AVwebBiz - Volume 5, Number 2

January 17, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
 
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Embarrassed FAA Preparing To Overturn "Known Icing" Interpretation?

Sources this week tell AVweb the FAA is preparing to overturn a much-ridiculed June 6, 2006, letter from the agency's eastern region that reinterpreted what constitutes "known icing conditions" by reverting back to guidance initially published in 2003. The letter, by FAA Eastern Region Counsel Loretta E. Alkalay, was written in response to an operator's request for a definition of what constitutes "known icing conditions" and stated, "known icing conditions exist when visible moisture or high relative humidity combines with temperatures near or below freezing." She added, "flying through clouds at an altitude that is near or below freezing would constitute flight into known icing conditions." Since the letter was written last summer and became widely disseminated later in the year, numerous aviation organizations expressed opposition to its conclusion. For example, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), in a letter written by Luis Gutierrez, the association's director of regulatory and certification policy, told the FAA its interpretation "would unnecessarily ground many safe general aviation flights and may negatively affect safety because many pilots would not be able to train nor maintain flying proficiency during the winter season." Now, according to AOPA spokesperson Chris Dancy, the association "understands the FAA is preparing to overturn" the June letter in a fashion "consistent with current guidance," although he could not highlight how the FAA's policy reversal might be accomplished. Instead, AVweb has learned the FAA likely will revert to a 2003 definition of "known icing."

When the FAA may act to overturn the Alkalay letter is not known, but it appears the agency may accomplish this feat by publishing official guidance. The "hook" on which the FAA apparently may rely is a May 7, 2003, document that sought to clarify and redefine icing terminology [PDF]. That statement, itself a result of a December 22, 2000, proposal calling "for new and revised icing terms," grew out of the 1996 FAA international conference on aircraft in-flight icing. In its 2003 statement, the FAA defined "known icing conditions" as "[a]tmospheric conditions in which the formation of ice is observed or detected in flight." Which is a far cry from the "visible moisture or high relative humidity combines with temperatures near or below freezing" in the Alkalay letter. In fact, sources tell AVweb it's clear the FAA is rather embarrassed by the regional counsel's interpretation and the effort it will have to expend to overturn her letter and return the known icing definition to what it has been. And those sources reminded AVweb this is not the first time that office overturned well-establish FAA policy. All of which made one observer with whom we spoke wonder: What will it take for the FAA to suggest to Ms. Alkalay that she stop writing letters?

 
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Sikorsky To Acquire PZL Mielec

Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. last week said it agreed to acquire Polish airframer PZL Mielec, that nation's largest fixed-wing aircraft manufacturer, with approximately 1,500 employees. Sikorsky, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp., will acquire the entire company directly from the Polish government and said it will form the foundation of its European operations. The company is wholly owned by the Industrial Development Agency (known by the Polish acronym ARP), which is a government holding company under the Ministry of Treasury. "Sikorsky has taken a major step toward becoming a leading member of the European aerospace community," said Jeffrey Pino, Sikorsky's president. "This acquisition brings together two pioneering aerospace companies. Together, we will build on each others' strengths to create a world class aircraft manufacturer and service provider drawing upon Poland's great aerospace heritage and expertise."

Sikorsky's new company is based in the Polish city of Mielec. The transaction is subject to regulatory approval and pre-closing conditions. In 2006, Sikorsky announced plans to develop an International Black Hawk helicopter variant for global customers that would be manufactured using a global supply chain. Sikorsky said that, upon completing the acquisition, it plans to aggressively modernize PZL Mielec's factory and tooling in supporting international Black Hawk production. It will also continue PZL Mielec's current capability for aircraft design, manufacture, flight test and delivery. Sikorsky said its parent company, through its subsidiaries, currently employs more than 7,000 people in Poland in the aerospace and building systems industries. "This investment establishes PZL Mielec as a key component of Sikorsky's long-range global strategy to meet worldwide demand for its products and services," Pino added.

