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Printer-Friendly Version

April 12, 2006

Business NewsWire Complete Issue

By The AVweb Editorial Staff

ATG - A New Dawn of Business Jets

Bombardier Flies Lear 60XR For First Time

Bombardier flew the newest addition to its Learjet fleet for the first time last week, taking the Learjet 60XR for a 2-plus-20 hop out of the Rockwell Collins facility at Cedar Rapids, Iowa. According to the company, the first flight was "rigorous," and took place under sunny and windy conditions at 1:47 p.m. The first Learjet 60 XR (serial number 60-294) returned on schedule at 4:07 p.m. local time, after climbing to 17,500 feet and accelerating to a maximum true airspeed of 310 knots; its takeoff weight was 20,000 pounds. The three crewmembers -- PIC Douglas May, a 15-year career pilot, flight test engineer Bernie Hayes and SIC Keith Kankelfitz of Rockwell Collins -- conducted specific testing to evaluate the new model's Pro Line 21 integrated displays, including the edge-to-edge ADIs (Attitude Deviation Indicators), and the FMS (Flight Management Systems)-to-avionics interface. In fact, you could say the 60XR is all about the avionics, which also includes integrated electronic charting features, and which were evaluated during the approaches back into the Eastern Iowa Airport. In addition to the newly installed "magic," the Learjet 60XR also features a redesigned cabin with five different floorplans, a larger galley and lavatory, plus a new cabin management system with 3-inch LCD control modules and ports for laptops, iPods and other audio/video equipment. New-tech LED lighting is featured throughout the cabin.

“The new avionics system certainly proved its worth, making it simpler to stay connected with the world outside the aircraft,” reported pilot May. “The ADIs provided an easy-to-interpret reference for all aircraft attitudes. The FMS-to-avionics interface successfully delivered more critical flight information with greater ease; and chart operations were intuitive and provided exceptional situational awareness.” In addition to its other features, the Learjet 60XR's Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 flight deck includes four 8-inch-by-10-inch high-resolution liquid crystal display adaptive flight screens, boosting the overall display area by an impressive 75 percent and dramatically increasing the quality of the visuals. The integrated flight information system, which includes accessing electronic charts as standard equipment, allows pilots to view approach plates and airport diagrams. Flight deck certification by the FAA is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2006, with certification by Transport Canada and the European Aviation Safety Agency expected to follow shortly thereafter. The first Learjet 60 XR aircraft is currently on schedule to enter service in the first quarter of 2007.

Embraer Phenom 100 Launch Price Offer Extended

If you're lucky enough to have the ability to stroke a check for a new Embraer Phenom 10, you'd better hurry: The price will go up soon. Embraer said last week it will be ending its introductory pricing of the four-passenger light jet. Effective June 1, 2006, the price of the to-be-FAA-certified jet will be $2.85 million (in 2005 economic conditions), up from $ 2.75 million. Embraer says the Phenom 100 will have a range of 1,160 nm with NBAA IFR reserves with all four passenger seats filled and will have a maximum operating speed of Mach 0.7. The airplane will be optimized for short-field takeoff performance, according to the company, and be certified to FL410. The Phenom 100 is expected to enter service in mid-2008.

"The market’s response to the Phenom 100 ... has surpassed our expectations,” said Luís Carlos Affonso, Embraer senior vice president, Executive Aviation Market. “We will continue to offer the Phenom 100 at its launch price through May of this year to extend the opportunity for more customers to experience its unequalled space and luxurious comfort.” Onboard conveniences Embraer plans for the Phenom 100 and its larger sibling, the Phenom 300, include a wardrobe or refreshment center, an aft cabin private lavatory with toiletry cabinet, and satellite communications.

