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Third-class medical reform legislation didn’t make it out of a Senate committee Wednesday, but the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 remained intact as far as its key components, including exemptions for private pilots with current third-class medicals. During the markup session of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, two amendments proposed by ranking member Bill Nelson, D-Fla., were voted down, including one that would have required creating a “checklist” of medical conditions for physicians to complete when examining pilots. The session ended in a deferral of S. 571 mid-vote, when the panel realized it did not have a quorum and adjourned for the day. AOPA President Mark Baker told AVweb that despite the delay, he feels good about where the legislation stands. Third-class exemptions stand to save pilots money in medical exams and special issuance expenses, "about a quarter billion dollars over the next 10 years," he said. “We do think there are thousands and thousands and thousands, tens of thousands of pilots, that will get back into the game. This will be good for FBOs, it will be good for people pumping gas and selling airplanes," he said.

EAA also remained optimistic the bill can still make it to the Senate floor. “While the scheduling conflicts that prevented a final committee vote today is unfortunate, the bill continues to hold bipartisan support from 69 senators and is ready to move forward after completion of today’s debate,” said Sean Elliott, EAA’s vice president of advocacy and safety. "We urge the committee to continue its work on this important legislation as soon as possible.” The Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 would exempt private pilots with medicals from recurring visits to an aviation medical examiner if they self-certify their fitness to fly, take an online aeromedical course biennially, and visit a doctor at least once every four years. Pilots who don’t yet have a medical or have had their medical lapse for more than 10 years also would need a one-time visit to an AME to obtain certification. The new requirements would apply to private pilots flying aircraft that meet certain criteria, including weighing under 6,000 pounds. Seventeen aviation organizations sent a letter to the committee this week urging the bill’s release to the Senate floor.

The amendment that would give relief on third class medicals survived the mark-up process in the Senate but it's still in committee.  AVweb's Paul Bertorelli spoke with AOPA President Mark Baker about the day's events.

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Daher has found a comfortable niche for its speedy TBM 900 as personal transportation for owner pilots, but now it would like to expand sales in both North America and Europe in the fly-for-hire segment. Charter work has traditionally been dominated by twin-engine aircraft and especially turboprops and jet aircraft, mainly because of safety perceptions.

But at an NBAA press conference in Las Vegas Tuesday, Daher argued that a single-engine turboprop can deliver comparable safety at a much lower cost than twins. And because of its speed—300 knots plus—the TBM 900 easily keeps pace with jets on short stage lengths. “It’s time for us to ask you to consider a single-engine turboprop for your next aircraft,” said Nicolas Chabbert, VP of Daher’s aircraft manufacturing business unit. To convince would-be charter operators to consider the TBM, Chabbert showed data that indicates the TBM has operating costs about 28 percent lower than a twin turboprop and nearly 70 percent less than a light jet on similar missions. Costs per mile and costs per seat, on similar trips, are also lower.

To sweeten the pot for buyers, Daher is introducing what it calls a Charter Pack to support for-hire operations. It includes professional training, an extended maintenance program and continuing airworthiness support for the TBM. And to improve its general support of the entire TBM line, Daher has substantially increased its parts inventory at its new Pompano Beach, Florida, North American headquarters.

Thus far, Daher has achieved minimal penetration in the charter market, but one operator told reporters that his experience with the TBM has thus far been profitable. Eric Walden of Little Hawk Logistics began charter ops with a TBM just this year. “The TBM is its own niche. I didn’t want to operate in a market dominated by another type of aircraft,” Walden said. He said most of his trips have been an hour to an hour and a half. “But it does every mission well,” Walden said. Walden said he has achieved profitable results flying as few as 33 hours a month.

The Single Pilot Safety Standdown seminar at this year's NBAA Convention focused on loss-of-control events.  Tom Turner of the American Bonanza Society was part of Monday's slate of safety programming.  He spoke with Paul Bertorelli about the event and currently spotlight on LOC in aviation safety.

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Honda Aircraft says it will have all the flying done for certification of its business jet this week. CEO Michimasa Fujino told a news conference at NBAA in Las Vegas that the final functionality and reliability flights will be done by the end of the week. Flight test certification flights have already been completed. "We are expecting FAA type certification ... very soon," he said. First deliveries are anticipated before the end of the year. He said there are currently 25 aircraft on the factory floor and more than 1,700 people working at the Greensboro plant.

Fujino said the small jet is the first in what will become a family of products that share the principal design attributes of the original aircraft. He said the main components are scalable and larger aircraft are part of the future plan. Meanwhile, Fujino declined to discuss the total investment by Honda in the aircraft development and would only say that the company has "over 100" orders for it. The company has been showing off the flight test aircraft on tours of North America, Asia and Europe over the last six months. Fujino said it was well-received wherever it went but was particularly welcomed in Honda's home country of Japan and he expects orders from there.

