Business NewsWire Complete Issue

March 29, 2006
By The AVweb Editorial Staff

ATG - A New Dawn of Business Jets

Cessna Celebrates Citation Encore+'s First Flight

The newest addition to Cessna's Citation bizjet stable took off for its first flight last week, marking a major milestone on the way to FAA certification. The event continues Cessna's relentless, machine-like ability to announce, certify and deliver to customers new airplanes on a pre-defined schedule. In the case of the Encore+, the type was first announced last November at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) convention in Orlando. Cessna said at the time that deliveries would start in February 2007, and the March 23 first flight indicates that, once again, the company is right on schedule. Cessna continues to expect FAA certification of the airplane in the early fourth quarter of this year. “We’ve set an ambitious certification schedule since we announced the Encore+ only five months ago at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) convention. We are pleased this first flight adheres to our schedule, marking a major milestone that moves us toward on-time customer deliveries in the first quarter of 2007,” said Lynn Young, Citation Encore+ program manager.

Now that the airplane's first flight is under its belt, Cessna said the next step toward certification involves refined development of avionics and engine software. The Encore+ succeeds the Citation Encore and is equipped with dual-channel FADEC engines and a full Collins Pro Line 21 avionics suite. When compared to the Encore, the "plus" version offers increased efficiency and payload capability, more standard equipment and new interior styling features like LED indirect cabin lighting. “During the one-hour and nine-minute test flight, the pilots flew an aggressive flight profile to test basic stability, flap and landing gear extension and retraction, controllability, trim actuation, engine operating characteristics and basic autopilot operation,” Young added. The Encore+ is powered by twin Pratt & Whitney Canada PW535B engines rated at 3,400 pounds of thrust. Maximum takeoff weight for the Citation Encore+ has been increased by 200 pounds over the Encore, enabling the typical operator to have a full-fuel payload (in addition to two pilots) in excess of 1,100 pounds. Cessna expects to certify the Citation Encore+ for single-pilot operation.

Gulfstream, Rockwell Collins Get Wired

Some say there are two kinds of people: those who want to be able to check their e-mail or AVweb's latest news while at FL450 over Kansas, and those who don't. Until recently, the technology to access the Internet was both slow in coming and slow in operation -- it probably had something to do with dragging all that telephone cable aloft. Nowadays, however, if you have the physical space and the payload capability to install the necessary hardware, just about any aircraft can be equipped for broadband Internet access. Most recently, two companies -- Gulfstream Aerospace and Rockwell Collins -- announced government approvals for their respective broadband technologies and have hit the streets trying to sell them. For example, Gulfstream this month announced that the GIV, GIV-SP, G400 and G300 bizjets can be retrofitted with the company's ultra-high-speed Broad Band Multi-Link data system, or BBML for short. The BBML has already been available under a supplemental type certificate (STC), in the G450/G550 and G550/500, as well as in the GV. The FAA on March 16 granted the company an STC for the additional models and says the latest approval also includes VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) capability. Meanwhile, Rockwell Collins said this week it had received Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approval to offer its eXchange broadband data and live TV solution for installation and full operation on a customer aircraft in the United States. This FCC action follows an experimental license granted to eXchange in 2005, which allowed for the initial deployment and testing of eXchange.

Gulfstream says its BBML data system allows passengers to perform any Web-based task at the same speed found in most corporate offices. As of late February, the BBML system, which employs the SKYLink by ARINC Direct broadband satellite service, has been installed in nine G550s, six G450s, one GV and two GIVs, and more than 20 more systems are under contract. Meanwhile, Rockwell Collins began installing its eXchange system in Samsung Techwin's two Bombardier Global Express XRS business jets, as well as on a Bombardier Global 5000 demonstrator aircraft, last November. An additional customer has also selected eXchange for its Global Express XRS business jet. The company said its system will be the first to offer live broadband television while flying over oceanic regions. eXchange TV provides up to four channels around the globe of time-sensitive programming through agreements with premium providers such as MSNBC, CNBC, BBC World, EuroNews and EuroSportNews. Most of the rest of us will be stuck with the existing alternatives, many of which are ground-based. That is, of course, unless aircraft using the Gulfstream or Rockwell Collins systems also install a WiFi router, and we fly in close formation with them.

