August 17, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
|This issue of AVweb's Business AVflash is brought to you by
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Cessna's newest offering, the Citation Mustang, made its world debut last month at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, arriving at the fly-in with Cessna Chairman, President and CEO Jack Pelton at the controls. The arrival was the first public display of Cessna's entry into the coming very light jet (VLJ) sweepstakes; it was announced in 2002 and Cessna says it has more than 230 orders. Cessna said in 2002 it planned to obtain FAA type certification in the third quarter of 2006 -- delivery of the first customer aircraft is expected in fourth quarter 2006 -- and the company has been relentless in making those deadlines in recent years. The company adds that the Citation Mustang will be certified as a single-pilot, FAR Part 23 aircraft, with an anticipated cruise speed of 340 KTAS and a maximum operating altitude of 41,000 feet. Other features include Pratt & Whitney PW615F engines and Garmin International's G1000 integrated avionics. Im very proud of the quality work Cessna employees have put into the Citation Mustang -- its an honor to fly the airplane in for this important first public appearance, Pelton said on arriving at Oshkosh. As of its public debut, the Citation Mustang prototype had flown more than 80 flights, accruing more than 150 hours, since its first flight April 23. In designing and engineering the new VLJ, Cessna says it has integrated new tooling with manufacturing processes resulting in improved manufacturing consistency which it hopes will mean customer deliveries with shorter lead times. The first Mustang, which is to be assembled and delivered at Cessna's Independence, Kan., facility, is scheduled to start down the assembly line later this fall.
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Another entrant in the race to bring a VLJ to market, Eclipse Aviation Corporation, used is presence at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh to showcase its Eclipse 500 in fly-bys and update attendees on its flight-test program. According to the company, aircraft N502EA recently reached its service ceiling and its maximum operating speed for the first time. Those numbers are FL410 and a Vmo of 285 knots. Eclipse says its four-aircraft flight-test fleet has exceeded 200 flight hours total and is now aiming to complete key certification, function and reliability testing. A fifth aircraft, N506EA, is in its final assembly position and will join N502EA, N503EA, N504EA and N505EA in the air this summer. Two other airframes are being used for ground-based certification tests. The company also announced that testing for the Eclipse 500's fire-suppression system, PhostrEx, is complete and approved by both the FAA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). We have now confirmed the Eclipse 500s excellent handling at the high and low end of the operating envelope, said Eclipse Aviation President and CEO Vern Raburn. Recently, our flight test program completed the high end and in 2003, we concluded a highly successful N500EA flight test program that opened the lower end of the operating envelope while completing 117 stalls. Meanwhile, Eclipse says PhostrEx, which addresses the drawbacks of Halon-based fire suppression systems, will be certified on the Eclipse 500. According to Eclipse, PhostrEx meets the requirements of both the Montreal Protocol and the Clean Air Act, and will be the first commercially viable, FAA-certified fire-extinguishing agent designed to replace Halon. PhostrEx is patented by Eclipse and weighs approximately 90 percent less than a traditional Halon system. Eclipse says it will explore establishing a separate company to market the technology in other aviation- and land-based fire-suppression applications.
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As AVweb reported last week, Honda brought its experimental HondaJet to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh last month, flying the innovative VLJ in from its Greensboro, N.C., testing base. The real news came after the show, however, when Honda executives allowed that they just may offer a certificated version of the jet. Sticking to the "this is a test bed" script, Michimasa Fujino, HondaJet project leader and vice president of Honda R&D Americas Inc., told the Oshkosh crowds, "This public world debut of the HondaJet represents the continued advancement of Honda's long-standing dream of aviation. We are pleased and excited to be able to share this dream and our technology with the aviation community." As we reported, the HondaJet could go for as little as $1 million or less, but will probably retail for something closer to $3 million. The HondaJet's configuration is unusual, however, and its acceptance in "traditional" corporate flight operations is completely unknown. One thing going for it, of course, is the company's sterling reputation for cars, motorcycles and other powered equipment. And when we say "unusual," we mean it. For example, the jet's engines are supported by patented over-the-wing pylons; the aircraft flies on a natural-laminar-flow wing; its nose is drooped; and it's powered by untested Honda HF-118 engines, each rated for 1,670-pound thrust at takeoff power. But that configuration, according to the company, features far better fuel efficiency, more available space in the fuselage and higher cruise speed than "conventional aircraft in its class." To date, the HondaJet has completed more than 156 hours of flight testing, achieving FL430 and 393 knots.
