Business NewsWire Complete Issue

October 12, 2004
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

This issue of AVweb's Business AVflash is brought to you by … JA Air Center

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Coming Up Sevens: NBAA Opens 2004 Convention...

It is the best of times for most in the business aviation industry. Despite slow economic indicators in many sectors, business travel is trending up, most aircraft manufacturers and support organizations are doing well and crowded ramps are the norm at most FBOs, not the exception. And the near future looks good, especially if you believe Rolls-Royce, which Monday released its latest market projection for the business aviation industry, showing "virtually all of the key market driver indicators have turned positive and are trending up." To demonstrate their optimism, more than 30,000 industry participants, wanna-bes and hangers-on are expected to attend the 57th NBAA Annual Meeting and Convention, which kicked off yesterday in Las Vegas, Nev. Once there, they'll network with almost 1,100 exhibitors -- a record for an NBAA convention -- as they tire-kick new and used aircraft, including some that haven't yet made it off the factory floor. As if to demonstrate that things are looking up, NBAA's new President and CEO, Ed Bolen, opened the festivities sharing the stage with luminaries who included Transportation Security Administration head David M. Stone, journalist and political commentator Fred Barnes, astronaut Neil Armstrong and test pilot Scott A. Crossfield. The association also lauded Monday's Senate passage of a tax relief bill extending bonus depreciation for business-use aircraft, sending the bill to the White House for enactment, and planned to welcome Commerce Secretary Donald Evans today. Evans is scheduled to meet with Bolen and business aviation leaders regarding growth of the industry, access to foreign markets and trade promotion before touring the convention floor.

...Amid Some Gambles...

Yet, some rocky weather may loom on the industry's horizon. On the convention's opening day, NBAA saw fit to release the results of a study it funded that concluded the business aviation community pays more than 100 percent of its share of the costs it imposes on the federal air traffic system. The study, by consulting firm HLB Decision Economics Inc. [PDF], shows that the business aviation community paid $188 million in federal excise taxes as its share of federal aviation costs in fiscal year 2001. That amount is 102 percent, or $4 million, more than the cost identified by the FAA in fiscal year 2001, the last for which data is available. While the study's results are good news, NBAA's own press release notes "the debate about cost responsibility [in the U.S.] has dragged on for decades." What the press release did not note is that the concept that general and business aviation pay their "fair share" is under greater assault than ever, with cash-strapped airlines pointing fingers and government agencies looking for new revenue sources. Still, Bolen concluded that the "study refutes recent suggestions that the general and business aviation community does not pay its fair share of the costs of operating the nation's air traffic control system. Not only does business aviation pay what it owes, it actually pays more." According to NBAA, the study's results also reject the FAA's calculations assigning cost responsibility, which the association says have varied widely for years. The association noted that "a sizeable amount" of "common costs" are incurred on behalf of all users, including commercial airlines and the military.

...And Other Challenges

Meanwhile, many other challenges still confront the business aviation industry. Perhaps foremost among them is that over-the-top security concerns designed to win the last battle with terrorism will return and further restrict non-scheduled flight operations at certain places or times. While the appearance this week of the TSA's Stone at Las Vegas is, at least in part, designed to help "educate" him and his agency on what the industry is doing to ensure its security, neither the general media nor elected officials seem willing to focus on other potential security issues. Meanwhile, oil prices hit all-time highs just hours before this year's NBAA convention got underway, highlighting the rising costs of operating a personal or business aircraft. As if that were not enough, unrestricted access to airspace and airports remains a concern, as evidenced by the FAA's decision last month to reinstate arrival and departure slots at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. And, don't forget that operators without a government-approved security plan are banned from flying in certain airspace. Still, where there's a will to get to out-of -the-way locations not served by the airlines or do an out-and-back trip from one coast to mid-America and back the same day, nothing beats a business aircraft. And, as the turbines wind down, that's what it's all about this week in Las Vegas.

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While Cessna Upsizes...