Bombardier has introduced a flight tracking and monitoring system available across its product line. The Smart Link system allows real-time data, monitoring and in-flight reporting to keep tabs on systems and to allow updates to navigation materials and other ground-to-air communications. "This is the wave of the future," said Andy Nureddin, VP of Customer Services for Bombardier Business Aircraft. He said that depending on customers' preferences for security and privacy, the system can keep track of all essential systems, spot anomalies and even suggest solutions to problems it spots. The system has been tested live on Learjet 70 and 75 aircraft over the past three months and will also be available on the Challenger and Global series.

A key component is engine health monitoring and Rolls-Royce has been working with Bombardier to create the system. Signals from engines in the air are monitored and analyzed at a data center that operates around the clock and symptoms of problems can be detected before they become expensive or dangerous. Engine monitoring is nothing new but the data transfer uses recent technology that allows the data packets to be compressed to the relatively low bandwidth available and reliably handle them. "It's done in real time," said Rolls-Royce spokesman Axel Voegl.

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The Institute for Women of Aviation Worldwide has launched an online service designed to help future female pilot prospects not only get excited about aviation, but to take action on their newfound passion. The organization, which has facilitated the introduction of more than 96,000 girls and women to aviation through flights in small aircraft, has launched a website that helps them pursue their dreams. "We have been very good at outreach but now it's time to take the next step," said Mireille Goyer, founder of iWOAW, at a news conference at NBAA in Las Vegas. 

The site has a directory of female-friendly businesses, including flight schools, and companies can put their own listings on the website. The site also offers the ability for those who have used those companies to review them and publish their comments online. The site also has a listing of more than $1 million worth of aviation-related scholarships. It only lists those that don't have application fees or membership requirements.

Click here for a podcast interview with Goyer.

The Institute for Women of Aviation Worldwide is trying to make it easier for women to be successful in aviation careers. AVweb's Russ Niles spoke with iWOAW President Mireille Goyer at NBAA 2015.

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An Embry-Riddle student is planning a solo around-the-world flight next year to inspire women to take science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education paths, possibly with an eye toward aviation careers. Shaesta Waiz will take off from Daytona Beach next June 2 and make 33 stops over 90 days. She'll be flying a Beech A36 Bonanza and will cover more than 27,000 nautical miles. She's flying an eastern route that will take her through Canada, the Azores, Europe, Asia and over the Pacific and, at 28, she'll become the youngest female earthrounder. There are some twists and turns to Waiz's journey, however, and a geopolitical component.

Waiz was born in a refugee camp in Afghanistan as her parents fled the war with Russia in the late 1980s. She grew up in Richmond, California, and ended up going to Embry-Riddle. When she got her private certificate, she became the first Afghanistan-born woman to be a civilian pilot. On her flight, she will spend a week in Afghanistan making public appearances and meeting with students. She will have a full United Nations security detail with her.

Click here for a podcast interview with Waiz.

Shaesta Waiz will be flying around the world via Afghanistan next year. AVweb's Russ Niles spoke with her at NBAA 2015.

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Business aircraft operators are always concerned about flight proficiency and currency, and the usual way of achieving it is through simulation.  At NBAA, Precision Flight Controls showed off its DCX Max, a reasonably priced sim that can be configured to simulate many kinds of aircraft, from single-engine pistons to jets.

At NBAA in Las Vegas, Diamond unveiled its largest and most sophisticated airplane yet, the DA62.  With seating for up to seven people, good payload, and cruise speeds in the high 170-knot range on 15 GPH or less, Diamond sees a potential business role for the DA62.

At NBAA in Las Vegas this week, Lightspeed Aviation was demonstrating its new Tango wireless headset.  AVweb's Paul Bertorelli got a demo and plugged in a microphone so you can hear it pop.

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Are New Airplanes Doomed?

That's probably a question with a self-evident answer, but the context is this: The volume of remanufacture and refurb in all segments of aviation continues to expand. At NBAA this week, I was seeing refurb projects at every turn. Two years ago, for instance, Nextant Aerospace was by itself with its successful remanufacture of the Beechjet 400A. Now it has some competition from Elliott Aviation, who's redoing the 400A with new avionics and cosmetics, albeit not with the deep rebuild that Nextant is doing.

Vendors are practically stumbling all over themselves devising products to turn old King Airs into newer King Airs. There are four glass systems to chose from, the latest being the Sandel Avilon, which we reported on earlier this week. Again, Nextant wants to be a market leader here, and with its C90 re-engined with the GE H75, it claims an airplane that's faster, climbs better and has better air conditioning than new models coming out of Wichita, at half the price. If Nextant has any secret sauce here, it may be that its airplanes enjoy a line item in the Aircraft Bluebook and they view these refurbs as new airplanes. That means they carry a warranty and Nextant supports them with AOG and 24-hour service. Customers are the ultimate beneficiaries of all this competition — and not a moment too soon.

