World's Leading Independent Aviation News Service
Volume 25, Number 12a
March 19, 2018
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Bizjet Sales: Still Slumbering in the Lost Decade
Paul Bertorelli

Aerospace has always been a boom-bust business, but following the economic downturn of 2008, the robust upswing has proven elusive, primarily because there are simply too many airplanes available for too few buyers. Says Citi aerospace analyst Jonathan Raviv, this sluggish recovery has earned a name: the lost decade. In this exclusive podcast, AVweb spoke with Raviv about his market findings.

“The lost decade does indeed refer to a decade in which we did not see in the bizjet market that we would have expected to see coming out of the recession,” Raviv says, summarizing a presentation he will give on March 19 at NBAA’s Business, Finance and Legal conference in Fort Myers, Florida. Raviv says the post-2008 non-recovery was different because although the three leading indicators—GDP growth, corporate earnings and a rising Dow—portended a sales snap back, it hasn’t happened yet.

In retrospect, Raviv says, the reason is clear. The industry simply overbuilt during the boom period of the mid-2000s. A line drawn though business aircraft deliveries from 1959 through 2017 shows a sharp bump in the mid-2000s. "What’s driving this underperformance, it’s our contention, is that there were too many jets delivered in the mid 2000s, during the boom time. That’s probably pretty clear. Deliveries were way above trend. These over-deliveries essentially became shadow inventory. That was an overhang on the new market,” Raviv says. Prices on the used market tanked, too.

“If you think of a business jet as essentially a very expensive flying luxury car, luxury cars tend to depreciate very rapidly when you take the keys and drive them off the lot. Why not a business jet?” Raviv adds. For a time, even delivery positions on some jets were appreciating during the 2005 to 2007 period. Overproduction ended that.

So what about a real recovery? Raviv says tax reform looks like a net positive and by next year might clear used inventory faster than it would have otherwise. But he says the business aircraft market still lives in a modest-growth economy so sales will be slow and steady, not booming.

“The thing that got the industry into trouble in 2007 and 2008 is the oversupply which flooded the market and put supply and demand way off balance,” Raviv says. “I would hope that the OEMs have learned a lesson and would be very careful before they ramp production quickly to maintain that supply and demand balance which is core to the pricing dynamic.”

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Guest Blog: Dream Flying Jobs
Ryan Lunde

When trying to count and classify a group of pronghorn antelope from the air, you deal with lots of factors that aren’t included in most other general aviation flying. Where are the towers or power lines? Where’s the light coming from? Where’s the wind coming from and how strong is it? Where are the fences? We don’t want to run them through a fence. Let’s just direct them back this way. How long have we been making passes on this herd? Any chance they’re dealing with exhaustion? We’ve got a total count, now let’s just get the doe to fawn ratio. Angle of attack, angle of attack, nose down a touch. What’s the CHT of the number two cylinder? It better not sneak up on me again in this 90-degree weather.

We start our days at unholy hours and we live our lives by angle of attack. We fly diminutive airplanes and demand the most out of them. Rather than flying to transport, we fly to simply expand our perspective, to let people look out the window and report what they see. Sometimes there’s also a good helping of antelope wrangling.

When I first heard that people got paid to fly light airplanes low and look at animals, I knew that I needed a career change. I wasn’t even flying for a living and I was a far cry from meeting the minimum requirements. Many departments flying natural resource flights require mountain experience and as Super Cubs and Skywagons are favorites of many operators, tailwheel time is an asset as well. A biology degree is also helpful and it’s required for some federal positions. I was working at a corporate technical job and only flying on the weekends, but I had the benefit of living in Denver and having excellent mountain flying in close proximity and my Champ was allowing me to build lots of tailwheel time.

Flying low-power airplanes at high density altitude would be a skill that I’d be glad that I’d cultivated. Through some twist of fate, my first flying job was for a flying service in Wyoming and among other things, we flew wildlife flights for various biological consultants as well as contract flying for Wyoming Game and Fish. After five years, I moved to the public sector and now work as a full-time pilot for a government wildlife agency.

