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Eclipse Aerospace laid off "several" workers from its plant in Albuquerque last week. "I've had much better days," Eclipse Aerospace Senior Vice President Ed Lundeen told Albuquerque Business First on Friday. "The bottom line is that the market has not recovered yet. We're not seeing the sales we planned for," he said. Lundeen told AVweb in an email on Tuesday the staff reduction was "primarily related to new aircraft production." He added: "Although global market conditions continue to improve, the pace of economic improvement continues to challenge new GA aircraft sales. Eclipse Aerospace has aligned its production workforce to build aircraft based on current orders. Our MRO operations (upgrades, mods, parts, etc.) continue at a robust pace and we are building new Eclipse 550 aircraft, albeit at a slower pace."

Eclipse has not reported the number of jobs affected, but a city official said the layoff "wasn't big enough" to trigger payback of more than a half-million dollars in state and local development funding that was granted to the company last year. However, the company may lose a discount on its rental of city property at the Albuquerque airport, which is granted only when they are "actively hiring."

"We just wish there were more people that are wanting to buy aircraft," Lundeen said. The company has sold 10 of the all-new Eclipse 550 jets, he said. "As a result of that, we've had to realign our production forecast. We're building less airplanes, and we need fewer human resources." Workers in Chicago and Charleston also were affected, Lundeen said. "It's a painful event we're going through. We have to keep our costs in line so we have a sustainable business model." He added that the company is "prepared to scale our operations upward as market conditions (and aircraft orders) dictate." Eclipse started deliveries of its all-new 550 jet in March. The company also provides upgrades, support and remanufacturing for the original Eclipse jet fleet.

Textron Aviation is closing former Cessna fractional operator CitationAir and selling the remaining airplanes. CitationAir was started in 2000 as CitationShares, a division of Cessna. Cessna stopped selling shares in new aircraft and jet cards two years ago and it's ceasing flight operations Oct. 31. "We previously communicated with our customers regarding the decision to cease selling our fractional, jet card and management products," Textron Aviation spokeswoman told the Wichita Eagle. "After diligently evaluating options for the future of CitationAir, we have made the decision to wind down our operations and exit the business."

Alexander told the Eagle the company is now buying back fractional interests from existing owners and once that's complete it will put the aircraft up for sale. Layoff notices have been sent to CitationAir employees. The fractional company is based in Greenwich, Connecticut.

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Seven general aviation advocacy groups said this week they have sent a letter (PDF) to officials in the Transportation Department asking them to expedite a review of the FAA's proposed rulemaking that would change the requirements for a third-class medical. The groups asked Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to complete the review within 30 days and open the NPRM to public comment. "The FAA has moved far too slowly on medical reform," said AOPA President Mark Baker. "This is a top priority for our members and we will do absolutely everything in our power to get the government moving and keep them moving." The proposed changes would potentially save pilots about $140 million every year, according to AOPA, and the FAA would save about $1 million.

EAA Chairman Jack Pelton also signed on to the letter. "As we stated publicly and to the FAA administrator just two weeks ago at Oshkosh, the aviation community has been waiting for action on this measure -- no other issue comes close in importance to GA pilots," he said in a statement on Monday. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said at Oshkosh the proposed rule will lay out the parameters that define how a person could fly without a third-class medical certificate, but he gave no specifics as to what those parameters might be. "EAA will continue to push for this important reform that will bring common sense to medical certification and break down barriers that are holding back aviation," Pelton said. "We join the other GA groups urging Secretary Foxx to move quickly and allow the public have its say in this rulemaking process." The letter was also signed by the leaders of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Helicopter Association International, National Agricultural Aviation Association, National Air Transportation Association, and National Business Aviation Association.

image: Aerovista

The FAA issued a Notam on Monday restricting U.S. flight operators from flying in the airspace above Syria. Previously, operators had been warned to contact the FAA before flying there. "The ongoing armed conflict and volatile security environment in Syria poses a serious potential threat to civil aviation," the FAA said. "Armed extremist groups in Syria are known to be equipped with a variety of anti-aircraft weapons which have the capability to threaten civilian aircraft." Meanwhile, charter operators have been contracted to help airlift affected civilians out of conflict regions in Iraq and elsewhere in the region.

