Business NewsWire Complete Issue

September 27, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

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Eclipse Update I: Certification Static Testing Complete

Eclipse Aviation's entry into the coming very light jet (VLJ) sweepstakes cleared another major hurdle on its rush toward certification earlier this month when the company completed FAA-required static testing of the Eclipse 500 airframe. According to the company, the FAA approved the airframe for an initial 10,000-hour lifetime, which Eclipse says "is significantly higher than typically approved by the FAA." By contrast, initial type certification of the Adam 500, an all-composite piston twin forming the foundation for the Adam Aircraft Industries A700 AdamJet, was FAA type-certificated with a 250-hour airframe life limit. The Eclipse 500 is a metal design. Predictably, Eclipse executives were enthusiastic. "We are also pleased that, based on our extensive work with the FAA, the Eclipse 500 has been approved for an initial 10,000 hour lifetime at type certification. The designed fatigue life for the Eclipse 500 is 20,000 hours, which will be demonstrated through testing over the next two years," said Eclipse Aviation Vice President of Engineering Ken Harness. Eclipse says completing the static certification testing means the aircraft remains on schedule for the planned FAA type certificate in March 2006 and added that all testing was "completed successfully without failure, eliminating the need for any redesign or re-testing." "The fact that the Eclipse 500 static airframe accomplished all test points on the first pass with no failures reflects our commitment to design and build a jet that will meet the high utilization demands of the air taxi and corporate aviation segments," Harness added. Eclipse will perform fatigue tests on another airframe next spring to validate structural continued airworthiness. Initially, extending the airframe's life beyond 10,000 hours -- perhaps to 20,000 -- will be based, in part, on results from that testing. The initial FAA-approved 10,000-hour lifetime is contingent on the remaining reports and testing to be submitted by Eclipse for type certification.

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Eclipse Update II: Test Fleet Racks Up 500 Hours

Following closely on the heels of the end of static airframe testing, Eclipse Aviation this week announced its fleet of five certification-research aircraft has flown a combined 500 hours of test flights. Eclipse said flight tests completed thus far in its certification program included lightweight foreign object debris (FOD) testing at power settings up to takeoff thrust and at speeds up to 70 knots, water-ingestion testing at speeds up to 100 knots, 20 landings in one day on one aircraft to test tire wear, and endurance testing with single flights of more than three hours. Given the high-cycle nature of the various air taxi operations with pending orders for copies of the Eclipse 500, the company stressed the test fleet's ability to conduct multiple flights per day with high dispatch reliability and while successfully completing significant test points. "Our recent progress demonstrates that we will deliver what we promised to our customers -- a jet that will withstand and exceed the rigors of high-cycle operations," said Eclipse Aviation President and CEO Vern Raburn. "Our test aircraft are proving to be exactly what we intended when we designed the Eclipse 500 -- high performing, reliable and easy to maintain." So far, the various aircraft constituting the Eclipse 500 test fleet have achieved speeds of 285 knots and altitudes up to FL410. The five aircraft involved are N502EA, N503EA, N504EA, N505EA and N506EA. Most recently, and as AVweb reported, aircraft N505EA experienced a gear-up incident on Saturday, Sept. 3, which was attributed to pilot error.

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Cessna Picks FlightSafety For Citation Mustang Training

If Eclipse Aviation is the upstart contender in the VLJ sweepstakes, Cessna Aircraft is the grizzled veteran. While Cessna's FAA-certification target of late 2006 for its Citation Mustang likely will not win the race to be first to certify what many in the industry are labeling a VLJ, the company is selling enough of its other Citations for it not to matter very much. Most recently, Cessna said it had selected FlightSafety International to provide initial type training for what it calls its "new generation entry-level jet." Training will be available to customers prior to delivery of the first Citation Mustang late next year and will be conducted at the FlightSafety Cessna Learning Centers in Wichita, Kan., and Farnborough, England. According to Roger Whyte, Cessna’s senior vice president of sales and marketing, “The selection of FlightSafety is the extension of a mutually beneficial relationship that has existed for more than three decades. Due to the large number of overseas orders, it was determined that the location for training close to the customer was an absolute must,” Whyte said. FlightSafety will design and build two motion-based Level “D” flight simulators and two avionics flight training devices (FTD). Additionally, so-called "distance learning" will be used to provide Mustang-specific and ancillary courses via the World Wide Web, according to Cessna. Using distance learning will help maximize time spent at the learning center by focusing on the essential simulator training element of the initial course, the company said. Cessna also announced that FlightSafety International will provide "Mentoring Services" for Citation Mustang customers, which provides Mustang type-rated pilots the opportunity to fly with FlightSafety instructors for a period of time before they begin operating the aircraft on their own. A core set of operational scenarios will be coupled with the routes to be flown by the customer to strengthen proficiency in day-to-day Mustang operation. The Citation Mustang is a twin-engine, turbofan-powered, six-place business jet designed to operate at up to FL410. To date, the Mustang prototype has logged 248 hours; the first production Mustang first flew on Aug. 29.