 
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And Then There Were 17: TSA Adds Dulles To DCA Gateway List

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Jan. 2 added the Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) as the newest gateway airport, allowing pre-cleared general aviation operations to fly directly into Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), which otherwise remains closed to non-scheduled civilian flight operations. Adding IAD is the latest development in the DCA access program, first put into place in July 2005 with a handful of airports throughout the U.S. "This provides operators much greater flexibility when traveling to the nation's capital while underlining TSA's commitment to maintain the highest levels of security while allowing for the free flow of commerce," said John Sammon, TSA's assistant administrator of transportation sector network management. The addition means those wishing to fly from IAD to DCA -- a whopping 20.3 nm -- may do so. But there are a few details.

The TSA's DCA access program allows up to 48 general aviation flights into DCA per day. Each of those flights must meet TSA security standards, including:

  • Advanced registration and qualification of operators and crews seeking to operate at DCA.
  • TSA inspection of crew and passengers.
  • TSA inspection of property (accessible and checked) and aircraft.
  • Identification checks of passengers by the TSA.
  • Submission of passenger and crew manifests 24 hours in advance of flight.
  • An armed security officer on board each flight, authorized to use force.

All GA operations to DCA are subject to cancellation at any time, of course, including whenever the national Threat Level is increased in the Washington, D.C. area or in the vicinity of the gateway airports. Presently, the TSA allows flights to DCA from Dallas/Love Field; Memphis, Tenn.; Milwaukee's General Mitchell; Seattle-Tacoma, Wash.; Boston Logan; Houston Hobby; White Plains, N.Y.; LaGuardia, N.Y.; Chicago Midway; Minneapolis/St.Paul; West Palm Beach, Fla.; San Francisco; Teterboro Airport, N.J.; Philadelphia; Lexington, Ky.; and Port Columbus, Ohio airports.

 
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Boeing, Rockwell Collins Offer EVS On BBJ

Boeing Business Jets and Rockwell Collins last week introduced an Enhanced Vision System (EVS) for Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) operators. The Rockwell Collins EVS projects a synthetic image of the airplane's external environment on a heads-up display (HUD) and panel-mounted screens to enhance pilot situational awareness of terrain and the airport environment in low-visibility situations. When displayed on a HUD, the EVS will allow crews to descend below standard approach and landing minimums if the visual references to the intended runway are visible using the EVS. The new system will be available to BBJ customers through Boeing and Rockwell Collins service bulletins; certification for the system is expected by early 2008. "The EVS upgrade will increase safety and operational capability of the aircraft by enhancing situational awareness at night or in poor weather conditions," said John Desmond, vice president, Rockwell Collins HGS. "We look forward to working closely with Boeing to deliver this offering to their BBJ customers."

Rockwell Collins said it has teamed with Max-Viz to complete certification of the EVS on the BBJ. Its plans include incorporating a Max-Viz multi-wavelength infrared sensor into the Rockwell Collins HGS, or heads-up guidance system. The two companies noted that BBJ operators upgrading to the new EVS system will require an upgrade to their existing HGS 4000 HUD, as well as the sensor equipment, an infrared camera. "Boeing is pleased to collaborate with Rockwell Collins to provide EVS capability on BBJs," said Boeing Business Jets President Steven Hill. "Boeing constantly evaluates and adds cutting-edge technology that brings value to our customers and enhances the performance and efficiency of a great product like the BBJ."

Raisbeck Secures FAA STC For Learjet 31 Mods

Raisbeck Engineering last week said it received a full FAA supplemental type certificate (STC) for its ZR LITE Performance Improvement System on the Learjet Model 31 series airplanes. The drag-reduction system essentially employs contoured flaps to improve the type's aerodynamics, allowing block fuel savings of from 7% to 12%, higher cruising altitudes and increased Mach cruise speeds. Main elements of the Raisbeck ZR LITE include new wing trailing edge flaps segments and additional flap chord. The company says its new modification is similar to its ZR LITE performance package for the Lear 35/36 series, which has been in service since October 2004.

