October 13, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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You expect the companies, associations and dignitaries attending something like the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) convention to be upbeat and positive but there seems to be more substance behind that sentiment this time around. On the eve of the big show in Las Vegas, Honeywell released its 2004 Business Aviation Outlook and, in Honeywell's view, the light at the end of the tunnel should get positively blinding in the coming year. "Next year, virtually all (bizjet manufacturers) are increasing production," Honeywell spokesman Jim Potts told The Wichita Eagle. The NBAA's newly minted president, Ed Bolen, was a little more circumspect but he clearly agreed with Honeywell's assessment. "It appears the worst is over," he said. "There seems to be a lot of excitement in the industry." The Honeywell forecast predicts that an average of 840 bizjets will be sold each year between now and 2014. Total value of those sales is expected to top $131 billion. Last year, just 506 were delivered but it's expected 650 will be sold in 2005.
Although all the major companies have shiny new hardware to show off and projects to announce, likely the biggest buzz surrounds the plan by a Reno company to build a supersonic bizjet. As AVweb reported a few weeks ago, rumors of Aerion Corp.'s ambitious initiative have been circulating for some time but the official announcement came Monday in Las Vegas. Fundamental to the development of the Mach 1.6 aircraft is the acquisition of the rights to "natural laminar flow" wing design. The wing was developed during the 1990s by a company called Affordable Supersonic Executive Transport Group (Asset Group) and tested by NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). It's said to cut total airframe drag by 20 percent over the delta shape of Concorde. The supersonic bizjet will use next-generation Pratt and Whitney JT8D engines. Detailed design will start next year and the prototypes should be flying by 2011.
And while those attending NBAA are filled with breathless optimism about the future of business aviation, there are more than a few would-be attendees who couldn't make the show because of some problems with the here and now. Quite simply, Las Vegas' three local bizjet-capable airports are full. Anyone who hoped to use the flexibility and versatility that are the hallmarks of business aviation and fly to the show on the spur of the moment is out of luck. "There is nothing more useless than a plane and pilot with no airport access at the other end," said AVweb reader and Citation pilot Patric Barry, who tried, and failed, to get to the show earlier this week. Apparently, you needed a parking reservation to fly to the show and by Sunday there wasn't a spot to be found. Barry said he didn't know about the requirement (neither did we, and it kept one of our staff members home) and he's hoping there's a solution found for future shows. "Whatever system was imposed to create this debacle needs to be dealt with because when the day arrives (which it just did) when we can't use our skills and aircraft to service our needs then the point of having the skills and aircraft suddenly is redundant," Barry said in a note to AVweb.
LOOK TO THE PIEDMONT HAWTHORNE AIRCRAFT SALES TEAM WHEN YOURE BUYING or SELLING YOUR NEXT AIRCRAFT
They're more than a year away from delivering their first airplane but Eclipse Aviation is already making plans to boost production. The Albuquerque company announced earlier this week that it plans to hit the ground running and build 260 planes in its first year of production (2006) and 880 in its second year, up from 140 and 500, respectively. Not only will it make quicker work of the 2,100-order backlog, it also means that if you order an Eclipse today, you'll get it in February of 2008, instead of September of that year. The company also announced that it has selected all of its 65 suppliers and is 25 percent through the FAA certification process. There are now seven pre-production aircraft under construction and tests of the Pratt and Whitney Canada PW610F engines are scheduled to begin by the end of this year. Eclipse is also getting ready to establish seven factory service centers throughout the U.S., with the first two opening in 2006 in Albuquerque and Gainesville, Fla.. "By 2008, an Eclipse Service Center will be within a 1.5 hour flight for virtually all customers in the lower 48 states," a company news release said.
Meanwhile, Adam Aircraft is also getting ready for full-scale production of its push/pull piston twin. The first revenue-producing version of the A500 rolled out of the factory in Englewood, Colo., Oct. 10. "Although this is our sixth rollout, it is really special because it's the first customer airplane," said CEO Rick Adam. The unidentified buyer can't fly his new plane away just yet, however. Adam is still awaiting full type certification for the A500, but that's expected within weeks. Once the FAA stamp of approval is received, the company intends to shift its 300-member workforce into high gear and make 40 airplanes in 2005. There's a backlog of 65 orders. With development of the A500 complete, Adam is expected to shift more resources to certification and production of its highly touted A700 jet. Its further development is expected to be helped by the fact that it shares most of the basic components used in the A500. The jet is currently undergoing flight tests.