With all the hype, talk and status updates from Cessna, Eclipse and even Honda, Sino Swearingen Aircraft Corporation (SSAC) this week had to get in the game, announcing it had received the FAA's Type Inspection Authorization (TIA) for its forthcoming SJ30-2 light (13,500 max gross takeoff weight) jet. According to Sino Swearingen, the occasion marks the first time in 35 years that a "new company" has been awarded a TIA for a new bizjet. Among other things, obtaining a TIA allows a manufacturer to certify its new airplanes as airworthy when they roll out of the assembly building, without each one needing to be inspected by the FAA. According to Sino Swearingen, the approval is "the final threshold" leading up to FAA type certification, expected later in 2005. Three SJ30-2s have been in engaged in flight testing; two more are being used for static and fatigue testing at the company's facilities in San Antonio, Texas, and Martinsburg, W.V. Although final specs are, well, not final, Sino Swearingen says its new offering will feature a cabin pressurized to 12.0 psi, allowing it to maintain a sea-level cabin up to FL410; the SJ30-2 is designed for a maximum ceiling of FL490. Powered by two Williams International FJ44-2A engines, the jet is designed to cruise at up to Mach 0.83 and have a max range of 2500 nm. Up front will be Honeywell's Epic avionics system; aft of the cockpit will be five passenger seats. Dr. Carl Chen, president and CEO of SSAC, added, Now, out of nowhere, in a short time, there will be a new manufacturer on the world aviation scene with a new jet aircraft that has speed and intercontinental range performance figures that exceed every light jet business aircraft on earth.
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Also at the recently concluded EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, Raytheon took the wraps off its latest turboprop offering, the Beechcraft King Air C90GT. The latest Beechcraft is an evolutionary development of the original short-body King Air featuring Pratt and Whitney Canada PT6A-135-A engines. According to Raytheon, the new powerplants help deliver a 25-knot max cruise speed increase and can halve the time needed to climb to the airplane's certified ceiling of 30,000 feet. This is a very exciting program thats being met with tremendous customer response, said Randy Groom, Beechcrafts president and general manager. We view the Beechcraft King Air C90GT as the antithesis of the very light jet (VLJ) because of its roomy, rugged and proven design, along with its tremendous short and rough field capabilities. It also provides a logical transition for pilots by offering increased performance, a larger cabin and twin-engine safety and system redundancy not found in some comparably priced or even more expensive single engine turboprop aircraft. The 750 total hp engines are flat-rated to 550 hp, helping boost max cruise speed from 246 knots in the King Air C90B model to over 270 knots in the King Air C90GT. Max cruise speed for the C90GT is reached at 18,000 feet versus 15,000 feet in the C90B and is a full 45 knots faster at its certified ceiling. According to Raytheon, FAA certification of the C90 GT is scheduled for Q4 of 2005, with customer deliveries slated for December 2005. The Beechcraft King Air C90GT is sold out through June 2006. European Aviation Safety Administration (EASA) and other international certifications are expected to begin immediately thereafter with initial completions by mid-2006.
Jet Aviation, one of the world's leading business aviation service companies, this week announced the Permira Funds has agreed to acquire the majority of its parent, Hirschmann-/Jet Aviation Group. Details about the transaction, including its size, were not disclosed. Jet Aviation, based in Zurich, was founded in 1967. Today, it boasts more than 3,500 personnel in over 60 facilities and stations around the world. The company provides maintenance, completions and engineering services, fixed base operations, airline handling, and aircraft sales, charter, and management from those locations; it also operates an aircraft management and charter fleet of more than 160 aircraft in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the U.S. Permira is a leading international private equity specialist based in Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Milan, New York, Paris and Stockholm. The Permira Funds has an investor base comprising principally public and corporate pension funds and other institutions. With the acquisition by the Permira Funds, Jet Aviation will continue to maintain its leading position in the business aviation service industry and be able to strategically expand into new markets to better serve our customers around the world, says Prof. Wolf-R diger Bub, chairman of the Hirschmann-/Jet Aviation Group. Jet Aviation is an extremely well positioned company and an attractive investment for the Permira Funds. We look forward to working with management and employees to continue the companys success, added Thomas Krenz, managing director of Permira in Frankfurt. The proposed deal is subject to antitrust approval; the parties expect it to be concluded by the end of September 2005.
