Business NewsWire Complete Issue
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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For business aviation, 2004 likely will be known as a year in which the industry withstood a number of challenges internal and external to emerge in at least as good a condition as when
the year started. At the same time, other segments of the aviation industry did not fare as well; whether those failings will affect business aviation and if so, how probably will not be
known in 2005. Yet, numerous signs indicate that the continuing decline in airline service is driving more companies and professionals to at least consider some form of business aviation, from setting
up a formal flight department, to fractional ownership, and to charter. While its good for business aviation to have these kinds of problems, the industry has not weathered them without change
and, in some cases, upheaval.
Still, just about every forecast of business aviations future includes a healthy and prosperous outlook. Formal studies by several groups some of them without an axe to grind all projected long-term growth. Reasons for the rosy projections include an aging
in-service fleet and high utilization rates among corporate flight departments and fractional operators. Also driving anticipated growth is the coming market entry of light-light, or micro, jets like
the Cessna Mustang, the Eclipse 500 and the Adam Aircraft A700. The real questions about the industrys future center around who will be standing in, say, 10 years when the low-hanging fruit of
the market for new aircraft has been picked. For that, well all have to stay tuned.
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Perhaps the most visible and significant change to occur in the industry during 2004 was the spring
cleaning at the NBAA, in which new President and CEO Shelley Longmuir abruptly departed amid internal staff turmoil and dissatisfaction among board members, taking with her Bob Warren, the
associations executive vice president and COO, who was hired by Longmuir. That episode left the NBAA with several challenges finding new leadership and reassuring its membership perhaps
chief among them but also opened the doors to what seems to have been both significant and beneficial changes. Once the association decided to bring in Ed Bolen, the former General Aviation Manufacturers Association president, to run
things and get the NBAA back into level flight, additional and inevitable staff changes followed. In the fall, the organization had one of its largest and most well-attended annual meetings ever,
which seemed to drive the final nails into the coffin of the NBAAs year of living dangerously.
However, the real news at the NBAA likely will occur in 2005 and will involve the extent to which Bolen and Steve
Brown seek to transform the organization. As AVweb reported at the time, one of the reasons former association President Shelly Longmuir left the organization earlier this year was
her perceived failure to implement change. We added, it's a pretty fair bet that the Bolen/Brown team is in this for the long haul and won't make Longmuir's mistakes. Another fair bet is
that the association will not closely resemble itself by this time next year, either in the composition of its staff or the impact of its policy-related activities at the FAA, on Capitol Hill, in the
GA manufacturing sector or in the domestic and international operator communities. And for the rank and file NBAA member, that's probably a good thing.
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With all that upheaval in one segment of business aviation, what would a year be without a set of new players promising new airframes and powerplants? In late 2003, Hondas long-rumored
development of a light-light jet finally became public. This year, the company announced an engine, possibly designed to power it. Still, the company has made no announced decision to produce the
airframe and no manufacturers have chosen the engine to power their creations. But Hondas long-standing interest in business aviation if it results in new products being brought to market
could both fundamentally alter the landscape other companies are used to while bringing potential new customers to the table, especially from overseas. Given the Japanese companys keen
ability to compete in various markets with innovative design and cutting-edge technology, this will be a story to watch in 2005.
At the same time, other new companies have sprung up to either create or fill new market niches. Perhaps most exciting among them are two new players purveying supersonic business jets, or SSBJs. Aerion, a Reno, Nev.,-based company formed to reintroduce commercial supersonic flight," went
to the NBAAs annual meting with a business jet design it says could enter service as soon as 2011. The company says its proposed SSBJ will have a low sonic-boom signature and will be designed to
cruise at up to Mach 1.1 without a boom. Another company, Supersonic Aerospace International (SAI),
told the NBAA assembly it had "successfully confirmed the design for its entry in the SSBJ sweepstakes, the Quiet Small Supersonic Transport (QSST). The QSST program is under the direction of J.
Michael Paulson, son of former Gulfstream head Allen Paulson, "using funds Allen Paulson left in trust for this project." Like Aerion's effort, SAI maintains it has developed an engineering solution
to the sonic-boom problem.
