AVwebBiz - Volume 5, Number 4

February 7, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
 
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The Middle East Bizav Boom

The Middle East Business Aviation (MEBA) conference at Airport Expo Dubai held last week was ground zero for optimism regarding business aviation in that region. Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi, UAE Minister of Economy delivered the expo's second-day keynote address bolstered by reports that the business aviation sector in the United Arab Emirates presently supports more than 1,200 arrivals per month. Those numbers aside, the expo's "on-site declared order book" topped $830 million on its second (and final) day. As it is, nearly $600 million of that was claimed by Airbus through the sale of six aircraft (including two VIP A340 widebodies and two A318 corporate aircraft). One major stumbling block for more growth in the region might be the seemingly slow-paced development of international air service agreements and landing rights. Overall, however, business aviation is said to be growing more affordable in the Middle East and is expected to become a larger player in the economics of the region as industry growth translates into job creation.

FAA FY08 Budget Calls For User Fees

The White House released the Fiscal Year 2008 budget amid fanfare on Monday morning, but general aviation groups aren’t jumping for joy. In the DOT budget breakdown, the FAA allotment includes $175 million for a 21st Century satellite navigation system to replace older air traffic control equipment and $900 million in additional air traffic control system upgrades, but it also includes an expected user-fee proposal. "The [Bush] Administration will transmit a reauthorization proposal in 2007 that transforms the FAA’s excise tax financing system to a cost-based system that recovers most of costs of air traffic services through user fees," the document states. NBAA quickly rapped the Bush Administration for the move: "After more than a year of intense lobbying by the nation's big airlines, the White House has decided to introduce a budget that shifts airline costs to other segments of the industry and gives airlines more control over the air traffic system. NBAA and the rest of the general aviation community will oppose this toxic mix of higher taxes, new fees and airline control. The fact is the current approach to funding and oversight of the aviation system is effective and efficient -- there is no need for radical 'fixes' like those proposed in this budget."

 
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Dassault Falcon 7X Nears Certification

EASA and FAA certification of Dassault's Falcon 7X eight-passenger, 5,950-nm trijet are expected "soon," with deliveries targeted for the second quarter, a Dassault spokesperson told AVwebBiz Tuesday. Dassault's order book for the $39.2 million aircraft already stands 125 strong and the next available delivery position is now mid-2011. "We believe it's the most successful large-cabin business jet ever...across the board," said the spokesman. Dassault's flight-test program for the aircraft has so far accumulated 1,500 flight test hours over more than 530 flights. As for performance, a December 20 trip was flown with a crew of three and the payload equivalent of eight passengers over 6,100 nm in just under 14 hours. The aircraft landed with 2,100 lbs of fuel remaining and averaged roughly 435 knots over the circuit. The company's calendar targets FAA and EASA certification by the end of March. "It's been busy," the spokesman noted, and Dassault expects demand for the 7X in the coming years to cause internal growth by about 200 employees.

Embraer, Grob Request Part 23 Commuter Approval For Jets

On January 30, the FAA said both Embraer and Grob filed to seek Part 23 commuter category certification status for specific jet lines born of their stables. And so, the twist: under FAR 23.3(d), the commuter category is currently limited to, "propeller-driven, multiengine airplanes that have a seating configuration, excluding pilot seats, of 19 or less, and a maximum certificated takeoff weight of 19,000 pounds or less." But the manufacturers' move is not without precedent – Sino Swearingen received Part 23 commuter category approval for its SJ30 twinjet in late 2005. Embraer is seeking commuter certification for its Phenom 300 (due in 2009) twin turbofan, which would serve otherwise as an eight-seat business jet including a refreshment center and lavatory. Grob's Part 23 commuter category petition seeks certification for its six-passenger G180 SPn twinjet still in testing. Grob touts the SPn 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." European certification for the Grob is expected in early 2008, with FAA certification to follow. Embraer aims to deliver Phenom 300's in 2009.

 
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King Air Sheds Parts, Lands Safely

Cockpit checklists and procedures, along with radar data collection, will now become key players as the NTSB takes on the investigation of the King Air B200 (N777AJ) headed from Rogers, Ark., for Stanton, Va., last Friday morning. The twin turboprop encountered complications after suffering a shattered (but not blown out) windshield at 27,000 feet and ultimately raining parts down on an aeromedical helicopter flying below. The helicopter was not struck by debris and the King Air landed at Cape Giraradeau, Mo., with serious structural damage, including buckled wing skins and empennage and much of the horizontal stabilizer and elevator missing. Otherwise, it landed safely. The King Air's pilot, Sheldon Stone, said in early reports that the aircraft suffered a shattered left windshield at altitude and he then depressurized the cabin to prevent a blowout. He and his copilot then donned their oxygen masks and turned on the valve, but no oxygen appeared to be forthcoming. The sole-occupant pilots then passed out. Stone, a 4,200 hour ATP-rated pilot, told a local paper that he awoke at 7,000 feet and recovered the aircraft.

According to the aircraft's flight track as provided by FlightAware, the aircraft reached 27,000 feet just after 7:00 a.m. It cruised at that altitude until 7:17 when it went to 25,900. At 7:18 the aircraft was at 25,400 but a minute later was back at 27,000 and had slowed from 417 to 104 knots ground speed, further slowing to 44 knots at 7:20, according to FlightAware. At 7:22, the position report showed holding 27,000 feet and 102 knots. One minute later, the radar indicates 125 knots at 7,800. Aberrations earlier in the minute-by-minute reporting (from 6:49 to 6:50, the aircraft is shown to jump from 17,000 to 27,000 then back down) suggest the data may not be entirely accurate. But the data seem to follow roughly with the pilot's initial comments and damage suffered by the aircraft.