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Signature Flight Support last month announced it and the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) have executed a ten-year ground lease allowing the FBO chain to continue operating at the Boston-Logan International Airport until 2016. Signature said that, as part of its obligation, it has begun designing a new 10,000-square-foot terminal facility, which is scheduled for completion by mid-2006. The company said it is also constructing three new ground-support equipment shops on its leasehold for the repair of airport service vehicles. Signature began operations at Boston-Logan International Airport in 1967. "Boston-Logan is a key market for Signature Flight Support. We are delighted that Massport has chosen us as the front door in which to welcome visitors to the City of Boston. We look forward to continuing our promise of unparalleled service to our customers, Massport and the City," said Signature president and chief executive officer Beth Haskins. "Massport is confident that Signature Flight Support, as they have done for many years, will continue to provide outstanding, first class service to the business and corporate aviation community," said Massport aviation director Thomas J. Kinton, Jr.
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Canada-based Bombardier plans to build a new maintenance center in Moscow, Russia, to support what it calls a growing number of its jets operating in that country, said the Moscow Times. According to the newspaper, Bob Horner, Bombardier vice president for business aircraft sales in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, on Monday said, "The volumes are such that we feel it's time to get up a service center in Russia." Although many details -- how much will be invested, at which Moscow airport will the center be built and with whom will the airframer partner? -- were not reported, Horner was quoted as saying the final decisions would be made by the end of 2005. The newspaper noted that Warren Buffet's NetJets fractional operator began flying from Moscow two years ago. NetJets operates a number of Bombardier's Global, Challenger and Learjet aircraft in its fleet. Additionally, Horner told the Moscow Times that the company has sold 16 Global 500 and Global Express aircraft, plus 15 Challengers, to buyers based in the former Soviet Union since 2000. The newspaper said the Russian Association of Business Aviation reports that business jet flights arranged by Russian clients is growing by as much as 50 percent each year and reached 15,000 in 2004; the country's market for business jets -- including privately owned Boeings -- may be as large as $500 million over the past two years.
|BIG NEWS FROM AIRVENTURE 2005|
Sure, the appearances of SpaceShipOne and Global Flyer captured all of our attention at AirVenture this year, but just as significant to aviators was the announcement that the Lancair Company has re-branded itself as Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation. The manufacturers of the Columbia 350 and Columbia 400 the world's fastest certified piston aircraft made the change as part of an ongoing campaign to develop a unique identity for the premium aircraft. If you missed them at AirVenture, consider looking them up at the Reno Air Races, where all of the world's fastest planes gather, or at one of the other stops on their Fly Columbia Tour. The tour is an interactive Columbia experience, and theyre holding them at airports around the country through this fall. For a complete schedule, go to http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/columbia/biz.
Raytheon affiliate Flight Options, LLC, said last week that Raytheon Travel Air has purchased an additional $50 million of common equity of the company. The fractional operator also announced it was expanding its so-called "75/25" program, which allows customers to fly aboard two different types of aircraft in the Flight Options fleet after purchasing only a single share. The Cleveland, Ohio, based operator has a fleet of more than 200 aircraft; it is the world's largest operator of Beechjet 400A and Embraer Legacy aircraft. Flight Options' fleet also includes the Hawker 800XP and the Cessna Citation X. "We are well underway on our business plan to replace our older fleets of aircraft where we will focus on those modern fleets with better operating characteristics," said Mark Brody, chief financial officer of Flight Options, LLC. "This additional funding will help us in meeting our business objectives and achieve future success within the industry." Previously, the company's 75/25 program was restricted to the Beechjet 400A/Hawker 400XP and the Hawker 800XP; Flight Options said it will expand the offering to include the Citation X and Legacy. Flight Options continues to further define the concept that options means more than aircraft, said Cameron Gowans, chief marketing officer of Flight Options, LLC.
...the next issue of AVweb's BizAVflash will be e-mailed to you on Aug. 31. See you then...
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