AVwebBiz Complete Issue: Volume 4, Number 21

October 25, 2006

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
 
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NBAA Aftermath: Picking Up The Pieces

If one used an old-style phonograph record as a metaphor by which to measure how successful an annual National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) annual meeting and convention might be, there are pieces of smashed vinyl all over the Orange County (Fla.) Convention Center. And none of it should come as a surprise: AVweb noted before the show started that it was shaping up to be the biggest in history, with all of the exhibit floor and static display space sold out in advance for the first time ever. Now, the official numbers are in and confirm for the many who attended what was pretty obvious. Late on the show's last day, NBAA confirmed last week's extravaganza "was the biggest and best in the association's history, breaking attendance records and selling out exhibit space earlier than ever before. At the close of the three-day event, the attendance total was 33,088, which was a 14-percent increase over the final total for 2005, also in Orlando, and higher than the previous record of 31,665 set in Las Vegas in 1998."

Not only was attendance at an all-time high, but exhibitor records were also broken. A total of 1,140 exhibitors registered and 5,235 10-by-10-foot booth spaces were sold, which represents an increase in booth spaces of nearly 9 percent over 2005, with both shows held at the North/South Building of the Orange County Convention Center. This year's show also included more aircraft on the exhibit floor than previous years -- 11 fixed-wing airplanes and four helicopters. The static display at Orlando Executive Airport included 117 aircraft of almost all types. "This year's Annual Meeting & Convention has surpassed our expectations on all fronts," said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. "We are pleased at the continued growth in support from the business aviation community for this event and for the opportunity to enhance the public's understanding of business aviation." Mark your calendars: Next year's event is scheduled for Sept. 25 through 27, 2007, in Atlanta, Ga.

 
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How Do You Spell Success?

Another way to measure success at last week's NBAA event is to count the numbers of airframes sold or ordered. While it's always difficult to track orders and compare them to delivered airframes throughout a model's manufacturing life, most makers left with something to smile about. Among them was Cessna, which says it received 115 jet orders worth more than $1 billion and expects that these agreements will be finalized and enter backlog. Combined with pre-show agreements, the company has already booked over 160 orders for the fourth quarter. Additionally, the airframer reports it sold four new single-turboprop Caravans last week at NBAA. And Bell Helicopter -- like Cessna, a Textron subsidiary -- booked 10 new orders across its commercial helicopter line, including the 429 and 430 models.

Other success stories include Adam Aircraft, which executed a previously announced order for 101 of its A700 AdamJets with Magnum Jet, a start-up per-seat, on-demand operator. Embraer announced during the show sales of up to 77 examples of its to-be-certified Phenom 100 and 300 light jets. Of that total, 24, plus 12 options, go to Spain-based Wondair; 16 and options for 5 more have been ordered by Eagle Creek Aviation Services; and fractional operator Avantair has spoken for 20. Even piston-aircraft manufacturers got into the act at NBAA, with South Carolina-based SATSair signing up for 50 SR22s, with options for an additional 50. That deal alone was valued at $45 million. And NetJets Europe placed an order for 30 of Raytheon's Hawker 750 jets, valued at more than $350 million. Deliveries are slated to begin in the first quarter of 2008 and be completed by 2012.

 
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Boeing Takes Orders For VIP-Configured 787 Dreamliners And 747s

Last week, AVweb updated you on Boeing's business jet program (BBJ), noting the debut of the BBJ3, based on the 737-900ER. What we didn't report is that Boeing also has new orders for VIP-configured versions of its commercial jets. According to the company, Boeing will build one 787-8 Dreamliner, three 787-9 Dreamliners and three 747-8 airplanes specifically for non-airline owners. With the previously announced orders of 12 BBJs and the new widebody orders, the Boeing Business Jets sales team has won a total of 19 new airplane orders within the last 11 months -- business valued at $2.25 billion at list prices.

