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April 19, 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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FAA Funding I: Is Change In The Air?

To hear many in the FAA's leadership tell it, AVweb's Favorite Aviation Agency is facing a funding crisis: Costs are increasing while revenues are dropping. And, while that's nothing to surprise anyone who has looked at fuel prices lately, the FAA can and says it just may do something about it. Tomorrow's quasi-public meeting of aviation industry "stakeholders, business and government leaders" -- titled "Transforming Aviation: The Critical Need for Solutions" and sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. -- is designed to foster an "open dialogue on the economic importance of America's aviation system and the crisis it currently faces." Crisis? What crisis? Well, if you believe some of the noises coming out of the FAA and, especially, the airlines and the Chamber, "excess capacity, growing taxes and user fees, and high fuel prices [are at the root of the U.S. aviation system's] reaching a breaking point in its ability to create future economic growth." A lot of factors are at work in the assumptions underlying this meeting and what is sure to be a growing level of media hype accompanying it. Among them are the aforementioned high fuel prices, declining revenues into the Airport and Airways Trust Fund, increasing costs for aviation security and the ongoing need to develop and improve the nation's aviation infrastructure. Perhaps foremost, however, are the economic straits in which many large, traditional airlines find themselves. Those carriers have long complained about the high costs of federal excise taxes on air transportation even while they have cut their fares to the bone in a losing effort to compete with the likes of Southwest and JetBlue. Now, it seems, someone is listening to their complaints.

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FAA Funding II: What's The Deal?

So ... what's going on? Is this a "manufactured" crisis in FAA funding? Who's really behind it? And what do they want? Those answers are a bit more complicated, but the signs point to this being the early stages of an effort by airlines and some in government to undo decades of policy decisions designating a portion of the FAA's operating budget to come from general revenues with the remainder -- dedicated to infrastructure acquisition and improvement -- coming from user taxes. At the end of the day, the airlines would surely like to see the ATC system divested from the FAA and placed in the hands of a private entity created solely to operate it using a dedicated source of revenue designed to pay for all of its expenses. In other words, a U.S. ATC system based on and funded like Eurocontrol or NavCanada. Lockheed Martin's recently announced contract with the FAA to run a sharply consolidated network of Automated Flight Service Stations could be a dry run leading up to the "real thing." And, of course, the airlines would be primarily in control of establishing fees and determining how and when services would be offered. None of which would be a good thing for general or business aviation "as we know it." In fact, rumors have been circulating that one of the possible outcomes of an anticipated fight on the FAA's future would be elimination of the aviation agency we all know and love. A flurry of recent reports from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) taking to task the FAA for its failure to properly manage its air traffic organization -- the agency branch responsible for operating the ATC system -- have focused on management, funding and the agency's culture. In fact, one recent GAO report noted that "resistance to change ... is a characteristic of FAA personnel at all levels" and that a key "factor affecting modernization ... has been a shortfall in the technical expertise needed to design, develop, or manage complex air traffic systems." And, of course, as the FAA's employees and managers lose expertise, the private sector now has a great deal more. In addition to farming out operation of the ATC system to a to-be-established corporation, the FAA's remaining functions -- like certification, enforcement, and infrastructure improvement -- would be given to agencies within a retooled federal Department of Transportation. Or to the Department of Defense, which -- after all -- is increasingly involved in the ATC system's day-to-day operation. All of which strongly argues that tomorrow's meeting might be the opening salvo in a concerted effort to wrest ATC from the FAA, scatter the agency's remaining parts to the prevailing winds and squarely place the airlines in the left seat when it comes to U.S. domestic aviation.

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Wichita: The Best Of Times, The Worst Of Times?

Things are good in Wichita for some companies, but not so good for others. According to The Wichita Eagle, some 2000 people have applied for as many as 500 sheet-metal fabrication jobs at Cessna, while Raytheon finds itself in the opening stages of laying off up to 350 workers. Of course, where they could go to get another job in aviation should be a no-brainer for laid-off Raytheon employees with the right skills. Still, the grass is not necessarily greener, however, since Cessna isn't exactly expanding and Raytheon isn't exactly shrinking. In Cessna's case, the new jobs are being added slowly, a few at a time, to meet demand for the company's popular series of Citation jets. But that demand is not being accompanied by increases in the number of employees in Wichita. At the same time, Raytheon's layoffs have less to do with a precipitous decline in demand for the company's products and more to do with increased outsourcing -- in this case, of wiring-harness fabrication to an Oklahoma-based company that will have the work done in Mexico. That said, Raytheon has found itself in the crosshairs of a two-year-long Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation focusing on financial reporting and accounting practices. The company has reached a tentative agreement with the SEC to settle for a $12 million civil penalty violation of securities laws. The SEC investigation focused on how Raytheon accounted for the sale of business jets built from 1997 through 2001.

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Eclipse Flight-Test Program Accelerates

Eclipse Aviation earlier this month announced reaching new milestones in its efforts to certify is Eclipse 500 very light jet by March 2006. According to the company, Eclipse conducted successful engine inlet icing tests for the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW610F destined to power the twinjet, fulfilling these FAA requirements for the aircraft and its power plants. The tests were completed in Canada’s National Research Council’s approved icing tunnel located in Ottawa. Meanwhile, one of several Eclipse flight-test aircraft, N503EA, recently expanded the aircraft's flight envelope to 25,000 feet. In early April, the aircraft amassed 15.0 hours in 10 flights, almost half of its 33 total flight hours to date. Eclipse also is bringing along other examples in its five-ship flight-test fleet. The company said it had completed initial engine testing and low-speed taxi tests on its second certification test jet, N502EA. That aircraft subsequently flew for the first time on April 14, giving the company two aircraft actively engaged in airborne certification tests. The aircraft, which was piloted by test pilots Ed Grabman and Brian Mathy, successfully completed all tests, including handling qualities at various flap settings, flap and trim operations, cabin pressurization and electrical system testing. The flights were conducted in a designated test zone located south of Albuquerque, N.M.