Air Charter Service, based in London, said this week it has provided aircraft to transport more than 500 foreign nationals out of Iraq in recent weeks. Aerovista, a charter and leasing firm based in Dubai, also said this week it has worked with several other charter operators in a series of emergency evacuation flights from Libya and Iraq. "Emergency evacuation of personnel from hostile areas is always a challenge as human lives are at stake," said Razvan Dobre, from Air Charter International, one of the operators. All passengers were evacuated safely, he said.

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A couple of new companies are trying fresh approaches to pull high-value business travellers out of the backpack and tennis shoe mainstream of modern air travel. La Compagnie is the latest to begin an "all business class" service to Europe. The airline has put 74 lie-flat seats two-by-two in the long narrow cabin of a Boeing 757-200 on flights between Newark and Paris. One modern wrinkle is that every passenger gets a tablet uploaded with entertainment to use during the flight. Regular round-trip fares are $1915 but there's an introductory special that allows a passenger to bring along a second person for $99. Meanwhile, BizCharters is hoping that the convenience of using business aircraft terminals will attract time-challenged executives to its Chicago-New York service.

BizCharters uses wi fi-equipped Embraer ERJ 135 regional airliners to go between DuPage and Midway airports near Chicago and Morristown, NJ, which is about 35 minutes from Manhattan. BizCharters is building its business plan around allowing its passengers to skip the security regimen at regular airports in favor of the walk-on convenience of business terminals. The company says the typical time saving on a one-way trip from Chicago to New York is three hours. It's also equipped the Embraer with workstations so that not a moment of the already-truncated travel time is wasted. A one-way fare is $495 and round trip is $695.

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An occupational hazard of being a journalist is that you're occasionally—wittingly or unwittingly—a shill for some product, a service, an organization...you name it. One reason for this is that much of what we do on AVweb is bulletin reporting. By that, I mean if a development happens or someone says something, we report it straight up and there's neither the time nor the predilection to find a balancing view, if there even is one.

And that gets to the reporting we're doing on ADS-B and the coming mandate. More and more people in the industry, GAMA for instance, are saying they're worried that if owners procrastinate on this, there won't be enough capacity to install the thousands of ADS-B systems required. We've been reporting this straight up, without challenging it. I'm not convinced it's entirely true because it assumes all of the 220,000 owners, or whatever number you choose, are going to equip with ADS-B. But based on my conversations with people about ADS-B, I'm not so sure. Reluctant buyers seem to fall into two camps: the confused and the pissed. The confused aren't sure what the mandate requires, although they know it requires it by 2020. The pissed may or may not understand the mandate, but many are saying they're going to exit GA and sell their airplanes or otherwise not install ADS-B.

Even if most of them are bluffing, I'm betting that a lot aren't. A significant percentage of the aircraft-owning population is now of a "certain age," when they're flying less, spending more and teetering on the edge of remaining involved. Perhaps the ADS-B mandate is one of three elements that could be the perfect storm to push these owners out of airplanes and into RVs or late-life sports cars. The other two are the perception of higher fuel prices when 100LL is phased out and the (so far) false promise of relief on the Third Class medical. Oh, add one more: the stupid sleep apnea diagnosis the FAA is still pursuing. The ADS-B mandate is fully five years and four months off. What's your guess on whether the FAA will resolve the Third Class issue favorably during the next three to five years? I wouldn't bet on it.

My worry is that there will be just enough owner exits to noticeably tank used aircraft values and there won't be enough new owners coming online to take up the slack. That accelerates ownership erosion and it trickles down to less fuel purchased, fewer tiedowns and hangars rented, fewer engine overhauls and so forth. I'm not predicting a mass exodus; I'm expecting a noticeable drift toward the exits.

In this context, I think the industry is getting sideways with its customers through its dire warnings about lack of installation capacity. This shows that the sellers and organizations that represent them are out of touch with the people they have to convince to actually buy this equipment. And don't forget, it's not entirely about money, but also principle. Many owners are unhappy to feel railroaded by government decree into a program that they see as of little practical use and just another expensive barrier to owning an airplane. I'm not pushing that view myself because I don't share it. But I think it's reality.

