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The Falcon 8X is now EASA-certified, Dassault Aviation announced this week, and FAA approval is expected to follow by the end of next month. The design, based on the company’s 7X, offers the longest range of any Falcon jet, up to 6,450 nautical miles, and the biggest cabin, almost 43 feet long. “Feedback from the operational trials — cabin comfort, air conditioning, and in particular cabin noise — was excellent,” said Olivier Villa, senior vice president at Dassault Aviation Civil Aircraft. “Moreover, new innovations in aircraft insulation will allow us to further lower cabin noise compared to the Falcon 7X, currently the quietest aircraft in the industry.”

Dassault also is working to gain approval for its own “FalconEye” head-up display for the cockpit, which uses a blend of synthetic and enhanced vision systems. Approval for the HUD system is expected by the end of next year. Twelve jets already are in cabin outfitting at Dassault’s completion facility in Little Rock, Arkansas, the company said. The jet is powered by three P&W Canada engines, and flies at a top speed of about Mach 0.9. The 8X sells for about $58 million.

 

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Gulfstream is touring the U.S. this summer with a full-scale mockup of the cabin and flight deck for its new G600 business jet. The company unveiled its final plans for the new cabin last year at the NBAA convention in Las Vegas, but the mockup was introduced just a few weeks ago in Savannah, Georgia. The cabin is now on display at Teterboro Airport, in New Jersey, through Friday, and then heads west with stops in Chicago, Seattle, Denver and California, and ends in Texas, in late September. The G500 will share essentially the same cockpit, and the cabins are similar, though the G600 will be about four feet longer.

The company also is looking for feedback from customers during the tour. “We’re bringing the G600 cabin and flight deck to our customers and potential customers so we can introduce them to the technological advances of these all-new aircraft,” said Scott Neal, a vice president at Gulfstream. “Our customers will get a chance to explore the benefits of these aircraft and then share their thoughts with the Gulfstream design team.” The cabin seats up to 19 in four living areas. The G500 is now in flight testing and is expected to complete type certification next year and start deliveries in 2018. The G600 is expected to fly by the end of this year and start deliveries in 2019.

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China’s first regional jet made its first revenue flight on Tuesday but it seems unlikely the aircraft will find any customers outside the country’s sphere of influence. The ARJ21-700 operated by Chengdu Airlines took 70 passengers from Chengdu to Shanghai. “The first flight of the ARJ21 marks the beginning of commercial, or passenger, operations for the ARJ21 and signifies the first time a domestically made regional jet has been used by a Chinese airline,” said Jin Zhuanglong, chairman of the Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China. ARJ21 stands for Asian Regional Jet for the 21st Century but it’s more like an incremental upgrade of a 1960s North American design.

The plane is essentially an MD-80 with Rockwell Collins avionics and GE CF34 turbofans, the same engines that have been powering Bombardier’s regional jets for more than 20 years. China still calls it a completely indigenous design but it also had help from Antonov in the design. Even though it had the template and the Western technology, it took the COMAC 14 years to bring the airplane to market. COMAC claims 302 orders including five airplanes to GE Capital Aircraft Services, a sister company to GE’s engine business.

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It might seem that in an age of instant online weather, the need for pilot reports, or pireps, would be a thing of the past, but that’s far from true, according to a recent NTSB forum. “Pireps done right have enormous untapped potential to make aviation safer for pilots, passengers, and people on the ground,” said board member Robert Sumwalt, in opening remarks. The two-day forum gathered a panel of experts to explore the status of the FAA’s pireps system and share ideas for improving it. “We at the NTSB have investigated numerous accidents that illustrate a complex set of relationships in the pirep system as it presently functions – or doesn’t function,” Sumwalt said. “And I don’t think any of us think our pirep system is functioning optimally.” Pilot reports can be the best source of information about critical weather such as icing, but they also can be inaccurate, and the pilots who need them may not get them on a timely basis.

Matthew Tucker, an air traffic controller in Atlanta, said some controllers have been taking action on their own to solicit pireps and improve the system. “Fort Worth Center has been emphasizing pireps and their numbers have gone way up … [they] are pushing to double or better the numbers,” he said in his presentation. Mike Glasgow, of Lockheed Martin, said it’s possible for pilots to electronically submit pireps, but many pilots are unaware of the service and it’s underutilized. Presentations from the forum are posted online, and a full webcast of the two-day event can be accessed online for the next 90 days.

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This year’s winners of the annual GAMA/Build A Plane design challenge are at work this week in Arlington, Washington, helping to build a brand-new Sportsman airplane at Glasair Aviation. The four students, plus a teacher and chaperone, traveled from Weyauwega-Fremont High School in Weyauwega, Wisconsin, after beating out 76 other teams from around the country. “Building the Sportsman with our Aviation Design Challenge winners is one of the highlights of the year for me personally and for the GAMA staff,” said GAMA President Pete Bunce. “Over the past four years, it’s been an incredible experience to watch how very talented and enthusiastic young students develop their skills and increase their confidence in just two weeks as they build an airplane.”

