AVwebBiz Complete Issue: Volume 4, Number 15

August 2, 2006

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Homeland Security: New Delays to Come? back to top 
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Feds Demand to Know Who and Where Earlier

Charter operators worry that a recent proposal from the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) could cause lengthy delays. Right now, operators can transmit manifest information — who is with them on the flight — up to 15 minutes after the aircraft departs. The new proposal would require an advance manifest at least 60 minutes before departure from international flights inbound to or outbound from the U.S. The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) says it is concerned that the increased compliance burden for Part 135 operators will cause indefinite delays. What will happen, NATA asks, if a passenger is determined to be high risk and cannot be immediately cleared?

NATA contends that since most of the on-demand carriers do not have interactive capabilities with the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, the CBP will have to manually communicate their findings, further slowing the process. The CBP is more concerned with preventing high-risk boardings than making sure the charters get off the ground on time and stress their goal will be achieved. The proposal isn’t something the CBP just dreamed up one night after watching a Law and Order marathon on TNT. In December 2004, congress passed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, calling for the Department of Homeland Security to write a safety procedure to vet such possible terrorist risks.

Since current rules allow the operators to transmit information up to 15 minutes into the flight, high-risk pax may make it on board. Once discovered, the plane could be diverted or turned back, but that still means a potentially dangerous person is on the plane, possibly with nefarious intent and the explosives or weaponry necessary to carry it out. The CBP thinks advance vetting of passengers could eliminate the need for carriers to conduct "watch-list" screening of passengers. Comments on the proposal are due Aug. 14 and can be submitted via the online federal docket system — use docket number USCBP-2005-0003.

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737 Skid May Have Far-Reaching Consequences back to top 

Calculate Now, Land Later ... Maybe

A controversial new requirement for landing distance safety margins is drawing fire from the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), which claims the proposal should be shelved. The FAA was spurred to action in the wake of a Dec. 8, 2005, accident at Chicago Midway in which a Southwest Airlines 737-700 skidded off a wet runway and onto a highway beyond, running into a car and killing a 6-year-old boy. In an audit afterwards, the FAA discovered nearly half of the operators they asked had no policies for assessing sufficient landing-distance margins in various conditions. In instances where manufacturer’s data was being used, the feds still had a problem, saying that wet and contaminated landing distances were figured using certification data based on dry and smooth services ... so the numbers are not real-world.

Under the new requirement that will take effect on Oct. 1, an operator would not be allowed to land without 15 percent more runway available for the actual landing distance given current weather conditions and use of available equipment such as thrust reversers and spoilers. NATA has a problem that a study of aircraft operated under Part 121 is being applied Parts 125, 135 and 91K as well. "A blanket approach to these varying operations is not acceptable."

NATA is particularly incensed with the FAA's definition of time of arrival, calling it a trap that will lead to second-guessing by the feds and possible enforcement action taken against pilots, saying, "If the meteorological conditions change when the aircraft is 500 feet above ground level, must the pilot then mathematically recalculate landing distance at this critical phase of flight?" Though NATA is asking the FAA to use normal rulemaking channels before implementing such a big change, the feds say it is a done deal and that operators should be ready with new procedures by Sept. 1.

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Performance-Based Navigation Around the Corner? back to top 

Go Direct, Young Man ...

... and it doesn’t appear to matter if it’s west or east. Under the FAA’s "performance-based" navigation, airlines would be free to use satellite guidance instead of ground-based navaids, allowing more direct flights and saving the airlines millions of pricey petrol dollars. Last week, the FAA's Performance-Based Operations Aviation Rulemaking Committee (PARC) released the second version of the "Roadmap for Performance-Based Navigation." The newly updated information includes how the FAA plans to proceed and lays out the dates for mandates on the types of equipment that will be needed by not only the airlines, but business aircraft and other GA operators. In the short term, the feds will take advantage of avionics and satellite technology already deployed, including RNAV procedures and instrument departures and arrivals already in place at some major U.S. airports. In addition to RNAV, which could eventually be available throughout the continental U.S., required navigation performance (RNP) procedures will also play a major role. The first RNP was recently enacted at Reagan Washington National in Washington, D.C.

Work is proceeding much faster than planned. Initial FAA plans called for 30 RNAV arrival and departure procedures for fiscal 2006, but that number will be closer to 63. The plan also called for five public RNP procedures, but that number could be as high as 30. By 2011-2015, RNAV approaches and departures will be active at many of the busiest 100 airports. The FAA believes about 85% of aircraft that fly into airports with RNAV approaches have the necessary equipment to handle them, but only 30% have the equipment necessary for RNP ops. Federal rulemaking will happen in 2008 as discussions turn serious about mandating that additional equipment.

As the new technology is being brought online, the FAA will look to discontinue the older navaids as a way to save money. The old VORs, DMEs, and NDBs are maintenance and money hogs and the feds would love to wash their hands of them. Look for a fight when that begins to happen. By 2015, they’ll decide whether to shut down VORs entirely.

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Moving and Shaking in the Jet Biz back to top 

Raytheon Mulls Sale of Biz Diviz

Exploration of "strategic alternatives" could mean big changes afoot for Raytheon Aircraft Company’s (RAC) business aircraft division. The company, which plans to focus entirely on military contracts, said last week that strategic alternatives for the business division could include a "sale of the business, an initial public offering or spin-off to shareholders or some combination thereof." In other words, they would like it gone, they’re just not sure when it might happen. The chairman of a private investment bank told The Wichita Eagle he would be surprised if the company chose to sell the division to an aircraft competitor. He is betting instead on a heretofore-unknown private equity buyer with billions to invest.

