July 6, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
This issue of AVweb's Business AVflash is brought to you by King Schools
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For years, the U.S. aviation industry has seen a steady trickle of FAA rule changes move through the regulatory process, designed to bring the agency into "closer harmony" with foreign aviation agencies. The foreign agencies mainly include the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) operated by European Union (EU) member states, plus the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). To a great extent, these changes have been seemingly minor and designed to ensure a seamless transition of, say, an airframe certification in the U.S. to an EU member state, allowing newly manufactured aircraft to be registered in that second country. Of course, exceptions exist and, on occasion, "harmonization" efforts have gone beyond mere certification rules into maintenance and environmental protection. Perhaps the most notable was the mid-1990s switch from longstanding FAA abbreviations to ICAO-standard coding for aviation weather observations and forecasts. This is what gave U.S. pilots the abbreviation "BR" for mist and spawned thousands of decoding cards -- English-to-French dictionaries, one wag called them.
Despite ICAO-standard aviation weather coding, most of the FAA's attempts to harmonize its regulations with the EU's have involved airframe, powerplant and component certification instead of operating rules. In fact, each of the EU member states have their own set of rules, which frequently send U.S.-based pilots into frenzied fits of frustration as they attempt to decipher all of the regulatory nuances involved in getting from Point A to Point B through Country C's airspace. And, its safe to say that EU-member state operating regulations can be much more stringent than the FAA's. The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) would like to change that and recently encouraged the European Union to create a unified safety oversight and regulatory system for GA aircraft registered in Europe.
Speaking at the Annual U.S./Europe International Aviation Safety Conference in June, GAMA Sr. Vice President of Operations Ron Swanda stated, "Without a uniform set of operating regulations for GA, members of the EU could find that inter-state and international commerce is hindered and that safety oversight is not uniformly applied." As a result, GAMA has outlined five steps it considers essential for the EU. They include; 1) Create a single authority responsible for regulating all GA flight activity and GA pilot certification performed within the EU; 2) Ensure that GA accident prevention is part of future aviation safety activities in Europe; 3) Appoint a single body responsible for investigating and determining the probable cause of GA fatal and serious accidents that occur within the EU; 4) Adopt the U.S. definition of GA, and its primary-use categories, to help improve accident trend analysis and integrate relevant accident data from the EU with the majority of the world's GA fleet; and 5) implement an annual survey of GA activity, using a methodology similar to that used by the FAA.
"Every nation has GA aircraft based within its borders. In many parts of the world, inter-city travel via general aviation aircraft is the only option available, other than walking or dog-sled, especially during the winter. Accordingly, every nation has an interest in keeping general aviation a viable travel alternative, while keeping it as safe as possible," said Swanda. "The U.S. accounts for approximately 80 percent of the world's GA aircraft and pilots, and it contains geography and operating environments similar to every area of the world. FAAs operating rules for GA have been written to safely accommodate these operating environments. In addition, FAA's operating rules have been in place for many years and are well understood. Therefore, to promote safety, EU operating rules applicable to GA operations should be closely aligned with U.S. operating rules," Swanda added.
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It's been the late 1970s since the FAA made substantial revisions to operating regulations governing on-demand flights under FAR Part 135. Since then, the on-demand industry has exploded, with more capable aircraft, more operators and a wide range of operations never really contemplated under the 25-year-old revisions. Recognizing this, the FAA and industry started getting together in 2003 under the auspices of an Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) to lay the groundwork for a new regulation recognizing these changes and bringing the FAA's regulations into line with the ways in which the industry works today. Also a part of the ARC are potential revisions to FAR Part 125, which addresses larger airplanes not operated in common carriage. Most recently, the FAA and industry representatives met late last month to continue their work. While few of the ARC's participants are talking about any decisions reached, it's widely known that recommendations from the meetings will include regulatory changes in the areas of payload restrictions for passenger and cargo aircraft, flight- and duty-time rules, international operations, helicopters, all-cargo operations -- well, you get the idea. There has even been discussion of whether Part 125 should exist at all and what, if anything, to do about commercial operation of powered airships. The ARC continues throughout the remainder of 2004, with two more scheduled meetings to be held. After those meetings and the ARC's recommendations are finalized, a series of proposed rules designed to implement the changes will be forthcoming. Don't expect any formal rule changes to be proposed before 2005, however. Indeed, the entire process may take a couple more years before anything tangible is seen. Watch this space.
FLIGHT INTERNATIONAL DIGITAL IT'S NEW, AND IT'S AVAILABLE NOW!
The computer industry has always wondered about where the next "killer app" -- or application -- would come from to help stimulate demand for new hardware. Basic word processing was one of the first, followed quickly by Lotus 1-2-3's number-crunching ability, database managers, the Internet, e-mail and the World Wide Web. Other industries, including aviation, are also looking for the next killer app, some product or service that opens up new markets or greatly enhances utility, efficiency or both. Recent examples include color GPS moving-map avionics, fractional-ownership operations and the emerging light-light business jet epitomized by Eclipse Aviation's Eclipse 500 and the Cessna Mustang. One recent development -- synthetic vision -- has the potential to make wholesale improvements in general and business aviation. Most recently, NASA and Gulfstream Aerospace have teamed up to conduct research into synthetic vision designed to improve a pilots situational awareness, resulting in reduced incidents of controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) and runway incursions.