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The horse-trading that characterizes the political game in Washington has trotted out hundreds of millions in financial perks for GA. In order to coax senators and representatives into voting for an unpopular bill aimed at ending export subsidies deemed illegal by the World Trade Organization, proponents of the legislation offered $137 billion in tax breaks and other concessions for everything from the tobacco industry to the makers of bows and arrows. GA's political backers had their hands out, too. Perhaps most notable was the inclusion of $247 million, over five years, to help out the producers of business jets and small planes. Sponsors were Kansas senators Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts. About 60 percent of GA production is in Kansas. There's also $995 million in unspecified exemptions on the income derived from aircraft leasing and shipping. We couldn't find the breakdown in time for our publication deadline. The House passed its version of the bill Oct. 7 and the Senate approved it Monday. President Bush is expected to sign it into law before the election.
Cessna is hiring about 600 workers over the next year as it gets ready for a return to business as usual. The Wichita-based plane-maker has laid off thousands of people in the last couple of years but renewed optimism and a fattened order book have it looking for staff. The company has so far this year already hired 400 people. In fact, company marketing VP Roger Whyte is calling the downturn over. He told The Wichita Eagle that sales have been good for more than a year and the order backlog is growing. The company is also updating a couple of its older-model aircraft. The CJ1 and CJ2 will get new panels and engines as part of their evolution into the CJ1+ and CJ2+. CEO Jack Pelton said the upgrades would also boost performance. Although Bombardier announced 2,000 layoffs last week, it's also upgrading one of its most popular products. The Learjet 40 will become the Learjet 40XR, with new engines delivering improved range and better performance. More important for Learjet, however, is that the announcement "exemplifies Bombardier's continued investment in our Learjet family," said Peter Edwards, president of the company's bizjet division.
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Authorities are investigating how an airplane mechanic was killed after an unoccupied Cessna 172 "started on its own" and crashed into another aircraft at the airport in Grand Junction, Colo. Dana Brewer, manager of Monument Aircraft Services, said the mechanic, who he declined to identify, was struck in the chest by the 172's propeller, which broke off when it hit the other plane. Although the FAA and NTSB have been notified, airport spokesman Charlie Novinskie said the incident is being treated as an industrial accident. Meanwhile, nobody seems to be able to explain how the plane's engine started. "That's something we're investigating," Brewer told the Denver Post.
It's not often that GA topics rate an editorial in the mainstream press, let alone in a college newspaper, but even the editor of the Columbia Chronicle, the student newspaper at Chicago's Columbia College, was moved enough by the ongoing saga of Meigs Field to put fingers to keyboard. Now, Managing Editor Kristen Menke doesn't say much that hasn't already been said about the destruction of Meigs and the FAA's intention to fine the city as much as $4.5 million but she does use it as a launching point for, shall we say, a broader and more entertaining discussion of Mayor Richard Daley's management style. Since we aren't a college publication (ah, to be young and idealistic again) we won't quote some of Menke's more salient points. She does, however, make the valid (and safe) observation that the city can't just brush off a fine of that size. "In a year when the city of Chicago faces a budget deficit of nearly $200 million and talk of raising sales taxes, gasoline taxes and even property taxes has begun, $4.5 million is a big deal," she opines.
A BRAND-NEW AIRCRAFT FOR THE COST OF A SECOND CAR!
Two Cessnas became a biplane near Cincinnati on Sunday, but the results could have been a lot worse. In fact, all three occupants of the two planes, a 172 and a 152, survived the ensuing crash-landing with non-life-threatening injuries, according to police. Both planes were reportedly doing touch-and-goes at Cincinnati West Airport when the landing gear of one of the planes hit the top of the wing of the other. "They seemed to lock up and flat-spin down to the ground," flight instructor Tim Bayne, who witnessed the accident, told the Cincinnati Inquirer. The planes ended up one on top of the other in a gravel pit. The 172 pilot was identified as Jack Baer and he was accompanied by LeRoy Sabatelli, who was reportedly in serious condition in hospital. Jack Deye was flying the 152 and he was reported in fair condition.