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Meanwhile, long-standing participants in the bizav marketplace have kept up the pace of developing new aircraft and new technologies. On one level, Gulfstream Aerospace leads the pack with the widest
selection of large-cabin, long-range bizjets, especially now that its top-end products the G350, G450 and G550 have been certificated and will enter service in 2005. Gulfstreams
Enhanced Vision System (EVS) was well-positioned to take advantage of the FAAs rule allowing certified enhanced flight vision systems (EFVS) to be used to determine "enhanced flight visibility"
for Part 91 operators. Cessna, too, added several new models to its lineup, including the Citation XLS, Citation Sovereign, the CJ3, and upgraded versions of the CJ1 and CJ2. And 2005 likely will see
the Citation Mustangs first flight, followed by certification in 2006.
Raytheon, in turn, celebrated the 40th anniversary of its venerable King Air turboprop line, and last week added the Hawker Horizon to its stable, after obtaining a provisional FAA type certificate.
But not all the news coming out of the traditional business aviation companies was good. For example, earlier this month, Bombardier Aerospaces parent company experienced a turnover at its highest levels. And Safire, which struggled for many years to bring its light-light jet to
market, ceased operations, probably for good. Eclipse, however, recently rolled out a certification
test airplane -- complete with new Pratt & Whitney Canada engines which will be the first of five flying test beds that will go through the certification process. In all, 2004 mostly
brought stability to the industrys major players, ushered in some new players and saw the weaker ones depart, sometimes without a whimper.
Regulatory changes were also in the business aviation news during 2004. Perhaps the biggest change was in how the FAA views fractional ownership operations. While the new frax rules were published in September 2003, they didnt become effective until Dec. 17,
2004. By most accounts, they have been implemented without too many challenges, perhaps because industry had a lengthy time frame in which to read, understand and make them effective. Another
widespread change is the coming Jan. 20, 2005, deadline for RVSM to be implemented in domestic
However, the potential for the greatest, longest-lasting change to the regulations under which business aviation operates lies in the (still) ongoing Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) convened in
2003 to rewrite existing rules governing FAR Parts 125 and 135. A successor to the joint government-industry efforts on the frax rules, the 125/135 ARC has met throughout 2004, with its final meeting
scheduled for early in 2005. Hundreds of industry participants have been working behind the scenes to develop a wide range of proposals for changes to existing rules, as well as a few new ones. At
this writing, much of the ARCs efforts are still not yet formally agreed upon, however. Nevertheless, this rule-writing effort promises to be one of the biggest business aviation stories in 2005
and because of the lead time necessary for new rules to go into effect subsequent years, also.
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Despite 2003's being one of the industrys safest on record, 2004 ended on several sour notes. Although the NBAA noted in January there were no fatal accidents among corporate operators
its core constituency in 2003, by the end of the year one notable corporate fatal accident had occurred, the Oct. 24 crash of a King Air 200 operated by Hendrick Motorsports into a Virginia mountaintop while attempting a missed approach. Though not corporate
operations in the technical sense, the same-day crash of a Learjet 35A operated as an air
ambulance near San Diego along with other highly visible crashes and fatalities late in the year will leave a black mark on 2004.
Two other fatal crashes involving business jets although not corporate operations included the Nov. 22 fatal crash of a Gulfstream G-II on approach to Houstons Hobby Airport and the Nov. 28 Bombardier Challenger 604 crash during takeoff from Telluride, Colo.. The Gulfstream
crash made national headlines because it was inbound to pick up former president George H.W. Bush; the Challenger event achieved the same dubious distinction because it carried NBC television
executive Dick Ebersol. All three aboard the dead-heading Gulfstream died; one of Ebersols sons died in the Telluride crash, as did both pilots and a third crew member.
Last, but not least, aviation security continued to play a huge role during 2004, not only in how business aviation operations were conducted and in how much visibility they received but also in
considering the industrys growth opportunities. On one hand, the industry should consider itself fortunate that it was not subject to more restrictions and security regulations imposed at the
local, state or federal levels during the year. On another hand, 2004 came and went without any kind of major security scare or fear-mongering among the mainstream media.
Whether the ongoing security issues among scheduled carriers will be eclipsed by recent service problems is anyones guess. But, for whatever reason, well-heeled airline passengers are throwing
in the towel on airlines and opting for alternatives, including fractional operations, charters and private ownership. Business aviations challenge will continue to be to convince policy makers
and the media that its operations are secure and do not need anything approaching airline-style security. In this and in many other ways, what was 2004, will be 2005.
...the next issue of AVweb's BizAVflash will be e-mailed to you on Jan. 12. See you next year!
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Business AVflash is a twice-monthly summary of the latest business aviation
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Today's issue written by Joseph E. (Jeb) Burnside:
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