AVwebBiz Complete Issue: Volume 4, Number 16

August 16, 2006

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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New Airline Security Fears Boost Bizav

Although bottom-line impact hasn't been felt -- yet -- last week's terrorism-related restrictions on airline travel are proving to be a major boost to business and general aviation interests in North America and, presumably, Europe. By canceling trans-Atlantic flights and banning from airline cabins many electronic devices and most liquids, anti-terrorism authorities in the United Kingdom and the U.S. may have done a big favor for private aviation. Since then, major-media news stories covering the alleged terrorist threat have highlighted airline delays, cancellations and lengthy security lines involving flights between the two countries; domestic U.S. flights have also been affected.

For each anecdotal tale involving a "normal" flight, there is at least one other with annoying details: hours of delays, mass confusion and more-intrusive security checks than was the case the week before. And the effects continued this week, with some airlines wondering aloud who would pay for their losses. Depending on how long the heightened security measures remain in place -- and some signs indicate they are already being rolled back -- well-heeled business travelers may be ready to pull out their plastic and give charter and fractional operators a try, at least for short-haul trips. If admittedly anecdotal evidence AVweb has collected is any indication, those same businesspeople may also stroke checks for new aircraft.

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Business Travelers Look For Alternatives

As one wag put it, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's actions last week "deemed an entire state of matter to be a security risk" -- as well as business necessities like cellphones and laptop computers. But there were no new rules in effect for the average general or business flight, something for which the industry was thankful. And busy. According to Adam Aircraft, the company's Web site experienced a 20-percent increase in "hits" late in the week, which company spokeswoman Shelly Simi attributed to "people looking for alternative travel and ways to avoid the airlines." It didn't stop with Adam: The New York Times reported many so-called "jet card" operators saw a surge in bookings and inquires.

According to the newspaper, traditional charter operators and charter brokers, like Sentient, saw a much higher activity level than for the same period last year, which the Times labeled as a "slow travel period." And Eclipse Aviation President and CEO Vern Rayburn last week told CNBC his company had seen a 100-percent increase in inquiries in just 48 hours. All of which is good news for the industry, for now. Whether the increased interest levels can be converted into sales is one thing. What the airlines think will happen to their market share -- and can do about it, perhaps through new and higher-volume demands for user fees -- is another. For now, however, the marketing departments at airframers and at many operators were working overtime, trying to convert the increased interest into sales. If current restrictions continue, if airline service continues its steady decline or if new security threats are perceived, business travelers won't have much choice but to either cancel their plans, drive or fly aboard private aircraft.

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The VLJ Race Begins

It's been years in the making, but the race between very light jet (VLJ) manufacturers will soon be at high speed. That's if Eclipse and Cessna have anything to say about it. Cessna last week said it began function and reliability (F&R) flight testing on its forthcoming Citation Mustang VLJ, which the company maintains is "the last step before gaining type certification from the FAA." “We have essentially completed the majority of our certification issues and expect to wrap things up with the F&R program, keeping us on schedule for TC as predicted four years ago when we launched the program. Not only will we meet FAR Part 23 requirements, we’ll also meet a number of the Part 25 commuter aircraft requirements regarding takeoff and landing performance,” said Jon Carr, Citation Mustang project engineer.

Although Cessna is uniformly thought to have the type certification process down to a fine science, Eclipse is finding that final certification details to be more time consuming than it may have originally thought. Eclipse said on July 27 that it "expects to receive the full type certification for the Eclipse 500 by August 30th that will allow day/night, Visual Flight Rules (VFR)/Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), single-pilot and Reduced Vertical Separation Minimums (RVSM) operations throughout the complete operating envelope." Not included in Eclipse's new paperwork will be known-icing certification, however. The vast majority of the FAA-imposed restrictions on the Eclipse 500 involve software, and not the airframe or its equipment.

Everyone's "On Track"

For Cessna, Carr said its Mustang type certificate will include approval for single-pilot operation, day/night operations, visual and instrument flight rules (VFR/IFR), and operations in reduced vertical separation minimum (RVSM) airspace -- same as Eclipse. In fact, Cessna is being forced to say its Citation Mustang "will be one of the first new aircraft certified with" certain features, instead of the first. Like Eclipse, Cessna maintains the Citation Mustang remains "on track" for certification in the fourth quarter of 2006.