Embraer Goes Paperless, Completes Phenom 100 Definition

Earlier this month, Brazilian airframer Embraer announced it and the company's prime component suppliers had completed the initial design and engineering phase for the Phenom 100 light jet announced last year. Embraer calls this progress "completion of the Joint Definition Phase," which the company said was largely conducted without paper on a conventional drafting table. According to Embraer, the process involved a multidisciplinary team of more than 300 Embraer engineers collaborating with suppliers to finalize the Phenom 100's design. The process also involved certification authorities to ensure their requirements can be met. At the end of the JDP process, the Phenom 100 team completed the Preliminary Design Review and developed a digital mock-up of the aircraft, which was then used to create a full-scale physical mock-up at BMW Group DesignworksUSA. The digital mock-up also provides a platform for engineering experts to complete structural and aerodynamic analyses, design production planning through digital manufacturing, and determine assembly logistics.

“Embraer has a successful history of delivering quality aircraft that answer market needs,” said Luís Carlos Affonso, senior vice president for Executive Aviation. “We are committed to product excellence and we are dedicating 300 of our prime engineering teams and its resources to work for the business jet market in the design of the Phenom 100 to offer premium comfort with luxury, simplicity and power performance.” To achieve those goals, Embraer said the manufacturing processes and tooling established for the Phenom 100 prototype will be honed for use in the production line. The Phenom 100 is now in the detailed design and certification phase and the first components have been designed using electronic signatures, which Embraer says will enable a paperless and swift approval process. In 2005, Embraer selected the Phenom 100 primary suppliers. BMW Group DesignworksUSA created the airplane's interior design while Pratt & Whitney Canada was chosen for its PW617F engines. Garmin will supply the avionics for the Prodigy flight deck and Eaton Aerospace will provide hydraulics, flap actuators, thrust control, landing gear control lever, and landing gear hydraulic components.

Jet Aviation Completes Midcoast Aviation Acquisition

Swiss-based Jet Aviation Group said last week it had completed the acquisition process for its purchase of U.S.-based Midcoast Aviation from the Sabreliner Corporation. Terms of the acquisition, which was first formally announced in January and finalized on March 20, were not disclosed. Midcoast Aviation is a well-known and well-respected full-service corporate jet aircraft maintenance, modification and completion provider employing some 875 professionals. It has operations at St. Louis Downtown Airport and Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, both in the St. Louis, Mo., area. The company specializes in service and support for top-tier aircraft and is an authorized service center/facility for Dassault Falcon Jet, Raytheon Corporate Jets and Bombardier Aerospace. “Jet Aviation and Midcoast Aviation strategically complement one another and as a group we will now also become a major provider of completions, modification and maintenance services in North America,” said Heinz Köhli, CEO of Jet Aviation Group. “We are pleased that this deal has been finalized and will continue working with our majority shareholder, Permira Funds, toward additional global expansion.”

“The Midcoast acquisition is a win-win for both companies, greatly enhancing Jet Aviation’s presence in North America and raising Midcoast’s profile internationally,” said Theo Staub, president and COO of Jet Aviation North America. “More importantly, our clients will benefit from the harmonious combination of our expert skills and shared commitment to providing exceptional service.” “The resources of Jet Aviation Group will continue to support Midcoast growth, just as Sabreliner has for more than a decade. Our company has aggressive expansion plans to meet the growing demand for top-tier business aircraft maintenance, modification and completions services,” added Kurt Sutterer, president of Midcoast Aviation. “We look forward to expanding our reach with the Jet Aviation Group.” Midcoast retains its name with the addition of “A Jet Aviation Company,” and continues to operate with a consistent team in place under the leadership of Sutterer, who now reports directly to Staub.

