AVwebBiz Complete Issue: Volume 4, Number 19

September 27, 2006

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Can't We All Just Get Along?

User fees. Airport and airspace access. Operating regulations. Security. Opinions on all these issues -- and many more -- help distinguish one aviation industry segment from another. For example, most scheduled carriers would support eliminating the existing U.S. airline ticket tax and excise taxes on fuel in favor of a per-mile or per-flight fee. Since the carriers are able to pass such costs along to their passengers, placing non-commercial operations at a disadvantage, they presume user fees would make private aviation less attractive. Business travelers who constitute the bulk of those with the option of flying aboard either an airline or a private plane, they believe, will choose the carrier as costs rise. Or so goes the conventional wisdom. Now, Cessna Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Jack Pelton is taking issue with that conventional wisdom as part of a speech given last week in London to the Aviation Club of the United Kingdom [PDF]. Pelton took issue with claims that business aviation siphons passengers from commercial airliners, noting that only 30 percent of business jet departures from European airports in 2005 were from airports with 100 or more daily departures. In other words, most business aviation flights are between smaller airports with limited or no airline service. It is not unusual, he said, for business fliers to use on-demand travel in conjunction with scheduled airline travel. “The fact is, business aviation users are also the biggest users of the airlines,” Pelton said. “Proof, if it were needed, can be seen in the sustained premium traffic growth, and overall historic passenger volumes, that airlines have experienced over the past 18 months, which coincide with the upward trajectory of business aviation.”

Pelton's comments about airlines came as he argued for greater cooperation among suppliers, governments and service providers on the various issues confronting business aviation in Europe. “The time is clearly ripe for our industry to fulfill its promise and capitalize on the current positive climate for expansion,” Pelton told the lunchtime gathering. He added that business aviation is growing at near double-digit rates in terms of flights, aircraft and passengers. The growth of the market is a result of both the strong economy in Europe and the changing face of the business traveler, Pelton said. Reasons for that growth include businesses seeing the benefits and cost savings of on-demand air travel, while technology and increasing competition among providers is opening up markets to a larger slice of society. A central point Pelton made is that there's enough of a market for air transportation -- scheduled and non-scheduled -- to go around, presumably in both Europe and the U.S. One of the keys according to Pelton is that business aviation serves as a complement to scheduled carriers, not competition. Whether that's true, and whether the scheduled carriers' ongoing attempts to secure for themselves preferential treatment in the air and on the ground will succeed, can only be answered over time.

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Dassault, NetJets Europe Ink Huge Bizjet Order

Depending on how it's measured, yesterday's agreement between Dassault Aviation and NetJets Europe for 24 Falcon 7X aircraft valued at U.S. $1.1 billion is the second largest business aircraft order in history or the largest European deal ever. Regardless, the transaction is Dassault's largest-ever private jet sale. The 24 aircraft will be delivered over six years, starting in early 2008, and continuing through 2014. Of course, the order's size was not lost on the customer. Mark Booth, chairman and CEO of NetJets Europe, said, "This historic order reinforces our desire to provide our customers with the best aircraft and product options to meet their business aviation needs. The Falcon 7X is a magnificent aircraft and we expect fractional demand for this aircraft to be robust. The size of this order clearly demonstrates the significant demand for our product, which has effectively revolutionized travel on this continent." A similarly happy Charles Edelstenne, chairman and president of Dassault Aviation, said, "We are extremely pleased that NetJets Europe has selected the Falcon 7X for this order. We believe it is the perfect aircraft for NetJets to continue building its long-range business and to offer its clients the exceptional service they have come to expect."

Dassault expects to certificate the Falcon 7X in early 2007; the type was first announced at the 2001 Paris Air Show and more than 90 aircraft have already been ordered. It is designed with a range of 5,950 nm, enabling nonstop flights from London to Los Angeles or Edinburgh to Tokyo. NetJets Europe is the largest Dassault operator on the continent with a fleet of 15 Falcon aircraft. The company took delivery of a Falcon 2000EX and a Falcon 900EX earlier this year and will receive another Falcon 2000EX in December. NetJets Europe was founded in 1996 and took delivery of its 100th plane in June 2006.