According to Gulfstream, one of the company's GV business jets recently flew a research flight with NASAs experimental Synthetic Vision System (SVS) to evaluate the benefits and issues surrounding synthetic vision as well as the effectiveness of various synthetic vision presentations to the pilot. NASAs findings will assist the aviation industry with the creation of new advanced vision products. The NASA SVS uses a combination of Head-up (HUD) and Head-down displays, an advanced multi-scan weather radar, advanced sensors, a voice-recognition system and cockpit displays with computer-generated images of the terrain to assist pilots with approaches. A Runway Incursion Prevention System (RIPS) also is being tested and evaluated aboard the GV. The NASA research is similar to that engaged in by Gulfstream leading to FAA certification of the company's Enhanced Vision System (EVS), now available to customers. Earlier this year, Gulfstream obtained FAA approval for operators to use EVS and similar vision systems to operate aircraft below decision height, decision altitude or minimum descent altitude to determine flight visibility. The GV will continue flight testing at NASA's Wallops Island facility through the beginning of July. During this phase of the flight-testing program, NASA will fine-tune the RIPS and SVS in preparation for the second phase, which begins in mid-July in Reno, Nev. During the second phase, the GV will fly with evaluation pilots in a more challenging environment that includes mountain ranges and tall buildings. NASA and Gulfstream expect to complete all flight testing by the end of August.
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Bell Helicopter announced last month it had reached separate agreements with Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. (KAI) and Japan-based Mitsui Bussan Aerospace Company Ltd. to develop, certify, produce and market the 427i light twin IFR helicopter. Preliminary specifications for the new eight-seat, twin-turbine helicopter include a maximum gross weight of 7000 pounds, a useful load of 2700 pounds, maximum cruise speed of 142 knots and range of 365 nm. Bell said in a press release that it and its partners had "over 42" orders signed for the new copter and expected 20 more by the end of 2004. Mike "Red" Redenbaugh, CEO of Bell Helicopter Textron, said, The completion of these agreements means that together, Bell, KAI and Mitsui will be able to develop the best light twin helicopter in the business." The new 427i will have IFR capability as well as increased cabin size and performance when compared to the existing model 427 VFR. "New technologies, improved design and the availability of numerous options and configurations all come together to deliver an aircraft with high cruise speeds, exceptional single engine capability, superior endurance and best in class ride quality along with ruggedness, reliability and safety," Bell said in a press release.
As with many Beech or Raytheon products, there is a thriving aftermarket taking advantage of things customers would like to have in their aircraft but which weren't included when it left the factory floor. When it comes improving or customizing Beech's venerable, 40-year-old King Air fleet, Raisbeck Engineering has been one of the most prolific purveyors of modifications. Now, Raytheon will offer Raisbeck's popular nacelle wing lockers as standard equipment on factory-fresh King Air 350s, starting with serial number FL-402. The lockers, long an option on new King Airs, join Raisbeck's Dual Aft Body Strakes, which went standard on the 350 production line with serial number FL-312. "Our Wing Lockers have been chosen as optional equipment on most new 350s for some time now. Raytheon Aircraft felt it would be more expedient for the purchaser and more efficient for their manufacturing process to standardize," said Randall Deal, director of marketing for Raisbeck Engineering. "The King Air is so successful because of its constant refinement," said Randy Groom, president Beechcraft Division. "By adding the Raisbeck nacelle lockers, we are increasing the aircrafts loading flexibility, as well as its operational capability. The King Airs versatility just keeps growing."
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Here's a blast from the past: Lee Iacocca, who gave us the Ford Mustang and the Chrysler K cars, who was the leader of a company that owned Gulfstream Aerospace for a while and who engineered the federal government's bailout of the third-largest U.S. auto manufacturer, has joined SmartJets' advisory board as chairman. Florida-based SmartJets is a subsidiary of Aero Toy Store, offering block charter hours aboard its 300-plus aircraft fleet that it calls "time ownership." As chairman of the advisory board, Iacocca will assist in directing management, serve as a spokesperson in SmartJets' ad campaigns and appear at company-sponsored events. Paul A. Svensen Jr., SmartJets' CEO, said, "Lee Iacocca will be a valuable asset to SmartJets. Having bought and sold Gulfstream Aerospace while at the Chrysler Corporation, he has a vast understanding of the private jet industry that will help direct the future of SmartJets." About SmartJets, Iacocca added, "The company is an emerging leader and innovator in private jet travel. I look forward to working with the senior management team on the future growth and success of the company."
If Eclipse, Adam Aircraft and Safire don't hurry up, their efforts to field a light-light jet ahead of the competition could come to fruition too late. According to a news report in the China-based "People's Daily Online," a five-seat business aircraft jointly developed by the Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (NUAA) and Nanjing Light-type Aircraft Stock Co. Ltd. recently took to the skies on its maiden flight. According to the online version of the Chinese newspaper, the prototype's first flight lasted some twenty minutes and reached an altitude of 600 meters (about 2000 feet) before an uneventful landing. The development program is said to be six years old and three aircraft have been manufactured so far. The aircraft is "wholly developed and manufactured by China," according to the publication, and will be used mainly for business flights, forestry protection, and "other activities."
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As AVweb's business aviation coverage told you last week, July 8 will see Congress hold a scheduled hearing on "National Capitol Region Air Space Control: A Review of the Issues Surrounding the June 9, 2004 Flight of 'N24SP.'" This is the infamous episode involving a Beech King Air carrying Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher (R) into DCA on a waiver. Just a reminder: Look for AVwebs upcoming coverage of this hearing.
NOW ON CDA PILOT'S AUDIO UPDATE!
...the next issue of AVweb's BizAVflash will be e-mailed to you on July 21. AVweb is changing our production schedule during July to avoid potential conflicts with the 2004 edition of EAA's AirVenture. In August, we'll get back to our regular schedule. See you at Oshkosh!
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Let's all be careful out there, okay?