The Aviation Design Challenge, Bunce added, is not just about inspiring kids, but addresses a real need for more aviation workers. “The general aviation manufacturing industry—which includes manufacturers, engineers, pilots, mechanics, and many others—is facing a shortage of skilled employees in the coming years as a large segment of our current workforce approaches retirement,” Bunce said. Glasair Aviation President Nigel Mott agreed. “Everyone at Glasair Aviation looks forward to sharing what we can about building great airplanes with students who are excited and eager to learn,” he said. “If we do well, some may return to Glasair in time as engineers, A&P mechanics, or composite techs—maybe even company president!” Besides working on the Glasair project, the students also will tour Boeing’s facility in Everett, Washington, and the Museum of Flight, in Seattle.

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As the U.K.’s vote to exit the European Union settles in, we sought out a general aviation perspective from across the Atlantic from Thomas Borchert, editor of the German-language fliegermagazin and from Ian Seager, publisher of the U.K. Flyer magazine.

From Germany

The overwhelmingly major benefit of the EU for GA pilots has been a unified customs area and the Schengen accord, which basically does away with passport controls by the border police. These two things enable pilots to roam freely (after filing a flight plan, for most border crossings) between members of both EU and the Schengen accord. No customs or border police checks, no special airports of entry to be used. It is a major freedom when using aircraft in the small countries Europe is made up of. However, the U.K., while being in the EU, has never signed the Schengen accord, so no change is to be expected there: Border controls are mandatory when going into the U.K. now, and they will remain so, with an added layer of customs getting involved.

EASA—the European Aviation Safety Agency—is Europe’s version of the FAA. Kind of. That’s because unified European aviation isn’t really: EASA makes rules, the EU enacts them to be law in each EASA member state. However, the national aviation authorities (which still exist) and in addition (in Germany, for example) the aviation authorities of the federal states within a country all get a shot at interpreting EASA’s often not-too sharply defined rules. And boy, do they ever. All differently, of course. Imagine that this is the procedure not only in aviation and you get a feel for why one could indeed vote for exiting the EU.

There are several examples of non-EU members that are still EASA members and, as such, bound by EU aviation law. Switzerland and Norway are the biggest countries in this category. So it is not unthinkable that the U.K. (or what’s left of it) will leave the EU, but remain EU-bound with regards to aviation rules. However, since the British Civil Aviation Authority has a history of being unhappy with many of EASA’s moves, this seems unlikely to me.

Here is the key problem that might result for European GA aviators from the U.K. leaving EASA: EASA loses a voice of reason. The British CAA, especially under its current leadership, has had a tremendously positive influence on EASA in many respects. It is one of the key proponents of not regulating GA in the same way airlines are regulated, which used to be EASA strategy for years and has only recently changed.

Leaving the EU and/or EASA might become a big problem for the U.K. aviation industry – or what’s left of it. Airbus has major production facilities in the U.K. Garmin has its European warehouse there. Some of the major European online pilot stores are based in the U.K. Nobody knows how that will work out, but it is safe to assume the free exchange of goods will not remain so free. If a new aircraft gets EASA certification, it will no longer automatically be certified in the U.K. If a pilot has an EU certificate, he/she is no longer automatically allowed to fly U.K.-registered aircraft. All of these things can be worked out in bilateral agreements, but how that is easier and less fraught with problems than doing it through the EU is not quite clear to me.

EASA had a bad start in general aviation. They messed up maintenance and many other areas with totally overblown regulation. They are only now coming around, ever so slowly and nobody can be sure it will last. Given enough time, this transitional period will blow over and we will have solid European aviation regulation in a few years. Not waiting out that transitional period by leaving the EU and EASA will hurt all involved, in my opinion. --Thomas Borchert, fliegermagazin

From the U.K.

The short version, from my perspective at least, is that as a nation, we are completely bonkers. Many people seem to have made a mid-term protest vote rather than the huge decision that it was. 

Regarding EASA, this agency was originally run by a bunch of people who were more interested in process than outcome, and who thought that you could take commercial regulation and dilute it a bit for GA. The maintenance stuff was truly terrible. Then came a change of leadership and things are now much, much better. We have things like CS-STAN that's more liberal than many U.S. regs. Basically CS-STAN is EASA-speak for Certification Standards/Standard Changes and Repairs. It defines how stuff is done and in lots of cases refers people to the FAA's AC41.13 which is a short enough document and can be found here. In some cases, it seems to give our versions of A&Ps (licensed engineers in Euro-speak) the ability to sign off things that would in the U.S. require a Form 337 or perhaps the involvement of a DAR.

And when Part M light (the new maintenance regulation) comes in, it will make a huge difference. Part M is the maintenance regs and Part M Light is a better, simpler, more appropriate version. Eventually it will be down to the owner/operator to specify the maintenance regime. There will be something called the MIP or Minimum Inspection Program that is similar to the FAA's 100-hour inspection requirement. 

Some people prefer to hang on to the old “it's all sh%$” view because the truth is some of the old sh%$ is still there, but it is getting better and there's some really good stuff happening that requires some thought and effort. Now that Brexit is a reality, no one knows what will happen to that progress. --Ian Seager, Flyer magazine

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