May 25, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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It doesn't get much better than this, especially for a small company that has yet to deliver its first aircraft, or even receive FAA certification, for that matter. Still, the word "deliver" looms large in the background. In this case, however, Adam Aircraft's entire sales department should be on a well-deserved junket to somewhere featuring rum drinks as it basks in the glow of a $150 million order for its to-be-certificated A700 AdamJet. The order for the company's light-light bizjet comes from a start-up air taxi company called iFly Air Taxi, headed by People Express Airlines (remember them?) founder Donald Burr and someone named Robert Crandall. You may remember Crandall as the longtime head of American Airlines. The Stratford, Conn.-based iFly is slated to start operations sometime in 2005; with what aircraft -- since the AdamJet is not yet certificated -- it hasn't been announced. The $150 million will buy iFly 75 copies of the new $2 million jet. The iFly announcement is the latest in a series of attempts to make the NASA-sponsored Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS) program a reality. It also gives additional weight to the ongoing Aviation Rulemaking Committee efforts to rewrite FAR Parts 125 and 135, to make them more relevant to the current crop of non-scheduled commercial operators and, of course, the coming aircraft. The iFly business plan apparently involves a network of SATS-like on-demand aircraft operations to and from non-hub airports. Published reports state that iFly will cater to "middle managers," offering them $1,500 round-trip flights of up to 400 nm. All of which is reminiscent of the Nimbus Group, which placed an order for 1000 -- yes, 1000 -- Eclipse 500s in September 2001. Nimbus planned a network of air taxis similar to that envisioned by iFly, but it never got off the ground. In February 2004, the Nimbus Group changed its name to Taylor Madison Corp., which it said was more reflective of its emphasis on the cosmetics and fragrance development industry it decided to pursue.
The A700 AdamJet made its inaugural flight in July 2003 and joined an increasingly crowded field of manufacturers in the light-light jet category. Adam says that the A700 AdamJet "is to date the only flying aircraft in the next-generation jet category," yet the flying example is far from a production prototype. Put it another way -- Adam Aircraft has built at least three copies of its A500 push-me/pull-you piston twin, with two flying in regular certification tests. The A500 prototypes have accumulated around 500 hours, but the type isn't certificated yet. The A700 has accumulated over 150 hours of flight time, according to the company, yet FAA certification and first delivery of the A700 is planned for the first quarter of 2005. This is in sharp contrast to the certification and delivery schedules put forth by competitors Cessna -- which has the art of bringing new aircraft types to certification on-schedule down to a well-defined science -- and Eclipse, to name but two. The punch line? Don't hold your breath waiting for iFly to begin operations with the A700 AdamJet by early next year.
"The A700 is approximately half the price of current generation small jets and costs roughly a third less to operate per hour," stated Joe Walker, president of Adam Aircraft, in the company's press release. Don Burr and Bob Crandall are the first to apply this major breakthrough in efficiencies to a new form of private-jet air transportation service. Says Burr: "Our business model is dependent on innovative designers and manufacturers like Adam making the promise of next-generation, highly efficient personal jets a reality, and we are well on our way to delivering on this promise with a fleet of A700s." However, don't confuse the iFly service as competing with either airlines or privately owned aircraft. Instead, the company is clearly aiming to compete against both traditional charter and fractional operators. Said the Adam Aircraft press release, iFly "represents an entirely new class of travel that makes the dramatic quality of life and productivity benefits of private jet travel accessible to a much broader group of people. The company will be the first to take advantage of a new generation of highly cost-effective and reliable personal jets. By using the existing network of regional airports, the company will provide private truly on-demand, point-to-point air travel for about half the price of the least expensive current private aircraft alternatives." Good luck, guys.
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Attempting to fill a niche between its Falcon 2000EX and 900 EX models, Dassault Aviation this week announced the Falcon 900DX, a large cabin tri-jet powered by three Honeywell TFE-731-60 turbofan engines. The engines, rated at 5,000 pounds of thrust at sea level, will give Falcon 900DX operators 1,120 pounds of cruise thrust at 40,000 feet at Mach 0.8. According to Dassault, the Falcon 900DX is based on the wide-body design of its long-range Falcon 900EX EASy but with a lower purchase price. The Falcon 900DX will be equipped with Dassault's EASy flight deck, using avionics technologies developed jointly with Honeywell. EASy is based on Honeywell's new Primus Epic integrated avionics architecture and features four 14-inch Primus Epic screens in a T arrangement for optimum crew coordination. The first EASy flight deck was certificated in late 2003 on the longer-range 4500-nautical-mile Falcon 900EX. Additionally, its operating costs are projected to be 5% lower than the Falcon 900C it replaces. Certification and first deliveries of the new aircraft are scheduled for December 2005.