Boeing says its VIP-configured 787-8 offers 2,404 square feet of cabin space and a range of 9,590 nm, while the VIP-configured 787-9 offers 2,762 square feet in the cabin and even more range: 9,950 nm. Using a 787-9, an owner can fly anywhere in the world nonstop while carrying up to 75 passengers. The VIP version of the 747-8 provides an even larger cabin -- 4,786 square feet -- can carry 100 passengers and fly up to 9,260 nm. "Boeing has a long legacy of providing jets to the VIP market," said Steven Hill, Boeing Business Jets President. "We are thrilled with the continued success of the original Boeing Business Jets airplane family and the amazing market interest in our widebody jets." In addition to the 737-based BBJs and the 787 and 747-8 VIP airplanes, Boeing also offers VIP versions of the 767 and 777. Nearly 300 Boeing airplanes are in service in the VIP and business jet market.

MU-2 Subject Of "All-Hands" Meeting At FAA

The FAA is holding a meeting today at its headquarters involving all U.S. operators of the Mitsubishi MU-2 aircraft, apparently to provide updated information designed to enhance the type's safety. In a lengthy Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) published Sept. 28, the FAA announced it is seeking to create a Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) applicable to the Mitsubishi MU–2B series. According to the NPRM, the proposed SFAR would establish new pilot training, experience and operating requirements. The FAA says the proposed SFAR follows "an increased accident and incident rate in the MU–2B series airplane"; the proposed SFAR would implement a series of training requirements similar to those developed several years ago for the Robinson R-22 helicopter series. According to sources, attendance by MU-2 operators at this meeting was "strongly advised." Meanwhile, attendance by FAA inspectors with responsibility for one or more MU-2 operators is reportedly "mandatory."

According to the FAA, a safety evaluation it conducted prior to issuing the proposed SFAR examined more than 20 MU–2B pilot training programs, including three offered by commercial training providers. It found little standardization in how the programs addressed normal, abnormal and emergency procedures. Further, only a few training programs emphasized the type's "different handling characteristics" or any "specialized operational techniques." As part of these findings, the FAA determined that all MU-2 flight training should be conducted with a single standardized training program reflecting piloting procedures found in the type's Airplane Flight Manual. In response, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of America distributed Revision 1 of the training program in August, although its initial distribution apparently did not include all MU-2 operators.

 
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One Step Closer To A Supersonic BizJet

Is the industry a step or two closer to a viable supersonic business jet? Could be, after what Gulfstream is calling last week's successful test of its so-called Quiet Spike "sonic boom mitigator." According to the company, the device successfully completed its first supersonic flight on Friday, Oct. 20, attached to the nose of a NASA F-15B research aircraft. Gulfstream says it has been collaborating with the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center to conduct flight-testing of the device's structural integrity since mid-July. Gulfstream says the Quiet Spike, an image of which they did not have prior to our deadline, was flown at Mach 1.2 and operated as designed. Last week's supersonic flight followed others beginning Sept. 25 and worked to establish a flight envelope that included an altitude range of 15,000 and 35,000 feet and a maximum speed of Mach .80.

Now, the device has been fully extended to its maximum length of 24 feet and, according to Gulfstream, performed as expected during the 1 hour, 5-minute test flight, which reached an altitude of 45,000 feet. The company says its Quiet Spike is a multi-segmented, articulating boom that, when fully extended from the nose of a supersonic low-boom shaped aircraft, is expected to reduce the effects of sonic booms. “The fact that the Quiet Spike performed as designed at supersonic speeds and was extended and retracted without any difficulties, brings us one step closer to our goal of seeing if it will reduce the sonic boom when mounted on a more appropriate platform,” said Pres Henne, senior vice president, programs, engineering and test, Gulfstream. Reducing the impact of sonic booms is something of a Holy Grail to designers hoping for a marketable supersonic aircraft capable of efficient and speedy flight over landmasses.

 
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Is FAA Stacking The Deck On User Fees?