Diamond's DA62

This remarkable airplane made its North American debut at NBAA on Tuesday. As we reported in the video on the aircraft, this is a big airplane. From what I could tell from inspecting it for half an hour, it's superbly detailed. Painted a dignified gray, the glass detailing on the airframe was flawless. And for $1.25 million — its typical price — it ought to be. When I first reported on and flew this airplane a couple of years ago in Austria when it was called the DA52, Diamond CEO Christian Dries called it an aerial SUV. With up to seven seats, the moniker probably sticks.

I'm not sure who the customers will be, but I suspect they'll be the same wealthy owners who buy new Barons. You'd think that anyone who can afford an airplane with a point-something in the price tag wouldn't care about fuel economy or the price of gas. But as more than one Cirrus owner has declared, you'd be wrong. Plus, buyers who take the plunge on diesels seem to be having increasingly positive experiences and like the smoothness and dispatch reliability, which has come a long way from the Thielert days.

One of those customers is Embry-Riddle, which announced at the show that it will be buying ten new diesel DA42s for its training fleet in Daytona Beach. Embry-Riddle was an early adopter of diesel twins, soured a bit on them after the Thielert experience, and is now back in the game. I asked Diamond's Peter Maurer what percentage of Diamond's sales are now diesel, figuring it to be 60 percent. But it's higher; about 80 percent, he said.

High on China

For companies heavily invested in China, the bloom has fallen off the rose, so to speak. Three years ago, all we heard was China, China, China. Now that has abated. No press conferences translated from the Chinese into English this year. The sugar plums have stopped dancing.

Nonetheless, Alan Klapmeier of One Aviation says he's still enthusiastic about sales in Asia. Recall that One Aviation is a mashup of the new Eclipse Aerospace and the ever-over-the-horizon Kestrel turboprop project. In a wide-ranging press conference earlier this week, Klapmeier said One Aviation's Chinese partner has committed to 20 Eclipse 550s over a rolling multi-year period. "I'm bullish on China. I'm confident of the outcome, I'm just uncertain of the schedule," Klapmeier said.

Even less certain is the long-suffering Kestrel project. Klapmeier admits it's slow and always will be, as a function of financing. While he was discussing progress or lack thereof, he dropped a little brickbat on Honeywell, saying the Kestrel's engine won't be coming from that company. When asked why, he obliquely replied something to the effect that ethics had something to do with it. Meanwhile, Klapmeier was all ears at the GE press conference announcing the new Advanced Turboprop engine.

Dierks Bentley: GA Poster Boy

Whoever suggested country singer Dierks Bentley as a general session speaker extolling the virtues of general aviation aircraft hit pay dirt. Big time. In a hall full of expensive suits and MBAs with assistant MBAs, Bentley ambled up to the podium in denim and leather, or something like that, and for 20 minutes gave a rapt audience a succinct, from-the-heart explanation of how having airplanes available for travel to his concerts has materially improved his family life.

Bentley says he travels 150 days a year — that's more than one in three — and having an airplane available to make it home on the weekends to make pancakes for his kids makes him a happier dad and a happier musician, too. Scattered amidst the NBAA halls are banners picturing the aforementioned suits explaining what great business tools airplanes are. While that's probably true, it's somehow more convincing when placed in the very personal terms that Bentley described in a speech a lot less polished but a bunch more compelling than those we heard from others stepping up to the dais. He got a great cheer when he announced he earned his multi-engine rating last Friday. Now he's trying to engineer 16 days off to complete a jet type rating.

He sold some music, too. The first two I checked out on YouTube had airplanes in them and one had a motorcycle and an airplane. I get it. A tip of the headset to Dierks Bentley. He's clearly the real deal.

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Elliott Aviation introduced its version of a refurbished Beechjet/Hawker 400 at NBAA 2015.

Follow Me || TBM 900

Sandel surprised the NBAA show with a complete new glass panel system for the King Air. AVweb spent some time with Sandel's Gerry Block taking a tour of the new system.

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Textron Aviation displayed the test article of its Cessna Citation Longitude super mid-size business jet at NBAA 2015 in Las Vegas. Kriya Shortt shows us around.

Nextant is following up its success with the 400 XTi Beechjet remanufacture with a new project to redo the popular King Air C90. Prior to the NBAA show in Las Vegas, AVweb visited Nextant's Cleveland headquarters for an overview.

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Picture of the Week
Photo Gallery: NBAA 2015 Setup

Watching a major aviation trade show come together can be fascinating. We thought you may enjoy a peek at these photos AVweb editor-in-chief Russ Niles snapped during the setup for 2015 NBAA Convention in Las Vegas.