Business NewsWire Complete Issue

May 11, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

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Bullish On Bizjets?

It's the latest prognostication that business aviation -- and business aircraft manufacturers in particular -- are poised for greatness. "It" is a forecast from a Washington-based think tank/consulting firm, the Teal Group, which predicts substantial growth in demand for business aircraft through the next decade. But that's nothing new. Everyone from individual manufacturers, to the industry's trade association, GAMA, to the FAA is predicting growth. Put it another way: No one is predicting his or her job will be gone in ten years. The "news" is in some of the underlying reasons its authors use to justify their conclusions, as well as the differences between this year's predictions and those made just a year ago. Also, the organization making the predictions is supposedly more independent than the others. In essence, the Teal Group report says that demand for business jets could increase for a variety of reasons. Those reasons include an aging in-service fleet, high utilization rates among so-called "traditional" corporate flight departments and the explosive growth among fractional operators. Also of interest and impact will be the coming market entry of light-light, or micro, jets like the Cessna Mustang, the Eclipse 500, the Adam Aircraft A700 and offerings from other companies like Safire. The recently released report projects as many as 6400 bizjets worth as much as $92 billion in 2004 dollars will be produced over the next ten years.

But how might individual manufacturers fare in the next ten years? Which will see growth and which won't? Good questions. To no one's great surprise, Gulfstream Aerospace will have the largest market share when the bean counters count dollars. Of course, that's because Gulfstream's products are generally the most expensive available in the market for dedicated business aircraft -- as opposed to converted airliners -- and demand for them shows no signs of abating. Bombardier is projected at second place in the dollar-amount sweepstakes, with its wide variety of bizjets from the relatively inexpensive to those that compete directly with Gulfstream. The projected success of the two companies is not the same thing as cornering the market on bauxite ore and cranking out thousands of airframes, though. In fact, when counting new airframes sold, the leader in that measure of market share is projected to be (drum roll, please ...) Cessna.

The projected growth probably won't start for a couple of years, will ramp up during the latter part of the decade, and will then taper off after peaking. Obviously, some companies may not fare as well and it's also obvious that there may be some consolidation within the industry. Equally, some of the projected light-light jets may never make it to market or achieve widespread acceptance. Also, with that many new airframes, there may some pressures placed on supporting industry segments like training, maintenance and FBOs, to pick three. Costs in those areas could well rise substantially, placing unwelcome pressure on airframe manufacturers. Regardless, many observers are unanimous in their predictions for growth; they just differ on its magnitude. Where will you be in ten years?

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TSA Watch: Stone, Alphabet Soup Meet

In our last edition of AVweb's BizAVflash, we told you about the then-upcoming meeting between the Transportation Security Administration's acting head, David M. Stone, and the various organizations comprising the General Aviation Coalition. That meeting, held last Friday, was the latest in a series of more-or-less regular meetings between the security agency and industry. As such, neither its content nor results were earthshaking, but two items of interest to general and business aviation came from it. The first item has to do with a TSA plan to -- finally -- allow non-scheduled (i.e., general aviation) operations at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). The second involves release of the long-awaited set of voluntary recommendations the TSA and industry groups assembled last year.

As one observer put it, the TSA is finally reacting to the political pressure placed upon it by Congress over the GA-at-DCA issue. At a public hearing earlier this year, members of the U.S. House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Aviation pretty much told the TSA to come up with a final GA-access plan at DCA or else. Such a plan has been bouncing around between the TSA, other agencies like the U.S. Secret Service and industry for more than two years. However, for lack of strong political support and an overwhelming amount of bureaucratic inertia, such a plan has never seen the light of day. It still hasn't, but Stone told the GA faithful at last week's meeting that people at the TSA are deep into negotiations with people in its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, on a final plan. Of course, when the plan will, indeed, see the light of day in anyone's guess. One thing's for sure: Its release won't be timed to gain the Bush administration any votes this November.

Also in the TSA's on-deck circle -- possibly to be made public as early as this week -- is a set of voluntary, standardized recommendations GA airport operators, tenants and users may refer to when considering general aviation security questions. The recommendations are the result of a months-long series of meetings last year among the TSA and industry groups, leading to formal presentation of a final document in October. According to TSA-watchers, the recommendations have been delayed because the final document pretty much ignored one of the TSA's fundamental premises: that each GA airport or landing facility fit into some kind of category it could use. Why the categories were necessary wasn't really clear, however. Some say they would be used as an enforcement tool; others say they would be used to help secure federal funding at the state and local levels to finance any security-based improvements. How the category issue will be resolved, whether the recommendations will remain voluntary and, of course, when the blasted things will be released are unanswered questions, both as of today and during last week's meeting. Watch this space.

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New Raytheon STC Covers Beechjet, Diamond RVSM...

Raytheon Aircraft Services (RAS) last week announced it has obtained an FAA Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) providing a Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM) solution for the Beechjet 400 and the MU-300 aircraft. The Raytheon STC upgrades existing height-keeping equipment to digital altimeters with data-acquisition units to meet RVSM requirements. Aircraft flying above 29,000 feet must meet domestic RVSM requirements by Jan. 20, 2005. “Our Beechjet and Diamond Jet solution offers a cost-effective approach to the FAA mandate,” said Skip Madsen, vice president of Raytheon Aircraft Services. “We’re also working with an industry supplier to develop a solution for Bendix/King KFC400 EFIS 10-equipped aircraft.” Beechjet 400 and MU-300 owners can contact RAS's facility at the Atlanta Fulton County Airport for more information.