PWC Delivers First PW615F Cessna Citation Mustang Engine

Pratt & Whitney Canada (PWC) on March 16 delivered the first PW615F engine to Cessna Aircraft Company for the new Citation Mustang business jet. The engine will be installed on the first Citation Mustang to be built at Cessna's assembly facility in Independence, Kan. The PW615, rated at 1,350 lbs. of thrust and featuring a dual-channel Full Authority Digital Electronic Control (FADEC), offers the latest technology in a bizjet engine and, according to PWC, optimum value and performance with significantly reduced ownership costs. It was selected in January 2003 to power the Citation Mustang. "This is an exciting milestone for both Pratt & Whitney Canada and Cessna Aircraft," said Alain M. Bellemare, president of PWC.

Delivery of the first PW615F engine comes just two months after PWC received Transport Canada type certification for the engine series. Also this week, the company officially inaugurated the new PW600 assembly and test facility at its main manufacturing plant in Longueuil, Quebec. This new state-of-the-art facility is dedicated to support production of the PW600-series engines. "We are ready to ramp up production for this new exciting engine family," commented Bellemare. "We already have a strong demand for the PW600, and we've built capacity to meet the high volumes."

Raytheon Upgrades Leadership

Raytheon Aircraft Company (RAC) this week said it named two existing employees to new positions as it backfilled a newly vacant slot. Under the changes, Randy Groom has been appointed president, Global Customer Service and Support, and Brad Hatt assumes the role of president, Global Commercial Sales for Beechcraft and Hawker aircraft. The changes come in the wake of a vacancy in leadership of the company's customer service and support organization; Ed Dolanski, who previously held the slot now occupied by Groom, is taking a key position with another business unit of Raytheon Company. “Five years ago we set a goal to provide the finest service and support the industry has ever seen. And from the perspective that matters most – our customers’ – we have made wonderful progress toward that objective. The changes we are announcing today will allow us to build on this progress, while even further deepening our company-wide commitment to this critical objective,” said Raytheon Aircraft Company Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Schuster.

Groom, a 33-year industry veteran, brings multiple perspectives to this role. He is a pilot with more than 9,500 hours in all types of piston engine, turboprop and jet aircraft, and personally understands what pilots are looking for in customer support. Before rejoining RAC in 2003 as president and general manager of the Beechcraft business, Groom spent 17 years in the aircraft services and dealership business responsible for the “front lines” of product support. Hatt previously was president and general manager of the Hawker business. He is an active pilot with 14 years service at RAC, and has held numerous sales and marketing positions spanning all products. According to Raytheon, Hatt is widely recognized as a forward-thinking leader and respected for his “customer first” style.

Sino Swearingen Taps Stevens Aviation For Customer Service Network

Sino Swearingen Aircraft Corporation (SSAC) last week announced it selected Stevens Aviation as the provider of the company's first North American Authorized Service Facilities for the SJ30-2 business jet. The SJ30-2 -- which is close to FAA certification -- is a high-performance light jet with a range of more than 2,500 nm and a cruise speed of Mach .83. Stevens Aviation is a full-service, FAA-certified repair station offering heavy airframe and engine maintenance, advanced avionics installation and repair, paint and interior refurbishment, and parts sales at five locations nationwide. Stevens Aviation also has an aircraft sales/research division and charter operations. Stevens Aviation has more than 50 years in the industry and maintains recognized facilities located in Colorado, Ohio, Tennessee, and South Carolina.

Dr. Ching Kuo, chairman and CEO of SSAC, said, "As we begin delivering the SJ30-2 to our customers, it is critical to service these aircraft with as little down time as possible. Stevens Aviation has the reputation in the general aviation industry of being extremely accomplished and reliable in servicing light jets. We are very pleased to have them as an entrusted partner to make the maintenance of our aircraft as convenient to our customers as possible." Larry Baker, executive vice president, Operations of Stevens Aviation Inc., added, "We consider Sino Swearingen's selection of Stevens Aviation as their first Authorized Service Facility to be a great honor. Our service center network has the infrastructure in place and is poised to support the SJ30-2 entrance into service."

