Business NewsWire Complete Issue

December 6, 2005
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

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FAA's ATO To Reorganize

The FAA's Air Traffic Organization -- that branch of AVweb's Favorite Aviation Agency responsible for the nation's air traffic control system -- will soon see a major reorganization, according to a letter its Chief Operating Officer Russell Chew published yesterday on the organization's Web site. While details of the reorganization plan won't be available until this Friday afternoon, Chew's letter to ATO employees makes it clear the agency is responding to what it perceives as the dwindling resources available. Wrote Chew, "Rising operating costs continue to leave a smaller and smaller share of our limited funds available to invest in people, facilities, and to modernize our aging infrastructure." Chew labeled his reorganization effort as the "next important step" in transitioning his ATO into the performance-based organization sought by Congress. The good news is that, for most operators, the coming changes will be mostly transparent. That's because Chew's plans mainly focus on administrative and staff support functions, not moving metal.

The latest changes to confront FAA's ATO appear to be part of a phased approach to implementing the organization, first begun in 2003. According to the ATO's implementation strategy, a three-phase program of implementation was begun last year, focused on "realignment and resource management." Yesterday's announcement appears to be part of that effort. Other phases are focused on controlling unit costs and cost accounting, as well as on improving the value of its services and promoting innovation. While significant details won't be available until Friday afternoon -- the FAA appears to be following the maxim of releasing bad news on a Friday -- Chew's letter states that much of the pending reorganization will be geographic in nature, with three ATO service areas -- Eastern, Central, and Western -- created. Administrative and staff support functions will be consolidated into three colocated shared service centers. Wrote Chew, "The restructuring will begin early in 2006 and be completed within 12 to 18 months; with relocations expected no earlier than June 2006."

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Eclipse 500 Receives FAA Type Inspection Authorization

Eclipse Aviation announced yesterday it has received Type Inspection Authorization (TIA) from the FAA for its forthcoming Eclipse 500 very light jet (VLJ). With this authorization, the FAA is saying the technical data required for Type Certification have reached a point where it appears to the agency the aircraft will meet FAA certification regulations. The practical effect is approving Eclipse's on-board aircraft testing of the Eclipse 500 for certification credit. According to Eclipse, it "demonstrated to the FAA that adequate development testing, analyses and design assurance have been achieved to allow formal entry into FAA certification testing." The company anticipates that, in coming months, the FAA will approve a series of TIAs allowing FAA engineers and test pilots to explore every facet of flying and operating the Eclipse 500.

"Thanks to the tireless work of the combined Eclipse and FAA team, today we are advancing to the next level of certification testing," said Vern Raburn, president and CEO of Eclipse Aviation. "We designed the Eclipse 500 to bring unprecedented value and performance to customers, and it's exciting to be taking a significant step forward in our journey toward certification and first customer deliveries next year." Eclipse has six preproduction aircraft, including one static test airframe and five flight test aircraft. The company's flight test fleet has completed a series of critical testing milestones including flutter and dive testing. Eclipse says the FAA will certify the airplane in early 2006, with first customer deliveries scheduled to follow.

NetJets To Buy 50 Hawkers

Last week, the Raytheon Aircraft Company and NetJets announced an agreement for the airframer to supply 50 medium-sized Hawker 4000 aircraft to supplement the fractional operator's global fleet. The combined total value of the deal -- a 10-year guaranteed maintenance program was also negotiated -- will exceed $1 billion, making it the largest single non-military order in Raytheon Aircraft's history. Deliveries will begin in 2007 and continue through 2013. The Hawker 4000 is Raytheon's new name for the Hawker Horizon, which the company labels as the "flagship" of its bizjet line. “In addition to the innovative design and superior performance of the Hawker 4000, Raytheon Aircraft Company’s commitment to customer service and quality aircraft were key factors in our decision to purchase the aircraft,” said Richard Santulli, chairman of NetJets Inc.

For his part, Jim Schuster, chairman and CEO of Raytheon Aircraft Company, added, “The NetJets name is synonymous with safety, quality and service, and I know that each and every Raytheon Aircraft Company employee is totally committed to ensuring that we meet the high standards of performance NetJets has come to expect from us." Powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PW308A engines delivering 6,900 lbs. of thrust each, the Hawker 4000 has a maximum cruise speed of 0.84 Mach. According to Raytheon, the 4000's wing design enhances the jet's high/hot and short-field performance; the newest Hawker can carry six passengers more than 3,000 nm at a 0.82 Mach cruise speed. The Hawker 4000's fuselage is constructed of advanced composite material and features a 72-inch, standup cabin 77.5 inches wide with a flat floor.

