AVwebBiz - Volume 5, Number 19

May 23, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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If This Seems Familiar ...

If today's issue of AVwebBiz seems familiar, it's because the headlines and stories here were sent to a portion of the mailing list for our general aviation newsletter, AVwebFlash, earlier in the day. If you subscribe to both newsletters, you may have seen these stories and headlines already. We apologize for the double-send some of you will experience by the time you receive AVwebBiz.

Brazil ATC Takes A Beating; Full Midair CVR Transcript Released

The sad saga of last Sept. 29's midair collision between a Gol Airlines Boeing 737-800 and a brand-new Embraer Legacy 600 operated by U.S.-based ExcelAire over the Amazon jungle continued to develop this week, with calls from U.S. and international observers for South American countries to clean up their ATC acts. At least one major South American newspaper took to task Brazil and Argentina's ATC systems, noting, "Increased air traffic at major airports in both countries has not resulted in corresponding upgrades of infrastructure or additional staffing, according to organizations representing thousands of pilots and air traffic controllers worldwide." That same source quoted Jorge Nunes Oliveira, president of the Association of Air Traffic Controllers of Rio de Janeiro, saying, "We are still working with some obsolete equipment, and we don't have the number of professionals we need. We have four control centers around Brazil that are responsible for the whole country. They should launch a deep study of that and consider sub-dividing those." Oliveira added, "I always used to say that, despite everything, Brazil's air traffic was safe. But I don't think that anymore." Also, a full version of the Embraer's cockpit voice recorder (CVR) transcript found its way to the media, adding more detail to the excerpts Brazil made public last year.

The transcript, prepared by the National Transportation Safety Board during its invited participation in the investigation, was entered into evidence as part of a U.S. federal lawsuit brought against the Embraer's pilots by families of those killed aboard the Gol 737. The full 112-page transcript was itself further excerpted by several news organizations, which noted that it depicted a relatively normal cockpit environment aboard the Embraer, with its crew experiencing difficulties contacting Brazilian ATC in the minutes leading up to the collision. Meanwhile, Air Security International (ASI) yesterday reported a Brazilian court ordered the preventive seizure of ExcelAire's Brazilian assets, which basically consist of the Embraer Legacy. The company said Brazilian media reports state that "the assets could eventually be used to compensate the families of the 154 people killed in the mishap should authorities determine that the two pilots of the executive jet were responsible." After months in what can only be described as house arrest, Embraer Legacy pilots Joseph Lepore and Jan Paladino were allowed to leave Brazil in December, but only after promising to return to face any criminal charge Brazil might bring. For its part, the Long Island (N.Y.) Newsday newspaper quoted several international and U.S.-based aviation industry observers who were very critical of Brazilian ATC after reading the CVR transcript. John M. Cox, president of Safety Operating Systems and a former ALPA official, summed up those comments when he told Newsday, "I think the Brazilian air traffic control system has a problem."

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Will The User Fee Ride Smooth Out?

As any general-aviation-industry alphabet-soup group will tell you, last week's narrow approval by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation of legislation (S. 1300) to, in part, create a system of user fees to fund the FAA wasn't the final word on the subject. Numerous associations, including NBAA, AOPA, EAA and HAI, to abbreviate a few, have spent the intervening days licking their wounds and planning for the next go-around, which could come as early as this week. That would be when the House of Representatives gets into the act: The House Subcommittee on Aviation has indicated it will develop a draft bill before the Memorial Day recess, which begins with the close of business this week. So far, however, few if any observers know what that bill will contain, although early opposition to the user-fee concept among members of that panel was widespread and deep. The danger is that some form of a user fee -- such as the $25-per-turbine-aircraft-flight fee dropped into the Senate bill -- would be the starting point for negotiations between the two houses when, inevitably, differing versions are passed. At the same time, even if the Senate keeps its head in the sand and its hands out to the airline industry, the $25-per-flight fee could be dropped by a successful amendment when the full Senate considers the bill. In a letter sent Monday, NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen thanked all NBAA members for their help in the fight to strike the per-flight user fee from S. 1300. "The committee's vote was just the beginning of what will be a long battle, as a number of congressional committees weigh in on FAA funding issues," Bolen's letter states. "Even though we didn't quite land a knockout blow to user fees with last week's vote, many other opportunities to do so will arise as the FAA reauthorization moves through Congress."