Perhaps the most attractive facet of wildlife flying is the variety. Each season brings something new, from flying low-altitude aerial counts of game animals like deer, elk and antelope to surveying and checking eagle nests to high-altitude radio tracking of collared wolves. Airplanes are also a vital tool to check the level of remote man-made water catchments in dry areas where surface water isn’t as abundant and available for wildlife as it has been historically. Agencies also use airplanes for fisheries studies and aerial law enforcement.

In most of my experience, I’ve had observers accompany me on wildlife flights, usually biologists working as consultants or government employees. Oftentimes they have the additional role of law enforcement officer. The observer requests the flight, sets the route and has a critical role during the flight. Many of them have taken aviation safety training courses and I view a seasoned observer as flight crew rather than a passenger. They have a good understanding of what the airplane can and can’t do and won’t push a pilot to do the unreasonable. Wildlife biologists are dedicated to their work and that dedication meshes well with pilots. Rather than being a passive passenger on a tight schedule, observers are aerial workers and we’re a team when we’re in the air together.

One might imagine our equipment to be high tech, but much of our hardware is somewhat old fashioned. The latest avionics are eschewed for the bulletproof push-button portable Garmin GPS units, which easily accept waypoints and transect tracks that observers provide, and can mark a new waypoint at the touch of a button, all things that newer units don’t do well. Radio telemetry equipment is more archaic than you might imagine. Animals are equipped with tiny VHF transmitters worn on a collar or backpack. Airplanes have mounts on each wing strut or on the belly for directional antennas and the observer will listen for the frequency of a particular animal and we must maneuver the airplane so that we can hear the animal’s signal or twist the belly antenna in the direction of the creature and then fly to it until the signal is loudest.

It reminds me of some of the early radio navigation described in Fate is the Hunter. New technology is creeping in, however, and many new radio collars will relay GPS positions to communication satellites periodically, meaning less telemetry flying. Tablet apps are also becoming more compatible between pilots and biologists and are becoming more prevalent in the cockpit. Still, biologists like to see the animals they’re studying and one of the best ways to do that is to simply fly low and look out the window.

Each wildlife agency or contractor is different, some relying heavily on aerial telemetry, some fleets include helicopters, some drop fish into high mountain lakes, and some use aerial infrared cameras for locating animals. I’ve been able to work on a variety of projects including sage grouse surveys in Wyoming, flying spotter plane for a helicopter conducting wolf captures in New Mexico and surveying endangered Sonoran pronghorn antelope in Mexico near the beaches of the Sea of Cortez.

One of the most memorable flights I’ve flown was telemetry for California condors in the Grand Canyon. With prior clearance, we were able to fly through the canyon, below the rim in airspace off limits to almost every other aircraft. The variety of this type of work is perhaps one of the most attractive aspects of the job, second to the knowledge that this is meaningful flying that helps secure the future for our valuable wildlife resources.

When I talk with other pilots about this type of flying, many are surprised this sort of thing exists at all. It’s a rather small piece of the flying community, but there are dozens of us in the U.S. and Canada. We even have our own organization, The International Association for Natural Resource Pilots, which is a good source of job postings when they come up. Job openings are often competitive, but it’s been harder and harder to find new pilots lately as the airline pilot shortage extends across the industry.

Alhough we fly low for hours on end over some incredible terrain, it takes a level head and professionalism. Keeping the observers’ confidence is key and there’s never a time for reckless or showy flying. Wildlife and natural resource flying is a good fit for pilots who are dedicated to conservation and have cultivated the right set of skills. It’s fulfilling work at the end of the day and I’m grateful to have made a career out of it.

Ryan Lunde is a natural resource pilot who’s worked in both public and private sectors. He currently lives in Phoenix and works for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. He’s also an aerial photographer and a flight instructor specializing in tailwheel instruction and flies his own Aeronca Champ around the American West. If you'd like to write a guest blog about your own dream job, send us an e-mail  and tell us about it.