Summing it all up, Charles Edelstenne, Dassault Aviation's chairman, said, "The Falcon 900DX offers a unique combination of capabilities and exceptional features to our customers, while providing an unprecedented value in a business jet." According to Dassault, the Falcon 900DX's thrust-to-weight ratio will enable eventual customers to easily use smaller airports previously inaccessible to large-cabin aircraft like the 900 series. The 900DX is projected to have a 4,100-nm range, enabling nonstop trips between city pairs like Geneva and Detroit or New York and Athens. Cost-cutting steps abound. For example, Dassault will use the forward section of the Falcon 2000EX for the 900DX to minimize manufacturing expenses and optimize the assembly process. Dassault made the 900DX announcement in Geneva, during this week's EBACE business aircraft exposition.
Meanwhile, Dassault Aviation says its forthcoming Falcon 7X model is the first aircraft in industry history to be entirely developed in a virtual environment, from design to manufacturing to maintenance. The jet's development is revolving around an automation suite that enables Dassault Aviation and its 27 partners in seven countries to work on a common platform. One result, according to the company, is that the time required to assemble its new Falcon 7X business jet has been cut in half. Each of the jet's 30,000 parts was designed in a virtual environment while a human modeling system enables analyzing and optimizing the jet's design for crucially important aircraft maintenance and repair procedures. One byproduct of this design method is that aircraft parts are a perfect fit the first time. Additionally, Dassault Aviation will also not produce a physical prototype of the Falcon 7X: The first jet, scheduled for delivery in March 2005, will immediately be used for certification.
"The virtual platform has fundamentally changed the way we view building airplanes," said Jacques Pellas, CIO, Dassault Aviation. "We are just at the beginning of a new industrial revolution." Since the company's first bizjet -- the Falcon 20 -- rolled out in 1963, over 1500 Falcon jets have been delivered to more than 65 countries. The family of Falcon jets includes four tri-jetsthe Falcon 50EX, 900C, 900EX, and the new 7Xas well as the twin-engine Falcon 2000 and 2000EX.
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This was a good week for Honeywell. In no particular order: The company announced that it received FAA certification for its TFE731-20BR engine and will be part of the standard avionics package for the new Ibis Aerospace Ae270 "Spirit" aircraft. It also said Gulfstream selected its AIS-1000 and AIS-2000 satellite television systems as the preferred television installations for completed aircraft. The announcements came during the EBACE business aviation exposition in Geneva. Honeywell's TFE731-20BR delivers 3,650 pounds of thrust at takeoff and will power Bombardier's new Learjet 45 XR super-light business aircraft. Meanwhile, the company's KFC 325 Digital Flight Control System and its APEX® integrated cockpit have been selected as the standard avionics package for the new Ibis Aerospace Ae270 "Spirit" business aircraft when deliveries start early in 2005. Finally, Gulfstream's decision means Honeywell's in-cabin television systems will handle much more than just navigation.
"The -20BR will give operators excellent performance and reliability," said Barry Eccleston, Honeywell vice president & general manager. "This engine incorporates nearly 40 million hours of TFE731 engine operation in business aviation and will give operators improved thrust, reduced fuel consumption and lower maintenance costs." According to Honeywell, the TFE731-20BR will deliver 3,650 pounds of thrust up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning improved performance from high-elevation airports in hot conditions. Meanwhile, Ibis Aerospace's decision to make Honeywell's products standard equipment on the Ae270 means the forthcoming single-engine turboprop will feature digital communication and navigation radios, an all-digital flight management system, a digital autopilot, three Active Matrix Liquid Crystal Displays, Mode S transponder, Engine Indicating and Caution Alert System (EICAS), weather radar and a dual-channel Air Data Attitude Heading Reference System (ADAHRS). Ibis Aerospace Ltd. is a joint venture between Aero Vodochody and the Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation. The Ae270 "Spirit" is projected with a range of 1,544 nautical miles, a 270-knot maximum cruising speed and a useful load of up to 3,300 pounds.
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Eclipse Aviation announced this week it had received the landing-gear assembly from Italy's Mecaer for its first certification flight test aircraft. That aircraft, N502EA, will feature Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) PW610F engines and is on schedule to make its first flight in Q4 2004, the company said. Of the engines, Eclipse also announced this week that Pratt & Whitney Canada's PW610F turbofan has run for more than 25 hours in their test cell. Eclipse says 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 December. Finally, Eclipse said it has begun manufacturing of its three certification flight test aircraft, all of which will feature P&WC PW610F engines. Most of the cabin panels for N502EA have been assembled using friction stir welding, and are now being integrated into the full cabin assembly process. Friction stir welding of the cabin panels for the next two conforming flight test aircraft, N503EA and N504EA, has also begun. The Eclipse flight test and certification program encompasses a total of eight aircraft, according to Eclipse.
Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation announced this week that the FAA will allow its two newest aircraft -- the long-range G450 and mid-range G350 -- to share the same pilot type rating with the company's ultra-long-range models, the G550 and G500. Since the G550 and GV already share the same type rating, the GV pilot rating will apply to the four new aircraft as well. GV pilots will be authorized to fly the G500 and G350 aircraft upon completion of a five-day "differences" course that highlights the PlaneView flight deck. GV pilots who are not already qualified on the Gulfstream Enhanced Vision System (EVS) will also be required to complete 14 hours of training on the Head-Up Display (HUD) and the EVS to fly the G550 and G450, both of which include EVS as standard equipment. All pilot training is offered at FlightSafety International in Savannah, Gulfstream's preferred provider of crew-training services. Europe's Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) is expected to announce a similar ruling in the near future. "We are delighted the FAA agreed that the G450 and G350 will share the same pilot type rating as our ultra-long-range jets," said Bryan Moss, Gulfstream's president. "A number of our customers operate multiple Gulfstream aircraft, each with its unique price and performance point, to meet their varying travel needs. Now with the shared pilot type rating, they can do so without having to match pilots to aircraft' or spend additional time and money to retrain already well-trained pilots." The first G550 was delivered to its owner in September 2003 while the first delivery of a G500 is expected later this month. Gulfstream introduced the G450 at the 2003 NBAA annual convention; five months later, the G350 was unveiled at the 2004 Asian Aerospace exhibition in Singapore.
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Kansas, and specifically Wichita, are well-known for manufacturing a huge number of general and business aviation aircraft over the years. Once they've flown the coop, so to speak, they don't often come back for routine maintenance or modifications, however, unless there's no other facility that can do the work. That might change in the near future, however, thanks to legislation enacted earlier this month that gives sales-tax exemptions for aircraft maintenance and modification. According to the published reports, the new legislation was pushed by the Salina (Kan.) Airport Authority, Bombardier, Cessna and Raytheon. Other states have such an exemption in place; Kansas is just trying to level the playing field. Or is it? Signs are that -- at least Cessna -- is expecting some substantial growth in the near term. For example, The Wichita Eagle reports that Cessna plans to hire 400 workers, by calling back laid-off employees and by advertising open positions. Most of the available jobs are for sheet-metal workers, but there are positions available in engineering and aircraft completion, also. Cessna say its need for more employees results from its planned delivery schedule, according to the Eagle. Meanwhile, Cessna has under construction a major service center. Planned for opening in January 2005, the Citation jet service center will be the largest business-jet service center in the world, company officials told the Eagle. Cessna's new center will be able to handle as many as 120 airplanes a day. That will be good news for the local economy and, possibly, give Cessna a huge advantage over other companies when it comes to where they get their bizjets serviced. Now that there is no sales-tax hit, look for the skies over Wichita to get even more crowded.
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Bombardier Aerospace this week announced its Bombardier Transatlantic Express, which it bills as the world's first fixed-price business jet charter service between Western Europe and North America. The new service -- to be flown with Bombardier's Global Express business jet -- offers return trips between any city in Western Europe and the U.S. Eastern coast for a fixed price. The service is scheduled to begin operations in summer 2004 and will be operated through Bombardier Flexjet Europe, headquartered in London. According to Bombardier, the service will establish a new speed standard by connecting North America and Europe faster than any other civil aircraft since the Concorde. "Following the Concorde's retirement last year, we received an overwhelming demand to develop a superior solution to cross the Atlantic faster than today's scheduled services," said Judith Moreton, managing director, Bombardier Flexjet Europe. "Our solution is the Bombardier Transatlantic Express which offers executive flights at a fixed cost, superior speed and unmatched flexibility."
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For weeks, AVweb told you about the Transportation Security Administration's forthcoming Security Guidelines For General Aviation Airports. They've been released; what's it mean for you? Right now, not much, at least at the federal level. The TSA's "Information Publication," or IP, is analogous to an FAA Advisory Circular and is non-regulatory in nature. However, whether states and localities -- or even airport managers -- use them as a reason to "crack down" on GA is unknown. Also unknown is what impact, if any, the guidelines will have on the plans by various states to develop their own set of requirements. Watch this space.
...the next issue of AVweb's BizAVflash will be e-mailed to you on June 16.
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