February 22, 2006
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
It was a very good year for most companies in the aerospace industry. As this edition of AVweb's BizAvFlash notes, several companies recently delivered glowing reports of their successes in 2005 along with rosy predictions for the coming year. In no particular order, we'll start with Bombardier Aerospace, which last week said that it delivered 337 aircraft for its fiscal year ended Jan. 31, 2006, compared to 329 deliveries in the previous fiscal year. For business aircraft, the company delivered 186 units, compared to 128 for the same period last year, an increase of 45 percent. Ninety of the business aircraft delivered this fiscal year were of the latest Bombardier business jets: the Global Express XRS, Bombardier Global 5000, Challenger 300 and Learjet 40 XR.
Regional aircraft deliveries totaled 149 aircraft, compared to 200 for the same period last year due largely to a significant reduction in CRJ200 aircraft deliveries. "We are harvesting the fruit of many years of investment in the development of innovative aircraft platforms," said Pierre Beaudoin, president and chief operating officer, Bombardier Aerospace. "Bombardier has generated tremendous market interest worldwide as operators and owners benefit from the superior technology and outstanding value offered by our growing family of aircraft. In the regional aircraft segment, within a context of high oil prices, renewed interest in our highly efficient Q Series turboprop aircraft has also resulted in increased deliveries. We are the leader in the 20- to 90-seat segment and continue to look at new opportunities in the upper end of the regional aircraft market," he added.
Not to be outdone -- by a wide margin, in fact -- Cessna Aircraft Company also listed its 2005 results and looked ahead to 2006. Among the highlights at Cessna were delivery of 249 Citation business jets, 822 single-engine piston airplanes, and 86 Caravan single-engine turboprops. The company says it racked up total orders for 788 jets and 1,198 single-engine piston and turbine aircraft, worth a total of $6.3 billion. It also obtained FAA certification for two new jets -- the Citation CJ1+ and Citation CJ2+ -- and, in our gilding-the-lily department, type certification of the Garmin G1000-equipped Skyhawk. In 2005, Cessna announced the Citation Encore+ (first customer deliveries expected in February 2007), and continued developing its entry in the coming very light jet sweepstakes, the Citation Mustang.
Two milestones Cessna reached in 2006 worth mentioning include delivery of the 6,000th single-engine piston airplane since production restarted in 1996 and delivery of the 1,500th Caravan turboprop. Looking forward, Cessna says it plans to deliver between 295 and 300 jets in 2006, a 19-percent increase over the 249 jets delivered in 2005. If you want one, we hope you placed your order some time ago, since the company says it is essentially "sold out" for 2006 business jet production, and has a nearly identical number of orders for 2007. Certification of the Citation Mustang is expected in late 2006. There are currently more than 230 orders for the Citation Mustang, selling out production of this model into 2009. Since the company was established in 1927, more than 187,000 Cessna airplanes have been delivered throughout the world and the global fleet of more than 4,500 Citations is the largest fleet of business jets in the world.
If Dassault's 2005 sales success bears any relation to the quality of last year's French wine, we'll be laying in a few cases. The airframer last week announced 2005 was its "best year ever for Falcon business jets," with a total of 123 firm orders, the first time the company sold over 100 Falcons in one year. Making the achievement all the more remarkable is that Dassault says not a single one of the transactions involves multiple sales to a fractional operator. If our math is correct, all those French bizjets accounted for 1.632 billion Euros in sales. "The year 2005 represents a high mark in the history of the Falcon program," said company Chairman and CEO Charles Edelstenne. "And demand is strong worldwide. Traditionally, about 60% of our sales have come from the U.S. This year, that percentage will be about 50%. It's not a sign of a weakening market in the U.S, but a sign of strengthening demand globally."
At the end of 2005, Dassault had a total production backlog of more than 200 aircraft. More than 60 aircraft will be delivered in 2006, comparing favorably to 51 in 2005. A similar delivery rate increase is planned for 2007. The company said its sales growth was particularly strong in Western Europe, Russia and Ukraine as well as the Middle East. Brazil and South America continued to show strength especially with the Falcon 2000EX and Falcon 7X. Last year also saw Dassault rack up several milestones, including the first flight of its Falcon 7X and Falcon 900DX variants. The 900DX achieved both EASA and FAA certification in October 2005, and deliveries began shortly afterward. The Falcon 900DX has achieved strong global demand and 15 aircraft are currently in various stages of production. And the company announced in October it was beginning work on the Falcon 2000DX, another improved version of an existing type.
Meanwhile, Dassault's Falcon 7X program is getting a lot of attention inside the company, in hopes the to-be-certified growth version of the company's venerable trijet will help lead the company to even better years of marketing. Announced last October at NBAA were design improvements for the 7X that could increase the range from 5,700 nm to 6,000 nm. Now, Dassault says it has boosted the new jet's payload by 50%. Additional fuel tanks have been installed in the plane's forward section and testing on the stronger landing gear and brakes needed, as well as the airframe itself, have been performed and validated. To accommodate the increased MTOW, thrust for the Pratt & Whitney Canada 307A engines has been increased. The initial flat-rated thrust was 6,100 lbs. per engine at ISA +18C; the new per-engine thrust will be set at 6,400 lbs. under identical conditions. Even better: engine performance targets will have no impact on the maintenance time between overhauls.
