February 24, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Long preoccupied with managing its congressional mandate to federalize the passenger-screening workforce, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has spent two years wrestling internally and with industry groups in an attempt to figure out exactly what to do about non-scheduled aircraft operations. To date, there have been a number of recommendations and guidelines, as well as formal endorsement of AOPA's Airport Watch program. Additionally, the agency implemented a series of rules targeting chartered aircraft operations involving aircraft weighing 12,500 pounds or more. But the elephant sitting in the corner has always been what to do about security at non-commercial airports serving general and business aviation -- airports ranging from Teterboro to the grass strip outside of East Overshoe, Wyo., and everything in between. Much of the TSA's problems in getting its arms around general and business aviation security are internal -- it's still a young agency and one still reacting to the media and public emphasis on airline security. Now, however, it appears that may soon change.
Floating around among Washington's alphabet soup organizations and within the TSA and its parent, the Department of Homeland Security, is a draft set of recommendations designed to formalize the ways in which the federal government looks at general aviation airport security. The document is being kept out of the public eye, but industry observers tell AVweb that it builds on an industry-based effort conducted during the latter half of 2003 through an Aviation Security Advisory Committee (ASAC) working group. So far, say some who have reviewed the draft, it's not so bad and basically tracks the ASAC working group's recommendations in many areas. However, and in typical bureaucratic thinking, the draft document includes a method of comparing various physical characteristics of an airport -- its runway length, proximity to a major metropolitan area, and the number of based aircraft, among others -- to come up with a baseline set of security-related features the facility should have. What's not clear -- and won't be until after the document at least sees the light of day -- is what would happen at an airport that does not have the features the TSA recommends.
The crux of the matter boils down to when, if ever, the TSA's recommendations might become requirements. Although the TSA has long maintained that it has no plans to require certain security-related steps at GA airports, that agency really isn't the problem. Instead, individual states -- sometimes frustrated by internal politics asking that they "do something" about GA security -- are moving toward creating their own programs, standards, requirements and protocols. The resulting danger to general and business aviation is not that the states would do something, but that they all would do something different. Think about it: How many times have you run afoul of some local procedure or operational requirement that wasn't widely disseminated via normal aeronautical information channels?
One of the major, long-standing questions that still has no answer is, "Who will pay for any 'recommended' improvements at your local airport?" The quick answer is you will, either directly or indirectly. Industry observers have long maintained that the central reason the TSA wants to try to develop a set of recommendations based on the various characteristics an airport may have is to devise a federal grant system for funding security-related infrastructure where the guidelines aren't met. But such a grant program is far down the road. And none of the long-standing recommendations put forth by the TSA envision airline-style pre-boarding screening, except in special circumstances. In the meantime, look for a blizzard of new federally approved recommendations, coming soon to a GA airport near you.
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BUYING FOR THE AVIATION INDUSTRY
Is general aviation's glass half full? Is it half empty? Or is there just too much glass for the amount of liquid? Those questions -- kind of -- were the subject of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association's (GAMA) Annual Industry Review, a yearly look-see at sales numbers the industry racked up during the previous twelve months. An annual inspection, as it were. To no one's great surprise, and as AVweb reported earlier this month, the 2003 numbers show that many basic measurements of how well the general aviation industry is doing are trending downward, at least when compared with 2002. But, a closer, deeper examination of the industry's health reveals reasons for optimism.
Despite the bad news from GAMA -- total airframe deliveries have continued their downward trend since 2000 -- there is every reason for optimism. For example, the "hassle-factor" associated with travel by airlines shows no signs of abating. Each time another horror story surfaces about an 80-year-old grandmother or an eight-year-old child being given "the treatment" by the TSA as they attempt to board an airliner, some CEO somewhere decides he's had enough and either calls a local charter operator or a fractional-ownership operator to get prices. And, as manufacturing becomes even more decentralized in the U.S., customers and suppliers will still need an efficient way to get from Point A to Point B and back. And that ain't the airlines.
Finally, just about anyone with a subscription to The Wall Street Journal believes the current economic doldrums will soon start to turn around, probably in 2005. Confirming these beliefs, late last year Rolls-Royce pointed to a number of factors, chief among them an expected wave of business jet retirements in the next two decades. Rolls-Royce noted that "25 percent of the business jet fleet is 26 years of age or older and 40 percent of the fleet is 20 years of age or older, which shows that as many as 5,000 aircraft will need to be replaced over the forecast period." The Rolls-Royce forecast also noted that business jet deliveries for 2003 will total about 500, and that the same number could be expected in 2004. In fact, some 518 bizjets were delivered worldwide in 2003; it's much too early in 2004 to say whether current-year activity is on track to meet that projection.