With a nod to difficulties engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney Canada has experienced, the company added, "final certification for the engine and FADEC from Transport Canada and the FAA is expected soon." (We wouldn't be a bit surprised to learn Cessna is burning the midnight oil in an attempt to beat that target and get its FAA paperwork by Sept. 30, the end of 2006's third quarter.) Meanwhile, Cessna says it has some 19 aircraft already in production at its facilities in Independence, Kan., and Columbus, Ga.

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Gulfstream's G150 Enters Service

Gulfstream Aerospace this week celebrated the newest addition to its fleet -- the G150 business jet. Billed as Gulfstream’s "first true mid-size business jet," the G150 was introduced in September 2002 and certified ahead of the company's schedule. The G150 completed its first flight on May 3, 2005, and received FAA certification on Nov. 7, 2005. The G150 aircraft are designed and built in collaboration with Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) in Tel Aviv, Israel. Initial manufacturing is completed in Tel Aviv, then the aircraft are flown to Gulfstream’s Dallas facility for the final phase of manufacturing.

Some of the G150's performance numbers are better than expected, including maximum range and balanced field length. Drag- and weight-reduction efforts took most of the credit, according to the company. The G150 is powered by two Honeywell TFE731-40AR engines and can reach speeds of up to Mach .85 and altitudes of FL450. At a long-range cruise speed of Mach .75, the G150 can fly four passengers nonstop up to 2,950 nm, giving it transcontinental range. Its flight deck is equipped with Collins Pro Line 21 avionics.

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Sino Swearingen SJ30 Sets Records

The Sino Swearingen Aircraft Corporation (SSAC) said last month its SJ30 light jet had unofficially set records for range and speed for a light jet. The company flew an SJ30 from San Antonio, Texas, to Goose Bay, Canada, refueled, and then flew on to the Farnborough air show in Farnborough, England. Records claimed by the company include fastest time in its class from San Antonio to Goose Bay and from San Antonio to Farnborough. The flights were observed by the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) and won't be official until the NAA verifies them.

Total flight time for the 2,230-nm trip from San Antonio to Goose Bay was 5 hours. Landing at Goose Bay, the SJ30 still contained a 1.5-hour fuel reserve. Total flight time for the 2,370-nm final leg of the trip from Goose Bay to Farnborough was 5 hours and 24 minutes, landing with a 1-hour fuel reserve. The SJ30 received FAA certification last year but the company's financial resources reportedly have not allowed it to move into full-scale production. Obviously, setting a few records might help Sino Swearingen attract enough investors and orders to put its little hustler into production.

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Jet Aviation Adds To U.S. Management Fleet

Zurich-based Jet Aviation said recently its U.S. aircraft management division added 10 new aircraft to its fleet through new long-term agreements. New additions in the U.S. include a Falcon 900EX, a Citation III, a Citation V, a Gulfstream III, a Gulfstream V, a Gulfstream IVSP, a Challenger 300, a Global Express, a Challenger 601 and two Hawker 800s. "Demand for comprehensive aircraft management support is strong and we are pleased that Jet Aviation continues to be the management partner of choice," said Michael Szczechowski, senior vice president and general manager of Jet Aviation's U.S. aircraft management division.

Jet Aviation said its aircraft management services include in-house worldwide flight planning and scheduling, flight-crew staffing, line operations and maintenance services plus insurance, accounting and administrative services. The company operates three 24-hour international planning and reservations coordination centers in Zurich, Hong Kong and Teterboro, N.J.

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Bombardier's Safety Standdown Set

Billed as its "War on Error," Canadian airframer Bombardier has set dates for this year's "Safety Standdown," the company's four-day seminar focusing on safe business aircraft operation. This year's seminar will be held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Wichita, Kan., Oct. 2 through Oct 5, and is open to operators of all aircraft, not just Bombardier's.

Designed for flight crewmembers, the four-day seminar is free of charge, and features two days of optional training on the front end and two days for the main seminar at the end. Bombardier and NBAA sponsor the event; both Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and the National Test Pilot School offer 2.5 CEU credits to those who attend the full seminar. This year's seminar is the series' 10th anniversary. For more information, visit the company's Web page.



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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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