AVwebBiz Complete Issue: Volume 4, Number 24

December 6, 2006

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Eclipse Addresses Delays And Performance Guarantees

With complications pushing back its delivery schedule, Eclipse Aviation in two announcements Monday disclosed plans to modify its design and offer certain customers payment reductions. To address concerns that the company's production schedule will not be met and that terms for additional payment due may in that be case be premature, Eclipse is offering the following adjustment. For customers with scheduled delivery dates on or before Sept. 30, 2007, the company will "reduce your final payment due at delivery by 0.5 percent per month (6 percent annual interest rate) of the additional payment we are asking you to pay now." Plus, the company says that because the Eclipse 500 has "fallen short of our guaranteed performance numbers" Eclipse Aviation developed a "Performance Improvement Program." According to a second announcement, Monday, the promised goal of 370 knots (TAS) and 1,125-nm range has been met through that program. Eclipse expects "to have this configuration certified sometime between mid-March and mid-April 2007."

Eclipse's newly adopted financial arrangement for customers affected by delivery delays includes an Aircraft Purchase Agreement Addendum and notes that Eclipse has a one-month grace period before the interest calculation takes effect. For clarity, Eclipse offers this example: "If the Scheduled Delivery Month is April 2007 and the actual date of delivery is June 3, 2007, the Buyer will be entitled to one month of a 0.5% offset of the Additional Deposit amount which will be deducted from the final payment amount."

Eclipse's newly adjusted performance improvement program now vows to retrofit all aircraft with modifications "ensuring that there is a singular aircraft fleet with the above mentioned performance numbers." The changes include modification to tip tanks, a horizontal/vertical "bullet" fairing, covers for control surface hinges, extended rudder and elevator surfaces, modified engine pylons and nacelles, improved aerodynamic wheel covers and gear fairings, and a FADEC adjustment to allow more thrust at typical cruise altitudes. Eclipse will perform the modifications and absorb costs associated with parts and labor expected to require three weeks of aircraft downtime.

Brazil Lets Legacy Pilots Go

The Federal Regional Court of the First Region of Brasilia said in a unanimous ruling that Joseph Lepore and Jan Paladino have been granted permission to retrieve their passports and leave Brazil within 72 hours, according to a report yesterday from The Associated Press. The two pilots have been held in Brazil since Sept. 29, when the Embraer Legacy they were flying collided with a Gol Airlines 737, resulting in the loss of all 154 aboard the Boeing. The pilots had been held pending an investigation into the crash and possible manslaughter charges, but a federal judge Tuesday found no legal grounds for holding the pilots and ruled the return of their passports -- with one condition. The pilots "must agree to return to Brazil for any further inquiry and judicial action, the court said," according to the AP.

Records so far included in the investigation suggest the Legacy filed for 36,000 feet but was cleared by Sao Jose dos Camps Tower to fly at 37,000 feet, where it remained until striking the 737. Radio communications and the failures of both the Boeing and Embraer's collision-avoidance equipment remain key points in an investigation expected to continue for at least 10 months before reaching conclusion.

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Embraer's Long-Term Market Outlook

Embraer's market outlook sees demand for 11,115 business jets over the next 10 years. The forecast weighs heavier for lighter jets -- with a projected 24 percent (more than 2,600) falling into Embraer's "very light" segment and another 21 percent (more than 2,300) filling in the ranks of "light." No larger jet categories (there are six) in Embraer's forecast claim more than 12 percent of the take. With all eyes on the yet-to-exist-in-the-real-world VLJ market, Embraer's projections are backed by current orders listed at more than 340. The number includes both the six-seat Phenom 100 and the eight-seat Phenom 300.

The smaller Phenom 100 might itself be a class leader when it comes to amenities that include a "refreshment center," a lavatory and high (relative) cabin volume. At $2.85 million per copy, the aircraft might also be near the top end of price (and runway length requirements). Deliveries of the Phenom 100, which was unveiled at NBAA in May 2005, are expected to begin in the second half of 2008. Embraer estimates delivery of 195 to 205 business aircraft for that year, including up to 20 Phenom 100s. In 2009 deliveries of the Phenom 300 are expected to begin, with the production rate of the Phenom 100 and Phenom 300 together projected to reach 120-150 units.

Grob To Go On With SPn After Loss

Grob Aerospace CEO Niall Olver said his company "remains committed to the program and production of aircraft number three will continue," following the loss of a jet prototype. The second, newer prototype of Grob's SPn all-composite "up to nine" passenger jet was lost Wednesday, Nov. 29 shortly after takeoff during a demonstration flight at the Grob facility in Mattsies Tussenhausen. The aircraft took off, appeared to turn right to enter the pattern, but instead fell into a meadow. Chief SPn test pilot Gerard Guillaumaud, the sole occupant, was killed in the crash. The aircraft lost in the crash had first flown on Sept. 29 and had accumulated 40 cycles and 28 flight hours, according to the company. Its older sibling has to date logged some 300 flight hours and 450 cycles.

The design had been slated for certification and initial customer deliveries in the third quarter of 2007. "The possible impact on the certification program can not be foreseen for the moment," Olver stated. Grob is marketing the jet as "a new class of aircraft combining the versatility and robust short field performance of a turboprop with the comfort, elegance and superior cruise speed of a genius luxury jet."

