Number 19 — November 16, 2005|
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The Top Headlines From AVweb's Expanded
Business News Coverage At AVweb's
2005: YOU SAY YOU WANT AN EVOLUTION?
Later today, the doors will close on the 2005 edition of the National
Business Aviation Association's Annual Meeting and Convention, held
this year in Orlando, Fla. At this writing, the final numbers on
attendance and the like aren't yet tallied up, but we can go out on
two limbs. One, this year's edition of what is North America's largest
indoor aviation exhibit was a success. This is despite the diversion
from New Orleans only two months ago and the slight shift in the
schedule; this year's show ran from Wednesday to Friday instead of the
traditional Tuesday-through-Thursday event. That meant Friday was a
lighter day on the exhibit floor than normal. And, while it's unlikely
attendance set any records, the number of exhibitors -- more than 1100
-- and aircraft on static display -- 110 -- did. Two, with one
possible exception we'll get to in a moment, there wasn't anything
astoundingly earthshaking to be seen, heard or flown. So, the 2005
edition probably will be remembered more as an evolutionary show,
rather than revolutionary. After all, even Hank Aaron couldn't hit a
home run every time he stepped to the plate. More...
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NEXT BIG THING? USER FEES
With that said, the big news at this year's show was that the industry
seems more mature than it has in recent years. For its part, NBAA used
Wednesday's opening general session to fire an opening salvo against
what many are convinced will be the industry's next big battle: user
fees. "There is a growing inevitability of a user fee fight on Capitol
Hill," declared NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. "The airlines, and
their Air Transportation Association, are growing increasingly vocal
in their claim that we're not paying our fair share into the Airport
and Airway Trust Fund," Bolen said. He punctuated his warning by
reminding attendees that commercial air carriers are advocating a
system in which all aircraft pay the same fee regardless of size,
whether it is a single-engine turboprop or a 555-passenger Airbus
A380. Unfortunately, he noted, "that idea is gaining some traction [in
Washington, DC]." And the fight could start in earnest as early as
next year, since the current federal legislation structuring the FAA
and its programs expires in 2007. But NBAA acknowledged it may be
difficult to get industry participants interested in fighting that
fight. "Some people have told me that user fees have been debated
before, and everything turned out fine. [But] this time, things are
different, and the situation is far more serious," Bolen warned. The
current proposal for user fees has more widespread backing by
airlines, he said, and they "view us as their competition, claiming
that their first-class passengers have abandoned them for business
aviation," he noted. More...
HOW HEALTHY ARE WE?
But what about the industry's "visibility and success?" Where does it
really stand, how does its current status stack up to earlier years?
And, most important, where is it going? Those questions are always in
the air at each NBAA convention and this year was not an exception.
Enter Rolls-Royce, which this week released a formal prediction for continued growth in business jet
deliveries through the remainder of the decade. The company, which
not coincidentally sells a very popular line of jet engines, said it
forecasts an engine market worth $61 billion over the next 20 years,
with the value of medium- and long-range jets dominating. Not all of
those new aircraft will be in North America, however.
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33: SOMETHING NEW, SOMETHING BLUE...
Earlier, we hinted at an exception to our theme that this year's NBAA
extravaganza was an evolutionary one. Enter long-time industry veteran
Linden Blue. Blue, you may know, was in Beechcraft's left seat in 1983
when the aforementioned Starship was born. He also served as general
manager at Learjet and was CEO of Learfan. While much has changed
among the three Starship players -- Rutan now is very focused on space
while Beech is now deeply immersed in the Raytheon empire and all but
a handful of the 53 Starships ever made have been grounded -- Blue's
heart clearly is still in business aviation. This year, he and his son
Austin brought to Orlando news of their latest innovation: a
soon-to-be-flying full-scale prototype of an extremely lightweight,
all-composite Williams FJ33-powered jet called the Spectrum 33. Like
the Starship, Blue and his team at Spectrum Aeronautical developed
their jet completely under the radar, this time at a facility in the
Utah desert. Seemingly well-financed and obviously determined to bring
their project to certification, they have built production tooling and
used it to assemble the first example of the '33. What's more, they
strongly believe they have solved the bugaboo of just about every
all-composite airplane since (and including) the Starship: weight. At
NBAA, AVweb sat down with Linden and Austin for an exclusive
FLY BY THE END OF 2005?
The thing that was so exciting about the Starship was not just its
all-composite construction. Instead, the whole deal was radical
departure: a canard, twin pusher turboprops, tipsails instead of a
conventional vertical stabilizer. By contrast, the Spectrum 33 is not
at all radical from a distance. It more resembles an unnatural pairing
of a baby Learjet with a straight-wing-and-wingletted Citation than a
Starship. And that relative simplicity is one reason Blue says he
"will be upset if it doesn't fly by the end of 2005." What Spectrum
believes it has achieved is "the right combination of proprietary
processes and designs to build significantly better and more
economical advanced composites aircraft." Allied with Rocky Mountain
Composites, Spectrum says it has developed new techniques --
"disruptive technologies" -- enabling lighter and more fuel-efficient
airplanes out of advanced composites. Blue and his crew have offered
up some exciting numbers for the eight-passenger jet.