Olivier Villa, senior vice president of Civil Aircraft at Dassault Aviation, said, "Over the past several years, I've had the opportunity to meet a lot of 7X prospects and customers. That has helped us refine the vision and get a better understanding of their mission requirements. It was clear that some of them wished to have additional margins to perform their missions in adverse weather conditions and without payload limitations." Continued Villa, "We decided to increase the aircraft range and payload capacity in order to meet and exceed their additional requirements." A number of other refinements and modifications are being developed for the 7X, including winglets, which were initially set aside after early wind-tunnel tests. Now, however, the winglets are back, after flight tests confirmed their benefits during long-range flights. And a secondary rudder has been removed to allow what the company called "more natural" shaping of the aft fuselage. An added benefit was simplification of the airplane's fly-by-wire flight control system. Dassault says final specifications and performance figures will be confirmed after new flight tests. Certification is expected to take place in early 2007 with first deliveries beginning shortly after.
It must be that time of year -- airframe manufacturers are coming out of the woodwork to deliver glowing reports of their achievements in the previous year and updates on their various development programs. Not to be left out, Adam Aircraft earlier this month reminded us that it received the FAA Type Certificate for its A500 push me/pull you piston twin in May, leading to the first two deliveries by year's end. As we reported earlier this month, however, the company still has a ways to go before removing some fairly significant operating restrictions on the A500. Nevertheless, Adam says it has developed many A500 upgrades, including a production interior, passive restraints and airbags, an STC (Supplemental Type Certificate) with the aircrafts Avidyne Entegra avionics panel, and all maintenance and parts documentation. Also in 2005, Adam readied s/n 002 of its A700 Adam Jet, which will serve as the standard production and FAA certification aircraft. Presently, Adam says it has increased its backlog of orders from individual owners, fleet companies and air taxi operators from 222 aircraft worth $435 million on Dec. 31, 2004, to 358 aircraft valued at $730 million as of Dec. 31, 2005.
Rick Adam, Adam Aircraft founder and chief executive officer, noted, The team worked diligently all year and stayed focused on completing our short-term objectives that helped us achieve our long-term goals. This hard work paid off as we offered superior value and performance throughout the year to both customers and investors. The firm achieved our most significant milestone in November, when we completed our first customer delivery, Serial Number 005 of the A500 piston twin aircraft. Adam continued, This achievement moved Adam Aircraft from a developmental company to an FAA-certified manufacturer delivering standard airworthiness-certificated aircraft. In November, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) Board of Directors unanimously voted Adam Aircraft into its national trade association, which represents the leading general aviation manufacturers. Also in November, A500 s/n 002 completed the first-ever Adam Aircraft international flight, flying to the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic during a five-day mission.
It's been almost four years since Gulfstream Aerospace's Enhanced Vision System (EVS) was first placed into service as an FAA-certified synthetic flight visibility aid aboard a U.S. Air Force C-37A/Gulfstream V, in May 2002. This week, Gulfstream noted that its EVS is operating on 213 in-service Gulfstream business-jet aircraft, including some 92 copies of the company's G550 and G450 jets. The Gulfstream EVS is a proven navigational safety system, said Pres Henne, senior vice president, programs, engineering and test, Gulfstream. We knew four years ago that this was a revolutionary system and decided then to seamlessly integrate it into the flight decks of our new aircraft models. The EVS is standard equipment on the G550 and G450 and is a factory option on new G500 and G350 aircraft. It can be retrofitted to GV, GIV/GIV-SP, G400 and G300 business jets. To date, Gulfstream has retrofitted EVS into a total of 118 customer aircraft, including G500s, GVs, GIV-SPs, G400s, G350s and G300s.
The Gulfstream EVS system, developed in cooperation with Kollsman Inc., is based on a specially designed forward-looking infrared (FLIR) camera that projects an infrared real-world image onto the pilots head-up display (HUD). Using the EVS, pilots can "see" otherwise-invisible objects at night or during inclement weather. In 2004, the FAA implemented a FAR Part 91 rule change that allows pilots to use enhanced flight visibility systems down to an altitude of 100 feet above a runways touchdown zone. The FAA initially certified the system on Sept. 14, 2001.
Bombardier Aerospace last week said it would again offer turbine conversion kits for its CL-215 amphibious aircraft after nine orders were placed by the two western Canada provinces, a private U.S. operator, and Buffalo Airways Ltd. of the Northwest Territories, Canada. The kits convert the piston-powered CL-215 into CL-215T aircraft, powered by two PW123AF Pratt & Whitney turboprop engines. Total value of the nine orders is approximately $85 million U.S. The converted aircraft will also feature improved and modernized structural components, electrical distribution system and engine fuel system, in addition to the replacement of manual flight controls by powered systems to benefit from added engine power and reduced pilot workload. Once modified, the aircraft will perform similarly to the renowned Bombardier 415 firefighting aircraft.