At AirVenture, FAA Administrator Huerta said no how, no way will the 2020 mandate deadline slip. Before that, FAA deputy administrator Michael G. Whitaker told Congress that the mandate absolutely, positively will not change. As far as I'm concerned, this means it absolutely, positively will slip by a year or two because the confidence with which a government bureaucrat states that something is certain is inversely proportional to how rubbery it actually is. I have no inside information on this, by the way, and I'm not trying to start another rumor. But my guess is by 2018, we'll be writing stories about how the ADS-B requirement will be delayed. Just call it a hunch based on long experience watching the FAA crater its own deadlines. (UAV regulations anyone? Remember WAAS and GPS approvals?)

It has been suggested that the government simply fund the upgrades as basic infrastructure investment. That would cost about $800 million; probably not a bad investment. While I'm personally opposed to such government handouts, maybe split the difference and offer a $1500 credit for owners who upgrade before, say, 2018. That'll never happen, but it's worth mentioning. 

So, what to do? Lucky me, the Cub has no electrical system and no need to fly in mandated airspace so I can ignore the whole thing. If I had a capable airplane, say a Mooney, Cirrus, Bonanza or maybe a 182 or a light twin that I planned to keep for a few years, I'd equip now or within a year or two. Two years from now, I suspect there is not going to be a shop-choking rush and there are enough competing systems out there that you can get into mandated ADS-B for as little as $3000, depending on what else is in the panel. (You need a suitable GPS source.) A full-up Garmin GDL 88 will cost around $5000 installed. Although we all expect additional ADS-B products before the mandate, there's no assurance that any of them will be significantly cheaper or more capable than what's out there now, but there's always a chance. Anyway, for an airplane that's worth more than say, $80,000, the ADS-B investment just isn't that great as a percentage of ownership cost.

If you know you gotta do this, might as well get it over with. Even if you think you might sell your airplane before the mandate kicks in, either because you're exiting aviation or upgrading, it will be more saleable with ADS-B installed than without. And if my prediction of enough owners dumping airframes to soften already weak sales proves true, you might need all the help you can get to attract buyers and prop up the sale price.

It's the owners of less capable airplanes that aren't flown much that may have the most difficult decision. Older Cherokees and Skyhawks, vintage models like Cessna 120s, 140s, 150s and 170s, of which there are thousands. Beech Skippers and Musketeers. Older Mooney M20s. The list is long. I can well understand why these owners might sit on the fence until the shops actually do get backed up or until they have to sell. Owners of these airplanes are what's left of middle-income flying affordability. In a way, the ADS-B mandate sharpens the have and have-not divide that aviation has fostered. For some owners, a $5000 upgrade is chump change. For others, equipping with ADS-B will represent a quarter or more of the value of the airframe. I don't know what I'd do in this circumstance. Probably wait until 2017 and take my chances that cheaper boxes will appear.

To be perfectly clear-eyed about it, ADS-B is not entirely without merit. The Out broadcast doesn't get you much, other than more precise positional information to ATC and, of course, continued access to airspace. The In broadcast brings in weather and increasingly better traffic information. (Ironically, just as traffic systems get better, there are ever fewer airplanes flying for these systems to see.) The FIS-B weather component is definitely a nice to have, although you can get that in a cheap portable outputting to a tablet. And that might argue for the cheapest possible ADS-B Out solution you can find. ADS-B In is supposed to be the carrot to entice equipage, but the flaw in that logic is you can get FIS-B for under $1500 and have an EFIS to play on your tablet to boot. Overpriced carrots anyone?

The regulators have dealt GA owners a difficult if not a bad hand not just because owners resent being forced to buy equipment they really don't want. It's the timing and the demographics that make this mandate more damaging than is generally believed, in my view. I think the alphabets and companies selling ADS-B are insensitive to this. I think equipage is going slowly because so many of us see little compelling value in ADS-B and the carrot-and-stick offer of free weather just looks like a stick. Shrill warnings about reluctant owners failing to equip putting themselves at risk just makes it look like a bigger stick.

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