Yesterday, the Helicopter Association International (HAI) reported, "Senate Aviation Subcommittee leaders have threatened to torpedo [S. 1300] if critics of the $25 surcharge ... are successful in stripping it out." According to the HAI, Subcommittee on Aviation Chairman John (Jay) Rockefeller, D-W. Va., and ranking member Trent Lott, R-Miss., "have argued that the surcharge would only affect commercial airliners and private business travelers who could well afford to pay the fee." Really? According to NBAA's Bolen, "We hear from Members at every NBAA and industry gathering that you are concerned about this issue and realize that the stakes have never been higher for general aviation." The HAI went on to quote Rockefeller and Lott: "'That $25 surcharge thing was so embarrassing I can't even believe it. Maybe they don't want a bill,' [Rockefeller] said of critics of the surcharge. Senator Lott was more blunt. 'They try one more trick like they did and this bill is dead,' he said. 'I have better things to do with my time. If Jay Rockefeller and I pull the plug on this bill there'll be no FAA reauthorization. No modernization of the system.'" While AVweb doesn't speak for the industry, that might just be fine with a bunch of people we know.

Boeing Updates BBJ/VIP Programs

This week at the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) in Geneva, Switzerland, Boeing updated the industry on sales of its 737-based Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) and VIP-configured airliners. So far this year, the company says it has seven new orders, worth $478.5 million at list prices, bringing total program sales to 135 jets. That breaks down to 107 BBJs, 15 BBJ 2s, three BBJ 3s, four 747-8 VIPs and six 787 VIPs. The seven new orders are for six BBJs and one 787-8 VIP jet, the latter for Hong Kong real estate tycoon Joseph Lau. The 787 VIP jet is based on the company's latest and most modern airliner platform, Dreamliner. "After winning 23 orders for our luxury jets last year, we continue to see incredible demand. Boeing Business Jets could be poised for another phenomenal year," said Steven Hill, president of Boeing Business Jets. As we've noted, Boeing normally doesn't sell and tell who its BBJ/VIP customers are but does allow that private individuals constitute the majority of the Boeing Business Jets customer base at 44 percent, followed closely by government heads of state at 36 percent. The remaining customer segments are divided evenly between corporate and charter operators. Boeing launched the BBJ program in 1996 and has delivered 104 BBJs, with 90 completed and in service, leaving 14 in some stage of completion. Late last year, Boeing Business Jets launched VIP versions of the new commercial jetliners, the 787 Dreamliner and the 747-8 Intercontinental. Nearly 300 Boeing airplanes are in service in the VIP and business jet market.

At EBACE, Boeing provided additional details of its 747-8 VIP and 787 VIP programs, clearly touting the two models' features and advantages over comparable models from Airbus. For example, Boeing said 747-8 VIP "is the only large airplane in its class that fits today’s airport infrastructure, giving its owners the flexibility to fly to more destinations." The company also pointed out the airplane's so-called "SkyLoft area" -- also known as the crew rest area in late-model, line-configured 747s -- above the main cabin between the upper deck and tail of the 747-8 VIP. Boeing says this space potentially provides 881 square feet of cabin area for personal suites, private offices and recreational spaces. Meanwhile, the $153 million (today’s list price) 787-8 VIP offers 2,404 square feet of cabin space. The first commercial 787 Dreamliner is scheduled to roll out of the company's Everett, Wash., factory on July 8.

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Dassault Launches New Falcon 2000LX

Dassault on Monday launched its new Falcon 2000LX at the European Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition (EBACE). The next evolution of its bestselling 2000 family, the 2000LX can fly an extra 200 nm -- and up to 4,000 nm at Mach .80 -- while climbing to FL410 in 18 minutes. Working with U.S.-based Aviation Partners (API), the French airframer added winglets, which reduce drag by up to 5%, thus increasing range and cutting fuel consumption. Designed to stretch potential city pairs, customers can travel comfortably between Paris and New York. The aircraft can also connect New York- Moscow, Paris-Delhi and Hong Kong-Brisbane. Powered by the same PW308C engines as the 2000EX, the 2000LX comes standard with the same EASy flight deck and spacious cabin as its predecessor. In terms of range, the new Falcon sits comfortably between the 2000DX at 3,250 nm and the freshly certificated 7X, which can fly for 5,950 nm.