This isn’t the first time Raytheon, the nation’s fifth-largest defense contractor, has tried to sell Raytheon Aircraft. The timing may be better now, with good GA delivery numbers. RAC is also doing well, delivering 99 planes in the second quarter of this year compared to 87 for the same period one year ago. Interestingly, talk of a sale isn’t stopping RAC from looking at offering a new or derivative business jet. The company could make an announcement later in the year on a plane that would "serve the market segment between the Hawker 400XP and the Hawker 850XP." The proposed sale does not include the Flight Options fractional ownership program or the company’s commuter service, Raytheon Airline Aviation Services.

Embraer Inks Deal on Phenom VLJ

Jetbird, a startup on-demand air taxi service planning to fly initially from Zurich but with hopes to add 800 European locations, has inked a deal for 50 Embraer Phenom 100s. The $140 million contract also includes the option to purchase 50 additional aircraft over five years. The very light jet is still under development, but is expected to make first flight in mid-2007, enter service in 2008, and begin deliveries to Jetbird in 2009. Jetbird says using the Phenoms will allow it to fly frugally, charging less than 50 percent of the cheapest existing charter fees.

As reported in the July 19 AVwebBiz, Pratt & Whitney Canada Corp. (P&WC) successfully conducted the first run of its new PW617F engine on June 29. That engine is slated to be the powerplant on the Phenom; variants are being used on the Cessna Mustang and Eclipse 500 very light jets. The Phenom 100 is currently priced at $2.85 million.

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Across the Pond, in Farnborough ... back to top 

Oshkosh All Wet as Farnborough Sweats

As the just-completed EAA AirVenture at Oshkosh floundered in the rain, the biennial flying event at Farnborough, England, broiled like a British breakfast tomato. Temperatures that topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit brought electrical systems down and sent event attendees searching for elusive shade, packing air-conditioned corporate chalets. Even the normally stiff-upper-lipped show exhibitors who welcomed the clear skies thought the heat a bit much. EADS Co-CEO Executive Thomas Enders cut a packed and sweaty press event short, saying, "So it’s hot in here and it smells of dead fish. Let’s try to keep it brief."

EADS, the parent company to Airbus, trotted out its planned competition to Boeing’s mid-range 787 and long-range 777 aircraft, the A350 XWB group. Singapore Airlines put a good spin on the show unveiling by announcing it is purchasing 20 of the aircraft. But all is still not right with Airbus. Though the Euro-conglomerate has sold more aircraft than Boeing over the past five years, Boeing is seeing a big uptick in orders on its 777 and 787 models. Airbus is still working to recover from a 26% share loss the day it announced problems and delays with its super-wide-bodied A380. Though share prices have rebounded, company officials are speaking in cautionary tones, warning of "further slippage."

Boeing at Airbus' 6 O'Clock

As if product delays and share price drops weren’t enough to sink its spirits, Airbus’ chief rival Boeing was on a roll at Farnborough, announcing plans to compete in the 500-seater market, and offering hard-won advice. Boeing chief executive Allen Mullaly told new Airbus chief and aerospace neophyte Christian Streiff, "Don’t give up. New airplanes are hard." Perhaps Streiff got Mullaly’s message, perhaps he didn’t. At his first press event since taking over Airbus, Streiff told reporters "We’re learning to be humble at this perfect company." Perfect company? Humble? What one thing doesn’t sound like another?

As Airbus continues being perfect, the aircraft they’re seeing at their 6 o’clock belong to Boeing. Boeing is studying how to bring its 747-8 Intercontinental within 10% of the A380’s 555-seat capacity. Initial findings show that by stretching the plane 18.3 feet and adding an upper lobe galley, Boeing would be able to seat 496 and still fly 8,000 nautical miles, its minimum range target. Boeing hopes to complete the configuration studies in the first quarter of 2007 and is targeting 2010 for entry into the fleet. Meanwhile, the company is touting the delivery of its 2000th 737 family aircraft to Southwest Airlines. Boeing reached the 2,000 milestone nearly seven years sooner than any manufacturer has on any other commercial jet airplane. The 737 is bread and butter for Boeing, which currently has unfilled orders for more than 1,365 737-7s, worth $91 billion. The Next Generation line of 737s has accumulated more than 24 million flight hours, flying more than 12 million flights.

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News Briefs back to top 

Pilots Blamed in Montrose Crash

Pilots unfamiliar with winter weather flight operations are being blamed in the crash of a Bombardier Challenger CL-600 in Montrose, Colo., on Nov. 28, 2004. The chartered plane, operated by Air Castle Corp. of Van Nuys, Calif., landed at the Montrose airport to drop off NBC sports executive Dick Ebersol’s wife, actress Susan St. James. While waiting for the passengers to reassemble, the plane sat for 45 minutes in freezing precipitation but was not de-iced prior to takeoff. While attempting a climb from runway 13/31, the Challenger rolled violently left and right several times before impacting the ground.

Three of the six people on board, one of Ebersol’s sons, the captain and a flight attendant, were killed in the crash. Ebersol, another son and the co-pilot were seriously injured. The NTSB says the crash was caused by the failure to detect and remove ice and snow on the wings.

Compare Your Paycheck ... For a Price

Want to know how your paycheck stacks up against the pay for similar jobs around the country? The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) knows ... and will let you know for a price. NATA has just published its 2006 annual survey of GA service employees that includes pilots, line-service personnel, maintenance technicians and several other job descriptions.

The data is based on reports from 290 companies employing nearly 10,000 people. They break the salaries down geographically, by company gross size, number of employees and size of the town or city in which the company is located. If you are a NATA member and participated in the survey, you can get a copy for free. If not and curiosity is getting the better of you, you can purchase a copy by going to NATA's web site.



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Watch Your Inbox ... back to top 

... the next issue of AVwebBiz will be e-mailed to you on August 16. 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 Liz Swaine (bio).

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Shiny side up, okay?