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Seeking Raytheon Aircraft's Lucky Buyer

Three leveraged buyout firms have made final bids that (some believe) range near $3 billion for Raytheon Aircraft, a company that last year claimed 416 aircraft sold for a cumulative $2.9 billion, which along with strong forecasts may represent a relative boom, making the company more attractive to potential buyers. Outspoken piston pilots aware of pricing of new Beechcraft singles have long suggested that marketers at Raytheon have approached the market wondering just how much they have to charge before people stop buying their aircraft. The theory may stem from Raytheon's long-standing position that Beech Aircraft is not part of its core business. For its part, Raytheon Aircraft added 35 positions at its Salina manufacturing facilities and reported plans to add 55 more over the next six months, bringing the workforce to 425 strong.

Firms said to be involved in the bidding include Carlyle Group, Cerberus Capital Management and Onex Corp. of Canada. Raytheon Aircraft competes directly with General Dynamics' Gulfstream unit, Textron's Cessna unit and Canada's Bombardier. A recent surge in sales, particularly on the bizjet side, has put the company in a profit position and the forecast for continued strong sales in that sector has made the company an attractive acquisition target, according to various analysts.

Boeing Touts "Green" BBJ

With delivery last week of its 100th "green" Boeing Business Jet, the company claimed success in selling empty, unpainted and largely unfinished aircraft (aesthetically, anyway) aircraft to customers -- 35 percent of whom are heads of state -- around the world. The program allows buyers to then "work with designers and interior completion centers to install an interior that exactly matches the owner's preferences and needs," according to the company. Boeing Business Jets' order book stands at 124 jets including 99 BBJs, 14 BBJ 2s , two BBJ 3s and nine widebody VIP airplanes. Aside from the wow factor, the BBJ offers a 6,000-nm range and 807 square feet of cabin space that is "nearly three times the interior space of competing models with similar range capability," according to Boeing ... and in our experience bests many one-bedroom New York City apartments.

Boeing claims that reaching the century mark in sales on the aircraft, introduced in 1996, "is an amazing testament to the BBJ's wide market appeal and the great work of the Boeing team members."

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NetJets Europe Fight$ To Retain Pilots

Nearly 700 pilots and flight attendants working for NetJets Europe will see their compensation packages improve next year after the company this year lost close to 50 employees to airlines and other suitors, according to a report by Flight International. For starting captains, the new deal will translate to a salary boost pushing dollars from just over $100,000 to $125,000 each year while first officers will enjoy the bump from near $66,000 to $75,000. Merry Christmas. But that's not all; the company's desire to retain workers is also flowing through improved contracts and work schedules that guarantee "six days on to five days off," according to NetJets business development manager Robert Dranitzke.

The changes are expected to cost the company $30 million next year when NetJets will add 30 aircraft to its 114-jet European fleet. Expect that to translate to approximately 180 more people, including attendants and pilots.

CIP: An Improved Weather Product For Icing Awareness

Starting today, Dec. 6, pilots and dispatchers will now have available improved and cockpit-accessible graphical hourly updates on in-flight icing. The National Weather Service will operate the service creatively called the "Current Icing Product," or CIP, which incorporates more detailed observations and more advanced prediction models than its previous version (FAA approved in 2002). The new product, developed by researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, will offer displays that rate areas by icing severity and the probability of encountering icing conditions with selectable altitudes up to 29,000 feet. Aside from making flights safer, the product aims to reduce costs incurred by unnecessary diversions around areas through which properly equipped aircraft could safely fly.

Find the product online in the form of an interactive display here. The National Weather Service will operate the enhanced CIP from the Aviation Weather Center in Kansas City, Mo. CIP will supplement but not replace the information in the NWS AIRMET, the traditional weather alert issued at six-hour intervals.

Columbia Simplifies Buying & Selling All Aircraft Brands
Selling an aircraft can be a challenging odyssey. Aircraft owners need to: locate a broker with national resources to sell for top dollar; select and utilize the most effective advertising; access no-cost, no-obligation finance pre-qualification; consult aviation tax experts; and obtain insurance quotes with higher liability limits. Columbia Aircraft has created a tool to assist pilots and aircraft owners of all brands. Check out their web site.

FAA Releases Repair Station Proposal

Friday, the FAA released a long-anticipated proposal "to amend the regulations for repair stations by revising the system of ratings and requiring repair stations to establish a quality program." The agency would require a repair station to maintain a capability list, designate a chief inspector, and provide permanent housing for its facilities, equipment, materials, and personnel. The FAA proposes to revise the ratings and classes that may be issued to certificated repair stations and combines the "instrument rating" and "radio rating" in an "avionics rating." The FAA would also no longer divide classes of aircraft by materials (composites or metal) and would also make changes to size classifications. The FAA is inviting comments, which must be received by March 1, 2007. Find the 21 page proposal, here.

The Passing Of Leonard Greene

Founder of Safe Flight Instrument Corp., inventor of the stall warning indicator in 1946, co-founder of the Corporate Angel Network, test pilot and engineer, Leonard Greene, died last Thursday of cancer at the age of 88. Greene's Safe Flight Instrument Corp. sold more than half a million stall warning indicators and other flight safety devices, his Corporate Angel Network made nearly 25,000 flights using empty seats on corporate jets to facilitate travel free of charge for cancer patients. Greene invented devices that link sound and color to help the blind, created a system for "visible speech" for the hearing impaired and held some 60 patents in aviation. Strongly involved in invention, philanthropy and aviation, Greene lost a son and business partner, Donald, on United Airlines Flight 93 when it crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on September 11, 2001.

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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 Glenn Pew (bio).

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