Citation Mustang Testing Continues

Last week at the annual Sun 'n Fun fly-in extravaganza at Lakeland, Fla., Cessna updated the industry on the progress it is making toward bringing to market its contender in the very light jet (VLJ) sweepstakes. The company said its Citation Mustang program continues to move toward certification and first delivery, both of which are scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2006. If current and announced certification schedules for both the Cessna Citation Mustang and the Eclipse 500 hold, that means as little as a bit more than three months could separate FAA certification of the two newest -- and perhaps most anticipated -- business jets. Most recently, according to Cessna, the Mustang prototype, serial number 0001, along with serial number 0002, have accumulated more than 850 total flight hours. Currently, the company's focus is to work its way through the certification flights proving the avionics and autopilot, systems, and aerodynamics -- including stability and control -- meet FAA certification standards. Cessna reports that all major airframe static tests are complete, and that fatigue testing is more than 80 percent complete.

As AVweb has reported, the Mustang's Pratt & Whitney Canada PW615F dual-channel FADEC engines have already been certified. Meanwhile, Cessna said serial numbers 0003 through 0009 have started down the line at the company's plant in Independence, Kan. -- the new facility producing Cessna's single-engine piston line -- which will be the assembly point for the new jet. In fact, Mustang serial number 0004 will be the first Cessna jet to be fully assembled outside of Wichita. Once certified, the Mustang will seat up to six and include single-pilot certification under FAR Part 23. It will cruise at 340 KTAS and feature a maximum operating ceiling of FL410. Currently, more than 230 Mustangs are on order; Cessna says production is sold out into 2009.

Bombardier Places First Challenger 850 Corporate Shuttle Into Service

Bombardier said late last month that its first Challenger 850 corporate shuttle has entered service. The 50-passenger, regional-jet-derived, high-utilization airframe is to be used by Suncor Energy Inc., a Western Canada energy concern, which will use it to fly the operator's personnel and contractors between its Calgary headquarters and Fort McMurray in northern Alberta six days a week. Launched in May 2005, the Bombardier Challenger 850 corporate shuttle is based on the company's CRJ200 regional airliner and builds on that market's demand for low direct operating costs, high-percentage dispatch reliability and ease of maintenance, if not cabin amenities and luxury. Other corporate shuttles Bombardier would like to sell you include the Challenger 870 and Challenger 890.

“The Challenger 850 corporate shuttle represents an ideal solution for Suncor,” commented Eric Axford, vice president, Business Services, Suncor Energy. “Now, more people working on our technology-based projects will be able to commute between the two cities with ease and comfort. We view this aircraft as an investment in people and productivity.” Like its scheduled kin, the Challenger 850 shuttle is capable of a high cruise speed of Mach 0.80; it can fly up to 2,231 nm with 27 passengers, or operators can choose to stop for gas after 1,427 nm and carry a full 50-passenger load. The Challenger 870 and Challenger 890 shuttles, derivatives of the 70-seat Bombardier CRJ700 and 90-seat CRJ900 respectively, can fly at Mach 0.82.

Flight Options Gets Safety Kudos

For most people with the potential to buy all or part of a business jet, safety is a paramount concern. Realizing this, fractional operator Flight Options may have something of an advantage over some of its competition: The company said yesterday it had been rated Platinum by the Aviation Research Group/US (ARG/US), the highest status rating given by the aviation research firm, an achievement closely following the company's becoming the first fractional operator approved by the FAA to participate in an Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP). The ARG/US rating recognizes the company as adhering to the same safety standards as the United States Department of Defense and the commercial airlines, and includes an on-site audit of its operation, aircraft and pilots. The company's approval in the FAA's ASAP program, which was originally designed only for scheduled carriers, enhances aviation safety by encouraging flight crews to voluntarily report critical safety information, helping to proactively identify and correct hazards.

“The Platinum rating is assigned to companies who meet or exceed the established ARG/US standards for equipment, maintenance and crew experience,” said Joe Moeggenberg, president of ARG/US. “The company is commended for their unwavering commitment to the safety of their owners.” Flight Options, the fractional operation of the Raytheon Company, operates the world’s largest fleets of Beechjet 400As and Legacy Executive aircraft. Flight Options’ fleet also includes the Hawker 400XP, Hawker 800XP and the Cessna Citation X.