“The range increase gives our customers more capability and more efficiency on longer trips and they will surely enjoy seeing their fuel consumption numbers drop,” says John Rosanvallon, Dassault Falcon Jet’s president and CEO. “Thanks to the advanced blended winglet design from Aviation Partners, our fuel efficiency advantage over the competition will continue to grow.” Dassault will take charge of new production aircraft, while API is responsible for sales and marketing of retrofits for the 2000 series, which will begin shortly after certification and take place at Dassault’s facilities in Le Bourget and Wilmington. The two companies may add winglets to the Falcon 900 family and API also plans to offer retrofits for the Falcon 50. “We’ve never designed a winglet before that performs so well, so high into the drag rise,” says Joe Clark, chairman and CEO of API. Certification is due in the last quarter of 2007 and the 2000LX will replace the 2000EX for 2010 deliveries. Until then, customers can opt to add the winglets for an extra $500,000.

Embraer's Phenomenal News

On Tuesday at the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) in Geneva, Switzerland, CAE and Embraer announced the new flight training simulator base for the Phenom 100 and Phenom 300 very light jets. The training programs will be offered at Burgess Hill, near London’s Gatwick airport, and will start in early 2009 when the first Phenom 100 is delivered in Europe. Embraer's first-ever aircraft to "receive primary parts in composite material [the vertical fin and the horizontal stabilizer] is on track for completion and first flight by mid-year," according to Embraer. Mating of wings and fuselage for the first aircraft took place in late March. Major installations including flight test instrumentation; cockpit consoles; hydraulic, electric and deicing systems; and landing gear, tires and brakes are also complete. The engines were installed in April, and Pratt & Whitney Canada has been engaged in a "maturity plan" that has accumulated more than 900 hours of engine testing with 180 in flight and more than 230 in endurance tests, according to Embraer.

The aircraft itself will be priced near $3 million "based on January 2005 economic conditions." The company announced last year it expects to begin deliveries in mid-2008 with current orders for Phenom 100 and 300 jets (not just their series numbers) together adding to nearly 400. The Brazilian manufacturer also announced a fuselage stretch for its Phenom 300. The 0.35 meter stretch offers greater cabin flexibility, allowing for an entry-facing divan, making it the longest cabin in its class. Embraer is also putting the price of its new VLJ, the Phenom 100, up to $2.85 million on July 1, 2007. Launched at $2.75 million in 2005, the manufacturer put the price up to $2.85 million at last year’s EBACE. Prices will remain at $2.85 million until June 30. “So hurry up and buy one," urged Luis Carlos Affonso, executive vice president of executive aviation.

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Hawker Beechcraft Introduces More Powerful King Air, The B200GT

Hawker Beechcraft this week also chose the EBACE event in Geneva to introduce its new Beechcraft King Air B200GT, an evolution of the popular Beechcraft King Air 200 turboprop. Using two new, recently certified Pratt and Whitney PT6A-52 engines designed specifically for the B200GT, the upgraded King Air features a 305-knot max cruise speed -- a nearly 20-knot increase -- and climbs faster to its intended cruising altitudes than the King Air B200 it replaces. The PT6A-52 engine was derived by mating the turbine section of the 1,050-shp-capable PT6A-60A found on the King Air 350 with the existing King Air B200 PT6A-42 gearbox. The result is an engine that holds its 850-shp flat rating to a much higher altitude, improving climb and cruise performance under almost all flight conditions. And because of its common PT6A lineage, it also enters the market with the same 3,600-hour TBO as the other Beechcraft King Air engines. The new engine also eliminates the 10,000-foot TOFA (Takeoff Field Altitude) limitation found on the King Air B200.

“Building on one of the most successful business aircraft of all time, the Beechcraft King Air B200GT is the next logical step in the evolution of the aircraft,” said Brad Hatt, president of Commercial Sales. “The new Pratt and Whitney engines move the entire flight envelope of the King Air B200GT higher and faster than the B200 ensuring that the new model will continue to lead this dynamic market segment for many years to come." Typically equipped price of the B200GT is $5,190,000, and certification and deliveries are on track for the third quarter of 2007. The company said it will pursue international certifications immediately after U.S. paperwork is obtained, with approvals by EASA, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, India, Argentina and Guatemala expected by the end of the year.

