Business NewsWire Complete Issue

March 30, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

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Longtime NBAA Staffers Tender Resignations

As the deadline for this edition of Business AVflash was approaching, AVweb learned that NBAA Senior Vice President, Operations Bob Blouin had tendered his resignation. Also leaving the association is Cassandra Bosco, who has served as senior manager, media relations, since 1988. Both resignations came within days of each other. At our deadline, neither Blouin nor Bosco had responded to e-mails seeking additional information.

Blouin joined the NBAA in 1997 after a successful career including service as vice president, technical operations, for Short Brothers (USA) Inc., where he was responsible for the factory product support of 176 aircraft based in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific Territories. Blouin has an airline transport pilot certificate with a Learjet type rating and over 8,500 flying hours. Bosco's background includes public relations and communications services for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.

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Girding For Gridlock?

Are the bad old days -- the time when ground delays, in-trail spacing and lengthy conga lines at airports throughout the U.S. were the norm -- coming back? Since September 2001, U.S. air traffic delays and congestion have been virtually nonexistent on a widespread basis. The ongoing economic doldrums, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and intermittent, security-related groundings of non-scheduled aircraft -- among other factors -- have all contributed to relatively few demand-related ATC delays being imposed on business aircraft operators over the past two and one-half years. Exceptions include special events for which special traffic management programs (STMPs) are issued and, of course, severe weather. However, if you believe all of the dire predictions from industry and government, the coming summer could see the return of "hurry up and wait" flight operations in the en route environment and at major hub facilities around the U.S. Put simply, the problem is that scheduled operations are projected to return to "normal," and the result could well be saturation of certain terminals and sectors at various times of day. And that's just 2004 -- the out-years are projected to be worse.

But government officials say they are on the case. At last week's FAA-sponsored 29th Annual Aviation Forecast Conference, both Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta and FAA Administrator Marion Blakey went to great lengths to describe the steps their agencies are taking to minimize delays. Secretary Mineta also said that a new era of government-industry cooperation is helping to prevent the chronic flight delays experienced during the summer of 2001 and earlier. "Aviation is on the cusp of a paradigm shift," Mineta said. "Because a strong economy depends on a vibrant aviation system, the future of our system depends on new solutions that keep America as the worldwide leader in aviation." Mineta and Blakey used last week's conference -- and a media event at the Herndon, Va., Air Traffic Control Systems Command Center (ATCSCC) -- to announce a new initiative dubbed "Growth without Gridlock."

Unfortunately, Blakey's speeches are long on optimism -- especially for economic growth, which she says both will drive and be driven by increased air travel -- and short on specifics. The good news is that one of the central reasons for airborne gridlock -- lack of adequate runways -- is being addressed. According to Blakey, "several" new runways were commissioned in the past year and six more "are scheduled to open in the next few years." The bad news is that there are more aircraft operated by scheduled air carriers than before. The big difference is in regional jets, whose performance is similar to business jets and which are used by the scheduled carriers to serve routes with frequencies not sustainable with larger, more-traditional Boeings and Airbuses.

So, thanks to the scheduled carriers, more aircraft are carrying fewer passengers and actually causing more airborne gridlock. The numbers are pretty basic: In 2001, there were 4,353 regional and traditional jets being operated by large carriers; 782 additional jets were in use by regional and commuter carriers, according to the FAA. We'll do the math for you: a total of 5,135 jets operating in scheduled service in 2001. Meanwhile, some of those larger, less fuel-efficient airliners were parked when the post-Sept. 11 downturn in airline travel took hold. At the same time, more and more regional jets were being placed into service. The result is that, in 2004, the FAA forecasts a total of 5,273 jets to be in scheduled service (4,125 for the large carriers; 1,598 for the regionals). That's an increase of roughly 140 airframes -- or 2.6% more aircraft -- over 2001 levels even though total revenue passenger enplanements for the scheduled carriers is forecast to increase by only 0.48% in 2004 when compared with 2001 (683.4 million in 2001 versus 686.7 million in 2004, according to the FAA). And that counts only domestic carriers, not those based overseas and serving the U.S.

