AVwebBiz Complete Issue: Volume 4, Number 18

September 13, 2006

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
 
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The VLJ Race: Buddy, Can You Spare An Asterisk?

In the annals of business aviation, it will be recorded that Cessna won the race to be the first to obtain full FAA type certification of a very light jet (VLJ). Last week's achievement doesn't come without an asterisk, however. The footnote will be necessary since it's highly likely that Eclipse will deliver examples of its Eclipse 500 to new owners well before Cessna, which doesn't intend to place Mustangs into owners' hands until early 2007. Eclipse, which received provisional FAA type certification in July, expects to obtain full certification "any day now." And neither airplane has obtained FAA approval for flight in known icing conditions, a hurdle that could severely restrict the airplanes' usefulness until it is cleared. As such, there are probably enough asterisks to go around in the VLJ market right now, with Adam Aircraft, Embraer and other manufacturers waiting in the wings to see how these new airplanes, umm, fly with customers. Nevertheless, Cessna's new-airplane certification apparatus last week was basking in the glow of another accomplished mission. “This is an immense achievement, marking another point in history where Cessna has led the aviation industry into new territory,” said Cessna Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Jack Pelton.

The FAA's type certification for the Mustang includes single-pilot operation, day/night operations, visual and instrument flight rules (VFR/IFR), and operations in reduced vertical separation minimum (RVSM) airspace. By contrast, the Eclipse 500 presently does not enjoy those approvals; its provisional type certificate basically carries the FAA's assurance that the airplane will fly. Similarly, the two airplanes differ somewhat in their philosophies. Sure, they're both targeting the same market and are powered by similar Pratt & Whitney Canada engines, but that's where the similarities end. Aboard the Citation Mustang, a Garmin G1000 does the avionics chores along with an integrated, digital autopilot. The Eclipse 500 could be thought of as an advanced management system -- the Avio integrated system -- in a wrapper that flies. Nevertheless, players in the VLJ market were quick to recognize Cessna's achievement. "The Mustang certification is good for the industry," Eclipse told AVweb; Adam Aircraft added, "We congratulate Cessna on this accomplishment, which validates the continued investment in this segment of the marketplace." Cessna currently has 250 orders for the Mustang, which it says means production is sold out into 2009.

 
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Embraer Ups VLJ Ante With Phenom 100 Fleet Order

With all that's going on in the VLJ market, Brazilian airframer Embraer wasn't sitting around. While Cessna was crowing about its Mustang, Embraer executives were helping ring the Sept. 5 opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange -- talk about catering to your audience. Also, the company last week announced that Houston-based Magnum Jet will buy 50 of its Phenom 100 jets and has placed an option for 50 more aircraft. The $137.5 million contract -- potentially worth $275 million if all the options are converted -- also allows Magnum Jet to acquire either the Phenom 100 or the Phenom 300. The order for up to 100 Embraer Phenoms came shortly after Magnum Jet -- which is another on-demand startup operation planning to fly over defined routes -- contracted with Adam Aircraft to buy as many as 101 A700 AdamJets.

Embraer expects its Phenom 100 to enter service in mid-2008 and Magnum Jet is scheduled to take delivery of its first aircraft in early 2009. “We believe that Embraer's design for the Phenom 100 delivers operating capabilities and an interior design that will appeal to prospective owners and will offer a comfortable and efficient travel experience for future passengers. The design of the Phenom 100, together with Embraer's reputation for quality and reliability makes this new jet an integral part of Magnum's plans for the future,” said Jim Burns, Magnum Jet’s CEO. A full-scale Phenom 300 mock-up, followed by a presentation to investors and analysts, was part of the Embraer executives' appearance at the New York Stock Exchange.

Five Years In The Industry's Life

Unless you've been hiding under a rock this week -- and some would say that's a good place to be, for a variety of reasons -- you've probably been inundated with retrospectives on the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Missing from much of that news coverage has been any discussion of how the business aviation industry has fared over the five years. AVweb looked back into our archives to review what restrictions were imposed on the industry, which were not, and which still remain. Additionally, we examined what the industry looked like in 2001 and compared it to today's outlook. Overall, it appears the industry has done quite well, thank you, although some lingering problems remain.