The "abnormal checklist" for a cracked windshield specifies a descent to 10,000 feet or other methods to reduce the pressure differential to less than 3 PSI within 10 minutes, according to the King Air pilot operating manual. The NTSB is continuing its investigation of the accident. For more photos and audio of an eyewitness account, click here.

Boeing 787-8: New Ride For The Uber-Elite

A 787 VIP luxo-cruiser? If you happen to fall on the right side of the CEO-to-employee pay gap, Boeing has got a deal for you. On January 30, the company announced at the Middle East Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition in Dubai concepts of a VIP version of the in-development Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The luxury version (dubbed the 787-8) will offer 2,404 sq ft of cabin space riding a 9,590-nm range, according to the company. And for those who really want the best, Boeing offers the 787-9, which ups available square footage to 2,762 and boosts the range to 9,950 miles. While potential customers check their bank accounts, they can rest assured that any orders now placed will fall behind five yet undisclosed customers with orders already in line for the bizliner. The first commercial version of the mostly composite 787 is scheduled to make its maiden flight later this year. "A Boeing 787 VIP affords its owner complete accommodation," said Steven Hill, president of Boeing Business Jets. "787 VIP owners can fly anywhere in the world nonstop" and "have amenities and a cabin environment that allow passengers to be completely comfortable and productive."

 
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Spectrum Aeronautical Stays On Course

Cardiff By The Sea, Calif.-based Spectrum Aeronautical continues to build a "company-conforming" model of its all-composite very light jet, the Spectrum Model 33 Independence. Company President Austin Blue told AVweb that it will indeed resume test flights in the fall when the airplane comes on line. The "proof of concept" Spectrum 33 crashed on takeoff last summer due to misrigged controls, killing the two test pilots. However, that aircraft logged some 40 hours before the accident, allowing Spectrum engineers to get "about 90 percent" of the data that they originally planned from the POC airplane, Blue said. "We learned a lot from that airplane, and we're using the data to incorporate changes into the next airplane." The biggest modification besides the aileron control rigging system is the change from a stabilator to a trimmable horizontal stabilizer, which is mechanically simpler, according to Blue. Other improvements focus on the Independence's interior and electrical system. Wind-tunnel testing has also led to minor aerodynamic improvements for the $3.65 million twinjet. Certification is planned for mid-2009. Meanwhile, the company is also "making a great deal of progress" on its midsize twin turbofan, Freedom. "We're now past the conceptual design phase," Blue told AVweb. A mock-up of the $6.2 million Freedom is expected to be unveiled later this year.

Cessna Touts 2006 Deliveries, Stays Bullish For '07

Of the 1,239 aircraft delivered last year, Cessna delivered 307 Citations (that's up more than 50 aircraft year-over-year) and 67 turboprops. Business jet deliveries outside of the U.S. accounted for 48 percent of the company's total orders, helping to boost revenue from $3.5 billion in 2005 to $4.2 billion in 2006, and Cessna remains bullish on the business segment. Looking ahead, the company expects to deliver 375 jets this year, with 40 Mustangs in this herd. [more] At the NBAA Convention this past fall, Cessna's Citation XLS+ became the latest upgrade of its best-selling business jet and the CJ4 was unveiled as a brand-new model in the popular CJ family, to be delivered in 2010. In 2006, Cessna's total backlog rose to $8.5 billion, and the company now claims a worldwide fleet of nearly 5,000 Citations -- the largest gaggle of business jets in the world.

 
Columbia Introduces 2007 Models
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On The Fly

Avidyne and S-Tec say that their Alliant Integrated Flight Deck – a digital autopilot, large primary flight displays, dual-redundant PFDs, dual ADAHRS -- have arrived as a retrofit package installed in a 1979 King Air. The 369-pound increase in useful load (due to replacement of the old avionics) isn't hurting, either. The companies point out that this first customer delivery occurred just 90 days after the STC was received...

Cessna this week signed a contract with Taneja Aerospace & Aviation for two Citations, and the Wichita aircraft manufacturer apparently has its eyes on the growing market and need for training facilities in the region. In a news release, Cessna says it is probing regional partnership possibilities for maintenance and training centers, as well as establishment of a new Cessna authorized service center there...

Seeking the positive effects of a production facility and the jobs it would bring, local city councils will know this week if Honda Aircraft will build a HondaJet manufacturing plant in Greensboro, N.C. The county offered the company incentives that reportedly reach up to $600,000...

During the fourth quarter conference call, Raytheon Company Senior Vice President and CFO Dave Wajsgras said Flight Options, the company's fractional aircraft division, is noticing that the frax industry is changing. "We've seen a shift in industry conditions to jet cards from fractional sales," noting that year-over-year growth for share sales is flat at 2 percent versus the 20- to 30-percent jump seen in Flight Options' jet-card sales.

Now, Even More AVwebBiz

AVweb's coverage of business aviation news is now even better. Starting with today's issue, AVwebBiz will be published weekly (every Wednesday) to keep you more up to date on the business aviation industry. Also, the recently revamped AVweb.com will now contain frequent business aviation news updates -- subscribe to our business aviation RSS news feed to have these stories pushed to your RSS news reader.
 
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Meet the AVwebBiz Team

AVwebBiz is a weekly 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 Contributing Editor Glenn Pew (bio) and Editor In Chief Chad Trautvetter.

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