it's expanding that business model to the King Air, refitting the aircraft with GE engines.

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Video: Rockwell Collins Enhanced Vision Systems for Light Jets

Rockwell Collins brings enhanced vision to light jets with the EVS-3000 vision system and HGS-3500 display, which employs a new space-saving design.  The company will bring the products to market with Embraer in 2015 aboard the Legacy 450 and, later, Legacy 500 business jets.

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Podcast: Aviation Group Draws Broad Support

The Alliance for Aviation Across America has grown from a small advocacy group to a national force in setting aviation access policy, particularly in rural America.  AVweb's Russ Niles spoke with Selena Shilad, the group's executive director.

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Podcast: IPad for Advanced Simulators

IPads are a fixture in modern cockpits, but integrating them to simulator training is relatively new.  SimCom worked with Redbird Flight Simulations to allow iPad simulation in its devices.  AVweb's Russ Niles spoke with Eric Hinson about how it all works.

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Pistole Pushes Precheck

Those special security lanes at the airport that some seemingly privileged passengers breeze through completely dressed are actually central to the TSA's plan to streamline security screening, according to the agency's director. John Pistole told the opening session of NBAA 2013 that as many people as possible, and all frequent travelers, should sign up for TSA Precheck so the agency can concentrate its efforts on those who might want to do something horrible rather than repeatedly checking millions of passengers who just want to peacefully get where they're getting. "That is not a sustainable model," said Pistole.  

The service is now available at 40 airports for passengers traveling on seven airlines and not only helps the TSA, it makes catching a flight like something from another time. Precheck passengers show ID and walk through a metal detector but keep their laptops stowed and all their clothes on, most of the time. Pistole was selected for a random full screening on his way to NBAA and he said that's an important part of the security integrity of the program to ensure it's not exploited by those with bad intent. Guns have been found on passengers in the new lanes, he said.

Honda Expands In N.C., Brings Conforming Jet To NBAA

Honda Aircraft Company opened a new customer service facility at its world headquarters in Greensboro, N.C., last week, and this week, the company is bringing its conforming HondaJet to the annual NBAA Convention for the first time. With the new customer facility, HondaJet now occupies more than 130 acres at Piedmont Triad International Airport, with more than 600,000 square feet of buildings. The new center aims to provide "a new level of the private jet ownership experience," said CEO Michimasa Fujino. The center will serve as a base for the company's customer service and training operations, and also will provide heavy maintenance and major repair and overhaul work.

At NBAA this week, in Las Vegas, the jet will be open for tours at the convention's static airport display. The conforming jet flew at EAA AirVenture this summer, and AVweb's Glenn Pew spoke with Fujino about how the aircraft design has evolved over the years. First deliveries of the jet are expected next year.

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Celebrities Draw Attention To GA

There was plenty of star power on hand to help brighten NBAA 2013 as the bizjet industry continues to use celebrity endorsement and attendance to bolster its fortunes. Although not a promotional event per se, few would dispute the draw actor Harrison Ford provided for the opening general session of the convention. Ford was presented the Al Ueltschi Award for Humanitarian Leadership for his work in search and rescue, humanitarian relief, medical flights and the Special Olympics airlift. Ford said he was humbled by the award and pledged to do even more to help others using aviation as a tool. Meanwhile Embraer expanded its association with Chinese action movie star Jackie Chan.

Chan and his entourage swept through the convention halls after he became the launch customer for the Legacy 500 aircraft Embraer will soon introduce to service. Chan was also the launch customer for the Legacy 650 two years ago but appeared by video that year. Eclipse Aviation has also harnessed star power for the launch of its new-build 550 light jet. Iron Maiden front man and former airline pilot Bruce Dickinson was recently type rated in the Eclipse and was on hand for its formal unveiling at NBAA on Tuesday.

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New Stall-Training Rule Delayed

A new rule from the FAA that would effect changes to how commercial pilots are taught to deal with stalls was expected to be published this month, but now will be further delayed because of the government shutdown, the FAA has said. In a statement, the FAA said that employees at the FAA, the Transportation Department, and the Office of Management and Budget who are responsible for finalizing the rule all were furloughed, and "the agency is assessing the shutdown's impact on finalizing the rule." The new rule will mandate changes in how flight simulators work and how pilots are taught to react to stall warnings.

The new rules were motivated mainly by the investigation into the 2009 Colgan crash in Buffalo, which killed 50 people, and the Air France loss in the Atlantic in that same year, in which 228 people died. The FAA published an Advisory Circular (PDF) addressing stall recovery last year.

Man Killed In Fall From Stearman

image: ABC News

A man fell from the wing of a 1942 Stearman biplane and died on Saturday, shortly after the airplane took off from the inaugural Festival of Flight open-house event at the Tampa North Aero Park in Florida. Marc Curto, 62, was wearing a parachute, but it was not deployed. Curto and another man, also wearing a parachute, and a pilot were on board the aircraft and flying at about 1,000 feet when the accident occurred. The pilot circled the site above a suburban neighborhood where Curto fell and then landed safely back at the airport. Although it was widely reported that Curto was a "wing walker," John Cudahy, president of the International Council of Air Shows, told AVweb that's not an accurate term.

Cudahy said the event was not an "air show" in the official sense, since there was no waiver issued. He also said Curto was not known to ICAS and was not a member. He added that wing-walkers don't wear parachutes. Local news reports said it was unclear whether Curto, who had long been a recreational skydiver, jumped or fell from the airplane.