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NetJets Europe Signs Up For 32 Hawker 4000s

This week at EBACE in Geneva -- are you starting to sense a theme here? -- Hawker Beechcraft and NetJets Europe said they reached an agreement involving 32 new Hawker 4000 "super midsize" jets for NetJets’ Europe-based global fractional fleet. The Hawker 4000 will be NetJets Europe’s entry-level stand-up cabin aircraft with a flight attendant for the continent in a contract valued in excess of $700 million, including a maintenance agreement. Deliveries are to begin in 2008 and continue through 2016. The new deal is in addition to one inked in December 2005 by NetJets and Hawker Beechcraft's predecessor for the purchase of 50 Hawker 4000 aircraft for the operator's U.S.-based fractional fleet. Customer deliveries of Hawker 4000s will begin later this year, Hawker Beechcraft added, noting that flight testing of natural icing encounters is now complete and that serial number seven is in the paint shop and will be transitioning to Little Rock, Ark., for interior completion and delivery preparation by late May. Serial number 18 is in fuselage mate and serial number 23 is just starting on the production line.

“Our customers in Europe have been asking us for an entry-level stand-up cabin aircraft,” said Mark Booth, chairman and CEO, NetJets Europe. “The Hawker 4000’s innovative design, quiet cabin and superior performance, as well as HBC’s commitment to customer service and support, were key factors in choosing the airplane. Their Hawker facility in Chester, U.K., provides the professional and quality service we require to meet our customers’ expectations.” Constructed of advanced composites, the Hawker 4000 fuselage features a 72-inch stand-up cabin with a 77.5-inch width. A flat floor runs the entire length of the aircraft, leading to a large baggage area, accessible in flight. An eight-place interior -- with fully articulating executive seats in a double club layout -- is standard. “The Hawker 4000 is truly a remarkable aircraft, exceeding all expectations,” said Jim Schuster, chairman and CEO of Hawker Beechcraft Corporation. He added, “The Hawker 4000 is ideal for European customers with direct flights easily achievable to Russia, North Africa, and the Middle East. Given the safety, quality and service NetJets is known for, the fact that they would choose the Hawker 4000 for their European customers is an important endorsement for the aircraft.”

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Cessna's Mustang Gets EASA, Steep Approach OKs

Cessna announced Monday at the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibit (EBACE) that the company's Mustang very light jet has won European Aviation Safety Agency certification, as well as steep approach approval. The EASA nod makes the Mustang "the first new-generation entry-level business jet to be certified in Europe," according to the Wichita-based aircraft manufacturer. Deliveries in Europe will begin "later this summer." The steep approach certification enables the Mustang to land at airports with instrument approaches steeper than a 4.5-degree approach angle. Cessna said this is the first step in the approval process at airports such as London City in England, which has a glideslope angle of 5.5 degrees, and requires special authorization through the airport administration for both the aircraft and the pilots landing there.

The six-place, 340-ktas Citation Mustang has a service ceiling of 41,000 feet, and a 1,150-nm range, flown with IFR reserves. Cessna President, Chairman and CEO Jack Pelton said the twinjet "has met or exceeded every performance objective established when we announced the program in 2002." In the U.S., several owner-operators are already flying the aircraft, and by year's end some 40 Mustangs will be in service. Delivery rates of the small jets are expected to reach 150 per year by the end of the decade.

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Jeppesen Simplifies Pricing For International Planning Services

Also at EBACE this week, Jeppesen announced a new pricing option for its International Trip Planning Services it says is "straightforward and easy to understand" -- implying its current options aren't. The company divided the globe into eight predefined regions and established fixed sector fees for each trip segment between or within these regions. Included with sector pricing are the most commonly used trip planning services, such as ground handling setup, permit acquisition, hotel reservations, flight plans, customs and immigration notifications and more. Best of all, communication and schedule revision charges are included in the sector fee as well. The company said it believes this new pricing model will be particularly useful for operators wanting the predictability of knowing a trip's set-up fees in advance and typically requiring comprehensive trip planning services.