Eclipse Breaks Ground On New Factory Service Center

Eclipse Aviation and the Gainesville-Alachua County Regional Airport Authority in Florida broke ground last week in a ceremony marking the start of construction of an Eclipse Aviation factory service center. When completed, the new facility will be part of a network of seven U.S. installations dedicated to Eclipse 500 maintenance and support. The 61,000-square-foot facility will be complete in early 2007 and will initially house 15 Eclipse employees, with the ability to expand to over 160. The factory service center will consist of 45,000 square feet of hangar space accommodating up to 12 Eclipse 500 aircraft at a time. Additional support areas include a 10,800-square-foot maintenance section and a 5,400-square-foot customer service area. Plans for staffing the service center include multiple shift operations. Eclipse technicians at this facility will be able to accomplish all Eclipse 500 scheduled and unscheduled maintenance, including work on the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW610F engines.

“We are excited to start building our first facility outside Albuquerque. Gainesville and the state of Florida have given tremendous support that will allow us to construct a state-of-the-art factory service center to serve all of our Eclipse 500 customers including DayJet in the southeast United States,” said Eclipse Aviation’s vice president of Sales and Product Support, Michael McConnell. “We look forward to operating out of the Gainesville Regional Airport and bringing economic growth to a business friendly state like Florida.” McConnell was joined by the mayor of Gainesville, Pegeen Hanrahan, Florida State Representative Ed Jennings, and Airport Authority Chair Jim Stringfellow.

Bombardier Skyjet Relocates

Bombardier Skyjet -- the on-demand charter operation affiliated with the airframe manufacturer -- announced this month it is relocating its headquarters from Fairfax, Va., to the Dallas metro area. The move will be completed in June. Skyjet will co-locate its headquarters' office with Bombardier Flexjet -- the parent company's fractional ownership program -- in Richardson, Texas, to accommodate its growth and further leverage synergies with Flexjet. Some functions of the Virginia office will begin to transition to Dallas this month and in May, with the final relocation scheduled for in June.

“Our business continues to grow at a rapid rate, which requires additional resources, office space and systems,” said Alexandre Monnier, managing director, Bombardier Skyjet. "And, while Skyjet will remain a stand-alone business with independent operations, the co-location with Flexjet will increase opportunities for synergies,” he stated. The Bombardier Skyjet regional sales organization will not be affected as those individuals are based in key locations throughout the country.

Gulfstream G550 Sets New Speed Record

If the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) approves it, Gulfstream may have started the speed record wars again in 2006. In recent years, Gulfstream and Bombardier have seemingly played the records game, with the Savannah, Ga.-based airframer sending one of its Gs off on extremely long legs, only to be followed soon thereafter by some flavor of a Bombardier Global doing the same thing between two different locations. The latest play in this game came early last month when a Gulfstream G550 flew 4,082 nm between Hong Kong and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in 8 hours and 29 minutes. The G550 flew at an average airspeed of Mach 0.86 into an average headwind in excess of 80 knots.

Additionally, the G550, which is designed to fly most efficiently at an altitude of 51,000 feet, flew between 40,000 and 43,000 feet while flying through India and Pakistan’s restricted airspace. Piloting the G550 was Hank Gibson, Gulfstream senior international captain, while John McGrath, Gulfstream senior international captain, served as co-pilot. In addition to flight attendant Linda Barr, four passengers were onboard the flight. Gulfstream said it had applied to the NAA to confirm the new city-pair record. Can you hear a Global's engines warming up?

Jet Aviation Names New Safety Vice President

Jet Aviation announced it has named Richard Kunert vice president of safety, standards, and regulatory affairs. Kunert will be responsible for overseeing Jet Aviation’s U.S. safety programs, company standards and regulatory affairs. He will be based at the company’s U.S. headquarters in Teterboro, N.J., reporting to Theo Staub, president and COO of Jet Aviation North America. Kunert's more than 30 years of aviation safety, security and management expertise includes developing safety program manuals for large aviation companies, creating computerized safety protocols, and business development. Throughout his career, he has been instrumental in facilitating FAA/DOT interaction, and he worked closely with the TSA and FAA to develop the regulations for Part 135 access to Reagan National.