AIRFRAMER NEWS: GULFSTREAM G150 CERTIFIED AHEAD OF
Gulfstream may soon be giving Cessna lessons in how to schedule
designing and certifying business jets. In recent years, Cessna's
new-product development has produced little angst but lots of "mission
accomplished" back-slapping as the company seemingly meets each and
every one of its rollout, first-flight and certification goals. Now,
Gulfstream has upped the ante by achieving both FAA and Israeli
certification of its newest offering, the G150 mid-size jet. Receipt
of the G150's paperwork came at least 10 weeks ahead of the previously
announced "first quarter 2006" timetable and produced an added bonus:
The newest Gulfstream is faster than forecast, with an MMO of 0.85
Mach. The G150s flawless flight test program allowed us to
both satisfy certification requirements ahead of schedule and
accurately measure and evaluate its performance capabilities,
said Pres Henne, senior vice president, programs, engineering and
test, Gulfstream. The success of this flight test program can be
attributed to the outstanding collaboration between Gulfstream and
Israel Aircraft Industries; the availability of two test aircraft to
conduct the various performance and systems tests; and the actual
G150, which performed significantly better than we had imagined during
original development. More...
SCHEDULES DELIVERIES, BOOKS MORE ORDERS
Sino Swearingen Aircraft Corporation (SSAC) announced its order book
for the just-certified SJ30-2 light jet is approaching 300 and will
probably exceed that mark by the time you read this. As AVweb
previously reported, SSAC got most of its FAA
paperwork last month. During a ceremony Wednesday, FAA Deputy
Administrator Bobby Sturgell formally presented the SJ30-2's type
certificate to SSAC. The company was well-represented this week at
NBAA, with two aircraft on static display and one, along with a cabin
mockup, on the exhibit floor. Now, with at least 295 orders for its
creation, totaling a $1.5 billion backlog, SSAC is concentrating on
making and delivering its creation. The company says it has more than
600 employees in four facilities throughout the U.S. working to fill
its orders. More...
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SCORES MORE ORDERS...
Meanwhile, the fine folks at Eclipse Aviation might be slitting their
wrists if they had only 295 orders. In fact, the company
announced this week at NBAA that its order book for the Eclipse 500
VLJ now tops 2,350 aircraft. This includes 1,592 firm orders with 765
options; all 2,357 aircraft are secured with non-refundable deposits
and the latest sales number was sharply boosted by two recent fleet
orders. Massachusetts air-taxi operator Linear Air signed up for 30
aircraft and U.K.-based JetSet Air Ltd. wants 50 copies. "The Eclipse
500 order book is the largest in the VLJ segment, and we attribute
this to our ability to deliver the industry's highest-performance jet
at a breakthrough price," said Vern Raburn, president and CEO of
Eclipse Aviation. More...
COMPLETES PHASE I...
The SSBJ -- supersonic business jet -- is alive and well, says Aerion
Corporation Brian Barents. "We are keeping to an aggressive timeline
moving toward routine supersonic business jet travel," he said in a
statement at NBAA. Announced at last year's show, the company says its
ongoing work has confirmed the aircraft's configuration through
"extensive" wind-tunnel testing and computer analysis. Additionally,
Aerion says the business and engineering objectives it announced last
year -- which include 4,000-nm range, a "boomless" cruise of up to
Mach 1.1 and top speed of Mach 1.6 -- have been validated by the
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ADAM DELIVERS A500, ROLLS OUT SECOND A700
Adam Aircraft this week announced its first customer delivery of an
A500 centerline piston twin aircraft, serial number 005, which was
delivered to a Colorado Springs business executive on Monday. The
delivery comes on the heels of the companys receiving FAA
approval for its production inspection system, a precursor to a
full-blown production certificate. Operating limitations on the
aircraft -- like a 50-gallon unusable fuel requirement, maximum
ceiling of 12,500 feet and a 250-hour airframe life limit -- remain in
place. "Our first customer delivery and the APIS certification
represent major steps toward our goal of delivering six A500s every
month," said Rick Adam, chairman and CEO of Adam Aircraft. "Following
Type Certification, the FAA allows six months to achieve APIS
designation, and we achieved that goal in under 90 days." Adam added
that the company remains on track to obtain a production certificate
in the first quarter of 2006. More...
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As we noted at the top, this year's NBAA convention was most certainly
a success. Among other kudos, the association's event management crew
definitely deserves a few weeks in a sunny clime and serial rum drinks
with little umbrellas for pulling off the change of venue in a scant
two months. Just as with any major event, though, AVweb saw and
heard some concerns among both attendees and exhibitors about the
show's value -- especially after the first day - listened in on
spirited arguments about whether "regular folks" in the industry found
it worthwhile and even participated in a shuttle-bus discussion of why
we came. For us, the answer was easy -- to file this report. For some,
it was to network, even if that same networking goes on 24/7/365. For
others, the exhibit floor and its carpeted aisles, booth babes and
bling were much less interesting than the detailed type-specific
seminars, for example, or the presentations on everything from
security and excise taxes to the ATC system. For the high rollers --
people able and willing to stroke a check for a Gulfstream, and with
whom we're not familiar -- the annual NBAA show is their opportunity
to do quality window shopping while wheeling, dealing and getting
stroked. So, there's a little something for everyone interested in the
...the next issue of AVweb's BizAVflash will be e-mailed to you
on Nov. 30. More...
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