Each year at NBAA, much of the buzz focuses on the new airframes being announced and which company looks like it has the upper hand in the market's various tiers. A perennial contender in each convention's sweepstakes for the most sweeping new-aircraft announcement, Cessna this year announced it will be plus-sizing two of its best-selling jets. Instead of the Citation CJ1 and CJ2, look for the CJ1+ and CJ2+. According to the company, the Citation CJ1+ will offer greater performance, a new integrated avionics suite, enhanced cabin features and expanded standard equipment when compared to its predecessor. Meanwhile, Cessna says the Citation CJ2+ will provide "the most advanced avionics suite ever seen on this class of aircraft" and be powered by the Williams FJ44-3A-24 dual-channel FADEC engine, which is similar to the Citation CJ3’s FJ44-3A engine but derated to 2,400 pounds of thrust. Separately, Cessna announced it will be hiring some 600 new workers to help it meet the coming demand. The standard Citation CJ1+ Collins Pro Line 21 avionics package is nearly identical to that offered on the new Citation CJ2+ and Citation CJ3. Optional CJ1+ avionics include electronic charts showing "geo-referenced aircraft position on airport diagrams, interactive graphical weather, and Honeywell Mark VIII EGPWS," said Cessna. The CJ2+ will be designated as a model 525A, allow single-pilot operation and come with 17 of the Citation CJ2’s most popular options, plus 10 new features that were unavailable on the Citation CJ2. The CJ2+ will have standard broadcast graphical weather showing NEXRAD information, text METARs and text TAFs. Optional CJ2+ avionics equipment includes electronic charts showing geo-referenced position on airports, interactive graphical weather, and Honeywell Mark VIII EGPWS. In the cabin, new standard items include 110-volt electrical outlets (two outlets in the cabin and one in the cockpit), left-hand belted flushing toilet, left-hand storage and indirect LED lighting.

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...Aerion Speeds Things Up...

As AVweb reported last month, a new group this week announced its plans for a supersonic business jet, or SSBJ. Aerion Corporation, a Reno, Nev.,-based company styling itself as an "advanced engineering group formed to reintroduce commercial supersonic flight," this week made good on its promise to bring it high-speed plans to NBAA with a business jet design it says could enter service as soon as 2011. The company was formed in 2002 to acquire, advance and commercialize the supersonic technology of ASSET Group. Aerion's Chief Technology Officer, Richard R. Tracy, headed that company. In addition to Tracy, Aerion’s board includes Brian E. Barents, former president of Galaxy Aerospace and Learjet. "The Concorde may have been relegated to museums, but the world has not slowed down. Indeed the reverse is true," said Barents. "The world’s major businesses and governments have a clear need for faster travel. Aerion’s engineers have been at work for many years developing the fundamental technologies to make this possible." According to Aerion's press release, its planned SSBJ will incorporate patented technology designed to use laminar-flow principles to substantially reduce drag at high subsonic and supersonic speeds, allowing it to use existing powerplant technology: two Pratt and Whitney JT8D-219 turbofans, early versions of which date back to the Boeing 727 and DC-9. Aerion says the aircraft's range will be roughly the same at both subsonic and supersonic speeds: in excess of 4,000 nm. Most important, however, for its viability in the marketplace, the aircraft has a low sonic-boom signature and will be designed to cruise at up to Mach 1.1 without a boom. Its maximum cruise speed will be Mach 1.6. Presently, the company says it is in "advanced development" and has completed in-flight testing of a supersonic natural laminar flow wing section, engine/airframe integration studies and initial systems design. Aerion says it projects a five-year development program with two ground-test articles and three flight-test aircraft. The company expects the price of the aircraft to be competitive on a price/performance basis with today’s largest business jets. We'll see.

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...Honda Hums Right Along...

Ending years of speculation and increasing signs it will enter the business aviation market, Honda Motor Co. Ltd. yesterday formally announced a joint venture with the General Electric Co. to bring the Japan-based manufacturer's turbofan engine to market. Dubbed GE Honda Aero Engines LLC, the company was formed to pursue "the launch of Honda's HF118 turbofan engine in the light business jet market," according to a press release. The agreement creating the company was signed yesterday at the NBAA convention in Las Vegas after announcing a "strategic alliance" last February. According to the press release, GE Honda Aero Engines is "fully engaged" in discussions with airframe manufacturers as potential launch customers, in engine certification, and in establishing a manufacturing infrastructure. The company's first product, the HF118, is designed in the 1,600-pound-thrust class but plans include extending the new company's market to engines with thrust ratings from 1,000 to 3,500 pounds. The new company is clearly targeting the light-light jet -- or "very light jet," VLJ -- segment popularized by Eclipse and Adam Aircraft, noting the "considerable opportunity for a highly reliable and durable jet engine" to power such aircraft. The company envisions a market of at least 200 business VLJs annually operated by businesses, fractional owners and air taxis. To date, the HF118 has run more than 2,400 hours in ground tests and more than 450 hours in flight tests. No airframe manufacturer has decided to install the engine, however.