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It used to be easy to identify a Gulfstream on the local FBO ramp -- it was a GIII, GIV or GV. If it was short, or had tip tanks, it was a GII; props meant it was a GI. Nowadays, though, you can't tell at a glance and, perhaps most frustrating, the lines between the company's top-of-the-line bizjets have grown, well, fuzzy, with the new numbering system. At the lower end are the former Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI)/Galaxy Aerospace types that parent company General Dynamics acquired in 2001 -- the Astra SPX, now rebranded the Gulfstream 100, and the Galaxy, rebranded the Gulfstream 200. There's the forthcoming G150, derived from the G100/Astra SPX. And, of course, there's the G450, 500 and 550, which trace their lineage back to the GIV-SP, GV and GV-SP, respectively.
Now, as if us mere mortals needed more confusion in our Gulfstream-spotting, comes the just-announced G350. Gulfstream Aerospace on Monday confirmed what many had been anticipating for a few weeks -- formal announcement of the company's latest-model bizjet. Dubbed the G350, the newest Gulfstream is billed as a "large-cabin, mid-range" offering and will include the company's PlaneView avionics suite. Gulfstream expects FAA certification of the G350 by the fourth quarter of 2004, with the first customer delivery expected in the third quarter of 2005. The G350 isn't a growth version of the IAI/Galaxy fleet; instead, it is more of a short-range G450. Put another way, it's something like a new GIII-SP.
Indeed, according to Gulfstream, the G350 was developed for customers who dont require the G450s long range but who do want its 40-foot-long cabin, systems and engineering. The 350 will share the G450's physical dimensions, flight-control systems, engines and cabin space as well as avionics. Gulfstream plans for the G450 and its shorter-legged sibling to share the same type rating, since their cockpits will be virtually identical. Rolls-Royce Deutschland Tay 611 engines, the same basic type as mounted on the 450, will power the G350. The engine was certified by the German LBA (Luftfahrt-Bundesamt) in December 2002. Of course, the new powerplants feature Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC), as well as an improved, larger-diameter fan, a modified high-pressure turbine and a new bypass/core mixer. According to Gulfstream, these improvements mean reduced fuel burn, increased operating margins, increased thrust for improved takeoff and climb performance, and extensions of maintenance intervals to 6,000 hours midlife and 12,000 hours for full overhaul. "With its competitive price and performance points, we are confident the G350 will appeal to business jet customers, especially those who previously may not have considered a Gulfstream in their business case," said Bryan Moss, president, Gulfstream. "When you look at the entire aircraft -- its range, performance, number of standard features, product support and price -- the G350 offers exceptional value." Look for the GIII-SP, err, G350 coming soon to a Gulfstream store near you.
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The federal government's ban of non-scheduled aircraft at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) has long been a major thorn in the side for general and business aviation. In fact, the only people remotely happy with the situation are the FBOs at other airports surrounding the nation's capital. Despite a number of well-meaning intentions and aborted efforts at the Transportation Security Administration and elsewhere, no one within the federal government has been willing to stick out their neck far enough for any real progress to be made. That may well still be the situation, but Congress is scheduled to finally and formally get into the act with a planned field hearing of the House Subcommittee on Aviation. The hearing, set for March 16, 2004, at DCA, will likely look at the impact on airport-based businesses -- namely Signature Flight Support, the only FBO at DCA -- as well as the surrounding community. Also a possibility for the event will be what happened to previous efforts, especially those which were underway in the summer of 2002 and which would have involved establishing a series of "portal" airports through which crew and passengers of aircraft destined for DCA would undergo airline-style pre-boarding screening. Many general and business aviation trade associations have long maintained they would adopt any "reasonable" security-based protocols designed to allow non-scheduled access to DCA if only someone within the federal government would approve them. That appears to remain the situation, although the upcoming hearing will probably not be the beginning of the end of GA's ban from DCA.
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Believe it or not, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is finally getting around to listening to the people it's trying to regulate. For most of the agency's life, the first many people knew about a new aviation security regulation was when its final version was published and made effective. But, if you've ever reviewed a proposed Airworthiness Directive or written the FAA about a pending rule change, you know that's not the way federal regulations are supposed to be developed. Instead, the TSA yesterday published a notice that it was seeking public comment, and would hold a public meeting on security at foreign and domestic aircraft repair stations.
