AVwebBiz Complete Issue: Volume 9, Number 41

October 26, 2011

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
Cessna Aircraft || Makers of the Cessna Citation
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AVflash! Altaire Off the Table back to top 

Piper Mothballs Jet Project

Piper Aircraft announced on Monday it is "indefinitely suspending" further work on its Altaire single-engine business jet and will cut more than 200 jobs at its plant in Vero Beach, Fla. The news was not unexpected, coming just a week after the company appointed a new interim CEO and said it would "review" the program. Piper's news release on Monday said planned development costs had "risen above the point that were recoverable under foreseeable light-jet market projections." The deposits of Altaire position holders will be refunded, the company said.

"Clearly, the market for light jets is not recovering sufficiently and quickly enough to allow us to continue developing the program under the economic circumstances we face," said Simon Caldecott, Piper's interim CEO. "Following an evaluation of Altaire development and light-jet forecasts, we determined the best course of action for the company going forward is to indefinitely suspend the program …. Unfortunately and regrettably, this will have serious consequences for many talented Piper employees and for our Piper Altaire customers." The company will immediately let go 55 contract workers, mostly engineers, and eliminate 150 jobs as the program winds down. Just last month, Piper held a job fair in Wichita, Kans., to recruit 20 new engineers to work on the Altaire. The prototype, a redesign of the earlier PiperJet, had been scheduled to fly for the first time next year. It was priced at $2.6 million. AVweb's editor-in-chief Russ Niles predicted the jet's demise last week; click here for his blog and the ensuing discussion.

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Paying the Bills back to top 

Mica Says FAA Funding Deal Possible

A leading lawmaker says he thinks long-term reauthorization of the FAA is possible before the current interim funding package expires Jan. 31. Rep. John Mica, R-FLa., the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, says he thinks a four-year deal is possible by the end of the year. But even though the FAA has been without a proper reauthorization package since 2007, Washington observers are terming Mica's plan "optimistic" because of the politics involved. Mica himself hinted at turning down the temperature on the dispute over subsidizing air service to isolated communities, an issue at least partly to blame for the impasse that caused a partial shutdown of the agency in July.

Mica said he would accept subsidized flights to airports in communities at least 90 miles from the nearest regularly served commercial airport. When it came up last July, Mica and other Republicans wanted the subsidies ended for many airports, some of which happened to be located in the areas of prominent Democrat representatives and senators. The airline subsidy issue isn't the only issue that could get in the way of an FAA deal, however. Labor rules and slot designations at major airports can continue to dog the process.

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Saying "No" to the Aviation Tax back to top 

House Rejects EU Aviation Tax

Representatives from both parties in Washington agreed on something this week -- the European Union shouldn't be allowed to unilaterally impose a carbon tax on aircraft flying there from the U.S. On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed a bill that prohibits all U.S. airlines and general aviation operators from taking part in such a scheme, NBAA said. "Global aviation standards are overseen by the International Civil Aviation Organization," said NBAA President Ed Bolen, "and any new standards should be decided by ICAO." The EU, however, said it intends to enforce its carbon rules, despite the U.S. opposition.

The top court in Europe has already rejected a complaint from U.S. and Canadian airlines that the tax would violate international law, according to the Washington Post. The EU program is scheduled to take effect on January 1, charging a carbon tax on all aircraft operations that overfly or land in an EU country. The amount of tax would depend on the type of aircraft and the distance flown. The House bill passed "overwhelmingly" on a voice vote, according to NBAA. The Senate has not yet addressed the issue, and it's unclear whether it would gain enough support to pass there, according to Reuters.

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Boeing Dreamliner: Running the Numbers back to top 

Dreamliner Break-Even Pegged At 1100

Boeing will lift the curtain a little today on the financial aspects of its 787 program, but that didn't stop pundits from predicting what it will take to make the world's most expensive civilian aircraft development program make money. Rather than make its own prediction, Bloomberg tallied up the crystal balling of 18 analysts, averaged them and came up with Boeing's making its first buck on Dreamliner No. 1101. The magic number was undoubtedly much lower than that when Boeing embarked on the 787 program but a series of problems compounded to create a three-year launch delay. The first Dreamliner was delivered to ANA last month and was due to enter service today. The company has about 800 firm orders for the mostly plastic jet and based on previous programs should therefore have no trouble hitting the black.

