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Textron Aviation has "been listening to the market" and sees an opportunity to introduce a new single-engine turboprop, the company confirmed in an email to AVweb on Monday. "This is an entirely new, clean-sheet design aircraft -- not a derivative or variant of any existing product," the company said. The company is not yet releasing details about the project, but said their intent is to "outperform the competition" in parameters including cabin size, acquisition cost and performance capability. "By leveraging the newest technologies, we expect this aircraft to have a range of more than 1,500 nautical miles and speeds in excess of 280 knots, while offering best-in-class operating costs," according to the company's statement. The design will be on display next year at EAA AirVenture.

In its recent second-quarter shipments report, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association said 191 single-engine turboprops had been delivered in the first six months of 2015, compared to 217 delivered in the same period last year. Textron already produces several turboprop aircraft, including the single-engine Cessna Caravan line and the Beechcraft King Air twins.

Airbus has been granted a U.S. patent for an airplane that could fly commercial passengers at speeds up to Mach 4.5, according to various news reports this week. The plans show the hydrogen-fueled airplane would take off vertically, propelled by turbojets, then a rocket engine and wing-mounted ramjets would propel the aircraft as high as 100,000 feet. The aircraft then would transition to level flight. That flight profile would minimize the sonic boom impact on the surface, according to Airbus. "In the case of civil applications, the market envisaged is principally that of business travel and VIP passengers, who require transcontinental return journeys within one day," according to the patent documents.

The aircraft also could be developed for military as well as civilian use, Airbus said. The aircraft could make the trip from Paris to Tokyo, which takes 12 hours today, in under three hours. The patent doesn't mean the aircraft is actually on the drawing boards, however. "Airbus Group and its divisions apply for hundreds of patents every year in order to protect intellectual property," an Airbus spokesman told Reuters in an email. "These patents are often based on R&D concepts and ideas in a very nascent stage of conceptualisation, and not every patent progresses to becoming a fully realised technology or product."

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The number of used business jets on the market continues to decline but older aircraft remain a tough sell, according to a report from JetNet released this week. The market analysis company said its figures show the total number of business jets available dropped from 11.8 percent of the fleet to 11.2 percent in the first six months of 2015. It's the lowest percentage of used jets on the market since the recession began in 2008 but there were still more than 2,200 aircraft up for sale. The number of used aircraft on the market has a direct bearing on the new-aircraft market and the glut of used planes from 2009 to 2014 was a big factor in the decline of new aircraft sales. With sales increasing, so are prices, but not for all used business jets. Older aircraft are staying on the market longer, the report said.

The first half of 2015 also marked a shift in the turboprop market. That sector was strong through the recession but that appears to be over. Sales of used turboprops dropped by 10.8 percent and the average asking price was 16.9 percent lower. Turbine helicopter sales also dropped by 12.2 percent while piston helicopters surged 14.4 percent in sales. Overall, almost 4,000 used jets, turboprops and helicopters sold in the first six months of the year.

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NASA's UTM concept

Operators of unmanned aerial systems now can submit their flight plans online, and those operations will be displayed graphically to general aviation pilots when they file their flight plans, Lockheed Martin said on Monday. "Our objective is an open, standards-based system that individual operators and other private UTM [UAS traffic management] systems can use to interact seamlessly and securely with the NAS," said Paul Engola, vice president of transportation for Lockheed Martin. "We look forward to partnering with UAS operators and manufacturers to help create a system that supports the safe coexistence of manned and unmanned flight." Only operators of UAS operating under an FAA certificate are required to file Notams about their flight plans, but the service is expected to expand as UAS become more common.

The system is still evolving, Lockheed Martin's chief architect Mike Glasgow told AVweb's Larry Anglisano recently at EAA AirVenture. Maps already are available on the flight service website at 1800wxbrief.com, where pilots can see where UAS are operating. Glasgow said he hopes to expand the capabilities of the project so it will be easy for even hobbyist UAS users to report their activities. Lockheed Martin also said it is collaborating with NASA on its UTM research project, and working to develop the capability to support beyond-line-of-sight UAS operations.

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Beacon, a new venture launched by the team behind Surf Air, plans to start offering a subscription-based private airplane service in the Northeast starting September 15, the company has announced. Beacon will offer unlimited access to its fleet for prices starting at $2,000 per month, with flights between Boston and New York, as well as seasonal trips to Nantucket and the Hamptons. Reservations, changes and cancellations can be made as little as 20 minutes before departure, the company says. Surf Air, based in California, operates its own Pilatus PC-12 turboprops, but Beacon has partnered with charter operator Dynamic Aviation, based in Virginia, which has a fleet of more than 140 aircraft.

