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Volume 5, Number 23
June 20, 2007
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What if they gave an FAA reauthorization bill and no one came? That question may be on the minds of many as one supposed deadline after another for the House of Representatives to develop its proposed version of a legislation reauthorizing the agency -- and hopefully disposing of user fees -- comes and goes. First, the scuttlebutt was that a proposal would be ready by Memorial Day. Then, we were told mid-June. Now, it appears a political disagreement involving the agency's existing contract with air traffic controllers is the hang up. That might be a good thing, depending on where you are on the user-fee debate and considering it means other elements of the bill seemingly have been agreed to -- but bad when you consider that the contract is likely to be a major bone of contention, possibly holding up the whole show later this year. It seems House Democrats are awaiting results from ongoing discussions between the FAA and the air traffic controllers union, NATCA. According to published reports, if the two sides can't come to an agreement regarding ATC personnel, the House version of the bill would include a provision rolling the FAA's contract with controllers back to 1998. That contract was widely seen as too expensive and, if Democrats take that tack on developing a reauthorization bill, they will do so without support from House Republicans. So far, their desire has been for a bipartisan bill, though there still hasn't been a final proposal introduced in the House. More...

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Aerion, the guys working on putting together a supersonic business jet (SSBJ), is at this week's Paris Air Show in force, working with potential suppliers and promoting their project. The Reno, Nev.-based company, formed in 2002, says it is "aggressively pursuing the development of a supersonic business jet," but remains in the early stages of developing its engineering and business plans. Its goal is to reintroduce commercial supersonic flight by leveraging advances in laminar flow aerodynamics and other technologies. The company's current efforts have as an objective to present a "profitable program that can swiftly move into full-scale engineering and prototype development." Aerion says this current design and planning phase is fully funded by an investor group led by Robert Bass. Over the past several months, Aerion has been refining its business case, an effort led by Aerion CFO James Stewart, and has held a number of discussions with OEMs laying out the technical and financial aspects of developing the world’s first SSBJ. As presently envisioned, the Aerion SSBJ will fly below Mach 1 over the U.S., but unrestricted supersonic overland flight is available now over national or regional corridors, including parts of Canada, Australia and Siberia. Elsewhere, the company expects the airplane to cruise at about Mach 1.1 to 1.2 by taking advantage of the lower speed of sound at altitude than on the ground. Aerion says its jet will create shock waves, but at low supersonic speeds they dissipate before reaching the surface. More...

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Of course, who needs an SSBJ when you can just buy a combination airplane and space ship, escape the atmosphere, go as fast as you want -- within the physical laws of orbital mechanics, of course -- and then land on a runway like nothing else happened. That's the operational plan behind the new Astrium "space jet" [YouTube video] EADS announced last week and is showing off this week at the Paris Air Show. Designed to compete in the not-quite-ready-for-takeoff space tourism market, the new craft will take off and climb to altitude like an airplane using its twin jet engines. Once at a suitable altitude, the space jet would then use a rocket engine to boost itself to around 62 miles above Earth, placing up to four paying passengers into weightless flight at the edge of space. While there, it will use thrusters for attitude control, then begin a descent, eventually landing on a conventional runway. EADS' Astrium subsidiary figures the package would cost passengers at least $200,000; cost for the craft itself is pegged at around a billion euros. More...

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Embraer last Saturday rolled out its first assembled Phenom 100 very light jet (VLJ), joining an already-crowded field in this much-hyped market category. The event marked completion of assembly and systems-integration phases; the prototype will now go to the paint booth and then begin a series of ground tests over the next few weeks in preparation for its first flight, scheduled for "mid-2007," according to the company. Subassembly manufacturing of the Phenom 100 was carried out at the company’s Botucatu facility. The fuselage and wing were manufactured there and delivered to Embraer’s main facility in São José dos Campos, where they were successfully mated in late March 2007. The Phenom 100 was launched in May 2005; metal was first cut in May 2006. Embraer plans for the Phenom 100 to enter service in mid-2008. “We are thrilled to see the Phenom 100 become a reality,” said Luís Carlos Affonso, Embraer executive vice president, Executive Jets. “We are confident that the Phenom 100’s premium comfort, outstanding performance and low operating cost will impress our customers and will become the benchmark of the Very Light Jet segment.” More...

