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Market analysts say Textron, the parent company of Cessna and Bell Helicopter, is prime for a takeover bid, and speculation grew this week that a move is imminent, perhaps by Lockheed Martin or
Raytheon. Sikorsky officials have also expressed interest in acquiring Bell, according to Reuters. None of the companies would comment on the rumors, but Textron's stocks rose 11 percent by Tuesday, trading at 12 times the usual level. Aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia
told the Wichita Eagle that both Cessna and Bell are solid companies that would be attractive to buyers. Other
analysts, however, noted that some of Textron's other divisions, such as a golf-cart company, would be less appealing. Officials at Textron have said that divisions may be sold off one by one if
necessary to raise cash. Textron share values dropped 87 percent over the last year, and last week more layoffs at Cessna were
Textron is exiting most of its finance business to try to stem losses and has reduced its dividend to conserve cash, the Providence Journal reported on Tuesday. The company recently sold off one division,
HR Textron, a supplier of systems and products for aircraft and turbine engines, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and X-45 unmanned combat air vehicle, raising about $265 million.
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The flight school whose Cessna 172 was stolen for a cross-border flight Monday says security was not compromised in the incident
because the alleged thief was a student who had normal access to the aircraft. Adam Leon, a 31-year-old Turkish immigrant who became a Canadian last year, was arrested near Ellsinore, Mo. Monday
evening after landing on a highway. In a statement, Confederation College, of Thunder Bay, Ontario, said that it was the first incident of its kind in the flight school's 35-year history. Rather than
a theft, the school is calling the incident an "unauthorized flight." But in an interview with the Canadian Press, Pat Lang, the college's president said a thorough review of security would be
undertaken. Under the existing policy, flight students have access to the ramp and hangar. "When the planes are beside the hangar, the keys are kept in the aircraft," she said.
Leon, who arrived in Canada under the name Yavuz Berke, reportedly told the sheriffs who arrested him that he wanted the F-16s to shoot him down but when that didn't happen he lost his nerve and
put the aircraft down on the road. NORAD spokesman Mike Kucharek told CP that a background check on Leon didn't turn up any terrorist ties so his excursion through the Midwest was treated as a "safety
of flight" issue. Leon is in jail in St. Louis while authorities on both sides of the border hash out how to proceed, although the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have apparently decided to treat
it as a simple theft rather than an international incident. "It is still a joint investigation between the RCMP and Thunder Bay police service in regards to the theft as well as to any aeronautic or
Transport Canada offences...," Sgt. Marc LaPorte said. Leon was described by neighbors and school officials as bright and friendly and showed no signs of the depression he was apparently being treated
for. He had initially failed his flying course but was re-admitted and was doing well the second time. He completed his first solo last week and was preparing for his solo cross country
The mainstream media is starting to take note of the impact of TSA rules that general aviation pilots and operators have been unhappy about, and if a story in this week's Denver Post is any indication, GA may get a sympathetic hearing. The costs and logistics of TSA regulations on Colorado's
airports are significant, Rex Tippetts, director of aviation at Grand Junction's Walker Field, told the Post. New TSA rules will require him to provide 2,000 additional security checks and badges.
"It's out of control," he said. "We have a large maintenance operation here with 400 people. We have a large interagency fire-fighting operation here, with maintenance facilities. It's an unfunded
mandate we have to comply with. We had to hire people just to comply with it." James Elwood, director of Sardy Field in Aspen, said the regulations will be "time-consuming and difficult to
accomplish." Details of the security procedures have been released only to airport managers. The Post reporter said the TSA refused to release a copy of the directive, but a spokeswoman wrote that all
personnel with access to secure areas, including private pilots, must undergo a Security Threat Assessment, which includes matching their names against a terrorist database, a criminal background
check, and a review of immigration status. Pilots must attain a security badge from each of the 13 commercial airports in the state, and passengers and guests who don't have badges must be
Dennis Heap, director of the Front Range Airport, said the directive is a major step toward shutting down the nation's GA system. "General aviation is a huge economic generator that polices itself
very well," Heap said. "Why are we doing this?"