The FAA's worry -- one that should be yours, also -- is that projected travel growth in subsequent years will outstrip the system's ability to handle it all. The FAA’s new capacity study compares demand and projected capacity at more than 300 commercial airports and nearly 300 metropolitan areas through 2013 and 2020. The study shows that five airports -- Atlanta, Newark, LaGuardia, Chicago O’Hare and Philadelphia -- need additional capacity today. Even with planned infrastructure improvements, a total of 16 airports and seven major metropolitan areas will need additional capacity in 2013, unless further steps are taken to meet the demand. Final results of the FAA study will be released in the next few months. You can bet that the FAA will first place restrictions on non-scheduled operators in the form of STMPs before placing real-time delays on scheduled operations. Of course, none of this considers the impact that temporary flight restrictions may have -- remember, it's an election year and that means even more presidential travel.

What does all this mean to the non-scheduled jet operator? Well, as noted above, Mineta and Blakey were long on numbers but short on specifics. Despite the media-based preparation for increasing delays in 2004, operators can probably expect more of the same things they saw in 1999, 2000 and 2001: ground-based delays, STMPs -- especially when operating to or from popular destinations near major terminals -- and in-trail restrictions once airborne. Try to avoid punching in to any major terminal at 5:00 p.m. local time. And carry plenty of fuel. How well operators cope will be based on how much information they have. Tools and clues include a thorough pre-flight briefing, a visit to the ATCSCC Web site for data on existing delay programs and (shameless plug follows) spending some time with AVweb's Flight Explorer. At the end of they day, though, nothing will alleviate congestion quicker and faster than building more runways. The FAA says it's on the case. We'll see.

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Is A Fling-wing In Your Future?

One way to deal with projected delays might be to add a helicopter to your company's fleet. If many of your operations involve relatively short distances -- like within the northeast corridor -- you might be better off reserving the jet for longer flights and using a helicopter. If so, you'll be among good company, according to the Rolls-Royce annual forecast of worldwide turbine helicopter demand. Released March 15 at the Helicopter Association International's HELI-EXPO 2004, Rolls-Royce projected more than 5,000 new civilian helicopter deliveries worldwide over the next ten years. Rolls-Royce President, Helicopters Stuart Mullan made the predictions, a result of a teaming effort with industry-forecasting specialist the Teal Group, to provide the definitive turbine helicopter market forecast. A similar forecast was presented at HELI-EXPO by Lynn Brubaker, vice president, Honeywell Commercial Aerospace. Honeywell's sixth Turbine-Powered Civil Helicopter Purchase Outlook projects deliveries of approximately 2,350 new civil-use helicopters during the five-year period from 2004 through 2008, driven in part by increased demand for light single and intermediate twin-engine models offering newer technology.

Putting aside the military market, civil helicopter deliveries are projected to total 5,165 units worldwide during the next ten years, a figure nearly identical to Rolls-Royce's forecast last year. The market's value is forecast to be $13.9 billion in airframes and $1.9 billion in installed engines. According to Rolls-Royce, "[t]his stability reflects the long-term health of the civil helicopter market ... and the expectation of new product introduction towards the end of the decade." Turbine singles (57 percent of deliveries) and light twins (22 percent) will dominate the market, with deliveries expected to grow slowly over the period from a low of 480 units in 2004 to a peak of 531 at the end of the period studied. The company's projections come at a time when 2003 shipments were down marginally over 2002. The bright side is that 2003 saw a "substantial rebound in piston-engined helicopter sales, which reached approximately 470 aircraft, thanks predominately to a 50-percent increase in Robinson deliveries."

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Bombardier Adds Canadian Global 5000 Type Certificate...

If all goes well, first deliveries of Bombardier Aerospace's Global 5000 will take place in the second quarter of 2004, now that the company has a type certificate from Transport Canada for the new model in hand. The milestone, achieved March 12 and announced by Bombardier on March 22, means that the first Global 5000 -- currently being completed -- will enter service by the end of the year. Billed by Bombardier as "the world’s fastest intercontinental super-large business jet," the Global 5000 is certificated to Transport Canada's Chapter 525, Change 6 standards. Certification to U.S. FAR Part 25, Amendments 1 to 97, and by the European Joint Aviation Authorities to JAR Part 25, up to Change 14, is expected in the near future.

"This changes everything -- the Bombardier Global 5000 is far and away the new standard in the super-large business jet category," stated Peter Edwards, president, Bombardier Business Aircraft. "The Bombardier Global 5000 is a state-of-the-art machine that will dramatically improve travel for business and government leaders who, to date, have had no choice but to compromise on most key attributes such as cabin width, functionality, travel time between important cities, and airfield accessibility." At a typical cruise speed of Mach 0.85 (562 mph; 904 km/h) -- the fastest cruise speed in its category, according to the company -- the Bombardier Global 5000 will fly eight passengers and three crew 4,800 nm (8,889 km).

