April 26, 2006
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
One of the business aviation industry's most anticipated new-service launches in recent memory edged closer to becoming a reality this week. DayJet, the start-up "per-seat, on-demand" operation based on what many believe will be the coming horde of very light jets (VLJs), announced Monday its first regional service area would encompass Florida and the southeast U.S. The announcement, by DayJet President and CEO Ed Iacobucci, came at a press conference with Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R.), Enterprise Florida Inc. (EFI) President and CEO John Adams, Eclipse Aviation President and CEO Vern Raburn, plus state and local officials, and involved the company's naming Tallahassee, Fla., as the location of DayJet's first Very Light Jet Center of Excellence. According to the company, that means the new facility will be dedicated to VLJ service education. As part of the announcement, DayJet said it will first provide its non-scheduled, per-seat service to locations in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. DayJet's business model is based, in part, on providing point-to-point, on-demand air service connecting communities that today have little or no scheduled air service. Essentially, DayJet is marketing its operations to small businesses and mid-level managers who travel to or from communities without frequent scheduled service. DayJet is basing its operations around the to-be-certified Eclipse 500, which is expected to obtain FAA approval by late June.
"Each day, thousands of regional business travelers struggle to get their important meetings inserted into their overcrowded work schedules," said DayJet's Iacobucci. "Our 'Per-Seat, On-Demand' service will get you between those hard-to-reach locations on your schedule, instead of the networks' schedules." DayJet's plans call for a region-by-region rollout, with the initial network based in Florida and centered on what the company calls "DayPorts." Within 12 months of launch, DayJet will expand its service network to as many as 20 DayPorts in four Southeastern states. Of course, DayJet's launch hinges on FAA certification of the Eclipse 500. To date and including options, DayJet has ordered 307 Eclipse 500s during the first two years of the aircraft's production. Eclipse estimates it will produce more than 1,100 aircraft during the two years, making DayJet responsible for some 28 percent of Eclipse Aviation's airframe production.
Just when you thought it was safe and secure to fly your bizjet, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) last week decided to let the air out of your tires. According to the TSA -- which only rarely has been associated with false alarms -- "On April 13, 2006, a message posted in Arabic on a Web forum explained how to identify private American jets and urged Muslims to destroy all such aircraft." The TSA's security advisory stated the Muslim Web site's message also advised "how to identify American aircraft and provided the tail number of a private aircraft allegedly used by the CIA." The TSA's advisory then went on to reiterate a series of guidelines the federal agency developed and distributed a few years ago.
While the reminders are probably useful, what the TSA failed to make clear in its advisory is that the Web site's threat was aimed at U.S.-registered aircraft being operated overseas. After all, it's pretty easy to identify a U.S.-registered aircraft when it's in the U.S. Without debating the frequency or utility of the TSA's various advisories of terror threats against general aviation -- whether here at home or abroad -- we're not sure if the latest advisory really adds anything to the body of knowledge regarding overseas operation of N-registered aircraft. After all, U.S. airplanes have long been the target of political, economic and other terrorist groups, with the result that their operators spend much money and many hours researching how best to protect them and their passengers. In the meantime, you've been warned, and the TSA is covered.
Saying it will add some 300 engineers to its design team, Embraer last week announced it has begun what it terms the "joint definition phase" (JDP) of its efforts to bring the Phenom 300 light business jet to market. The Phenom 300 is the first clean-sheet design of its category in over two decades, said Luís Carlos Affonso, senior vice president, Executive Aviation Market. This collaborative initiative with our suppliers gathers another 300 engineers from Embraer, in addition to those allocated to the Phenom 100 program, and will enable us to deliver best-of-breed light jets in mid-2009. The design and engineering effort comes at the same time Embraer is working through what it calls the "Phenom Tour," a road show featuring a full-scale mock-up of the Phenom 300 through North America, Europe and Latin America.
The Phenom 300 and its little brother the Phenom 100 are Embraer's entry in the light-jet market. Both are clean-sheet designs, according to the company, stressing "premium comfort, outstanding performance and low operating costs." The two aircraft are expected to enter service in 2009 and 2008, respectively.
Piaggio Aero Industries S.p.A., manufacturer of the Avanti and Avanti II twin pusher turboprops, last week announced that Mubadala Development, a principal investment company wholly owned by the Government of Abu Dhabi, has acquired 35 percent of the Italian airframer's equity. According to Piaggio, the transaction is based on the two companies' "shared belief ... that the business aviation segment will continue to expand significantly over the foreseeable future." The working capital coming into Piaggio will enable it to benefit from that opportunity, while Mubadala Development expects that same expanding market to produce favorable returns on its investment. Piaggio says its current order book numbers more than 100 airframes valued at more than $820 million. "We have had extraordinary success in both the European and North American business aviation markets," said Piero Ferrari, chairman of Piaggio Aero S.p.A., on announcing the investment. "This deal places us in a position to further grow our position in those markets whilst beginning to explore new markets, including the Middle East, Far East and South America - each of which offers high potential for sales."