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An Unusual Performance By Cessna's CEO

I think one of the defense mechanisms we in the aviation industry have developed is the ability to not take ourselves too seriously. By many normal standards, it can be a preposterous business where the leadership roles are populated with wide-eyed dreamers who almost invariably make their money in more mundane enterprises and promptly squander it on their passion. 

We tolerate it, sometimes even celebrate it, because it occasionally works spectacularly for the benefit of the whole industry. Where would the homebuilt industry be without Vans? What if the founders of Garmin had stuck to the far more profitable marine and consumer sectors? What if Bill Lear had settled for a piston twin?
 
And what would we do without Cessna? It's a question that entered the collective consciousness when Cessna's current CEO Scott Ernest stared down some aviation media reps and pretty much hung some of his executives out to dry in an uncomfortable exchange at NBAA in Las Vegas on Monday. 
 
We're the first to admit that aviation journalism is not generally a hardball affair. We're mostly here to relay the positive developments that companies announce and keep pilots and others in the industry abreast of the latest and greatest. We do have the ability and the responsibility to ask some tough questions at times and it's squarely in the CEO playbook to deal with those issues in a manner that best reflects their company.
 
In my opinion, Ernes gave petulant and peevish answers to legitimate questions about the future of the Skycatcher and Skylane diesel projects on Monday and these were as surprising as they were unsettling. It's no secret that the Skycatcher program has been in trouble since the first one got off the ground in 2006 but Ernest's snippy and dismissive "no future" comment was, in my view, both uncalled for and ill advised for a company that still has about 100 of the little airplanes left to sell. Those who have the responsibility to turn those airplanes into money must have been even more surprised than us.
 
Ditto his dismissal of questions surrounding the off-airport landing of the diesel last month. There are a lot of people watching and hoping that a name like Cessna can create a new heavy fuel aircraft that works in the real world,  just like its entry into the LSA market helped legitimize that part of the industry. Part of that means addressing the bumps and bruises of aircraft development with honesty and, frankly, a little dignity.
 
And that was part of the problem with his performance Monday. CEOs come to NBAA, in part, to put their companies in the best light. Ernest, in my estimation, did just the opposite. He clearly likes the fast and flashy stuff his company produces but his attitude toward some pretty benign questions about the Skycatcher and Skylane suggested contempt and derision for at least some parts of his company and his staff. It was an embarrassing public episode that should get the attention of the Textron board, in my view.
 
But because it was Cessna, that attitude reflected not just on the company but on the industry as a whole and that was the other part of the problem. Like it or not, when someone takes over the biggest little airplane company in the world, his responsibilities extend far beyond his own shop floor. Cessna is an industry leader and should behave like one.
 
Ernest knows that because he told me so. Two years ago when he was newly installed in his job I interviewed him at NBAA and commented that it was important for us to get to know him because "as Cessna goes, so does GA." He agreed enthusiastically and said: "That's absolutely right; as Cessna goes, so does GA."
 
Which brings us to the fact that Ernest is not a pilot and based on his post-press conference exchange with one of the reporters who challenged him during the news conference, appears to have little interest in becoming one (even though he has said in the past that he intended to learn to fly). Now, it's quite possible that Textron chose Ernest to replace Jack Pelton  specifically because he is not a pilot and the board wanted someone whose judgment wouldn't be clouded by passions or perceived alliances that might not be productive to the Textron bottom line.
 
Fair enough, but the pilots before Ernest who led Cessna to its current position did so in part by using that passion and those alliances to their company's advantage. When they made the inevitable tough decisions necessary in any business, they did so with the respectful understanding that their actions would be felt throughout the industry. As pilots, they were part of the world that could be shaken by an announcement like the death of the Skycatcher.
 
Even so, it's probably not absolutely necessary for the leader of Cessna to be a pilot. He or she should, however, at least be polite.
 
Join the conversation.  Read others' comments and add your own.

Video: AVweb's China Tour

This week, AVweb is attending the China International General Aviation Conference (CIGAC) and the annual Aviation Training Congress China (ATCC).  We'll have coverage all week of our visits to Beijing and Xi'an.

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Video: China Looks to the EU for Airport Design Help

As China struggles to expand its aviation infrastructure at a breakneck pace, it's seeking help from every corner of the globe, and the European Union is stepping up expertise in airport design.  AVweb's Tim Cole interviews Norbert Gronak of Aviare Consult GmbH about China's airport design needs.

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Video: Mooney's Fortunes Tied to China

A Chinese-based company recently bought Mooney and pledges to restart production, keeping the company at its Kerrville, Texas headquarters.  In this exclusive interview from AVweb's CIGAC/ATCC coverage of Chinese aviation, Jerry Chen reveals new details about where Mooney will be headed.

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Video: Autogyros at China's Xi'an Aviation Trade Show

In Europe, autogyros are a mainstay in the recreational aviation market, and the same trend may develop in China.  In this exclusive video report from the China International General Aviation Conference in Xi'an, AVweb's Tim Cole reports that autogyros may be uniquely suited to China's developing GA market.

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Video: Xi'an Is China's Wichita

Geographically, technologically, and spiritually, Xi'an is poised to be the heart of general aviation in China's emerging GA market — much as Wichita, Kansas is to the U.S. GA scene.  Perhaps that's why Wichita is opening a bureau in Xi'an.  AVweb spoke with Cessna's William J. Schultz and Wichita mayor Carl Brewer at the China International General Aviation Conference 2013.

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Video: China Flightline Sampler

China is building new, modern, and capable airports at a blistering pace, and many of these will eventually serve the developing general aviation market.  AVweb's Tim Cole visited Peucheng Airport in east central China and filed this video sampler of what's on the flightline there.

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