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...Boeing Brings BBJ, EFB Together...

Also yesterday at NBAA, Boeing said it will make its Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) available for retrofit to in-service Boeing Business Jets. A neat tool, the EFB includes the documentation and forms necessary for legal operation as well as current Jeppesen charts, manuals for fault reporting and operations, minimum equipment lists and logbooks, all in a digital format. Additionally, the EFB includes an on-board performance tool that allows the pilot to instantly calculate the ideal speed and engine setting for an aircraft, in any weather, on any runway or any runway section with any payload. At the same time, Boeing announced five new commitments for BBJ orders, effectively selling out the program through 2005. "The interest in the BBJ during what has been a very challenging business environment underscores the value customers place on the airplane's comfort and flexibility, and its reliability, payload, range, and customer support," BBJ President Steven Hill said in Las Vegas.

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...Adam Rolls Out...

Adam Aircraft reached a long-awaited milestone this week as it rolled out its first production aircraft -- an A500 piston-powered tandem twin -- from the its assembly facility at Centennial Airport in Englewood, Colo. With its Type Inspection Authorization (TIA) received from the FAA Sept. 30 firmly in hand, the company said it is beginning full-scale production of the A500 aircraft and expects to deliver two aircraft by the end of 2004 and ramp up production to 40 aircraft in 2005. "The rollout of the first customer A500 confirms the effectiveness of our manufacturing process and its ability to produce an aircraft of the highest standards," said Kevin Gould, senior vice president of operations for Adam Aircraft. "Our successful completion of this aircraft gives us confidence that we will meet or exceed our production ramp-up plan of 40 aircraft in 2005." Adam says it has an A500 sales backlog of 65 aircraft and that the infrastructure necessary to fill those orders is in place.

INNOVATION — IT'S THE KEY BEHIND NARCO'S NEW DIGITAL TRANSPONDER AT165
Narco Avionics, building on the tradition of the AT150 — the industry's workhorse ATC transponder — has introduced the all-new AT165, with some very exciting and innovative features.  Narco's AT165 is competitively priced with some of the current popular manual transponders.  Coming soon: Plug and Play KT76A Replacement.  Seeing is believing at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/narco/biz.

...And Gulfstream Phones Home

Gulfstream Aerospace announced that the FAA has issued a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) for installing the company's Broad Band Multi-Link (BBML) telecommunications system on a GIV bizjet enabling an "ultra-high-speed Internet connection" during flight. The system uses an ARINC-developed "backbone" with data speeds of up to 3.5 megabytes per second. Gulfstream said the dedicated satellite-based system can also tie directly into an existing Voice-Over Internet Protocol telephone network. Gulfstream said it expected FAA approval to install the system on G550, G500 and GV aircraft in the fourth quarter of 2004, while G450 and G350 operators will have to wait until the first quarter of next year; it will be approved for non-Gulfstream airframes in the second quarter of 2005, pending FCC approval. The system uses a dish antenna mounted in the tail, an antenna control unit, a transceiver router and Gulfstream’s exclusive server.

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TSA Watch: Delay Alien Flight Training Rule?

This just in: Is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) getting ready to delay implementing its controversial rule requiring pilots to prove their U.S. citizenship? That's exactly what sources tell AVweb, although we were unable to confirm any details by our deadline Tuesday night. For those of you just joining us, the TSA's new rule on flight training created a mini-storm of protest when it was released last month. [More]Sources tell AVweb that some larger fleet operators have been told by the TSA to continue training foreign nationals already employed by them under previous rules developed by the Department of Justice. In the meantime, the TSA will be sorting out what needs to be done to implement the rule it released last month, even though the agency has had a solid nine months to figure it all out. How long any implementation delay will last is unknown, as are the details. As always, AVweb will continue to monitor and report on developments associated with this controversial rule.

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...the next issue of AVweb's BizAVflash will be e-mailed to you on October 27. Until then!
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