June 7, 2006
By The AVweb Editorial Staff
Top Story: Service-Bulletin Enforcements
More VLJ Certs Around the Corner
A recently decided enforcement case involving an FAA-certified mechanic and service-bulletin compliance may drastically increase operator costs and call into question airworthiness of thousands of in-service aircraft. A decision in the case, Administrator v. Law, was adopted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on April 28, 2006. The NTSB is the federal agency responsible for adjudicating FAA enforcement actions. The case involves a mechanic who returned to service a Lycoming piston engine without ensuring compliance with all applicable service bulletins. No airworthiness directive (AD) mandated service-bulletin compliance and FAA regulations do not require service bulletins to be performed on certificated products like aircraft and engines unless the product is used in commercial operations, like under Part 135 or 121. Yet, the NTSB upheld the FAA's enforcement action. In its decision, the NTSB determined that language in the Lycoming engine overhaul manual incorporated by reference not just existing service bulletins, but future ones, too. That language states, "In addition to this manual and subsequent revisions, additional overhaul and repair information is published in the form of service bulletins and service instructions. The information contained in these service bulletins and service instructions is an integral part of, and is to be used in conjunction with, the information contained in this overhaul manual." According to aviation attorney Gregory J. Reigel, the decision possibly alters fundamental understandings on which maintenance technicians and aircraft operators have relied for decades. Wrote Reigel, "This NTSB opinion may well take some of the discretion out of the decision-making regarding whether or not to comply with a service bulletin." Additionally, according to the NTSB, whether service bulletins are mandatory for Part 91, non-commercial operations depends upon what other manufacturer-written materials may contain. According to Reigel, there is no precedent, legal or otherwise, for the NTSB's decision in this case.
... But First -- More Testing!
Cessna last week updated the industry on the company's progress toward certifying the Citation Mustang very light jet (VLJ). Cessna's entry into the coming VLJ sweepstakes -- projected to occur after the Eclipse 500 -- is on schedule, according to the company, and will mark the first jet aircraft produced at the company's Independence, Kan., facility, which was originally built to manufacture piston-powered aircraft when Cessna restarted their production 10 years ago. Cessna says it has accumulated more than 1,100 total flight hours and more than 600 flights spread among the three Citation Mustangs currently flying in its certification program. Although Eclipse has suffered setbacks in its original certification plans brought about by an unplanned engine change and supplier delays, Cessna's certification apparatus has a well-deserved reputation for meeting its target dates, even years later. So, it should come as no surprise to learn, according to the company, that the Mustang remains on schedule for its anticipated FAA certification in the fourth quarter of 2006.
The first Mustang to be delivered, a Cessna customer demonstration aircraft, is also planned for the fourth quarter of 2006. Customer deliveries are to begin in early 2007. Additionally, Cessna says it plans to produce 40 to 50 Mustangs at the Independence facility during 2007 and has some 240 orders for the new aircraft. Cessna adds that Mustang production is sold out into the third quarter of 2009. Presently, Mustangs three through 13 are on the production line in Independence, Kan., and serial number four will be the first Mustang to be fully assembled outside of Wichita. The Citation Mustang program was announced in September 2002. The six-seat business jet will be certified as an FAR Part 23 aircraft, with a cruise speed of 340 KTAS and maximum operating altitude of FL410.
Raytheon Aircraft Company last week said it has completed a close-to-final phase of testing required for FAA certification of its forthcoming Hawker 4000 "super mid-size" business jet. The Hawker 4000 is being billed as the "flagship" of Raytheon's Hawker line and features performance that may live up to its billing: The 4000 should be capable of a sea level-to-FL370 climb in just over 13 minutes. Once at altitude, the Hawker 4000's maximum cruise speed is Mach 0.84. It should have nonstop, coast-to-coast range in most wind conditions. Fractional operator NetJets has ordered 50 of the new aircraft. According to Raytheon, it and the FAA are working to finalize the paperwork necessary for type certification, although that once-delayed milestone was expected to arrive in February.
