AVwebBiz Complete Issue: Volume 5, Number 37c

September 27, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Epic, Kingfisher, Airbus Confirm -- And Confuse -- Strategic Partnership

Wednesday morning in Atlanta at the 60th National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Annual Meeting and Convention, executives from Epic Aircraft, India-based Kingfisher Airlines and Airbus sat down to confirm rumors and reports of a new strategic partnership, releasing few details but giving rise to additional speculation. Rick Schrameck, Epic Aircraft’s president and CEO, Hitesh Patel, Kingfisher’s executive vice president and Arnaud Martin, vice president of the Airbus corporate and executive jet operation held a press conference in which they confirmed Kingfisher’s $200 million, 50/50 "strategic partnership" with Epic but left open the specific roles each other would play. Lurking in the background was Airbus, which presently has no formal agreement with Epic but has a longstanding manufacturer/customer relationship with Kingfisher, a large scheduled aircraft operation in headquartered in Mumbai, India. On its face, the new arrangement between manufacturer Epic and Kingfisher likely will prove a boon to both companies. But is there something else beneath the surface. Officials of all three companies delivered little more than a figurative shrug Wednesday morning.

On one hand, the cash infusion undoubtedly will help Epic perfect, certify and produce its line of experimental and certified aircraft, including the Epic LT single-engine turboprop and the presently-in-flight-test Epic Victory very light jet. Too, Kingfisher expects its investment in Epic will yield large dividends in the rapidly growing market for business and corporate aircraft throughout Asia, especially including China and India. The vast manufacturing resources -- including inexpensive labor and other benefits -- Asia can offer to both partners is undoubtedly an attraction, adding to the synergies discussed Wednesday morning. But the equation’s wildcard is Airbus’s involvement. Its representative at Wednesday’s press conference would say only Airbus is in the very preliminary phases of discussions with Kingfisher, the idea behind which is to learn what technologies Epic can provide the company. Is Airbus, already a subsidiary of EADS Socata -- itself no slouch in the general aviation market -- in a hurry to get its hands on a VLJ? Is Airbus looking at Epic and its new relationship with Kingfisher as a turn-key way to break into the VLJ and high-end experimental aircraft market? Stranger things have happened in the worldwide business aviation market. Meanwhile, Epic is basking in the glow of signing up a major new cash-flush partner and looking forward to the prospect of cranking out a few hundred of its aircraft into a new, open market where few of its competition either have a presence or can speak the language. And that’s not a bad day’s work.

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NBAA, GAMA Rally Against User Fees

NBAA President Ed Bolen and General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) President Pete Bunce told members and media representatives Tuesday that the fight is far from over to ensure that user fees are not part of the FAA reauthorization package currently before Congress. The House of Representatives have passed a bill that rejects user fees and the Senate Finance Committee recently followed suit but that bill is yet to go to the full Senate and there is plent of politicking that can throw the current trend off track. Bolen said those in aviation can't let up on the politicians now because the airlines are sure to keep up their lobbying effort. "We've all got to get involved," Bolen said. "We've all got to make our voices heard on Capitol Hill."

Bunce told the crowd at an opening session breakfast that the progress made so far is the result of general aviation lobbyists sticking to the facts and not falling for the baiting tactics of the airline lobby. "We're beginning to play big on Capitol Hill," he said. Bunce also reminded delegates and the media about the important role environmental responsibility will play in coming years but he said aviation is already leading in innovation and efficiency. "We do have a great environmental story to tell," he said. "We care about the environment."

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L-3 SmartDeck Chosen for Cirrus Jet Prototype

Cirrus Design has chosen L-3 Communications to provide the avionics for its prototype single engine jet. The announcement was made at the National Business Aviation Association's convention in Atlanta. L-3 calls the avionics package the SmartDeck and says it represents the "next generation" of flat panels. In addition to all the usual features found on the glass wizards, L-3 has included its Stormscope weather mapping feature, SkyWatch collision avoidance system and Landmark terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS). It says it tested the displays with pilots and human factors experts to try and make it as functional and intuitive as possible. Cirrus CEO Alan Klapmeier said the choice of L-3 for the first Cirrus jet does not mean that production models will necessarily have the gear.

Klapmeier said Garmin and current avionics vendor Avidyne are still in the running. Meanwhile, Klapmeier said work has begun on the prototype, and some parts have been completed. He said he's not predicting when it will fly and not pushing development to coincide with any shows. The mockup of the jet shown at Cirrus's annual owners' event in Duluth in June will be displayed at AOPA's annual convention next week in Hartford.

EADS Socata's TBM 850 Goes Garmin in a Bigger Way

If your company already has what it claims as the world's fastest single-engine turboprop, what do you do to improve it and keep it competitive? New paint; new interior; drop the price? If you're EADS Socata, and the airplane is the faster-than-your-propeller-airplane TBM 850, the correct answer is "none of the above." Instead, you upgrade its avionics from a traditional Garmin 430/530 package and go full-boat with the Kansas manufacturer's G1000 integrated panel. "Two years ago, our customers asked us for more speed," said Jean-Michel Léonard, EADS Socata's CEO, referring to his company's decision to transform its successful TBM 700 into the 850. "We continue to listen to their needs, and as a result, we have taken the next step with the integrated cockpit panel -- which will ease pilot workload, save weight and reduce the cost of ownership. Playing with the TBM 850's known reliability was not an option, and we wanted a solid and fully integrated solution," Léonard added.