Traditional service-based pricing is still available so operators can select the pricing option that best meets their business requirements. The sector price includes Jeppesen’s trip setup fees and is the same for both Part 91 and 135 flights. “The last thing international business aviation operators want to deal with is the hassle of hidden charges and confusing pricing formulas,” said Bob Overby, director of International Trip Planning Services. “Our new sector pricing model is an attractive option for many of our customers who need to know in advance what Jeppesen’s fees will be for their trips. It doesn’t get any easier than this!” Jeppesen's International Trip Planning Services operates from bases in San Jose, Calif.; London Gatwick, England; Bangalore, India; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates; it also operates customized onsite-staffing solutions for significant fractional and charter operations in the U.S. and Europe.

Jet Aviation Names Group CEO, Chief Operating Officer North America

Jet Aviation this week said it named Peter G. Edwards as its Group CEO, effective May 20. Edwards, who succeeds interim CEO Carl W. Hirschmann, will be based at Jet Aviation's global headquarters in Zurich. Additionally, the company named Jim Ziegler as COO North America, effective June 1. As Group CEO, Edwards will be responsible for all of Jet Aviation's global activities, providing service excellence to customers and strategic partners and executing Jet Aviation's geographic and product expansion strategy. His aviation experience spans 28 years, including senior positions at prestigious aviation organizations such as AiResearch, Gulfstream Aerospace, and Bombardier Aerospace. Edwards, a graduate of the University of Southern California's School of International Relations, has served on the board of many organizations, including GAMA and NBAA, and has participated as a member of the World Economic Forum. Ziegler will be responsible for Jet Aviation's North American operations, including FBO, charter, aircraft management, maintenance and completions. Ziegler and André Wall, who recently joined Jet Aviation as COO Europe, Middle East, Asia and South America, will jointly report to Peter Edwards and manage Jet Aviation's day-to-day operations across the globe.

"Peter Edwards comes to Jet Aviation with an illustrious aerospace background and a strong customer focus," commented Jet Aviation Chairman Dr. Urs Schenker. Meanwhile, Schenker added, "Jim Ziegler comes to Jet Aviation with impressive senior management experience and an extensive background in business aircraft aftermarket support." A native of Kansas and graduate of Wichita State University, Ziegler spent 23 years with Learjet and Bombardier Inc. in various executive management roles including finance and strategic planning/business development. Ziegler also directed the company's business aircraft service facilities in North America and later the company's Wichita manufacturing operations and new aircraft completions centers. Ziegler's career culminated as the vice president and general manager of Bombardier Aerospace, Business Aviation Services and was responsible for aftermarket support of all Bombardier business aircraft. "Our executive group management team is now complete" commented Schenker, who also noted, "Jet Aviation now enjoys one of the strongest and most experienced management teams in the industry."

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Savannah Air Center Expands Again

Not all the news this week was datelined Geneva: The Savannah Air Center yesterday said it broke ground for a new hangar facility designed to increase the company’s capacity to accommodate large business aircraft. The under-construction 101,500-square-foot state-of-the-art structure will hold up to six large-cabin aircraft such as the Global Express and Gulfstream V and will include room for staff and customer offices. The new facility will be used primarily for interior completions and maintenance, in which the company specializes. Last year, Savannah Air Center added a new interiors facility to include upholstery, interior fabrication, carpet layout, engineering and various supporting offices. In 2004, a 12,500-square-foot cabinet shop was added, housing state-of-art woodworking equipment, a curing area and a full finishing booth.

“This additional facility is critical to the continued growth of our business,” said Jeff Zacharius, Savannah Air Center’s CEO. “As an authorized completion center for Bombardier Global 5000 and Global Express XRS aircraft, we are actively developing our ‘green’ completion business. The expansion will allow us to efficiently serve these new Bombardier customers while growing our interior refurbishment, avionics and maintenance business for other large cabin aircraft owners. We’re committed to providing our customers the highest quality products and the highest level of service,” added Zacharius. “As our business continues to grow, we will continue to provide the same level of excellence our customers have come to expect.” Established in 1999, Savannah Air Center is located at the Savannah (Ga.) International Airport (KSAV) -- where Gulfstream is based -- and employs a team of 200 dedicated professionals.

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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.

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