Commenting on the deal, Khaldoon Al Mubarak, CEO of Mubadala Development, said: "For us this investment makes commercial sense on two levels. As a straight investment opportunity Piaggio Aero has a remarkable performance track record. Importantly, the transaction also offers the opportunity to explore potential synergies that both Piaggio and Mubadala can leverage." Mubadala Developments investment involves purchasing existing and new shares; Piaggio Aeros primary shareholders are the Ferrari and di Mase families. As a result of the transaction they will now hold 55 percent of the share capital of the company. Together with Mubadalas 35-percent stake, this accounts for 90 percent of the share capital of the Company. The other 10 percent is held by a mixture of banks and other shareholders. As part of the transaction, Mubadala will receive three board seats of Piaggio, out of a total of seven, including the post of vice-chairman. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Adam Aircraft last week named Rob Penrod as its vice president of manufacturing, as it continues to add staff and resources in efforts to bring its two main designs -- the A500 piston twin and the A700 AdamJet -- to full certification and market. Penrod joins the Adam Aircraft team from Bell Helicopter where, as director of operations, he led more than 400 employees producing annual sales of $600 million, including efforts to transition the V-22 Osprey composite tiltrotor from development into full-rate production. According to Adam, Penrod's tenure at Bell included "cross-functional" oversight of manufacturing, tooling, industrial engineering and quality control. Prior to joining Bell Helicopter, Penrod spent 19 years with the Aerostructures Corporation of Nashville, Tenn., helping him to amass more than 27 years of experience in aerospace industry manufacturing, quality assurance, program management, marketing, inventory management and lean methodologies.
"Rob is an important addition to the Adam Aircraft team, said CEO Rick Adam. As Vice President of Manufacturing, Rob will spearhead our quest to achieve optimized production rates for the A500 and A700 aircraft as quickly and efficiently as possible." "The simplicity, intuitiveness, and commonality of the Adam A500 and A700 make these new aircraft a pleasure to build, and easy for both individuals and fleet customers to service and maintain," said Rob Penrod. "I look forward to supporting Craig Johnson and the team as we expand our manufacturing capacity at our facilities in Colorado and Utah." Adam says its largest outside investor is Goldman Sachs and that it presently has more than 550 employees spread between its headquarters in Englewood, Colo., and additional facilities in Pueblo, Colo., and Ogden, Utah.
French airframer EADS Socata last week announced it promoted two of its executives to worldwide responsibilities. The company named Nicolas Chabbert as vice president of sales and marketing, reporting directly to EADS Socatas Chairman and CEO, Stéphane Mayer, while Raphaël Maître, previously deputy vice president of customer service, was promoted to the position of vice president of customer service. Maître will report to Jacques Lordon, EADS Socatas vice president of general aviation. Based in France, with North American operations in Pembroke Pines, Fla., EADS Socata is a wholly owned subsidiary of EADS, the second-largest aerospace and defense company in the world.
Chabbert, who held senior sales, marketing and customer service positions at Mooney Aircraft, returned to EADS Socata in 2005 as vice president of customer service. He holds Airline Transport Pilot and Flight Instructor certificates and, unsurprisingly, has extensive flight experience with the TBM single-engine turboprop, an EADS Socata product. Previously, he served five years as senior vice president of sales and marketing of Socata Aircraft Inc., the company's U.S. division. Maître, meanwhile, is a graduate of one of the oldest French engineering schools. In just a few years Raphaël attained the respect of our fast growing and demanding population of TBM customers, due to his dedication and his passion for aviation, commented Chabbert.
US Helicopter, billed as the only certified scheduled helicopter service in the U.S., launched its inaugural flights on March 27, serving JFK International Airport (JFK) and the Downtown Manhattan Heliport (JRB), at Wall Street, with Sikorsky S-76Bs. The operator has a dedicated gate at JFK, in the new American Airlines Terminal 9, and plans to add four new Sikorsky S-76C++ helicopters to its fleet beginning in 2007. "We are thrilled to see the service take off, providing travelers with a simple solution to the aggravation of travel to and from their airport," said Jerry Murphy, president and CEO of US Helicopter. The first day of regular service included a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the operator's JFK gate. US Helicopter plans to include flights from the East 34th Street Heliport to JFK in the near future, with service to and from LaGuardia and Newark Airports commencing in the second and third quarters of 2006, respectively.
"We're trying to rebuild lower Manhattan. This added transportation is important, especially around the Financial District, where a half-hour savings is very important to the business traveler," said Charles Gargano, chairman and chief executive officer for Empire State Development Corp. Gargano said helicopter service in the metropolitan area is on the rise with 34,000 flights recorded in 2004, up from 12,500 flights recorded in 2002. The service is designed to meet the needs of time-sensitive travelers worldwide who would otherwise spend upwards of two hours or more (each way) traveling in a taxi, town car or limo. US Helicopter was founded in 2003 and is headquartered in New York City.