  • Perhaps most troublesome are remaining restrictions in the Washington, D.C., area, including what can only be described as a cumbersome pre-clearance requirement for operations to and from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). However, given that DCA was closed to non-scheduled operations for years following the attacks, progress has been made. Meanwhile, the existing Washington Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) is mostly transparent to business aviation flights operating under IFR except when certain special events require increased restrictions.
  • For charter operators using large aircraft (with maximum gross takeoff weights in excess of 12,500 lbs.), the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) so-called Twelve-Five Rule has been assimilated and complied with. While initial problems existed with the rule -- most of which could be attributed to the TSA's abysmal understanding of or willingness to consider how non-scheduled aircraft operations don't mix with airline-style passenger screening -- most of them have been resolved. Still, operators tell AVweb that personnel turnover problems at the agency mean that constant education and re-education of TSA inspectors accustomed to dealing with airlines soak up much time and energy that could be better spent.
  • Meanwhile, fractional operators have been mostly left alone by the Twelve-Five Rule, since their passengers can't simply walk in off the street. And large corporate operations remain immune to the TSA, perhaps since their flying is probably more secure than ever.
  • Overall, demand for business aviation services has never been greater, according to numerous industry benchmarks. Observers generally attribute the steady growth to increased frustration with delays and the intrusive nature of airline passenger screening, when they are not pointing to the continuing decline in service provided by most scheduled domestic U.S. carriers. To say that 9/11 created business opportunities for the industry would be to ignore both the tragedy itself and the effort required to arrive at this point in the industry's history, but there you are.
  • Finally, the industry has been mostly successful at convincing state, local and federal lawmakers that additional security-related restrictions on business aviation are either unnecessary or unworkable. In addition to the dangers of creating a patchwork of local requirements, the industry's own decentralization and autonomy -- the vast majority of the airports served by business aviation have little to none of the infrastructure required to support what many policymakers might like in the way of security restrictions -- has worked in its favor.

In many ways, the business and other segments of general aviation have weathered the storm of 9/11 restrictions quite well, with new aircraft designs coming along and sales records being set virtually every calendar quarter. Back in late 2001 and early 2002, it didn't look like the industry would be where it is today.

 
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NTSB Takes On Beechjet Flameouts

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) last month formally made four safety recommendations to the FAA concerning recent dual flameouts of engines powering Raytheon Beechjet 400-series airplanes, in part requesting the agency to help educate pilots on the realities of high-altitude engine icing. The recommendation letter [PDF] highlights four separate events -- three in U.S. airspace and a fourth over Brazil -- in which both Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) JT15D-5 turbofan engines powering the incident aircraft failed at high altitude and their crews were unable to perform restarts in a timely manner. In one incident, the airplane was successfully deadsticked onto a runway at Jacksonville, Fla., while only one engine could be restarted in two of the other events. According to the NTSB, "the ice is believed to be building up on the compressor stator airfoils deep within the engine."

In its letter, the NTSB formally recommended that the FAA:

  • Immediately require Beechjet 400 pilots to activate the engine ignition and anti-ice systems at high altitude whenever they are in or near visible moisture, or near convective storm activity, or before any power reduction.
  • Require Raytheon to incorporate previously published information regarding anti-ice operation and ice formation into the Beechjet 400 airplane flight manual.
  • Expand the second recommendation, above, to incorporate anti-ice operation and ice formation data into the airplane flight manuals of other JT15D-powered airplanes.
  • Actively develop an ice detector that would alert pilots to internal engine icing and require that it be installed on new production turbojet engines and retrofitted to existing turbojet engines.