Under its $400 million agreement, Beacon says, Dynamic will deliver 27 mid-sized executive aircraft over the next three years, and is contracted to maintain and operate the aircraft for Beacon over the next 10 years. Dynamic Aviation will provide commuter passenger services on an exclusive basis to Beacon. "We are excited to announce this partnership between Dynamic Aviation and Beacon," said Wade Eyerly, Beacon's CEO and co-founder. "We ultimately selected Dynamic Aviation based on their award-winning safety culture and reliability record." All flights will be managed by concierges, says Beacon, who can help travelers with car rentals and any other travel requests.

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I got a tidy little lesson in confirmation bias that I wasn’t quite expecting on Tuesday afternoon. The local airport manager held a meeting in the town hall to discuss a proposed skydiving operation that wants to start operations in Venice. Heretofore, when the city has been approached on this topic, it has rejected the idea, ostensibly due to safety concerns. This time, the FAA weighed in and noted that skydiving is a legitimate aeronautical activity and if the town wanted to continue receiving federal AIP dollars, it had better have a good reason for saying no again. Hence the meeting.

About 35 people attended to hear a hired consultant explain the operational and safety issues involved in a skydiving operation co-existing on the airport. I’d describe the atmosphere in the room as respectfully skeptical; no one was pounding the table in opposition, but no one was swooning over doing their first tandem near the beach, either. I went in intending to argue in favor of the proposal until the consultant threw up a slide of five potential landing spots on the airport. Are you kidding? I thought. Every one of them had a potential conflict with a runway or a pattern. I was beginning to think the skydiving proposal was a bad idea after all.

As the meeting wore on, someone asked who would decide the issue and how. Ultimately, it would be the FAA, based on risk analysis. Further probing caused the scales from eyes to slide away. There is absolutely no numerical metric, no logical path or framework to assign risk to such a thing. First, there’s no useful accident or incident data to work with and second, there are far too many variables. So it’s done on gut feel and emotionalism, a theme readers of this blog will recognize as an obsession of mine. And I was doing it myself. When I looked at those five circles representing potential landing areas, I thought they would conflict impossibly with aircraft traffic, but on further consideration, they were no better or worse than other airports I’ve jumped into. At Zephyrhills, where I regularly jump, there’s mixed traffic just as Venice has, including gliders operating on the same runway as skydiving aircraft do. This mix has co-existed satisfactorily for years and probably will for years to come. Despite legitimate fears raised by many, including me, I think the same would be true of our little airport.

I’ve noticed that pilots and airport communities sometimes adopt a circle-the-wagons reaction to fringe operations that aren’t down the center lane. Skydiving is one. Powered parachutes and gliders another. There’s a tendency to spring immediately to no, then figure out reasons to support that view. To its credit, the FAA is saying that’s not going to work this time, so better come up with some good explanations. That will be difficult for the reasons I’ve stated above because the usual emotional, anything-could-happen argument can’t be supported by anything remotely resembling a demonstrated fact pattern, even if the risk really is as high as the imagined worst-case scenarios.

I think the best way is a push to test. I asked the airport manager if the skydiving operation could be given a 60-day, no-fault trial period to see how things work out. He said maybe. My guess is that few would even notice, if the skydiving operator does his duty in respecting other airport users. In my experience, that’s where skydiving operations get sideways with the airports that host them. It often starts with an aggressive jump aircraft pilot cutting someone off in the pattern followed by arguments and finger pointing. Drop zone operators have to understand the importance of not letting this happen. And all pilots have to do is remember to descend to pattern altitude well away from the airport and keep their eyes open for canopies that will probably be opening above them, if they see any skydivers at all. A little courtesy and communication goes a long way toward a peaceful, productive relationship, just as it always has.

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Lockheed Martin Flight Services is stepping up UAS awareness with its recently introduced unmanned traffic management (UTM) service.  Aimed at increasing situational awareness when it comes to sharing the airspace with commercial drone operations, UTM includes an evolving set of functions and services — including a simplified and automated UAS NOTAM filing process, online graphics (which show their operating position and altitude) — plus plans for future services in preparation for a growing number of drone operations.  In this podcast, Aviation Consumer editor Larry Anglisano speaks with Lockheed Martin's chief architect Mike Glasgow about UTM and what it means for pilots and UAS operators.

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