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Shhh...: Gulfstream Researching Sonic Boom Suppression

Can a supersonic bizjet be in our future? If Gulfstream Aerospace's ongoing roadshow, demonstrating what it calls its Supersonic Acoustic Signature Simulator II ™ (SASSII) in an apparent attempt to change existing federal regulation on supersonic flight over the U.S. is any indication, an SSBJ might be close than we think. According to Gulftream, its research into suppressing sonic booms caused by supersonic aircraft has led to SASSII's development, allowing it to demonstrate the results of its research by simulating the sound of supersonic flight: the “Gulfstream Whisper.” Gulfstream says its SASSII demonstrator has traveled extensively -- from Savannah to California to Washington, D.C. The 7-by-11-foot audio booth comprising SASSII, featuring a custom arrangement of high-fidelity speakers and housed in a 32-foot-long trailer, allows comparing the sound of traditional sonic booms to the Gulfstream Whisper. To date, more than 600 individuals have participated in the demonstration.

Gulfstream says is "Whisper" is the sound a person would hear if a supersonic aircraft fitted with Gulfstream’s patented spike for controlling and reducing sonic boom flew overhead at Mach 1.8, a speed approximately twice that of today’s subsonic jets. “We’ve essentially taken the ‘boom’ out of ‘sonic boom,’” said Pres Henne, senior vice president, programs, engineering and test, Gulfstream. “Based on our analysis and testing, the Gulfstream Whisper is so indistinct that most people on the ground wouldn’t even realize a supersonic aircraft had passed overhead.” According to the company, its technology changes the sonic boom's sound wave, resulting in a softer sound, one quieter than the Concorde's by a factor of 10,000. "In most situations, the Gulfstream Whisper would be imperceptible, masked by ambient noises," the company said in a press release. “We need the scientific, environmental and legislative communities to hear the Gulfstream Whisper,” said Henne. “Their collective support in generating acceptance of this technological breakthrough is essential to removing the sonic-boom barrier to supersonic civil transportation.” Toward that end, Gulfstream says NASA in July granted four industry teams $1 million each to investigate the feasibility of developing a demonstration airplane that, when flown at Mach 1 and beyond, is sufficiently quiet to fly over populated areas. Gulfstream is teamed with Northrop Grumman on its own effort.

Piaggio And Avantair Contract For 36 Aircraft

Piaggio America and Avantair last month inked a deal calling for 36 of the distinctive Italian-made Piaggio Avanti II aircraft to be delivered to the fractional operator beginning in 2008 and continuing through 2010. The deal is worth more than $230 million and represents the largest single order in the airframer's history. "The demand for Avanti II aircraft continues to increase and this agreement will assure Avantair of a steady stream of aircraft for its fractional fleet through 2010,” said Tom Appleton, Piaggio America president and CEO. The first Piaggio P.180 Avanti production model flew in May 1990, and was certified in October 1990. The first Avanti II was certified in October 2005, and is scheduled to be delivered in early 2006. The Avanti II features enhanced avionics, engines, speed, payload and cabin comfort.

The new model's flight deck includes the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics suite featuring three 10-by-8-inch LCDs, the FMS 3000 flight management system and the AHS 3000 attitude heading reference system. Other upgrades include Pratt & Whitney PT6A-66B engines, which are expected to add 12 knots or more to high-speed cruise. The Avanti II has a maximum cruise speed of 398 knots and is capable of flying 1,800 nm; its ceiling is FL410. The Avanti II also features an increase in maximum zero fuel weight, from 9,500 lbs. to 9,800 lbs., maximum takeoff weight from 11,550 lbs. to 12,050 lbs., and reduced empty weight. This increases the useful load by one to two passengers at longer ranges. Some Avanti II enhancements will eventually be made available for retrofit on the existing fleet.

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GROB SPn Utility Jet Update

GROB Aerospace recently provided an update on the flight-test program being conducted on the company's SPn Utility Jet, a lightweight jet announced earlier this year at the Paris Air Show. Unsurprisingly, GROB says its program -- and the airplane's performance -- continues to progress according to plans. So far, total test flights have numbered 46 since the new design first flew in July 2005. Tests have focused on "flight dynamics and performance, and included forward centre of gravity (CG) tests, initial Vmca flights, airflow visualization and tests of the airbrake and trim system," the company added. A second copy of the new jet is scheduled to join the flight-test program early next year.

In its update, GROB said the jet's flight envelope has been expanded to allow testing of stability and controllability at extreme forward centers of gravity (CG) and up to 250 KIAS. Additionally, preliminary testing is completed for heavy and lightweight landing and takeoff performance, all-engines and single-engine climb performance, mid-aft CG envelope expansion and pitot-static calibrations. Test cards scheduled for the near future include full stalls, engine-out minimum control airspeed, flutter, airframe icing and landing gear loads.