The NTSB noted what it called "a general perception" among turbine airplane pilots that ice is not a threat at higher altitudes because it is “too cold.” While that may be true for airframe icing, ambient air has a habit of being heated as it enters a turbine engine, melting any ice. High-altitude power reductions -- which seem to be involved in each of the four incidents the NTSB cited -- apparently allows that liquid to refreeze, sometimes shutting down the engine.

Cessna to Unveil Citation CJ4 at NBAA

Fresh on the heels of securing FAA type certification for its Citation Mustang very light jet, Cessna said it will introduce the CJ4, the newest member of the CJ family of Citation business jets, at the annual National Business Aviation Association convention, Oct. 17 through 19. If you're interested, though, Cessna said it would take orders for the newest member of its Citation family before the convention begins. The proposed CJ4 will seat seven to eight passengers, depending on layout, and incorporate a large forward door, private lavatory, and large baggage compartment, the company said. It will be powered by two Williams FJ44-4A engines equipped with FADECs and be certified for flight as high as FL450.

“The market success of the CJ1+, CJ2+ and CJ3 proves that Cessna’s basic philosophy for the family is right on target,” said Roger Whyte, senior vice president of Sales/Marketing for Cessna. “While the CJ4 shares many of the features of the smaller CJs such as the Collins ProLine 21 avionics suite, we’ve made some cabin and airframe changes, such as a new wing, to optimize its performance for this market segment. The CJ4 is simply the latest manifestation of our philosophy, filling a market niche within our range of aircraft that we think will be very popular.” First flight of the CJ4 is scheduled for the first half of 2008 and entry into service is set for 2010.

 
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International Arrival Requirements Loosened

An FAA Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) describing security-related requirements for non-scheduled aircraft arrivals into the U.S. and overflights in U.S. airspace was recently revised, significantly simplifying previous requirements. The new requirements are outlined in NOTAM FDC 6/7435 - U.S. Entry and Overflight Requirements, which was issued Aug. 23, 2006. The new NOTAM and replaces NOTAM FDC 2/5319, which dates from June 11, 2002. Under the new requirements, the three requirements for operations to or from the U.S. are:

  • Operators must file and operate with an active flight plan.
  • Aircraft must be equipped with an operational Mode C transponder and continuously squawk an ATC-issued transponder code.
  • Operators must maintain two-way communications with ATC.
Additionally, TSA waivers will no longer be required for flights operated by aircraft with a certificated takeoff gross weight 100,309 pounds or less.

The new NOTAM was issued by the FAA, presumably with close coordination among the TSA and other agencies, but with little public fanfare. The NOTAM being replaced, FDC 2/5319, was significantly lengthier and more complicated. Generally, the new, less-stringent requirements apply only to U.S.-registered aircraft. As always, operators are strongly encouraged to obtain and understand a complete set of airspace NOTAMs as part of their routine pre-flight planning.

Cessna Changes Manufacturing Leadership

Cessna last week announced changes in its manufacturing leadership it says will allow it to better focus responsibilities to meet expected growth in the company’s product line. Craig Estep, formerly vice president, operations, was appointed vice president, Citation/Caravan Operations. In this new role, Estep will have responsibility for all assembly and completion operations for Citation jets and Caravan turboprops. Meanwhile, Rod Holter is rejoining Cessna as vice president and general manager for Cessna – Independence, Kan. In this new role, Holter will have responsibility for the leadership and coordination of single-engine piston aircraft and Citation Mustang jet operations and related support activities in Independence. Also, Brad Thress, formerly vice president of quality, was appointed vice president, component operations. In this newly created role, Thress will have operational responsibility for electrical assembly, metal bond operations, and Cessna component production facilities in Wichita, Columbus, Ga., and Chihuahua, Mexico. Finally, Cub Marion, formerly vice president of Textron Six Sigma at Cessna, was appointed vice president, quality.