Pilots who frequent a Washington State airport known as an incubator of grass-roots aviation say it's on the verge of losing its innocence. Arlington Airport (among the first to have dedicated facilities for ultralights and sure to be a Sport Pilot hotbed) could soon be filled periodically with the Gulfstreams, Challengers, Citations and Hawkers of the rich and famous as they converge on a new NASCAR track planned next door. "Arlington is a rural, recreational, general aviation airport and that's gonna change and that's too bad," pilot Bruce Angell told The Seattle Times. In fact, the proximity of the airport is a key factor in International Speedway Corp.'s preference for the Arlington site. Spokesman Lee Combs said that although the drivers and their teams make their living on the ground, private air travel is fundamental to the sport. "The only way to move those guys around the country is to use ... private aviation," Combs said. Many fans also fly to races and the result is that airports close to NASCAR events are usually clogged with bizjets. Arlington would also be close enough to the track that operations would be banned during large events because of TFRs that would be imposed. The management at airports near existing tracks told the Times that the Arlington pilots' fears are well-founded. But they also said the events are a boon to airport businesses. "It does a lot for an area," said Dick Lewis, who runs Concord Regional Airport in North Carolina, near Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte. "There is an inconvenience, definitely, to the [local] pilots." However, the airport sells so much fuel on those weekends that it has to have trucks standing by to keep refilling the tanks.
FLYING RENTED OR BORROWED AIRCRAFT?
An errant pilot saw the light last Saturday during an unauthorized excursion over Minneapolis. An Air Force F-16 launched a flare to get the attention of the pilot, who was busting a presidential TFR over the Twin Cities. By now, the pilot can almost certainly say he's met a real Secret Service man...
There's never a good time to lose an engine on takeoff but a few months from now would have been better for a Bend, Ore., pilot. Wayne Perry's turbine-powered Maule flipped over (pilot and passenger were uninjured) after running over a road at the end of the runway during the forced landing last Friday. Work has just begun on moving the road to create the 1,000-foot runway protection zone now mandated by the FAA...
If you're planning on attending AOPA Expo in Long Beach, Calif., later this month you should probably start familiarizing yourself with the procedures. The big show goes from Oct. 21 to Oct. 23.
Say Again? #42: The Mysterious D-Side
The D-side isn't the song on the back of the C-side record ... it's an air traffic controller who uses brains rather than eyes to keep track of planes. A data controller can be the best friend a radar controller (and a pilot) ever had, but due to policy and personnel changes, D-sides are becoming rare birds. AVweb's Don Brown explains in this month's "Say Again?" column.
IF YOUR CELL PHONE CAN SURF THE NET, IT CAN RECEIVE AVIATION WEATHER
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BUYING OR SELLING AN AIRCRAFT?
*** PREVIOUS RESULTS ***
Last week, AVweb asked readers to pass judgment on the controller shortage. One week later, we have more results than Question Of The Week has reaped in a very long time ... maybe the largest number ever. (At least we know the union is reading.) An objective 1,962 votes (58 percent) came in to support the air traffic controllers union and its vigilance for our safety in the skies. An additional 25 percent (828 votes) thought that the FAA is turning a blind eye to the impending shortage. The remaining 17 percent (in sharply decreasing numbers, respectively) either criticized Jane Doe's letter; thought the union was looking out for themselves, not pilots; or were appalled by John Carr's response to Ms. Doe.
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Lots of good "POTW" submissions this week, so we're going to keep the chatter short and get straight to the gawking. Congratulations to Eric Cobb, who takes home a spiffy new AVweb baseball cap for this week's winning photo.
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copyright © Eric Cobb
"Who's on Top"
Eric Cobb of Solvang, California takes home top honors this week.
Click here to view a large version of this image
AVweb continues to receive a large number of excellent images for our POTW contest. Here are some of the runners-up. Click on the links below to view larger versions.
"Red Baron Formation"
Isaac Murray of Euless, Texas sends this photo
of the Red Baron (pizza) flyers from the Alliance Air Show.
Used with permission of Carl Miller
"T Craft on Short Final at Greenville, ME"
Carl Miller of Orchard Park, New York
caught this moment in time on a Kodak 6490
To enter next week's contest, click here.
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