P&WC Expands Rapid Response Network

Pratt & Whitney Canada last month announced it is expanding its U.S.-based network of rapid response Mobile Repair Teams (MRTs) "to provide faster support to its engine customers." According to the company, five additional teams will be strategically located throughout the country to minimize any downtime, regardless of an operator's location. Each of the company's MRTs is composed of two specialists who are trained and equipped to perform 24/7 on-site work on P&WC powerplants, including the PW300, PW500, JT15D and PT6 engine series. Each team's capabilities include performing hot section inspections on the company's PW500, JT15D and PT6 engine families.

"With this expanded network, our engine customers will be assured of even faster response times to their maintenance needs," says Benoît Brossoit, vice president, Service Centres, P&WC. "We will now be in a better position than ever to dispatch a MRT within hours of a call to undertake required maintenance. Two new MRT teams have already been established in Chicago, Ill., and Charlotte, N.C. Additional teams will be in White Plains, N.Y., and Little Rock, Ark., plus Phoenix, Ariz., by the second quarter of 2006.

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TEB Plans Fee Increases

If the Port Authority of N.Y. and N.J. has its way -- and it usually does -- the so-called "flight" fees imposed at Teterboro (TEB) will go up as of Jan. 1. The fee increases are being imposed, says the authority, to help cover the costs of "increased operating, capital and safety improvement expenditures at the airport." Among the improvements for which the authority is seeking additional monies are taxiway pavement and edge lighting, plus enhancing the airport's drainage systems and new fire/rescue vehicles. Interested parties will have the opportunity to comment on the increased fees at the Port Authority's monthly airport manager's meeting, set for 10:00 am on Dec. 14.

Under the authority's plan, fees for aircraft with a maximum gross takeoff weight under 12,500 lbs. will increase from $15.00 to $22.50. Aircraft weighing 12,500 lbs., up to 80,000 lbs., will be assessed at $3.15 per 1,000 lbs. Aircraft weighing more than 80,000 will be charged $3.90 per each 1,000 lbs. All gross weights are based on FAA certification; yes, the Port Authority did place aircraft such as the King Air 200, which has a maximum gross takeoff weight of exactly 12,500 lbs, into the more costly category.

While NavCanada Proposing Its Own Changes

Meanwhile, ATC services provider NavCanada this month formally notified operators and the public of its proposed new and revised service charges for air navigation services. NavCanada said its new fee structure would become effective on March 1, 2006, and results from a review of its rate stabilization account and aeronautical publications plus the charging and cost-allocation methodologies it uses begun in January. According to the company, the proposed revisions represent changes in methodology only and are designed to result in the same total revenue for NavCanada, if not changes in costs for some operators. Under the proposed changes, NavCanada will be tweaking many of the fees it imposes, including the terminal services charge, the daily charges and the international communication services charge. Additionally, the organization is proposing increases in its rate stabilization account and changing its credit terms and conditions.

An example of what NavCanada has planned can be found in its proposed new daily charge at eight international airports for aircraft weighing three metric tons or less. After reviewing the annual charges imposed on smaller aircraft, NavCanada "believes that an additional charge -- over and above the annual and quarterly charges -- is warranted at the eight major international airports.... It seems fair and reasonable that aircraft weighing three ton or less ... should contribute more than the Annual and Quarterly charges." The new charges, said NavCanada, would "serve as an incentive for small aircraft to use reliever airports, which are available at nearly all locations." The company said it is accepting public comments on its proposals through Feb. 3, 2006.

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

Signature Continues Acquisitions

Three new acquisitions in California in recent weeks have brought the Signature Flight Support FBO chain to a total of 66 wholly owned facilities worldwide. The newest additions -- Long Beach Million Air Inc., at Long Beach Airport / Daugherty Field and at the Oxnard Airport near Santa Barbara, plus Million Air La Quinta at Jacqueline Cochran Regional Airport (TRM) in Riverside County, Calif. -- cements the chain's position at the top of the FBO ladder. As if there were any questions. In fact, the number of wholly owned FBOs does not include joint-venture FBOs, in Brazil (13) and Hong Kong.

“This acquisition represents another important strategic addition and further enhances Signature’s position as the world’s leading FBO network,” said Signature Flight Support parent company BBA Aviation Services Group President And Chief Executive Officer Bruce Van Allen of the Million Air La Quinta purchase. Signature is a unit of BBA Group, PLC, a London, England-based corporation. Among its other subsidiaries are ASIG, Dallas Airmotive, Premier Turbines, International Turbine Service, Barrett Turbine Engine Company and H+S Aviation. According to the company, Signature has purchased eight new FBOs worldwide over the past 12 months and expects to continue to aggressively grow its network in the immediate future.

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