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February 22, 2005

Business NewsWire Complete Issue

By The AVweb Editorial Staff

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


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Safety Is One FAA Focus...

The FAA made it pretty clear to charter and corporate aviation industry representatives last week that the recent spate of fatal turbine-powered aircraft accidents has the agency's attention. Attendees and the top-level agency officials present pledged to work together in tackling the challenge of improving this industry segment's safety record. The meeting, though planned for some time, came on the heels of six fatal crashes since October involving, well, airplanes that shouldn't be crashing. Before the meeting, ostensibly held to discuss with industry voluntary safety measures operators should be taking, top officials at the FAA made it clear to observers that improving safety among turbine operators was of huge importance. Basically, one observer told AVweb, either the industry addresses the safety issue of improving or the FAA will do it for them. The meeting came at a time when many industry participants and the FAA are working closely to modernize -- and in some cases liberalize -- the existing Part 135 operating and certification regulations through a years-long aviation rulemaking committee (ARC) convened to address FAR Parts 125 and 135. Although the ARC's final meeting and recommendations approval is scheduled for this week, what, if any, impact the FAA's heightened concern will have on that effort is not known at this time. For its part, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) said it was "pleased" to participate in the meeting. "It was clear from our discussion that FAA officials are especially interested in the voluntary programs developed by trade associations that establish high safety standards and guidelines. Of particular interest to the Agency was the International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations program, which NBAA has been instrumental in developing," NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen said in a statement. But Bolen also took the opportunity to gig the FAA on its accident data collection methods, saying, "While we were pleased to discuss the work our Association does to promote best practices, we also reiterated our continuing concern about the methods FAA uses to track the safety record for business aviation. We believe the FAA’s overly broad categorization of our industry produces an unclear and misrepresentative depiction of the true safety record for business aircraft."

...While Challengers Are Another

The same day the FAA met with industry representatives to discuss voluntary steps aimed at improving business and charter aircraft safety, the agency issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD) against an aircraft type involved in two of the recent six accidents that have drawn attention to the issue. The not-unexpected AD targets Bombardier's Canadair Challenger 600-series bizjets and requires operators to more carefully inspect the planes for airframe ice and contamination before takeoff. The type was involved in a Nov. 28 crash in Montrose, Colo., and in the Feb. 2 crash at Teterboro. Both accidents -- the one in Montrose involved fatalities -- involved cold-weather takeoffs, although the NTSB's investigation into them continues. The AD was "prompted by a report that even small amounts of frost, ice, snow or slush on the wing leading edges or forward upper wing surfaces can cause an adverse change" in the type's low-speed handling and takeoff characteristics. The AD requires an AFM/POH change to include a close, manual inspection of the wing's leading edges instead of a visual look-see. Earlier, Bombardier noted the Challenger's "excellent safety record." According to the company, the Challenger 601/604 series has an accident rate of only one accident for every 1,000,000 flight hours between 1999 and 2003. The company maintains this accident rate is "almost five times better than the average business jet" and is "better than the average accident rate for U.S.-registered airlines."

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Dassault Aviation Rolls Out Falcon 7X

Originally announced at the 2001 Paris Air Show, the first example of Dassault Aviation's newest trijet, the 7X, was rolled out last week at the company's facility in Bordeaux-Mérignac, France. "Today we have made a huge step forward in the industry," said Charles Edelstenne, chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation. "Due to the new and unique design and manufacturing process ... we have started a new industrial revolution that will take us through this century." According to Dassault, the first 7X "went together exactly as planned and was assembled in seven months." The company is using a new design and assembly process it calls "concurrent engineering," which involves developing digital models to test, validate and anticipate everything from tooling and assembly to aerodynamics and maintenance. The 7X also will be the first bizjet to feature fly-by-wire technology, replacing all mechanical linkages between controls and control surfaces with wiring, circuits and actuators. John Rosanvallon, president and CEO of Dassault Falcon Jet, said, "The business jet market has been looking for a large-cabin aircraft for long-range missions that can deliver superior fuel efficiency, speed and maintenance. From the response we've received from our customers, its apparent that the Falcon 7X has filled that need and will continue to do so in the coming years." Almost 50 firm orders from 16 countries have been already placed for the 7X; six aircraft are currently in various stages of production. The first ground tests were completed on Feb. 1; flight-testing is scheduled to begin in the second quarter of this year, last about 18 months and involve at least three aircraft. Certification and first deliveries are expected before the end of 2006.

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GA Celebrates Its Comeback...

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) last week held its annual production review and market outlook, and to no one's great surprise, business aircraft led the industry's charge to growth. According to GAMA, deliveries of new general aviation aircraft climbed 10 percent in 2004, with billings increasing 19 percent. Turboprops led the growth, with an 18-percent (272 vs. 321 airframes) increase over 2003 while business jets followed closely with a 14.1-percent (518 vs. 591) jump in sales. Counting piston-powered, GAMA members sold $11.9 billion of new aircraft in 2004. James E. Schuster, chairman of GAMA’s board, said, “Bonus depreciation, coupled with the continuing growth of the U.S. economy, helped make 2004 a turning point for our industry. The fact that total shipments increased indicates that this turn-around is broadly based. GAMA member companies believe this bodes well for the future of general aviation.” All involved welcomed the 2004 news, since it wasn't all that long ago -- 2001, to be exact -- that GA was taking it in the shorts, both economically and operationally. Despite security concerns that lingered into 2002, the industry has rebounded quite nicely, thank you, perhaps because of those very same security concerns. As fractional operations continue to expand -- along with charter flights and traditional "corporate" aviation flying -- and the quality of airline service and attendant security hassles continue to dominate the news, more and more people and business are looking to general aviation to complete their travels. And that's just fine with the GA industry. The complete GAMA briefing on the industry's recovery and outlook for the future is available on the association's Web site.