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Swearingen's SJ30-2 Cold Soak Successful

Swearingen Aircraft Corp. yesterday announced successful completion of cold soak testing as required for FAA certification of the company's new SJ30-2 twinjet. The testing was conducted at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., in a facility that lowers temperatures to -40 degrees C. Testing conducted at that temperature includes avionics performance, pre-start, engine start and operation, landing-gear retraction and extension, hydraulic system operations, plus other systems and controls. Dr. Carl L. Chen, CEO and president of Sino Swearingen Aircraft Corporation said, "For the second phase of Cold Soak Testing the aircraft will be flown to northern Canada or other severe cold areas in the world. There the aircraft will be operated in the very harsh environment of cold temperatures, with high winds and freezing precipitation to verify all systems operate correctly when in these extreme airport surface conditions." The SJ30-2 is designed to feature 2875-sm range, cruise at Mach 0.83, and climb to FL490, maintaining a sea-level cabin to FL410. Swearingen plans to certify the bizjet for single-pilot operations. The company says its certification efforts are on schedule and plans to achieve that milestone in the second half of 2005.

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Cessna’s Citation CJ2+ Makes First Flight...

Also making a first flight of a new jet this month was Cessna, whose new Citation CJ2+ prototype took to the air on April 2. Piloted by test pilots Don Alexander and Jon Cooper, the conforming CJ2+ prototype flew from Mid-Continent Airport for a 02:06 test flight, which, according to Cessna, included an "aggressive flight profile to test basic stability, flap and landing-gear extension and retraction, controllability" and other operations. "Compared to the CJ2, the CJ2+ offers customers enhanced performance and the most advanced avionics suite for this class of airplane," said Cessna’s Chairman, President and CEO Jack J. Pelton. "Orders for the CJ2+ have been strong, and we’re confident they’ll continue to increase as we near certification." Cessna's Citation CJ2+ will be manufactured on the same production line Cessna is using to produce the CJ1, CJ2 and CJ3. Cessna anticipates certification for the Citation CJ2+ in the fourth quarter of this year, and first customer deliveries in the second quarter of 2006. The next Citation CJ2+ available for sale will be delivered in the second quarter of 2007. The Citation CJ2+ was announced at the 2004 National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), is powered by Williams’ FJ44-3A-24 dual-channel FADEC engines, and is equipped with the Collins Pro Line 21 avionics suite. It is designated as a model 525A, and will serve single-pilot operators.

...And Citation Sovereign Gets European Papers

Meanwhile, Cessna received the certification paperwork from both the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) for its new midsize, long-range Citation Sovereign business jet. The certification enables the Citation Sovereign to be registered within all 25 European countries adhering to EASA regulations and 10 European countries following JAA regulations. The type certificate is Cessna’s first EASA certification. In addition, the Citation Sovereign received the first-ever EASA type certification data sheet for noise. "We’ve collaborated very closely with EASA and JAA to insure that the certification process went smoothly," said Cessna’s Senior Vice President of Product Engineering David Brant. Cessna’s Citation Sovereign received FAA type certification in June 2004 and is one of the newest midsize aircraft in the bizjet market. It has a 459-knot cruise speed, 2881-nm range and a 47,000-foot ceiling.

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Wired: Gulfstream Gets Broadband STC On G550 / G500

Gulfstream Aerospace this month announced it had received a third FAA Supplemental Type Certificate (STC), enabling the installation of its new Broad Band Multi-Link (BBML) data system in its large-cabin G550 and G500 bizjets. The company's BBML system uses ARINC's SKYLink broadband satellite service, enabling in-flight Internet surfing, sending and receiving e-mail or any other Web-based task. Last October, Gulfstream received its first BBML-related STC for a GiIV; a month later, it received an STC for the GV and, later this year, Gulfstream expects to receive another STC for the G350/G450 models. The G550/500 paperwork allows Gulfstream to begin unlimited installation of BBML systems on customer aircraft. "The Gulfstream Broad Band Multi-Link™ (BBML) system is the fastest in-flight data system available today," said Pres Henne, senior vice president of programs, engineering and test, Gulfstream. Gulfstream's BBML is a dedicated satellite-based system offering data speeds of up to 3.5 megabits per second.

Cessna Celebrates Caravan’s 20th

April marks 20 years since Cessna delivered its first Model 208 Caravan, a workhorse turboprop single popular in bush, utility and cargo operations throughout the world. Some 1500 examples of the "Skylane on steroids" have been delivered since and the company is celebrating with a worldwide demonstration tour featuring well-equipped versions of the airplane. Numerous planned stops throughout the U.S. and Canada during 2005 will be complemented by visits to the Caribbean and Central America in March and April, South America in April and July, Africa in August and September, and Europe beginning in February and lasting through October. Available in four models, Cessna says its Caravan is operating in 68 countries, has flown more than eight million fleet hours, and logs over 70,000 fleet hours per month. At the same time, the Caravan has been the subject of a recent Airworthiness Directive that "results from several accidents/incidents of problems with the affected airplanes during operations in icing conditions, including six accidents in the previous two icing seasons and nine events in the past few months," according to the FAA. The AD requires operators to incorporate into the Caravan's FAA-approved Airplane Flight Manual specific revisions published by Cessna.

Watch Your Inbox...

...the next issue of AVweb's BizAVflash will be e-mailed to you on May 11. See you then...

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Business AVflash is a twice-monthly summary of the latest business aviation
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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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