Boeing will speed up production to 10 787s a month this year, making it the speediest wide-body production line anywhere and making the 1,100 threshold achievable in a little less than 10 years. Boeing's last clean-sheet offering was the 777 and its break-even point was 250 aircraft. A total of 1,233 have been sold since the design was introduced in 1995. Meanwhile, Boeing says it's earning a profit on every Dreamliner because it averages the start-up costs over the life of the program rather than addressing them up front and posting a loss on the initial aircraft.

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Nature's Fury back to top 

MTSU Fleet Ravaged By Hail (Revised)

click for photos

A hail event at Murfreesboro Municipal Airport may have damaged up to 17 of 20 Diamond trainers operated by Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) and left the school's entire fleet grounded, temporarily putting a stop to flight instruction for hundreds of students. MTSU has roughly 400 students studying in its professional pilot concentrations and it operates one of the largest fleets of Diamond trainers in the country. Diamond is sending experts from Canada to inspect potentially hidden (and apparent) physical damage to the Diamonds' composite skins. Dr. Wayne Dornan, Chairman of the school's Aerospace Department, told AVweb Thursday that the DA-40s operated by MTSU carry glass cockpits, some with synthetic vision, and cost roughly $365,000 each, new. MTSU also has five Piper Seminoles and they were also damaged. MTSU's aircraft weren't the only ones to suffer. The airport was hosting a regional competition and aircraft from other schools were also damaged.

Purdue University, Southern Illinois University, Lewis University, and Indiana State University were all participating in a Region 8 SAFECON event at the airport. At least one of those schools received special FAA clearance top fly two of their aircraft home after the storm, according to Dornan. For MTSU, all trainers were at least temporarily grounded grounded following the storm. Only three of the school's aircraft were spared because they were hangared for maintenance at the time. According to MTSU news liason, Randy Weiler, the hail that fell on the school's nearby campus was mostly pea- to marble-sized, but he noted that local news accounts reported some hail stones roughly the size of a ping pong ball. The storm was sudden and the hail appeared to be isolated. Aircraft were flying just minutes before it arrived. "An hour earlier, there was nothing heading our way. All of a sudden I turned around and it started to rain and hail on campus," Weiler said.

Moving forward, MTSU is "erring on the side of safety and will leave all 22 affected aircraft on the ground," Dornan told AVweb, "until their condition can be properly assessed." MTSU's Dornan told AVweb that the school's first priority now "is to get our students back in the air, but back in the air safely." "We have some Pipers, and we know what to do with those, but not the (composite) Diamonds," Dornan said. "If we have to get new aircraft, we will. We have a commitment to our students that we will fulfill." Representatives from Diamond were expected to arrive Sunday night or Monday to provide expert inspection. From there, MTSU will devise an action plan. Until then, the school's three remaining trainers that had been hangared for maintenance, will be repaired and brought back online.

Click for photos.

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News Briefs back to top 

Mexico Gets Part Of Global 7000/8000 Work

Bombardier has announced that major components of its flagship Global 7000 and 8000 business jets will be built in its Queretaro, Mexico plant. The company said Tuesday that the rear fuselages of the large long-range jets will be built in Queretaro. The decision was expected since the aft fuselages of Global 5000 and 6000 models are also built at the Mexico plant. Final assembly for the Global 7000 and 8000 will be done at Bombardier's Downsview plant in Toronto and interiors will be finished at the company's completion center in Dorval, just outside Montreal.

The Queretaro plant is a significant contributor to many Bombardier programs and will do a lot of the work on the Learjet 85. Mexican workers will do all the major work on the composite airframe of the latest Lear along with wiring, wings and tail. Final assembly of the 85 will be in Wichita. Bombardier opened the Mexico plant in 2006 and it has 1,700 employees. In addition to business jets, the plant also contributes to the production of regional jets and Q400 turboprops.