The delay has been attributed to Raytheon's desire to install a lightning protection system on the second of its two certification prototypes before beginning final testing. In December, fractional operator NetJets ordered 50 of the new aircraft for its fleet, a deal valued at more than $1 billion, which included a 10-year guaranteed maintenance program. Deliveries to NetJets are set to begin in 2007 and continue through 2013. Some 80 Hawker 4000s have been ordered so far, with 11 scheduled for delivery in 2006.
Also, Eclipse Aviation last week provided updates on its efforts to certify a new airplane, its eclipse 500 VLJ. The company said certification is "on the horizon" and noted that its six flight-test prototypes have accumulated more than 2,000 hours of flight time while and completing the majority of required FAA certification testing. The company also announced that six customer Eclipse 500 VLJs are in various assembly positions on the production line. The Eclipse 500 is on track to achieve FAA certification by the end of this quarter and will be the first VLJ to market. "Our test fleet of five Eclipse 500s continues to burn test points and build hours at a rapid rate. We accumulated more than 300 flight hours in the last four weeks," said Vern Raburn, president and CEO of Eclipse Aviation.
"I am also thrilled to see the production line coming to life. Last weekend, the first customer Eclipse 500 forward fuselage was mated to the aft fuselage." There's little question that the Eclipse 500 will be the first VLJ certified and in customers' hands. According to the company, recent milestones include successful completion of all engine-on-airframe certification tests, including restarts, cooling and ventilation. Eclipse says it now has six aircraft in various assembly positions, and that the first production aircraft will be delivered shortly after FAA certification.
Dassault Falcon last week announced it was increasing the duration of the warranty it offers on all Dassault Falcon replacement parts. Beginning June 1, all new parts are warranted for 24 months from time of installation, or 30 months from time of purchase. The announcement was made before a crowd of 1300 Falcon operators at the company's 26th Worldwide M&O conference in Boca Raton, Fla. The new warranty will apply to claims on parts purchased from Dassault Falcon since June 1, 2004. "Dassault Falcon recognizes the growing importance of parts warranties to our customers and decided it was a positive step we could take," said John Rosanvallon, president and CEO of Dassault Falcon. "Not only does it underscore the point we've been making that Genuine Dassault Falcon Replacement Parts are reliable. It also improves the customer's perception that we are fully committed to lowering their cost of operation."
The warranty program is in effect globally for all 120,000 Genuine Dassault Falcon Replacement Parts regardless of the type of aircraft flown or when the customer's aircraft was built. If the part was purchased from Dassault and, during the warranty period, the part fails for causes unrelated to normal wear or abuse it will be replaced by Dassault Falcon at no cost. Dassault note that its spare-parts availability has been an impressive 98% for the past several years. "We've substantially increased our spares inventory levels in the past several years by adding five warehouse satellite locations and increasing inventory in others. In addition, we continue to lower prices on a wide range of products by a significant amount," said Frank Youngkin, vice president of Worldwide Spares for Dassault. "Availability is up, and prices are down, more than 50% in some cases, on parts for both out-of-production aircraft as well as current production models."
Adam Aircraft and Jet Support Services Inc. (JSSI) last week introduced their "Tip-to-Tail" hourly maintenance cost guarantee program developed exclusively for the new Adam A500 twin-engine piston and A700 AdamJet aircraft. Under the program, Adam Aircraft A500 and A700 buyers can include the coverage at preferred rates for three- or five-year terms when they purchase their aircraft. "The fixed-cost maintenance program offered by JSSI will stabilize the direct operating cost for owners of new A500 and the A700 aircraft, and ensure a high rate of dispatch reliability," said Kay Ardalan, Adam Aircraft vice president, Customer Support. "This program also features a computerized maintenance tracking program that will augment the Maintainability and Reliability analysis of our fleet and enable better planning of support elements."