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...While Fourth Hawker Horizon Joins Certification Program

Meanwhile, Raytheon Aircraft announced late last month that the fourth example of the forthcoming Hawker Horizon entered the company's certification test program. The latest Hawker Horizon flew for 90 minutes during the initial hop. At the controls were senior test pilot Tim Miller, co-pilot Ken Sasine and flight test engineer Amin Gulamhussein. The three conducted a series of functional tests with speeds ranging from 135 to 340 knots at 15,000 feet. The fourth Hawker Horizon will conduct FAA Function and Reliability testing as part of the certification effort. In addition, it will participate in an operational evaluation that will ensure a successful entry into service and full customer satisfaction prior to initial deliveries. “This aircraft represents the final production configuration, and we were very pleased with the results of the first flight,” said David Riemer, vice president of product development and engineering. Certification and deliveries are expected by the end of this year.

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Pratt & Whitney Canada Runs Eclipse's PW610F Engine

Pratt & Whitney Canada Corp. (P&WC) completed on May 4 the first run of its new PW610F turbine engine selected by Eclipse Aviation Corp. to power the twin-engine Eclipse 500 Very Light Jet (VLJ). The smallest member of P&WC's PW600 engine series achieved rated takeoff thrust (900 pounds) after only five hours of the test run. As a result, Vern Raburn, president and chief executive officer of Eclipse Aviation, said first flight of the production-conforming Eclipse 500 with the P&WC engines is on schedule to take place in late 2004. "We have a great partner in Pratt & Whitney Canada and are extremely pleased by the results of the PW610F development program to date -- the ability to achieve takeoff thrust during the first run is an example of how well the program is progressing." Certification of the PW610F, which is controlled through a dual-channel FADEC, is expected in the first quarter of 2006 and customer deliveries of the Eclipse 500 are expected to begin shortly thereafter. "This first run of a PW610F development engine at full takeoff thrust represents an important milestone in this exciting development program," said Alain M. Bellemare, president of P&WC. "The PW610F is on track to undergo flight trials on P&WC's flying test bed in August 2004, and deliveries of the first prototype engines to Eclipse are expected to begin in early December."

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Dassault Falcon Jet -- Wilmington Settles With UAW

A new three-year contract between Dassault Falcon Jet -- Wilmington (Del.) and a local unit of the United Auto Workers labor union was ratified late last month, enabling both the company and its employees to get back to work. The settlement of a dispute resulting in the new contract ends a strike at the facility by roughly 170 workers. According to Todd McGahey, general manager of Dassault Falcon's East Coast Service Center, "It was unfortunate disagreements with negotiators led to many of the workers going on strike but we are glad to have this behind us. We can now fully focus on giving our customers the full range of services they have come to expect."

"The area that suffered most was the refurb shop as most of that work is long-term and had to be sent elsewhere," said McGahey. The Dassault Falcon Jet -- Wilmington facility was acquired from Atlantic Aviation in late 2000. Since then, Dassault has invested in both new infrastructure and facility improvements throughout. In addition, a new paint shop with advanced application capabilities is nearing completion and should be open for business in July.

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Gulfstream G450 Development Update

Gulfstream Aerospace late last month said development of its G450 business jet is "on schedule and on budget," one year after its first flight. The company added that its own flight test was complete and that tests leading to FAA certification -- scheduled for the third quarter of 2004 -- were well underway. Customer deliveries are expected in the second quarter of 2005. According to the company, four examples of the large-cabin, long-range business jet have accumulated more than 1250 flight hours during approximately 500 flights. By employing the four test aircraft, Gulfstream has been able to test and evaluate multiple aspects of the aircraft simultaneously in a relatively short amount of time. To date, Gulfstream has completed all development tests for aerodynamic performance, handling qualities, propulsion, systems and avionics. As part of its certification testing, the G450 fleet has successfully completed tests investigating flutter, field performance, flight controls, electrical systems and Part 36 fly-over noise tests, among others. Additionally, Gulfstream’s Flight Operations personnel are working with the FAA Flight Standards and JAA Operations Evaluations Boards to evaluate pilot type rating for the G450. Gulfstream anticipates the G450 will share the same type rating with the G500 and G550, as well as the forthcoming G350.

Safire Restructures

Safire Aircraft Company last month announced a series of restructuring steps aimed at ensuring the completion and development of its Safire Jet prototype. The Miami, Fla.-based company said that it will reassign comes of the company's staff to new functions and create a new five-person sales organization. "We wish to focus on refining our sales strategy as well as continue to build our infrastructure, while concentrating our resources on first flight and certification," said Safire President and CEO Camilo Salomon. Safire Aircraft was founded in 1998 to meet the growing requirement for a new generation of light jets that will have far lower acquisition and operational costs than today's traditional light jets. Earlier this year, Safire filed a Type Certificate application with the FAA. The company's six-place twin-turbofan-powered Safire Jet, priced at $1.395 million, is scheduled to make its first flight in 2004, with deliveries beginning in 2006. Appointed to the new sales organization were Miguel Correa, Safire chairman, who will lead it. Michael Margaritoff, Safire founder, will coordinate the new sales campaign as vice president of sales administration. Jayson Gehri, customer support representative, will coordinate communications while Jane Poling will provide sales and customer support.

Watch Your Inbox...

...the next issue of AVweb's BizAVflash will be e-mailed to you on May 26.

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