...And Looks For More

Meanwhile, back in Wichita -- home to the vast majority of general aviation's manufacturing capacity -- city fathers are looking to help ensure the industry continues to call the area home by developing an aircraft maintenance training facility at the local Col. James Jabara Airport. According to The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle newspaper, the city plans to develop an existing building at the airport to house the ongoing program, currently run by the Kansas Technical Training Initiative (KTTI) and the Cowley County Community College. The KTTI is a coalition of local aircraft manufacturers, including Boeing, Cessna, Raytheon and Bombardier, plus city and county officials, said the newspaper. The idea is to continue developing the area's workforce and ensuring that manufacturers have a more highly skilled pool from which to draw future employees. That, in turn, will help ensure the area's economic future, at least until the next industry downturn. In recent years, through increased automation and troubling economic cycles, thousands have been laid off from their manufacturing jobs. In previous years, that pool of skilled workers came from the military, but those workers are approaching retirement age. "We are the Air Capital of the World, and we don't want anyone to have any doubts about that," council member Carl Brewer was quoted as saying, according to the newspaper.

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Cessna Mates Citation Mustang Wings On Schedule...

The wing mating of Cessna's first Citation Mustang is the latest step the company has accomplished in bringing the type to market. Approximately 50 Cessna employees from the company's Independence, Kan., and Columbus, Ga., facilities have temporarily relocated to Wichita to help build the first five Citation Mustangs. These five airframes are in various stages of assembly at Cessna’s Pawnee facility in Wichita. Once completed, three airframes will be used for flight testing and two airframes will be used for structural testing. “The airframe has exceeded our expectations,” said Bill Rhinesmith, Mustang airframe supervisor. “The team's early design coordination has resulted in a great fit and finish on the prototype aircraft. The successful wing mate is just the latest example of a plane that is coming together as designed.” Static, cyclic, reliability and component tests will be accomplished at Cessna’s structural test facility in Wichita. The Citation Mustang was announced at the 2002 National Business Aviation Association convention. Cessna has received over 200 orders for the Citation Mustang, and the next available aircraft can be had in the second quarter of 2009. Cessna anticipates the type's first flight in 2005.

...And Mock-up Begins Worldwide Tour

Meanwhile, Cessna has a mock-up of the Mustang and is taking it out on the road. The company's worldwide tour began last week in Chicago -- that stalwart defender of all things general aviation -- and is scheduled to conclude on May 20, 2005, at the EBACE convention in Geneva, Switzerland. “The Citation Mustang has been enormously well received by the market,” said Steve Saflin, manager of Citation Mustang marketing. The traveling mock-up display features a full-size cabin with interior amenities and a fully functional cockpit equipped with the new Garmin G1000 avionics suite. In addition to Chicago, the mock-up is planned to visit Baltimore, Md., and various points in Europe. The Citation Mustang is Cessna’s entry-level business jet. It will be certified as a FAR Part 23 aircraft, with a cruise speed of 340 knots and FL410 as its maximum operating altitude.

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Eclipse Aviation Advances Certification Test Fleet

There's a lot of mating going on in aviation this month. In addition to Cessna putting the wings on its first Citation Mustang, Eclipse Aviation last week announced its next two Eclipse 500s, N502EA and N504EA, have completed wing-mate and are standing on their own landing gear. These two aircraft will join N503EA, which has been in flight testing since Dec. 31, to complete the Eclipse 500 FAA certification flight-test fleet. A fourth aircraft, N505EA, which will be used in Eclipse’s beta test program, will be on its own gear by the end of this month. Meanwhile, the first conforming Eclipse 500, N503EA, continues its flight-testing regime and now enjoys a flight envelope expanded from 72 knots to 230 knots, up to 3 g and altitudes up to 17,500 feet. Flight-tested systems include fuel, electrical, pressurization, landing gear, flaps and engines. Additionally, N503EA has conducted flutter testing; longitudinal, lateral and directional stability and control; climb performance; and airspeed calibrations. Eclipse's flight-test instrumentation and telemetry system enables engineers in a ground station to monitor aircraft parameters in real time while collecting more than four gigabytes of data per flight hour. “The most recent wing mate was completed in less than 15 minutes ... and we have opportunities to reduce that time even further,” said Rod Holter, Eclipse VP of operations. “With one test aircraft flying and six more in production, we are making excellent progress down the manufacturing learning curve as we prepare for volume production of the Eclipse 500.”

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NetJets Is Hiring

Fractional operator NetJets Aviation said earlier this month it plans to hire at least 300 pilots this year and has already begun the interview and hiring process. NetJets currently has more than 2,800 pilots, flying customers on the world's largest, global fractional jet fleet. Last year, NetJets flew more than 275,000 flights to more than 140 countries. “Since founding the fractional aircraft ownership industry in 1986, we have consistently grown the fleet and crews to ensure that we can provide Owners with the best possible service,” said Gary Hart, vice president and director of operations.

Watch Your Inbox...

...the next issue of AVweb's BizAVflash will be e-mailed to you on Mar. 16. See you then...

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Business AVflash is a twice-monthly summary of the latest business aviation
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Internet's Aviation Magazine and News Service. http://www.avweb.com

Have a comment or question? Send it to mailto:newsteam@avweb.com.

Today's issue written by Joseph E. (Jeb) Burnside:
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