According to Garmin, the G1000 package it will provide for the TBM 850 presents all flight-critical data -- engine and flight instrumentation, plus navigation, communication, weather, terrain and traffic data -- on three large-format, high-resolution displays. Specific features of the G1000 installation in the TBM 850 include:

  • Three-axis, all-digital automatic flight control system.
  • WAAS-certified IFR and oceanic-approved GPS navigation along with the 8.33-kHz channel spacing necessary in Europe.
  • Dual RVSM-compliant digital air-data computers.
  • Mode S transponder with Traffic Information Service.
  • Class-B Terrain Awareness and Warning System (TAWS) with worldwide terrain and obstacle database.

The G1000-equipped TBM 850 also will graphically depict airframe, electrical and fuel system synoptics data on the G1000's Multi-Function Display (MFD). EADS Socata says the company's program to certify the G1000 in its TBM 850 is now underway; timing for the introduction of G1000-equipped TBM 850s will be detailed next year. The TBM 850 features a maximum cruising speed of 320 KTAS at 26,000 ft.

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Pratt & Whitney Canada Tests Phenom 300 Engine

The Pratt & Whitney PW535E that will power Embraer's new Phenom 300 light jet was successfully test-run and achieved its full thrust at 3,360 lbs. at PWC's Longueil, Quebec facility, the company announced at NBAA this week. Company officials said the project is on time, and that will allow Embraer to maintain its development schedule on the Phenom. PWC predicts the engine will be certified by the end of the year. "The PW535E development program is progressing very well, as confirmed by this key milestone," said Dan Breitman, PWC's Vice President of Turbofan Development. The Canadian engine maker also inked a big deal with very light jet air taxi pioneer DayJet.

PWC will provide maintenance and support for the PW600 series turbofan that will power the Eclipse. DayJet has ordered up to 1,400 of the very light jets to operate a point-to-point air taxi service. "This is a breakthrough agreement for PWC, as DayJet introduces its innovative per-seat, on-demand jet service to the market," said Raffaele Virgili, Vice President of Service Centers for Pratt & Whitney.

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AVweb's Audio News — Are You Listening? back to top 

AVweb's NBAA 2007 Podcast #3: What Do Piper and Garmin Have Up Their Sleeve?

File Size 6.6 MB / Running Time 7:11

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

All we know for sure is that the PiperJet will have a new avionics package maybe based on the G1000 — or maybe not. Garmin is being closed-lipped about what capabilities it will provide to Piper, according to Bob Kromer, Piper's VP of sales. In this podcast, Kromer offers an update on Piper's progress on its single-engine jet. Testing, he says, will happen in Vero Beach, but no decisions have been made on a production site.

Click here to listen. (6.6 MB, 7:11)

AVweb's NBAA 2007 Podcast #4: Roll Your Own Approach — Jeppesen's New RNP Program

File Size 8.2 MB / Running Time 8:58

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

The advent of WAAS GPS means that virtually any airport on the planet -- at least in the U.S -- can have an instrument approach. But the FAA can't even begin to keep up with demand, so it's about to approve Jeppesen's request to develop so-called public RNP approaches on a contract basis. Jeppesen's Andy McDowell explains how it will work.

Click here to listen. (8.2 MB, 8:58)

AVweb's NBAA 2007 Podcast #5: L-3's SmartDeck EFIS — Competition for Garmin?

File Size 8.6 MB / Running Time 9:22

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

Five years ago, a new EFIS called SmartDeck appeared at Oshkosh, to be offered by BF Goodrich's aerospace unit. It promptly vanished, L-3 Communications bought the Goodrich line, and now SmartDeck is back. L-3's Larry Riddle explains why the new version advances the state of the EFIS art.

Click here to listen. (8.6 MB, 9:22)

NBAA 2007 Podcasting Round-Up: Our Complete Audio Coverage from the Atlanta Convention

Innovation and growth topped everyone's agenda at the 2007 National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. If there was any doubt as to the health of the business jet market, this show eradicated it. As always, AVweb's audio news team was on hand to get the biggest stories straight from the newsmakers themselves. In case you missed them, here's a quick recap of our NBAA 2007 podcasts:

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Original Video Coverage from NBAA back to top 

NBAA 2007 Exclusive Video #3: Airbus A318 Elite Business Jet Cabin Tour

Original, Exclusive Videos from AVweb | Reader-Submitted & Viral Videos

The 2007 NBAA Convention has been a busy one for the AVweb team, and there were many invitations we (unfortunately) had to turn down. When the kind folks at Airbus invited us to tour a fully-equipped A318 Elite, however, we just couldn't pass up the opportunity. Grab your most presentable briefcase and join us for a taste of business travel in the highest style.

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NBAA 2007 Video Round-Up: Complete Video Reporting from the Atlanta Convention

Original, Exclusive Videos from AVweb | Reader-Submitted & Viral Videos

If there's one thing we cay with certainty about the 2007 NBAA Convention and Trade Show, it's this: Business aviation is healthy and keeping (very) busy. If you don't believe us, check out these three exclusive videos we put together while gathering news reports for AVweb at the show.

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Be Part of the AVweb Team back to top 


AVweb has an opening for an able and experienced aviation writer and editor with proven experience in both print and web publishing, although we're willing to train the right person in the finer points of massaging content for the web. This position requires relocation to our Sarasota, Florida office. If this description fits you, contact aviationeditorial@comcast.net.

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Names Behind the News back to top 

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.

The AVwebBiz team is:

Timothy Cole

Editorial Director, Aviation Publications
Paul Bertorelli

Russ Niles

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Glenn Pew

Features Editor
Kevin Lane-Cummings

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