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Third Example Joins Falcon 7X Test Program

Moving away from the VLJ market, Dassault Aviation last week announced the third copy of its to-be-certificated Falcon 7X trijet took off for its maiden flight on Sept. 20. The 01:43 flight -- from a company facility in Bordeaux-Merignac, France, to the Dassault Aviation Flight Test Center in Istres, France -- was crewed by Dominique Chenevier and Etienne Faurdessus. The airplane reached FL410 and flew at speeds up to Mach 0.82. The newest addition to Dassault's 7X flight-test program will be used for avionics, systems, and function and reliability testing. With this initial flight, Dassault said its 7X flight-test program reached 171 hours after a total of 60 flights. Ten pilots have flown the 7X, including one from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The FAA and EASA have allotted approximately 1200 test hours before final certification in late 2006. The 7X's fly-by-wire flight control system is one major focus of Dassault's certification efforts. So far, the program has included landings and takeoffs at maximum aft and maximum forward CG, as well as maximum takeoff weight. Climbs to FL480 and 3-G maneuvers have been performed. Flight tests at minimum maneuvering speeds have been ongoing and several stall tests have been performed, said Dassault. "The low-speed handling quality of the 7X is very promising," said Senior Test Pilot for Dassault Aviation Yves "Bill" Kerherve. "The landing performance of this airplane has met our highest expectations following simulation work." When certificated, the 7X will be the fourth type to join Dassault's family of Falcon trijets, including the Falcon 50EX, 900DX, and 900EX EASy. The company markets the twin-engine Falcon 2000 and Falcon 2000EX EASy. Since the first Falcon 20 flew in 1963, more than 1800 Falcons have been sold worldwide.

THE COLUMBIA 350 & COLUMBIA 400 HAVE A NEW CORPORATE NAME
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 these premium aircraft. The schedule for the Fly Columbia Tour, an interactive Columbia experience, is posted online at http://www.avweb.com/sponsors/columbia/biz.

Jet Aviation Basel Adds To Hangar Capacity

Swiss-based Jet Aviation announced it will take over a former Crossair hangar at the Basel airport on Oct. 1, under a recently executed lease agreement with Swiss International Air Lines and the airport authorities. According to the company, the additional hangar space of 5,000 square meters brings to 20,000 square meters the facility's hangar capacity, an expansion of roughly 30 percent. Jet Aviation Basel provides aircraft maintenance and repair services to a wide variety of business jets, including approvals as a factory service center by Gulfstream, Bombardier and Dassault, and performs contract maintenance service on Boeing products. “We are very happy that we found a solution with Swiss and the airport authority to be able to handle the growing number of aircraft at our facility,” said Rainer Albecker, senior vice president and general manager at Jet Aviation Basel. "Since we expect the number of aircraft at our facility to increase over the next few years, this 30 percent expansion will secure that we can continue to operate to the fullest satisfaction of customers providing the highest level of quality and safety,” Albecker added. Among other capabilities, Jet Aviation Basel is a well-known completions center employing more than 1,000 professionals. In addition to in-house design and engineering departments, the facility features on-site cabinetry, upholstery, fiberglass and paint shops. The completions center in Basel is capable of outfitting jets as large as an Airbus A380 or a Boeing 747-400 series aircraft and has already outfitted several Airbus 319ACJ, A320 and Boeing B737, B757 and B767 aircraft.