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Mooney CEO Leaving "To Pursue Other Opportunities"

Mooney Airplane Co. Chief Executive Gretchen L. Jahn resigned her position yesterday, effective Oct. 1, formally saying only that she wished to pursue other opportunities. The Kerrville, Tex.-based company's board of directors immediately named Dennis Ferguson as her replacement. Perhaps reflecting on the fact that deliveries of Mooney aircraft under her management more than doubled from 2004 to 2005 -- from 36 to 85 -- Jahn said in a statement, "I have a passion for getting companies up and running. It has been exciting to participate in this process at Mooney." She will remain on staff as an adviser to the certification of Mooney's new Acclaim single-propeller aircraft, which it unveiled in April. The company bills it as the fastest single-piston-engine airplane on the market.

“Gretchen has made a significant contribution to Mooney’s revitalization and we wish her well,” said Steven E. Karol, chairman of the board for Mooney Aerospace Group, Ltd. Ferguson, her replacement, comes to Mooney after almost 10 years' service as president of Airshow Inc., an cabin entertainment products manufacturing company. Mooney Chairman Steve Karol added, "Dennis brings a strong background in the aviation industry and experience in transitioning a small, entrepreneurial company into a significant force in the marketplace. Mooney is ready to take the next step in its revitalization, having improved its market share, operational efficiencies and brand recognition over the past three years."

Adam Aircraft Gets A500 Production Approval

Last week's award of an FAA production certification to Adam Aircraft for its A500 piston twin -- along with a recently announced infusion of cash -- will give the young company enough breathing room to move forward on delivering the new aircraft to customers while it accelerates development of its A700 AdamJet. The FAA gave the company formal approval to manufacture and deliver the A500, enabling it to accelerate its production. "An FAA production certificate represents a major step toward the Adam Aircraft goal of delivering six A500 aircraft every month," said Rick Adam, founder and CEO.

"Issuing a production certificate means the FAA accepts the Adam Aircraft Quality System as one that will reliably produce A500 aircraft that conform to the approved type design." Last month Adam told AVweb it expects full certification of the A500 push-me/pull-you piston twin any day now. The aircraft received initial type certification in May 2005, but that paperwork came with several constraints limiting the A500's utility. In addition to the recent $93 million influx from DCM, a venture capital firm, the company's largest outside investor is Goldman Sachs. The company is headquartered at the Centennial Airport in Englewood, Colo.

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Executive Jet Investments Buys Majority Stake In Grob

Swiss-based business aviation company Executive Jet Investments (EJI) last week announced it has acquired the controlling share in German aircraft manufacturer Grob Aerospace. No details or terms of the acquisition were announced, although EJI did say its future operations would be conducted under the Grob Aerospace banner. The deal makes a multinational corporation out of Germany's last remaining independent aircraft manufacturer and solidifies EJI's commitment to the Grob SPn Utility Jet, of which it already owned a 50-percent stake.

According to reports, Niall Olver, who heads EJI operations in Zurich, will be chief executive officer of the new group. Grob Aerospace, part of the Grob Group of manufacturing companies focused on producing machine tools for the automobile industry, has more than 30 years' experience in building military, civilian and business aircraft for markets throughout the world. The investment by EJI should bring a new focus to the SPn Utility Jet, which was first announced at the 2005 Paris Air Show and continues under development.

Rockwell Collins Launches Two New Avionics Systems

Rockwell Collins last week introduced two pieces of avionics equipment for the business aviation market, including a new traffic surveillance system and a new WAAS-capable GPS receiver. According to the company, the TSS-4100 Traffic Surveillance System is a highly integrated system combining TCAS II and Mode S transponder functionality -- as well as emerging ADS-B applications -- into a single unit. Meanwhile, the GPS-4000S sensor and associated WAAS antenna will allow operators to use GPS as a sole means of navigation for en route operations and approach procedures. Operators flying with the company's Flight Management Systems (FMS) and who install a GPS-4000S will be able to take advantage of localizer performance vertical guidance (LPV) approach capability upon availability of an FMS upgrade option, which is scheduled for initial certification in late 2007.

The first customer for the company's GPS-4000S is the FAA, which signed a contract with Rockwell Collins last November to add Wide Area Augmentation System functionality with localizer performance with vertical guidance (WAAS LPV) to the FAA's flight inspection aircraft. WAAS improves the availability and integrity of GPS navigation by providing horizontal and vertical navigation for precision approach operations for all users at all locations.