Video: Top Flightbag Picks
Larry Anglisano

The pilot's flight bag has gotten smaller over the years and in a market flooded with compact flight totes, four bags—all with different styling—survived our long-term evaluation and earned our critical praise. In this video, Aviation Consumer Editor Larry Anglisano offers a close look at four favorites on the Aviation Consumer evaluation bench.

Podcast: Citi's Jonathan Raviv on Slow Bizjet Sales
Paul Bertorelli

Aerospace has always been a boom-bust business, but following the economic downturn of 2008, the robust upswing has proven elusive, primarily because there are simply too many airplanes available for too few buyers. Says Citi aerospace analyst Jonathan Raviv, this sluggish recovery has earned a name: the lost decade. In this exclusive podcast, AVweb spoke with Raviv about his market findings.

Low-Flying Plane Causes Concern At Ohio High School
Joy Finnegan

A low-flying plane over an Ohio high school caused concern Thursday afternoon, according to Cincinnati news station WLWT.  “After an exhaustive investigation, we determined there is no evidence of any threat or plan to attack any person or school,” Hamilton Police Chief Craig Bucheit said in a tweet. “HPD is working with Federal Aviation Administration officials to determine what, if any, violation of Federal Aviation Regulations occurred."

School officials received notification of the low-flying plane spotted near school grounds and called police and the Butler County Regional Airport.           

"We had teachers express some concerns, 'Hey what's going on?' because they kept flying over the neighborhood and around our building," Badin principal Brian Pendergest said. "At no point was it heading directly at our building or anything like that. It was above our building at all times."

The pilot was taken into custody upon landing and interviewed by the FAA, the news report said. He cooperated with authorities, claiming what happened was a misunderstanding.

The pilot, a freshman in college and home on spring break, was in full compliance, both regarding the aircraft itself and the flight plan, which includes altitude, according to his attorney. Students were not evacuated from the school, and school principal Brian Pendergest said the school never received any sort of threatening message.

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FAA Restricts Doors-Off Helicopter Tours
Paul Bertorelli

The FAA said Friday that it's restricting helicopter operators from offering so-called doors-off tours unless the passengers are equipped with quick-release harnesses. The announcement came five days after five people died when a tour helicopter autorotated into New York's East River and rolled over. Although the pilot escaped, five passengers apparently drowned because they couldn't release harnesses intended to keep them secure with open doors.

Although no cause has been cited, the pilot told investigators that passenger luggage may have inadvertently bumped the helicopter's fuel cutoff valve, stopping the engine. The Eurocopter AS350 successfully autorotated to the river near Gracie Mansion and although it was equipped with inflatable skid floats, it rolled slowly to the right and eventually inverted. First responders said they struggled to release the passengers from harnesses not equipped with quick releases that passengers could operate under duress. During the rescue attempt, the helicopter drifted 50 blocks in strong currents.

"The FAA will order operators and pilots to take immediate actions to control or mitigate this risk," the agency said in Friday. "Until then, the FAA will order no more "doors off" operations that involve restraints that cannot be released quickly in an emergency." Meanwhile, the NTSB continued its investigation of the accident and reported that an initial inspection of the AS350 revealed no apparent mechanical flaws in the Turbomeca Arriel engine that would have caused the stoppage.

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NTSB Reminder: Check Weight And Balance
Mary Grady

The NTSB issued a Safety Alert (PDF) on Friday reminding general aviation pilots they should calculate weight and balance before every flight. Between 2008 and 2016, the board said, incorrect or neglected performance calculations were cited as a probable cause in 136 GA accident reports. In one-third of those accidents, people died. “Overloading aircraft or operating outside of the CG limits can severely degrade an aircraft’s performance characteristics and ultimately lead to an aerodynamic stall and/or loss of aircraft control, typically during takeoff or landing,” the Safety Alert says. The effects of weather also should be considered, the NTSB says.