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Opinion & Commentary back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: Flight 447 -- Released Transcripts Put Air France in the Hot Seat

The transcript reveals confusion and dithering in the cockpit as the crew appears to have held the airplane into a persistent stall for three minutes or longer. On the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli predicts that Air France will have some explaining do to show why its pilots couldn't fly the airplane on raw data well enough to recover a stall.

Read more and join the conversation.

AVweb Insider Blog: Sir Richard Goes a-Greenwashin'

That's the upshot of Richard Branson's announcement last week that his Virgin Atlantic airline will be testing out and maybe using a synthetic jet fuel made from steel plant effluent. As much as we cheer the idea, we're less thrilled with his statement that we're running out of oil. In his latest post to the AVweb Insider blog, Paul Bertorelli stresses that, to remain credible, opinion leaders should stop saying things like this.

Read more and join the conversation.

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The Top Reporter on Our Crack Staff ... Is You! back to top 

Who's Where? You Tell Us

Get a promotion or a new job? Your colleagues want to know about it, and AVwebBiz can get the word out. Drop us a line about the staff appointment, with a nice recent photo, and we'll do our best to include it in our new section, "Who's Where." The items will be permanently archived on AVweb for future reference, too.

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

Our best stories start with you. If you've heard something 255,000 pilots might want to know about, tell us. Submit news tips via email to newstips@avweb.com. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.

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AVweb Media: Look, Listen, Laugh and Learn back to top 

Video: DRE's New Portable Intercom

Original, Exclusive Videos from AVweb | Reader-Submitted & Viral Videos

Most portable intercoms barely meet the mark for basic cabin chatter. DRE's newest unit may be a bit big, but it performs like a certified panel-mount system.

Don't see a video screen?
Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

Video: AA Jackson Hole Overrun Transcript Released

Original, Exclusive Videos from AVweb | Reader-Submitted & Viral Videos

Video (below) appeared to show that the thrust reversers of American Airlines Flight 2253 were slow to deploy before the 757-200 slid off the runway at Jackson Hole Wyoming last December -- now we know the crew thought so, too. The NTSB Friday released a transcript of the flight's cockpit voice recorder. The airliner had touched down safely under a 1,000 foot overcast with a broken layer at 400 and 3/4 mile visibility in light snow. At the moment the wheels touched, the flight's captain said "very good." Twenty-seven seconds later, the first officer (who had flown the landing) expressed his opinion of how events had developed since then by stating, "we're screwed." He then told the tower why: "and American ah twenty two fifty three is goin' off the end of the runway."

None of the 185 aboard were injured. The jet came to rest approximately 350 feet past the runway overrun area in snow. Preliminary reports indicate that the airplane was undamaged, according to the NTSB. The transcript shows that almost immediately after touching down, the pilots believed they had a problem. The copilot specifically commented that he had "no reverse." The conversation that followed between copilot and captain as the jet rumbled down the runway focused on efforts to apply brakes and reversers. Eventually, 15 seconds into the landing roll the captain says "alright I got max brake." It apparently was too little, too late. The crew from a Challenger 30 that landed before the Boeing reported good braking on the first 2/3 of the runway and poor braking on the last third. After the Boeing came to rest, the crew tended to communications with the tower and emergency personnel and shared this exchange: The captains said, "We got no braking action." The copilot responded, "We didn't get thrust reversers out." The transcript suggests that wasn't for lack of trying, and the video shows that eventually -- and prior to the jet leaving the runway -- the reversers did deploy. But the NTSB has yet to release a final report.

Find the transcript here.

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Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

Names Behind the News back to top 

Meet the AVwebBiz Team

AVwebBiz is a weekly summary of the latest business aviation news, articles, products, features, and events featured on AVweb, the internet's aviation magazine and news service.

The AVwebBiz team is:

Timothy Cole

Editorial Director, Aviation Publications
Paul Bertorelli

Russ Niles

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Glenn Pew

Features Editor
Kevin Lane-Cummings

Scott Simmons

Jeff van West

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