"Our ZR LITE Performance System is intended to make a good airplane even better,” Sam L. Jantzen, president and general manager, said, “providing Lear 31 owners with better performance, more flexibility and substantial fuel savings.” Raisbeck ZR LITE system installations are available at Raisbeck Authorized Learjet Installation Centers beginning this month. System pricing is set at $85,500, plus installation and paint. Downtime is five working days, but can be shortened to two days through the company's rotable flap program.

 
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Dassault Delivers 100th 2000EX

Dassault Falcon this month said it recently delivered its 100th Falcon 2000EX from its Little Rock Completion Center. The new aircraft was delivered to United Technologies Corporation (UTC) as a replacement for an older aircraft and is the second Falcon 2000EX EASy in UTC's fleet. The basic 3,800-nm aircraft was certified in 2003, and was renamed the Falcon 2000EX EASy in June 2004 when the award-winning EASy flight deck was certified on the aircraft. The worldwide fleet recently passed 70,000 flight hours and 40,000 landings.

The Falcon 2000EX EASy is the longer-legged version of the venerable twinjet Falcon 2000 and offers a 25% increase in range over its older sibling. The new aircraft is powered by a pair of Pratt & Whitney Canada PW308C engines, which allow it to fly nonstop westbound from Paris or London to the U.S. east coast, even into stiff winter headwinds. Eastbound flights to Europe from major Midwestern cities like Detroit, Chicago and Minneapolis are also well within its range. Next up from Dassault in the Falcon 2000 family: The Falcon 2000DX is expected to enter service at the end of 2007.

 
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Conklin & de Decker Releases New Aircraft Financial Products

Aviation research and management consulting firm Conklin & de Decker announced it released two new products designed to make the financial impact of owning and operating a business aircraft less dramatic. One of the products is the company's 2007 State Tax Guide for General Aviation, an annually updated publication covering state taxes and fees imposed on general aviation in the U.S. The other product -- Life Cycle Cost 6.21 -- is a Microsoft® Excel ® based software application the company says provides a comprehensive and user-friendly aircraft cost analysis tool. A one-year subscription to 2007 State Tax Guide for General Aviation costs $275, and includes downloadable updates throughout the year; a single-state version is also available at $75 for the first state, with a 20% discount for each additional state. The Life Cycle Cost software runs $695 for the jets database, $545 for the turboprop or helicopter database and $450 for the piston database.

Conklin & de Decker says its new state tax guide includes details on sales and use taxes, ownership, leases, parts and labor. Also included are registration fees, personal property taxes, jet fuel and aviation gasoline taxes, as well as contact information for the tax and aviation departments in each state. Meanwhile the company says is Life Cycle Cost software reveals vital information about the effects of different assumptions on aircraft ownership and operation. Those assumptions include the type of aircraft, form of ownership and method of acquisition, which are compared with preloaded operating costs. Additional details like specific aircraft models and annual utilization can be user-modified, allowing detailed operating costs analyses to be performed. “This is as close to a crystal ball as you can get, commented Bill de Decker, co-founder of Conklin & de Decker.

 
DA40 Diamond Star a Fleet Favorite
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Lufthansa Teams To Train Techs In China

Lufthansa Technik last week said its Lufthansa Technical Training (LTT) subsidiary and the Hainan Airlines Group (HNA) have entered into a joint venture to set up a training center for the qualification of maintenance mechanics and engineers. The new endeavor joint venture will be based at the Meilan Airport on the southern China island of Hainan and operate under the name Lufthansa Technical Training China (LTTC). The LTTC is slated to begin operations during the first calendar quarter of 2007. Hainan Airlines Group is China’s largest privately owned airline group and operates a growing fleet of over 120 aircraft; the new LTTC is clearly designed to ensure the carrier has a sufficient number of well-trained maintenance technicians, supporting that growth.

Training courses to be offered through the LTTC will result in mechanic certificates as offered by China's civil aviation authority, the CAAC, and EASA, the European counterpart. Both parties expect the training's quality to exceed anything presently available in the Chinese market. Among other benchmarks, the two companies say they expect LTTC to generate up to 500 graduates per year for the Chinese civil aircraft maintenance technician market. According to the companies, "the availability of qualified mechanics has clearly become a bottleneck" in the region.