Prior to joining Jet Aviation, Kunert was director of quality assurance, safety and security for New World Jet Corporation in Ronkonkoma, N.Y. He also has served on the executive management teams of Executive Air Fleet, Executive Jet, and K-C Aviation. “Jet Aviation’s clients can be assured that their safety is our number one priority,” said Kunert. “The company has one of the best safety records in the industry and my new role underscores the company’s continued commitment to air safety and security.”

Pilatus Changes Its Batting Order

Meanwhile, Pilatus announced three personnel changes of its own. Thomas Bosshard, since 2002 president & CEO of Pilatus Business Aircraft Ltd. (PilBAL), based in Broomfield, Colo., has been named chief operating officer of Pilatus Aircraft Ltd., Stans, Switzerland. He will relocate back to Switzerland to take over his new position. To replace him, Thomas Hunziker has been named president & CEO of the company’s U.S. arm. Also, Mike Rector has been named vice president of production at PilBAL.

Hunziker first joined Pilatus in 1999. Starting as an assistant and working his way up, he rose to the position of project manager and then group controller before becoming executive assistant to the president of Pilatus Aircraft Ltd., Oscar J. Schwenk. Hunziker holds a Bachelors Degree in Production Engineering from the University of Applied Sciences, Solothurn, Northwestern Switzerland. He has relocated to the United States with his family to assume his new role. Rector first joined Pilatus in 2000 as an avionics team leader. Later that year he was appointed to the position of avionics manager and rose to the position of production manager in 2002. Prior to joining Pilatus he was with Flightcraft Inc. in Portland, Ore.

The Mother Of All Ramp Fees?

It's not every day a personal airplane gets a parking ticket. It's especially rare when the aircraft in question is a Gulfstream bizjet. But that's apparently what happened recently in Honduras, according to the Miami Herald newspaper. Back in February, a Gulfstream GII landed at the capital's Toncontín airport outside Tegucigalpa shortly after 11:00 pm local time. Its crew left the big bird sitting among a few Cessnas and near the U.S. embassy's Beech King Air. Dubbed the "jet misterioso" by local media, according to the Herald, the pilots have not been seen since but others are using the episode as evidence that the country's airspace is porous and being used to transport illegal drugs. "This is an indicator that there is a constant violation of our airspace," Honduran President Manuel Zelaya told newspaper. "There are regions of this country that are dominated by drug cartels," no matter how unlikely it is for someone to use a Gulfstream as a drug transport. Indeed, the Herald reported that local law enforcement used drug-sniffing dogs to search the jet but found no evidence. Meanwhile, whoever wants to fly it out of Honduras must first pony up some $265,000 in parking fees and fines.

According to the Herald -- which did not publish the GII's registration number -- local authorities have invested a great deal of time and energy in tracing the jet's ownership and history. It revealed that two Mexican pilots landed well after the airport usually closes to operations. Once they secured the airplane, the two pilots completed the appropriate paperwork, telling authorities the jet was going to be shown to a potential buyer -- who never showed up. The Gulfstream was registered to a Mexican banker, Mario Alberto Andrade Mora, and its registration and Mexican insurance expired less than an hour after the landing. Even more interesting was the route the Gulfstream took before arriving in Honduras. The Herald related that the El Heraldo newspaper managed to track the jet: It left an airport near Caracas, Venezuela, at 4:15 p.m. that afternoon, en route to Puebla, Mexico. Instead, it landed near Mérida, Mexico, in the Yucatán peninsula, at 10:10 p.m. Then, it flew back to Tegucigalpa, perhaps with a stop in Guatemala. After being parked a day, Honduran authorities were quick to size up the airplane's value: Since the crew had not paid the parking fees, the attorney general eventually impounded the jet. An attorney appeared in March to try to resolve the matter but, for now, it remains in Honduras. AVweb will try to publish an update on this case in the future, if it is ever resolved.

Watch Your Inbox...

...the next issue of AVweb's BizAVflash will be e-mailed to you on April 26.

See you then...

AVwebBiz is a twice-monthly summary of the latest business aviation news, articles, products, features, and events featured on AVweb, the internet's aviation magazine and news service.

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

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