This program launch marks the entry into the VLJ (very light jet) market for JSSI and the first hourly maintenance program to include complete airframe and engine coverage for a twin-engine piston aircraft. For both aircraft, the maintenance program includes:
Scheduled maintenance, parts and labor
Unscheduled maintenance, parts and labor
Removal and reinstallation
Loaner components (including avionics)
On-site JSSI technical representation
"This is a milestone for us at JSSI. We worked extensively with the Adam Aircraft customer support team to put this together," commented John F. Haskins, president and chief executive officer for JSSI. "We knew our hourly cost programs could be effective over a wide spectrum of aircraft. Now these owners can expand on their warranty coverage and benefit from our excellent technical support as well as having predictable maintenance costs year after year."
Gulfstream last week said it is introducing three new enhancements to its computerized maintenance tracking program, CMP.net. The new enhancements involve the work order module, inventory purchase order module and smart cards, which are designed to facilitate, capture and report day-to-day aircraft maintenance activities. "More than 40 years ago, Gulfstream was the first business-jet manufacturer to offer a maintenance tracking system," Larry Flynn, president of Gulfstream Product Support, said. "Since then, we've continuously improved and refined this service, keeping pace with advances in technology, to ensure our customers have the best tools available when it comes to tracking maintenance, whether for a single aircraft or a fleet of aircraft." Gulfstream's CMP.net is a Web-based maintenance tracking tool offered to operators of Gulfstream aircraft that tracks both Gulfstream and non-Gulfstream aircraft.
The CMP.net work order module tracks day-to-day hangar-floor activities and helps operators manage costs, according to Gulfstream. It's designed around the specific needs of Part 135 management companies and Part 91 operators who employ their own maintenance staff. The inventory/purchase order module, which is designed for single-model fleets to large, mixed fleets and everything in between, fully integrates inventory and parts management with purchasing. The results, says Gulfstream, include optimized inventory levels and reduced costs associated with excess inventory. Smart cards were designed to save customers time by replacing the traditional handwritten task card with an electronic version.
At the same time it enhanced its warranty for spare parts, Dassault Falcon announced actions intended to improve its support of in-service aircraft. The company also was recently awarded the NetJets Fleet Base Maintenance Award for Base Maintenance performance during the First Quarter of 2006. By merging its help desk and field technical representatives within customer support, Dassault said it hopes to increase the level of day-to-day support operators receive. Under John Loh, who was named Director, Technical Support, the help-desk representatives and field technical representatives will now be combined into one department, and will conform to one training and communication standard. Additionally, the company has three new regional technical manager positions. "The goal is to move more authority and decision making closer to the customers and to deliver a consistent and positive customer experience," Loh said. "By doing this, we will also be providing better management support to our reps."
Meanwhile, Dassault Falcon Jet - Wilmington Corp. (DJF-W) was named recipient of NetJets' Fleet Base Maintenance Award for Base Maintenance performance during the First Quarter of 2006. The award marks the second consecutive quarter in which NetJets has recognized DFJ-W as the winner. The NetJets award program recognizes progress toward and support in reaching the operator's business and safety objectives. It reflects nine separate areas, including reliability after departure, fleet availability and on-time releases, among others.
Watch Your Inbox ...
NetJets Aviation last month announced it has appointed Mark Bianchi to the position of Senior Vice President of Aircraft Maintenance. In his new position, Bianchi will be responsible for daily aircraft maintenance operation and administrative functions for the 378 aircraft in the NetJets fleet. Responsibilities include maintenance availability and reliability of all NetJets Aviation aircraft, including scheduled and unscheduled maintenance, maintenance control and planning, all regional line and base maintenance stations, quality control and quality assurance, and the inventory and logistics supporting the maintenance operation.
Bianchi joined NetJets in 2004 after 18 years with US Airways, where he held several leadership positions, including Manager of Quality Assurance and Regulatory Compliance, 737/757/767 Fleet Manager, and Base Maintenance Manager. Bianchi also worked as a Principal Engineer, Heavy Maintenance Production Supervisor, Maintenance Control Foreman and a Mechanic. At NetJets, Bianchi has held the position of Director, Line and Recovery Maintenance and General Manager, Maintenance Control.
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Today's issue was written by Joseph E. (Jeb) Burnside (bio).
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