Landmark Aviation Upgrades Dassault Falcon 50

Landmark Aviation last week announced it received a supplemental type certificate (STC) from the FAA approving its installation of the Rockwell Collins dual ADC-87A air data computers on Dassault Falcon 50 aircraft. The new upgrade replaces existing air-data computer equipment aboard Falcon 50s, which are not compliant with RVSM (Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum) airspace standards unless modified per a factory service bulletin. “While operators benefit from reduced maintenance costs, the ADC-87A also provides an upgrade path for operators requiring enhanced surveillance to operate in European airspace. The ADC-87A is compatible with modern display systems like the Collins’ ProLine 21 Integrated Display System,” said Dennis Mick, Landmark Aviation engineering manager.

Landmark said its Designated Alteration Station (DAS) performed the FAA certification work; installation will be performed at Landmark Aviation’s Springfield, Ill., maintenance, repair and overhaul center. “As a replacement for the existing air data computer, the digital ADC-87A provides greater reliability and makes the aircraft compliant to fly in RVSM airspace,” Mick added.

 
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Jim Christiansen Appointed NetJets President

NetJets Inc. Chairman and CEO Richard Santulli late last week announced the appointment of James (Jim) Christiansen as president of NetJets Aviation. NetJets Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway company, is widely acknowledged as the worldwide leader in fractional aircraft ownership, allowing individuals and companies to buy a share of a private business jet at a fraction of the cost of whole aircraft ownership. “A devoted member of the NetJets family, Jim was with our company in the early years and truly understands our commitment to customer service and safety," Santulli said in a prepared statement. "With Jim’s depth of experience, there is no one who knows our business better. I am confident that with Jim in this leadership role, NetJets will continue to grow as an industry leader.”

Christiansen first joined NetJets in 1990, when he served as president of Executive Jet Aviation (now NetJets Aviation) for two years. Prior to rejoining NetJets in 2001, Mr. Christiansen served as president of K-C Aviation Transportation Services, as president of Wayfarer Ketch, as chief operating officer at Tag Aviation, and served on the board of directors of CitationShares. A former Army helicopter pilot, Mr. Christiansen has also served as chairman of the National Air Transportation Association and the Fractional Ownership Aviation R

Gulfstream Sets More City-Pair Speed Records

Gulfstream Aerospace said last week one of its G550 bizjets established three new city-pair records before 2006 ended, bringing to 10 the total number of records established by Gulfstream-operated G550s last year. The three new records were established by the same crew flying the same airplane more than 13,000 nm in eight days; Gulfstream senior international captain Ray Wellington and Gulfstream experimental test pilot Scott Martin were in the front office for all three flights. Additionally, flight attendant Linda Barr was aboard at least two of the flights, one of which included 12 passengers. Gulfstream said it has submitted applications to the National Aeronautic Association -- which is the U.S. organization providing observers for many record attempts and compiling the data necessary to certify records -- to confirm each of these new city-pair records.

According to Gulfstream, the G550 took off from San Juan, Puerto Rico, at 7:43 p.m. local time on Dec. 13, then flew 5,841 nm at an average cruise speed of Mach 0.83 with a crew of three plus 12 passengers, landing in Cape Town, South Africa, the following day at 1:55 p.m. local time. Total flight time was 12 hours and 11 minutes; the G550 landed with 5,000 pounds of fuel remaining. Three days later on Dec. 17, the same flight crew and nine passengers took off from Cape Town at 9:18 a.m. local time and flew 3,677 nm into headwinds averaging 46 knots and landed eight hours and 55 minutes later at 1:15 p.m. local time in Maldonado, Uruguay. Finally, Dec. 20, the same plane returned to Cape Town, with wheels up at 8:21 a.m. local time. After six hours and 51 minutes, 7:12 p.m. local time the same day, it landed in Cape Town, covering 3,610 nm.

 
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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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