“These changes will allow our senior leaders to continue to build on our extraordinary financial and operational performance as our business base and product line expands,” said Jack Pelton, Cessna chairman, president and chief executive officer. All the new positions report to Ron Alberti, senior vice president, Integrated Supply Chain, and are effective immediately. According to Cessna, Holter is returning to Cessna from a senior leadership position at Eclipse Aviation; he previously held leadership positions including assembly product director and vice president, quality. Thress joined Cessna in 1992 as a demonstration pilot and has held successive positions of increased responsibility in marketing, engineering and quality. Marion joined Cessna in 2003 as Six Sigma master black belt and has implemented product and service improvement processes throughout Cessna’s organization, according to the company.

 
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Former Raytheon Vice President To Head Eclipse Aviation Manufacturing

Eclipse Aviation last week said Paul Schumacher is being elevated to its executive team as vice president of manufacturing, replacing Rod Holter (see preceding story). Schumacher joined the company two months earlier from Raytheon Aircraft Company, where he served as vice president of operations and was responsible for all manufacturing and facility operations. In that role, Schumacher led manufacturing for aircraft product lines including the Baron, Bonanza, Hawker 400, Hawker 800, King Air and Premier.

“Paul is a highly accomplished manufacturing professional, and his leadership will be invaluable as we accelerate our production ramp,” said Peg Billson, COO of Eclipse Aviation. “We are leveraging advanced manufacturing methods like moving assembly lines and robotics to dramatically to increase production efficiency and redefine the general aviation landscape. Paul’s extensive experience will be a tremendous asset as we continue to pursue this overriding strategic objective.” Prior to Raytheon, Schumacher spent 27 years at Lockheed Martin in a variety of manufacturing positions and was most recently vice president of operations.

Flight Options Streamlines, Slims Down

Flight Options, Raytheon's fractional operations arm, last week said it is launching a new purchase and use program it hopes will deliver to its customers greater value through access to more hours or savings on long-haul trips. The program, dubbed Fractional First, seeks to streamline the company's relationship with its customers by increasing flexibility and simplifying the confusing and restrictive calculations it says have become the industry standard. “Customers have been telling us that in addition to greater value they want the decision process to be easier,” said S. Michael Scheeringa, chief executive officer, Flight Options, LLC. [More] The company's Fractional First program includes:

  • No Taxi Time Deduction, resulting in more air time (taxi time will be paid but not deducted from share hours purchased).
  • Distance-Based Pricing, yielding more air time as hourly rates are based upon distance flown.
  • Transparent Fuel Cost, allowing customers to pay what Flight Options pays and uses rather than base price plus surcharge at a five-year fixed-usage rate.
  • A Flexible Use Option for utilization of 80 percent to 120 percent of share hours purchased each year and management fees only on hours used.
  • Extended Service Area, allowing customers to pay only the fuel cost for the repositioning leg when flying outside of the Primary Service Area.
Flight Options operates more than 150 aircraft, including the world’s largest fleets of Beechjet 400As and Legacy Executive aircraft, as well as Hawker 800XP and Citation X jets.

 
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Cessna Receives NetJets Awards

Fractional operator NetJets said it has awarded Cessna Aircraft Company two awards designed to recognize the airframer's "cooperative efforts contributing to the overall success" of NetJets who, not coincidentally, is Cessna's largest customer. Cessna received the first-ever NetJets Annual Performance Award, given for process improvements Cessna implemented in 2005 to decrease maintenance downtime on aircraft operated by NetJets. Cessna's Wichita, Kan., business jet service center also received the operator's second quarter 2006 Base Maintenance Award. This award also is given for helping reduce NetJets' downtime. NetJets, through its various operating companies, operates more than 600 aircraft, making it the world's largest operator of private business jets; more than 240 aircraft in its fleet are Cessna Citations.

"Everything we do at Cessna is centered on putting our customer first, and that makes these awards from NetJets very meaningful to us," said Ron Chapman, senior vice president of customer service at Cessna. "They confirm we are headed in the right direction, and through our customers' feedback we will continue to find ways to improve our service to NetJets and each of our operators."

 

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AVwebBiz is an every-other-week 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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