This is not a new venture, said Michel Bourgeois, president, Bombardier Amphibious Aircraft. Seventeen CL-215 were converted in the late 1980s, two with the province of Québec and 15 in Spain, and they have since flown over 70,000 hours and performed more than 170,000 drops. Offering solutions such as conversion kits demonstrates our long-term commitment towards supporting the operators of Bombardiers amphibious aircraft. The Bombardier 215T has a maximum cruise speed of about 189 KTAS and, in an average mission of six nm from water to fire, can complete nine drops in an hour, delivering 12,535 U.S. gallons of fire suppressant.
We're fairly certain last week's failure of an Airbus A380 wing during a static load test conducted in France will have little impact on the type's certification and service entry. Still, it was an embarrassment for Airbus and its Wichita-based unit, Airbus North America Engineering, may have a little more work to do before placing paying passengers aboard what will eventually be the largest commercial airliner in the world. According to The Wichita Eagle newspaper, a static-load test of an example wing resulted in a fracture as it reached 145% of its limit load, or 3.3% short of its target. At that point, according to the newspaper, the wing had been deflected more than 24 feet at is tip. The fracture occurred in a portion of the wing, presumably the main spar, between the inner and outer engine mounting points.
According to the Eagle, "Airbus spokeswoman Barbara Kracht said the wings of the 555-seater may require 'refinements at certain points' as a result of the fracture." The company's engineers, working with the European Aviation Safety Agency and the FAA, will review the structural failure and determine what engineering changes must be made to the wings before the design can be certified. The Eagle quoted Airbus's Kracht as saying, "We will need to find out from the data what is really needed, but it's certainly not a redesign of the wing." Still, it's not a good thing that the wing of your newest offering fails in its first static load test. Singapore Airlines is the A380 launch customer.
If the fractional industry's 800-lb. gorilla is bulking up by hiring new pilots, is that good or bad for the rest of the industry? No, we don't have the answer -- yet -- but we might by the end of the year. NetJets Aviation said last week that it plans to hire some 450 additional pilots in 2006 -- an increase of 19% over its current flight crew complement. According to the company, the new hires will meet the increased demands of the company's apparently growing fractional aircraft operation. Presently, the NetJets fleet consists of more 420 aircraft, which flew more than 300,000 flights to over 140 countries in 2005.
NetJets employs the world's best pilots, said Gary Hart, vice president of flight operations and director of operations for NetJets. We are looking for dynamic individuals who have the technical skills and training necessary to join our growing team. The new pilots will have home bases at Columbus International Airport (Ohio), Teterboro Airport (N.J.), West Palm Beach International Airport (Fla.), Los Angeles International Airport (Calif.), and Dallas Love Field (Texas). Pilots interested in applying should visit the company's Web site for more information. In 2005, NetJets announced a new labor agreement resulting in salaries among the highest in the industry.
Flexjet, the fractional operation run by Canadian airframer Bombardier, said this week it is expanding its services into its home country. In essence, Flexjet is diverting three aircraft in its corporate fleet -- two Learjet 45s and a Challenger 604 -- to dedicated domestic service out of Montreal. Initially, ten pilots will crew the three jets. Bombardier said its new "Flexjet Canada" service will enable, for the first time, travel between locations within Canada for owners based there. Along with the new point-to-point service within Canada, the company hopes the additional capacity will improve service for customers traveling between Canada and the U.S.
We now have the ability to offer Flexjet owners travel within Canada, which represents a tremendous opportunity to expand our services there and introduce more people to the outstanding Flexjet travel experience, said Sylvain Lévesque, vice president, Bombardier Flexjet. Our new Flexjet Canada service is yet another indication of our ongoing commitment to providing our owners with industry-leading service, value and choice, he added.
Signature Flight Support last week said it named Mike Conrad as general manager of its FBO at McCarran International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas. Conrad had been with the Aircraft Service International Group (ASIG), a "sister" company of Signature's owned by parent BBA Aviation Services Group, where he served as regional vice president. Conrad has also served multiple posts within Signature, including regional vice president and general manager. His nearly 40 years of aviation experience include several positions at Hughes Aviation, Signatures predecessor at LAS. Conrad also served as an infantryman in Vietnam for the U.S. Army.
We are pleased to have Mike back within the Signature family, said Eric Hietala, regional vice president for the western region. His significant experience and knowledge of the Las Vegas market place is a steady hand at the helm of Signatures very busy FBO at McCarran. Other BBA Aviation Services Group companies include: Dallas Airmotive, Premier Turbines, International Turbine Service, Barrett Turbine Engine Company and H+S Aviation.
AVweb's sister publications Aviation Consumer and IFR want to hear pilot's experiences with non-jet fractional ownership companies. If you own, or have owned, a share in a piston-powered aircraft through a fractional ownership company and are interested in sharing your experiences, drop a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
...the next issue of AVweb's BizAVflash will be e-mailed to you on Mar. 15. See you then...
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