According to the TSA, recent legislation directs the agency to issue such a regulation. Therefore, the TSA is scheduling a public meeting to discuss the new requirement with air carriers, airports, repair facility operators and other stakeholders, and invites comments from the participants. The public meeting will be held on Feb. 27, 2004, at 1 p.m., in Arlington, Va. Persons not able to attend a meeting are invited to provide written comments, which must be received by March 29, 2004.
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Cessnas first Citation CJ3 manufactured on the production line rolled out the door Feb. 13 at its Wichita, Kan., production facility. The event marked another milestone in the company's certification effort. As of early February, certification flight-testing for the CJ3 has reached over 567.8 hours in 345 flights. Cessna recently finished induced-icing development and certification flights, and has begun flights in natural icing. Simultaneously, the CJ3 airframe undergoing static testing has successfully completed over 200 certified test conditions. Designed for single-pilot operation, the CJ3s maximum cruise speed is 417 knots at 33,000 feet. With two pilots, full fuel, four passengers and baggage, the CJ3 offers an IFR range of 1,771 nm and a VFR range of 1,900 nm. Service ceiling is 45,000 feet and the maximum gross takeoff weight is 13,870 pounds. Cessna expects to receive FAA certification by mid-2004.
Cessna also expects to receive FAA certification of its new XLS variant as early as this week. The XLS, Cessna's follow-on to the Citation Excel, features a number of improvements when compared with its predecessor. For example, Cessna said when it announced the XLS that it expected the new model to have a 200-pound gross weight increase over the Excel. Maximum IFR range with two pilots and five passengers was projected to increase 225 nm, to 1,945 nm. Up front, the XLS will fly with Honeywell's all-new Primus 1000 Control Display System (CDS) avionics system. The Primus 1000 features three 8" x 10" liquid crystal displays divided into two primary flight displays (PFDs) and one multi-function display (MFD). [More]The Citation XLS was announced at NBAA 2003, at which time the company said it expected certification in the first calendar quarter of 2004, with customer deliveries to begin by mid-2004. By the time you read this, at least the certification hurdle may have been crossed.
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There were no fatal accidents involving corporate aviation operators in 2003, according to National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) President and CEO Shelley A. Longmuir. This statistic, attributed to bizav number-cruncher Robert A Breiling, means that corporate aviation is one of the safest travel modes available, according to the association. Of course, it don't get much better than that. In this case, the NBAA defines "corporate aviation" as a turbine-powered aircraft flown by a two-person professional crew. That's quite an achievement, and one of which all should be proud. That said, final numbers from the National Transportation Safety Board aren't yet available for 2003. However, the preliminary statistics for 2003 show there were two fatalities in one "corporate/executive" accident in 2003. The NTSB defines "corporate/executive flight operations" as involving "aircraft owned or leased, and operated by a corporate or business firm for the transportation of personnel or cargo in furtherance of the corporations or firms business, and that are flown by professional pilots receiving a direct salary or compensation for piloting." Overall, the NTSB's preliminary numbers show an increase in general aviation fatalities, including those from aerial application operations, of 624, versus 581 in 2002.
San Jose, Calif.-based Crossbow Technology Inc. announced earlier this month that its AHRS500GA product had been selected by Eclipse Aviation for attitude and heading reference systems (AHRS) aboard the Eclipse 500 light jet. Crossbow's AHRS500GA was certified by the FAA in 2003 and the company has a supplemental type certificate (STC) allowing its installation in more than 600 aircraft. [More]In the Eclipse 500, the AHRS500GA will include a certified remote magnetometer as well as additional communication interfaces for ARINC429 and RS-485. The AHRS500GA will aggregate and route data communications for the air-data and GPS receivers to the cockpit display, according to the company.
Honeywell and Rolls-Royce reached a worldwide licensing service agreement that calls for Honeywell to perform repair services on the first- and second-stage turbine vanes on certain Rolls-Royce turbine engines. Engines covered under the agreement are the Rolls-Royce 501K, 570K/571K, and 601K. Honeywell will provide the repair services in its Greer, S.C., facility.
Business AVflash is a twice-monthly summary of the latest business aviation news, articles, products, features and events featured on AVweb, the Internet's Aviation Magazine and News Service. http://www.avweb.com
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