The first production version of Dassault's long-awaited new trijet, the Falcon 7X, entered service last week after completion at the company's Little Rock, Ark., facility. Its first in-service flight was made on June 13 from Little Rock to Le Bourget for the Paris Air Show, a hop it made without stopping. Prior to the flight, the first in-service 7X (s/n 005) was delivered to Gilbert Chagoury, founder and chairman of The Chagoury Group, who placed the first order. Another copy, s/n 004, is on a fast track for delivery to Mr. Serge Dassault and for display at Le Bourget this week. Mr. Chagoury was the first order holder for the Falcon 7X when he signed his commitment in November 2001 and represents the first delivery in a backlog that now stands at over 165 aircraft. Announced at the Paris Air Show in 2001, the Falcon 7X was simultaneously certified by both the EASA and FAA on April 27, 2007. More...

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Basking in the glow of delivering its first two Falcon 7X trijets, Dassault wasted no time in looking forward to building a new aircraft and improving its infrastructure. Last week, the company announced a new round of expansion at its Little Rock (Ark.) Completion Center, which will include an additional 116,000 square feet of production, design and warehouse space. Additionally, the company said this week it is partnering with Rolls-Royce to develop Dassault's future super-midsize Falcon. The company's plans and decisions are being made in response to what Dassault labeled "unprecedented demand" for its jets. With the certification and first deliveries of the Falcon 7X complete, Dassault said it now is focusing attention on developing a new super mid-sized Falcon. After the selecting the propulsion, other major technological choices will be finalized within the next twelve months. More...

Not that most of us with shorter-range aircraft will ever use it, but a new FBO is being developed at the Honolulu International Airport (PHNL). Castle & Cooke last week said they recently acquired the former Circle Rainbow building and renovations are underway. The facility will be the company's first aviation facility in Hawaii and, according to Castle & Cooke, will serve as an alternative to the existing aviation businesses based at the airport. The company said it plans to construct new hangars serving Hawaii's general aviation flight departments and charter customers. When completed, the facility will feature more than 20,000 square feet of hangar space and 60,000 square feet of Class A office space, according to Steven Friedmann, executive vice president of Castle & Cooke Aviation. "Our aviation operations will be open for business this summer and Honolulu will have a first class FBO to complement our existing operations." The former Circle Rainbow building was built in 1993 on 3.2 acres of airport property; planned improvements include office renovations, new parking lots and improved hangars. The adjacent taxiway offers convenient access to the airport's runway. More...

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EADS Socata's board of directors last week appointed Jean-Michel Léonard as the new chairman and chief executive officer of EADS Socata. He succeeds Stéphane Mayer, who was appointed CEO of ATR, a joint venture of Alenia Aeronautica (Finmeccanica Group) and EADS. In the wake of Mayer's departure, EADS Socata's board expressed its appreciation of his contributions to the success of EADS Socata and especially the TBM 850 program. Léonard, former head of Airbus' Centre of Excellence Electrics, also has a history at ATR: He previously served as the company's CEO and also played a major role in its success. He is a graduate of the Ecole Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in Paris and of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He joined Aerospatiale in 1979 as supervisor for fatigue analysis methods in the design office and, in 1982, he moved to the Aerospatiale Sales & Marketing Department where he was responsible for the sales engineering of the Socata TB 30 Epsilon military trainer program and a participant in the beginnings of the ATR program. More...

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Lockheed Martin

Signature Flight Support yesterday said it will conduct a grand opening ceremony tomorrow for its renovated FBO facility at the General Edward Lawrence Logan International Airport (BOS) at Boston, Mass. The ceremony will commemorate the official opening of the facility after a $13 million renovation. In a press release, the company touted the modernized building and its LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for its environmentally friendly building materials, environmentally sensitive design and construction practices and energy efficiency. More...

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Flight Options, Raytheon's fractional operation, last week said it is opening a new maintenance facility at McCarran International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas, Nevada. The new base will employ over 75 maintenance professionals, dedicated to servicing Flight Options' fleet of over 140 aircraft. The annual payroll for the facility will exceed $6.5 million. Maintenance performed at the base will include light- and medium-level events to support the growing number of Flight Options aircraft in Las Vegas and the surrounding areas. The company also plans to have mobile teams that can travel to service aircraft at other airports in the region. More...

Not Keeping Up with FAA Rules & Regulations Can Cost You
In today's flight environment, busting a rule and/or regulation can cost you not only a fine but your ticket. Protect it by being informed. Read Aviation Safety every month for interesting and information-packed articles to sharpen your air readiness. Order your Aviation Safety subscription online for savings from the regular rate.

In our coverage two weeks ago of a fatal crash involving a Cessna Citation operated as an aeromedical flight, two errors crept in. First, we labeled the Citation as a "Citation Bravo," based on early general-media reports. Due to an editing oversight, we failed to go back and correct our early version before it was published. In fact, the accident aircraft was a 1982-vintage Citation II. More...

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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 Joseph E. (Jeb) Burnside (bio).

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