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Sikorsky is designing a fix for the military version of its S-92 series to save a $5 billion contract with the Canadian Forces. The Toronto Globe and Mail reported earlier this week that the S-92 was certified
without the normal 30-minute "run dry" capability in case of oil loss in the transmission. An S-92 operated by Cougar Helicopters crashed off Newfoundland two weeks ago 12 minutes after the pilot
reported a loss of oil pressure in the transmission. The crash killed 17 of 18 people aboard. The oil pressure loss was caused by a broken stud and an emergency AD was issued for replacement of the
studs. But the Globe and Mail obtained documents that showed the S-92 was certified by the Joint Aviation Authority in Europe with an exemption for the 30-minute run-dry capability because Sikorsky
convinced the JAA that the chance of gearbox oil loss was "extremely remote." The Canadian Forces has told Sikorsky it will cancel its order for 28 of the military versions of the helicopter (MH-92)
unless it complies with the 30-minute run-dry rule. Sikorsky told the Globe a fix is in the works for the military version of the helicopter but didn't specify if civilian choppers would be
Sikorsky spokesman Paul Hunter told the Globe the company is designing the modifications but he couldn't elaborate. "We are designing a system to meet the program requirements and will test and
enhance it as necessary," Jackson said in an e-mail to the paper. "I can't publicly describe this technology for competitive reasons, but Sikorsky will verify compliance of the [MH-92] to all
requirements prior to aircraft delivery to the Canadian Forces," he said.
David Green, a spokesman for the Eclipse Owners Group, said on Tuesday the group has entered into a preliminary agreement with Hawker Beechcraft Corp. under which Hawker would provide maintenance
upgrades and other aircraft services to Eclipse 500 owners. "The parties will now begin negotiations for a definitive binding agreement," according to a news release from the owners group. "This
relationship is sure to create tremendous confidence in Eclipse owners that their planes will be flying for many years to come," said Green. The agreement depends on EOG's success in acquiring the
assets of Eclipse Aviation Corp., including the type certificate for the jet. A bankruptcy auction is expected to occur soon, and EOG will have to compete with several other entities for those assets.
"Hawker Beechcraft is pleased to offer Eclipse 500 owners the highest quality service and support in general aviation," said Bill Brown, president of global customer service and support for Hawker
Beechcraft. "We look forward to this new relationship and keeping the Eclipse 500s in the air."
The owners group is working to support the owners' best interests, according to the news release, and might support a proposal from another party rather than buying the company assets itself, if
that seems like a better option.
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Business travelers on some long-haul international flights have noticed that wireless Internet service is becoming available for the cabin, although it's not widely in use. But the market is
getting increasingly competitive with more companies pitching products for both airline and business aircraft use. The latest is AirCell, which has been plying the airborne cell phone market for more
than a decade. At last week's AEA show in Dallas, AirCell announced a new wireless internet system based on its established ground-based cell system.
AirCell's Andy Geist told AVweb that the new technology is robust enough to allow full internet surfing, including e-mail, attachments and even streaming video and audio. "From a hotspot in the
cabin, you can do just what you'd do at a hotspot in Starbucks," he said. The service is an add-on to AirCell's existing Axxess phone service, although there are price incentives for new customers.
The service is expected to be available later this year. Contact AirCell at AirCell.com.
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Common sense and a spirit of cooperation have resolved a peculiar impasse in New Zealand that would have resulted in the closure of
towers at five airports for lunch, twice each day. Government officials, the air traffic control provider and employees have reached a deal whereby tower staff will eat lunch in a combination of
scheduled meal breaks and traffic-dependent interludes. Late last week Air New Zealand said it would have to cancel 25 regional flights so tower staff at five small airports can comply with new labor
rules. The rules, apparently strictly interpreted, would have required all lunch breaks to be scheduled. On the eve of the April 1 imposition of the rules, negotiators worked overtime to come up with
schedules that complied with the law but kept the towers open and there were no disruptions.
It's worth noting, however, that the rules have been looming for six months and the deal was struck literally at the 11th hour. Air New Zealand's public description of the effect may have had
something to do with it. Airline spokesman Bruce Parton said the cancellation would have taken 2,500 seats out of the company's regional capacity and cost it millions in revenue. It would also mean
less convenience for passengers in the affected communities of Gisborne, Napier, New Plymouth, Rotorua and Invercargill. Jobs would also have been lost at two regional carriers, Air Nelson and Eagle
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When you're trying to argue that it's ridiculous to think GA is a security risk, that last thing you need is a pair of F-16s chasing a stolen Skyhawk cross the border. In the latest installment of
our AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli explain why we've got to stop leaving unsecured airplanes on the ramp.
If you're not attending the Aircraft Electronics Association Convention in Dallas, Texas this week, you're missing some terrific new products. One of the
things we enjoy most about these trade shows is walking the floor and seeing the latest tech in person, so we're sharing that experience with a series of "AEA Product Minutes" in which we
invite vendors to reveal (in one minute) the details of their hottest product at the show.
Just one more minute of your time! In this final "Product Minute" from the AEA Convention, AirCell's Andy Geist talks about in-flight wireless access, a hot topic in the age of
Blackberrys and smartphones.
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