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...And Expands Its Flexjet Pacific Rim Network

While one arm of Bombardier Aerospace concentrates on building and certificating its airplanes, another arm is hard at work making sure they get flown, profitably. The company recently announced it has selected Global Wings Inc. of Tokyo, Japan, as a new operator for its growing Bombardier Flexjet Asia-Pacific business jet charter network. Global Wings Inc. will offer customers access to a new Learjet 45 XR the Japan-based company will begin operating this spring. Judith Moreton, managing director, Bombardier Flexjet International, observed: "Demand for business aviation in Asia continues to grow and evolve, and this new association reflects our ongoing commitment to solidify our program and better serve charter users."

Bombardier Flexjet Asia-Pacific has recorded steady growth since beginning operations in February 2002, the company said. Other operators in the Bombardier Flexjet Asia-Pacific network include China-based Rainbow Jet Co. Ltd., Macau-based Jet Asia Ltd., Subic International Air Charter Inc. of the Philippines, Singapore-based Pacific Flight Services and ExecuJet Australia. All charter operators in the network are certified by Wyvern International to ensure operational and safety standards.

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Cessna's Citation XLS Gets FAA Approval

Cessna announced March 23 that its Citation XLS upgrade program has received FAA approval. The agency's action came less than six months since the model's introduction at the 2003 National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) convention. The Citation XLS is the successor to the Citation Excel, which Cessna calls the "fastest-selling business jet in the world." The XLS program approval allows Cessna to add the XLS to its existing type certificate, with appropriate amendments. Powered by Pratt & Whitney’s new PW545B engines, the XLS will feature better performance than the Excel, including a cruise speed of 431 KTAS at FL430 and less than 30 minutes to climb to that altitude.

The XLS cockpit is built around Honeywell's all-new Primus 1000 Control Display System (CDS) avionics, which includes three 8” x 10” liquid crystal displays; two primary flight displays (PFD), one for each pilot; and one multi-function display (MFD). Other improvements over the Excel include an expanded standard equipment list with over $600,000 of once-optional equipment. The XLS seats nine and is on track for deliveries in the near future.

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Signature Breaks Ground For New Facility

March 25 was the date; Toulon, France, was the location. The event? Signature Flight Support's groundbreaking ceremony for its newest FBO location at the Toulon-Hyeres Airport (TLN/LFTH). Signature took on the airport's FBO role in January and is currently operating from space in the main terminal, with exclusive use of the airport's VIP lounge. Construction on the new purpose-built, 2,410-square-foot facility is expected to be complete in the third quarter of 2004. "We have a dedicated team in place who are already achieving the high service standards Signature demands of its facilities. We look forward to completion of the new facility and to bringing Signature service and capabilities to business aviation customers flying in and out of Provence," said David Best, Signature's managing director, Europe.

TSA Watch: GAO's Critique

Rarely does the General Accounting Office (GAO), Congress' watchdog agency, have anything good to say about the agencies and bureaucracies at which it takes a close look. That was true of the FAA in the years before Sept. 11, 2001 -- on any subject, including aviation security -- and it's true now when it comes to the Transportation Security Agency (TSA). As AVweb reported, the GAO recently wrote Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge that the "TSA concluded that a variety of factors made general aviation, including aerial advertising operations, vulnerable to terrorist attack." The GAO's perception of general aviation is all the more important because the agency has underway a long-term study of the industry's "vulnerability" to terrorism, currently scheduled for release in the fall of 2004.

Yesterday, the GAO testified before Congress on aviation security and noted the "TSA has taken limited action to improve general aviation security, leaving general aviation far more open and potentially vulnerable than commercial aviation. General aviation is vulnerable because general aviation pilots and passengers are not screened before takeoff and the contents of general aviation planes are not screened at any point." The GAO's statement also noted, "In the last five years, about 70 aircraft have been stolen from general aviation airports, indicating a potential weakness that could be exploited by terrorists." We can't wait to read what GAO says this fall.

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Today's issue written by Joseph E. (Jeb) Burnside:
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Let's all be careful out there, okay?