Anyone paying attention the last few months knows there is a looming battle over how to finance the FAA. In one corner are the airlines, which are the chief agitators in favor of an airspace system run by a public corporation charging for its services. In another corner is general and business aviation, which have the numbers to prove the FAA's finances are just fine, thank you, and that user fee schemes developed so far have major safety and bureaucratic implications. Plus, there's really nothing wrong with the current system of ticket and fuel taxes. Seemingly serving as a referee in all of this is the FAA, whose administrator, Marion Blakey, has made clear her preferences for user fees. Now, with a senior-level departure and the naming of a replacement, it appears the FAA could be stacking the deck in favor of its user-fee plans. All of which comes just in time for next year's battle on reauthorizing the FAA and its underlying funding scheme.

On Monday, the FAA's internal, employees-only Web site reported that David Baloff, for more than four years the agency's assistant administrator for government and industry affairs, is leaving in November to join Embraer as its new vice president, external affairs. His replacement is Megan Rosia, who will transfer to the agency from Northwest Airlines' government affairs shop. And we all know how Northwest Airlines feels about user fees. Baloff, whose previous experience included service as a policy advisor and press secretary to U.S. Rep. and former House Aviation Subcommittee Chairman John J. Duncan Jr., worked on previous FAA authorizing legislation in those positions. In her new job, Rosia will be the agency's chief liaison with Congress and industry groups, just as was Baloff, during the coming fights over reauthorizing the FAA and finding ways to pay for all its programs.

 
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Keystone Sells Off EMS Division

Keystone Helicopter Corporation said Monday it had reached an agreement with Seacor Holdings LLC to sell its Flight Services Division, which operates some 35 emergency medical services (EMS) helicopters throughout the eastern U.S. and Puerto Rico. According to Keystone, the division employs more than 200 pilots and technicians and operates 24/7. Terms of the sale were not disclosed. Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation acquired Keystone in 2005. "Seacor is a multibillion-dollar company with diversified businesses, including helicopter operations," stated David Ford, president of Keystone Helicopter, in a letter to the employees and customers of the company.

"They have indicated that they have a strategic goal of growing their presence in that market, and see Keystone's Flight Services Division as an excellent fit with their existing operations. This bodes well for the division, as Seacor has the resources and the incentive to invest in growing them into an even stronger competitor in the air medical industry." Seacor, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is primarily in the offshore oil and gas and inland transportation industries. It also provides oil-spill response and environmental remediation services. Among its aviation industry holdings are Tex-Air Helicopters and Era Aviation, both of which serve the offshore oil-exploration industry, among other markets.

Noteworthy NBAA Awards

Finally, we'd like to acknowledge and congratulate two award recipients who were recognized by their peers last week at NBAA's annual meeting and convention. Mary F. Silitch received the 2006 NBAA Platinum Wing Award, which recognizes excellence and lifetime achievement in journalism. Additionally, the association awarded Katherine Perfetti its Silk Scarf Award, traditionally given to individuals in recognition of special contributions to the business aviation community.

Silitch's career includes positions as editor in chief at Professional Pilot, editor in chief at Private Pilot and director of public relations/editor at the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. She holds a private pilot certificate with multi-engine, instrument and sea ratings. She has flown more than 250 types of aircraft and has logged more than 4,700 flight hours, mostly under IFR conditions. In addition to having patiently mentored this writer, she is one of the most professional aviation journalists we have ever known. Meanwhile, Perfetti has always been one of the most operationally knowledgeable FAA managers we have encountered. She first joined the FAA in 1978 as an aviation safety inspector and spent 13 years in the Kansas City and St. Louis field offices before transferring to the FAA’s Washington, D.C., headquarters in 1990. Most recently, she served as the agency's lead on the Parts 135/125 Aviation Rulemaking Committee. Perfetti holds an airline transport pilot certificate with several additional ratings. She soon will retire from the FAA after a very successful career; her departure marks a loss for the agency and for the industry it regulates.

 
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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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