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Bombardier Learjet 60 Sets Speed Record

Bombardier last week said its Learjet 60 midsize jet set a world speed record for its class, flying a roundtrip between from Cape Town, South Africa, to Johannesburg and back in two hours, 59 minutes. The flight was fully sanctioned by the Federation Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the international body responsible for recognizing such records. “The aircraft performed superbly as expected,” said Terry Redman, chief pilot and director, The Aviation Co., the aircraft’s operator. “The first leg to Johannesburg took just one hour, 24 minutes. The aircraft’s performance was put to the test against the wind on the return leg to Cape Town, arriving only one hour and 35 minutes later.”

In service since June 2006, the Learjet 60 aircraft cruised at Mach 0.81 throughout the flight. The crew then performed several fly passes as part of the flying display at the Africa Aerospace and Defence show, landing to join a Bombardier Global 5000 business jet at a reception. A follow-on to the Learjet 60 -- the Learjet 60 XR -- is expected to receive FAA type certification "shortly," according to the company, with customer deliveries beginning in early 2007.

New Pilatus PC-12 Dealership In Southern Africa

Pilatus Switzerland this month announced the newly formed Pilatus PC-12 Centre Southern Africa is the new exclusive factory-authorized sales and service center for Southern Africa. The new company was started by well-known South African aviation professionals Tim Webster (acting CEO) and Gerry Wyss (director). All partners have extensive aviation and aircraft sales experience, and have worked with the international Pilatus team for a number of years. “We are convinced that we have found a dynamic team that can drive our Pilatus business in Southern Africa,” says Fred Muggli, head of PC-12 Sales and Marketing at Pilatus. “There is great potential for the PC-12 in the region because its long range, spacious cabin, high speed, low operating economics, and outstanding reliability make it uniquely suited to the area.”

According to Pilatus, Webster started his flying career in the South African air force and then moved into commercial aviation. During his career in aviation, he has worked in the charter, management and sales environment. Wyss is also a former South African air force pilot. Pilatus PC-12 Centre Southern Africa is based at Rand Airport and will begin operations on Oct. 1, 2006.

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PWC Appoints Two To Senior Management Positions

Pratt & Whitney Canada earlier this month announced it named John Saabas as executive vice president and Benoît Brossoit as senior vice president, Service Centres and Operations. Mr. Saabas will be responsible for engineering, operations, quality, service centers, customer support and marketing. Previously senior vice president, engineering and operations, Mr. Saabas has been with the company since 1985. Mr. Brossoit, who will report to Mr. Saabas, will provide leadership and strategic direction to the PWC Service Centre network as well as its manufacturing operations and supply chain activities worldwide. He joined PWC in 1995.

"John and Benoît will play a key role in helping our company meet our ambitious growth objectives," said Alain M. Bellemare, president, P&WC. "They bring a wealth of experience and capability in their new roles." Mr. Saabas earned bachelor's and master's degrees in Applied Sciences (Mechanical Engineering) from the University of Waterloo and a PhD in Aerodynamics from McGill University. Brossoit holds a bachelor's degree in Industrial Engineering from the GMI Engineering & Management Institute.

Landmark Aviation FBO Chain Appoints New Regional VP

Landmark Aviation this month said it named Jim McNeill as its new regional vice president, FBO Operations. McNeill previously was general manager at Landmark Aviation’s flagship FBO facility at Dulles, Va., and now will manage several key FBOs in the Landmark network. Those include company facilities at Toronto; Dulles; Leesburg, Va.; Fayetteville, N.C.; and Raleigh Durham, N.C. He also will continue oversight of the Dulles operation until his successor is named. He was general manager at Dulles since 2003 and before that, general manager at Landmark’s Toronto operation.

“With a proven track record of success at primary Landmark operations, Jim will provide outstanding leadership in this key position,” said Shawn Vick, president, Landmark Aviation. Previous to working at Landmark and its predecessor company, Piedmont Hawthorne, McNeill worked in management roles at Esso Avitat Ottawa-Imperial Oil in Canada. He holds a bachelor of commerce degree from Carleton University in Ottawa.

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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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