Gulfstream Names New Pre-Owned Aircraft Sales Director

Gulfstream Aerospace earlier this month hired James S. Ross as director of its pre-owned aircraft sales operation in the western U.S. and Canada, Central and South America, Australia and Asia. Ross most recently served as a regional vice president for TAG Aviation. Prior to that service, he was the senior vice president for ExcelAire Service in Islip, N.Y., specializing in air charters and aircraft management. He began his career with Bombardier Aerospace, working his way up from marketing coordinator to a sales director for the Western United States and Canada. “Jim’s experience in this industry is a great asset,” said Matt Hartnett, vice president, Pre-Owned Aircraft Sales, Gulfstream. “He brings over 25 years of aviation sales expertise to assist in our sales effort. He worked as a sales director for new and pre-owned business jets and has even helped launch a fractional ownership company.”

Ross earned a bachelor of commerce and marketing degree from McGill University in Montreal. He is a member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and as a pilot, has earned his commercial, instrument, multi-engine and instructor ratings in both the United States and Canada. He will be based in Southern California. Gulfstream has another pre-owned aircraft sales director, whose responsibilities include the eastern United States and Canada, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Signature Opens New Facility At Indianapolis

Signature Flight Support this month celebrated the grand opening of its new executive terminal at Indianapolis International Airport (IND), just in time for the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament, which is being held in that city beginning April 1. "Indianapolis has the reputation of being an elite city for hosting world-class events, and Signature's new terminal will certainly give visitors a great and lasting first impression of Indianapolis," said Indianapolis Deputy Mayor Steve Campbell, who helped cut the ribbon on the new facility. The new FBO facility has already received numerous parking reservations for the event. According to Signature IND general manager Dennis Provo, the FBO is well-prepared for the influx of teams and supporters the tournament will bring. Provo and his staff handle hundreds of aircraft arrivals and departures during the city’s three major professional car races each summer.

The new facility is a 6,500-square-foot glass and steel structure. Geoff Heck, regional vice president for Signature, was also on hand to commemorate the event. In his comments during the celebration, he noted that the new facility is one of four Signature executive terminal construction projects currently underway around the country. The others are being built at the Boston – Logan International Airport (BOS), Palwaukee Municipal Airport (PWK) in Chicago and the Palm Springs International Airport (PSP).

Europe Gets New Helicopter Charter Card

Charter "card" programs, allowing customers to pre-pay for their travel in exchange for reduced rates and other services, have grown very popular among companies and individuals with the need to fly but lacking the resources or the will to buy their own business aircraft. Most charter brokers offer them, as do many of the fractional operations, as another way to establish and maintain brand loyalty. Recently, the idea has migrated from fixed-wing aircraft to rotary-winged charters and, this month, French helicopter and business jet charter company Aviaxess launched Europe’s first helicopter card, the Corporate Helicard, and plans to expand it throughout the region if demand grows. Paris-based Aviaxess has established operator members in 12 European cities, says president Frederic Aguettant, giving the company access to 35 helicopters ranging from the Eurocopter AS350 light single to the Sikorsky S-76 medium twin. The Helicard is available in 25- and 50-hour blocks at a fixed price throughout Europe. Pricing for 25 hours aboard an AS350 costs $31,800, although a customer who uses the helicopter for half a day “will only be charged for one hour,” according to Aguettant.

Aviaxess owns and manages a fleet of six helicopters, including a Eurocopter EC135 and AgustaWestland A109 Power. According to Aguettant, forming relationships with established operators in mainland Europe has been a challenge. “Here, helicopters are commonly used for aerial work and not for VIP transport,” so many aircraft are ill-equipped to ferry business passengers, he says. Aviaxess says it is in talks with Europe’s leading business aircraft fractional ownership and charter companies, including NetJets Europe and Skyjet International, in an attempt to offer quicker and direct transportation to their final destinations.

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