“Not accounting for atmospheric conditions — such as wind, high temperature, and high density altitude — on an aircraft’s performance can exacerbate the effects of operating outside of weight and CG limits,” says the Safety Alert. “Even if an aircraft is under or near its maximum gross takeoff limit, atmospheric conditions can degrade the aircraft’s performance enough to prevent it from attaining or maintaining a climb.” The Safety Alert describes several fatal accidents that illustrate the diversity of circumstances that can result from a failure to check weight and balance before takeoff.

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Russian Runway Paved in Gold
Joy Finnegan

The cargo door of an Antonov An-12, a Soviet-era cargo plane, loaded with nine metric tons of gold broke open as the aircraft took off from Yakutsk in East Siberia. The aircraft’s door apparently gave way and broke off due to the weight shifting in the cargo hold. Gold alloy bars were then strewn across the runway and on the airport property. The aircraft then went on to land successfully at an airport several kilometers away. They were en route from a mine in Kupol to Krasnoyarsk and made a refueling stop in Yakutsk. It was carrying a cargo of gold-silver alloy bars belonging to the Chukot Mining and Geological Company, according to the Russian news agency, TASS.

All 172 bars of the gold/silver alloy were recovered, according to Russian authorities. However, a warning was issued stating that anyone finding a gold bar and failing to report it would be prosecuted, a New York Times story about the incident said. The gold alloy was reported to be worth $156 million. No one was injured in the incident.

AOPA Updates FBO Complaint Status
Mary Grady

Two complaints about FBO pricing and practices that AOPA filed with the FAA last August have completed the “reply and response” phase and now will be studied by the FAA, AOPA said on Wednesday. The complaints address “egregious” fees and restricted airport access imposed by FBOs at Asheville Regional Airport, in North Carolina, and at Key West International Airport, in Florida. AOPA believes those airports and FBOs have failed to fulfill federal grant obligations to protect the airport for public use. Signature Flight Support, the sole FBO at both airports, and representatives of the airport operators have submitted responses to the FAA disputing AOPA’s complaints, AOPA said.

“To be clear, by and large, most FBOs and airports are treating users fairly, but there are also airports — around 40 and likely growing — where this is not the case,” said Ken Mead, AOPA general counsel. “Users have not invested almost $200 million in federal dollars at Key West and Asheville over the past 35 years to give up access.” AOPA had also filed a complaint in January against Waukegan National Airport, in Illinois, but later withdrew the complaint after airport management took steps to address pricing and access. Waukegan now offers alternative public-use ramp space for transients at no charge, allowing visitors to bypass the FBO if they do not need its services, AOPA said.

WASP Florence “Shutsy” Reynolds Dies
Joy Finnegan

Florence “Shutsy” Reynolds of Connellsville, Penn., passed away Thursday, March 15, 2018, at home. She was 95. She took a Civilian Pilot Training Program at her local airport in Connellsville and completed it, receiving her pilot’s certificate at the end. According to the “Fly Girls the Series” blog, “Reynolds was required to sign a document promising that she would join the aviation military service in case of war. ‘That was a big joke at the airport that day … But I signed it. By damn I joined later on.’”

At 19 she read about the WASP program but learned she was too young to join. The minimum age was 21. But, determined to join, she wrote Jackie Cochran, the founder and director of the program, every week. Eventually the age requirement was lowered and she was accepted in the program. She reported for training in December of 1943. “The training was exactly like the men’s. And our living environment was also military … I fell in love with it, I loved military life. I thought it was great,” she is quoted as saying the blog.

Her duties included flight testing planes, ferrying aircraft from repair stops and transporting people and materials for the war effort. Reynolds recalled fondly her time flying the WASPs as “the closest thing to God. I’ve always felt that way. There’s nothing like it, especially when you’re on a solo flight.”

You can see a video of Florence on the U. S. Air Force Academy's Facebook page.

Picture of the Week
Deon Mitton sent us this beautiful shot of a Kodiak and a Beaver in formation taking a fun flight. This amazing photo happened at the 2017 Sun 'n Fun Seaplane fly-in in Tavares, near Orlando FL.

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