Signature Flight Support this month said it has won a competition to operate a new FBO at the Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield (RHADS), in England. The airport, located on the site of the former RAF Finningley airbase, serves central and northern England. Signature said its facility at the airport will be RHADS's first business aviation center offering dedicated parking for passengers and aircrew, separate lounges and a fully equipped operations room. The FBO also will provide Customs, Immigration and Special Branch assistance. Operational support will include fueling, flight planning, meteorological reports and slot acquisition. Catering, cleaning, lavatory and water service will also be available.
David Best, Signatures European managing director, said, We are delighted to have been chosen by Robin Hood Airport to manage its first purpose-built Business Aviation Center. Our operation there, scheduled to open May 1, 2006, will provide existing and new customers with the same comprehensive services they have come to expect from Signature Flight Support all over the world. With the addition of Robin Hood Airport, Signatures global network grows to 81 locations including 20 in Europe, 46 in the United States, 1 in Africa, and joint venture operations in Brazil (13) and Hong Kong (1).
Eurocopter this month said it officially opened its new Moscow-based subsidiary, Eurocopter Vostok, which it created to market Eurocopter products and services in Russia as well as monitor the company's products operated in Russia. The new subsidiary's creation was accompanied by a network of regional maintenance centers in Saint Petersburg, Tyumen, and Sakhalin, as well as in Moscow. The eight-person organization will also include a regional training center for pilots and maintenance technicians. Xavier Poupardin, Eurocopter vice-president for subsidiaries and participation, explained, "This new subsidiary reflects Eurocopters unfailing determination to better serve its Russian customers in an atmosphere of partnership and mutual trust."
Meanwhile, Jérôme Noulens, the new subsidiarys managing director, added: "The vocation of the subsidiary does not stop here because, in the future, Eurocopter Vostok is planning to become involved in industrial cooperation programs whose goal is to integrate Russian components on the helicopters." Eurocopter is the top Western manufacturer of turbine helicopters in Russia, with a fleet of 35 aircraft. Eurocopter Vostok plans to increase its workforce to about 15 people in early 2007.
Honeywell last week announced it has entered into an agreement with Airservices Australia to develop and certify a ground-based augmentation system (GBAS) and a ground-based regional augmentation system (GRAS) designed to enhance precision of GPS-based aircraft navigation for all phases of flight. Looking a lot like the FAA's wide-area augmentation system (WAAS) and local-area augmentation system (LAAS), both GBAS and GRAS are ground-based systems which monitor the accuracy of navigation signals from GPS satellites and transmit a correction signal to compatible receivers in nearby aircraft, allowing Category 1 precision landing capability. When GBAS-corrected GPS navigation systems are integrated with inertial navigation or other avionics sensors generally available on most commercial airlines, a GBAS is expected to eventually provide Category 2 and 3 landing capability.
GBAS and GRAS are important elements of a future global air traffic management system that will provide our airline and airport customers with safer, more efficient operations, especially in low visibility weather conditions, said John Oelschlaeger, director of Honeywells Satellite Landing Systems Business. The GRAS technology extends the range of GPS correction signals for en route flight by networking signal transmitters across a larger geographic area, creating a regional or national system, according to Honeywell. The company said GBAS and GRAS can provide benefits to users when installed separately; however, when integrated together into a network, the systems provide aircraft with a gate-to-gate precision navigation capability. Honeywell and Airservices expect to receive regulatory approval of both systems in 2008, with commercial availability immediately thereafter.
Sikorsky Aircraft last week said it is kicking off a nationwide effort to recruit more than 300 engineers to meet what it calls a growing demand for the company's military and civil helicopter product lines and related services. Over the next few months, Sikorsky plans job fairs in several states to fill engineering positions at company and subsidiary facilities in Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Alabama and New York. The company's hiring efforts are part of what it says are plans to double revenue between 2003-2008 and significantly increase aircraft deliveries across the company product lines over the same time period. Sikorsky is conducting job fairs in regions with sizeable populations of engineers from both within and outside the aerospace industry. Particular skills in demand by Sikorsky are system engineers, flight controls design and analysis engineers, structural analysts, air vehicle design engineers with CATIA experience, electrical engineers and avionics engineers.
"There has never been a more exciting time to work in the helicopter industry or to work as an engineer at Sikorsky Aircraft," said Mark Miller, vice president of research and engineering for Sikorsky. "We are ramping up several new military and commercial programs at a rapid pace, while continuing to invest in innovative research and development projects that set the stage for continued growth in the future." Engineering candidates interested in a career at Sikorsky or its subsidiaries can view job postings on the company's Web site.
...the next issue of AVweb's BizAVflash will be e-mailed to you on May 10.
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