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Frax Industry Unaffected By DAL Bankruptcy Filing For Now

Fractional ownership customers -- as well as flight crews and vendors -- may think the recent filing by Delta Air Lines for protection under federal bankruptcy laws won't impact them. Hopefully, they'll be right, but not because Delta isn't involved in the business aviation industry. Instead, Delta AirElite Business Jets is a wholly owned subsidiary of Delta Air Lines, providing aircraft charter, aircraft management and fractional ownership programs for more than 20 years. The company operates a diverse fleet of Bombardier Challenger, Learjet, Gulfstream, Hawker and Cessna aircraft. According to a statement from Delta AirElite, "There will be no impact on Delta AirElite's ability to serve its charter, membership or aircraft management customers." A company spokesperson told AVweb in a prepared statement, "All normal business operations and regular flight operations will continue during this period of reorganization. We remain fully committed to meeting our customers' travel needs and will continue to provide the same superior level of service they have come to expect from us for the past 21 years. Delta AirElite is a profitable subsidiary of Delta Air Lines and owns and operates 19 managed and owned business jets based at various locations in the U.S. The Delta AirElite Jet Center, the only FBO at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, will also continue business as usual as a full-service FBO."

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Dee Howard's Aviation Art On Exhibit

If you know the name Darrell "Dee" Howard, either you've been around the business aviation industry a while or, most likely, have read about the post-WWII conversions of bombers and transports into sleek, winged corporate chariots on which his namesake's company made its reputation in the '50s and '60s. Howard, now in his mid-80s, also made a reputation as an innovator, developing thrust-reverser kits for early Learjets and providing maintenance, overhaul and modifications for business jets and heavy airliners. Now, according to the Galveston, Texas, Daily News, 35 original or first-edition prints from The Dee and Betty Howard Aviation Art Collection will be on display at the Lone Star Flight Museum through September of next year. According to the newspaper, an artist featured in the collection is Douglas Ettridge, whose "subjects are taken from the history of flying, from Montgolfier, Bleriot, Santos Dumont [and] Glenn Curtiss," among others. Another featured artist is Stan Stokes, whom the newspaper says is "one of the world’s foremost aircraft artists." Stokes' work includes a 21-foot tall and 103-foot wide mural of a Spitfire Mk-Ia and Messerschmitt Bf 109E engaged during the Battle of Britain. The Dee and Betty Howard Aviation Art Collection is on display at the Lone Star Flight Museum in Galveston through September 2006.

Fractional Ownership Takes Root In India

It's no secret that the fractional aircraft ownership concept has spread worldwide from its humble beginnings with what became the NetJets concept in 1986. Proving you can't keep a good idea down, a company billing itself as India's first domestic fractional operator -- Club One Air -- recently announced starting operations. Club One Air, whose managing director is Manav Singh, presently offers shares in its fleet of five Cessna Citation IIs and Excels to "high net-worth" individuals and India-based corporations. Singh's goals include selling as many as 60 shares -- that would be twelve "owners" per Citation -- by the end of 2005, according to published reports. Plans for 2006 include adding another five fixed-wing jets, plus two helicopters. Singh, a U.S.-educated financier and marketer, started a company called Aerostar Aviation 10 years ago to provide aircraft engineering services in India and the Middle East. So far, his Club One Air concept appears to be taking off.

VNY-Based Air Group Fleet Expands

Van Nuys, Calif.-based The Air Group, a large full-service business and private aircraft management company, said earlier this month it had added six new jets to its nationwide fleet so far this year. The aircraft include a Gulfstream GIVSP based at Teterboro, N.J., a Gulfstream GIV based at both Van Nuys and in Tokyo, a Hawker 800Xpi based at Van Nuys, a Hawker 800XP in Denver, a Falcon 900C based in San Jose, and a Cessna Citation SII based in Honolulu. Primarily corporate-owned, the fleet additions are also available for charter on a regional, transcontinental and international basis through The Air Group's eight private aviation facilities at major U.S. business centers and in Tokyo. Headquartered in Van Nuys, Calif., The Air Group operates globally with a diverse fleet of aircraft including most models of Learjet, Citation, Westwind, Hawker, Gulfstream, Challenger and Bombardier Global Express business aircraft.

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