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The annual NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition opens officially on Tuesday morning in Orlando, Florida, but it was already a busy day on Monday, with a full slate of news conferences and plenty of reporters and industry officials on site. The show news even got off to an extra-early start, with the announcement from Cirrus on Sunday night that they now have FAA certification in hand for their single-engine jet. Monday brought another full day, with plenty of big players — Dassault, Bombardier, Airbus, Textron and more — lining up to report on their latest company achievements and product upgrades. Those who could make it out to the static display at Orlando Executive Airport had plenty of airplanes to look at, with more than 100 on display, including the debut of the green Cessna Longitude.

Besides all of the latest airplanes, engines and news updates, the NBAA event offers lots of other activities for those who attend. Speakers include David McCullough, author of The Wright Brothers, and political analysts James Carville and Mary Matalin. On Monday, a safety standdown event targeted single-pilot operations. Thursday is career day, and a young-professional networking reception is planned for Thursday morning. Meanwhile, all of the players in the business-industry world will be showing off their latest products, upgrades and innovations. AVweb editors Russ Niles and Paul Bertorelli are on site all week to bring you the details in news stories, podcasts and video.

Sponsor Announcement

Pratt & Whitney Canada has received type certification from Transport Canada for its PW617F1-E jet engine, the company announced on Monday at the NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition in Orlando, Florida. The engine has been chosen by Embraer to power its new version of the Phenom 100, the EV, which was announced this summer at EAA AirVenture. The new engine, which generates 1,730 pounds of thrust, is built with half as many parts as a conventional turbofan, the company says, which makes maintenance easier and faster. It also comes equipped with dual-channel full-authority digital engine control (FADEC), which reduces pilot workload. The EV, with the P&WC engines, is making its debut this week at the NBAA expo static display.

P&WC has delivered close to 2,300 PW600 turbofans worldwide, which have accumulated nearly 3 million flight hours. About 700 of the engines have been delivered to Embraer to power their Phenom 100 jet.

Sponsor Announcement

Jeppesen has unveiled a comprehensive online trip and flight planning utility designed to make both processes more efficient and help prevent on-the-road surprises. Jeppesen Operator is a self-service environment created in conjunction with BoldIQ, which built the software that managed an on-demand charter service. With that functionality as a base, the two added some convenience features that created a “one-stop shop” for trip planning. “Specifically, Operator integrates flight planning, runway performance, weight and balance, crew scheduling and management, aircraft scheduling, domestic and international trip planning and reporting (financial, maintenance and Customs), customer account management, real time pricing and cost accounting capabilities,” Jeppesen said in a news release.

After the trip details are plugged in, the system gets into the fine details and produces checklists of tasks that must be accomplished to make the trip go smoothly. Part of that is making sure the crew and aircraft are ready for the flight and the other side is sorting out the logistical and legal requirements, especially for international trips. And if, despite all the best laid plans, things go south, arrangements can be made to have Jeppesen step in and save the day through its Concierge service. “A customer has the option to connect with Jeppesen’s International Trip Planning (ITP) global experts for assistance with traditional ITP tasks such as managing flight plans, permits, and handling arrangements, or to establish a line of credit, to eliminate operational financial concerns that could jeopardize a planned flight,” the company said. At the news conference, Mike DiDonato, Jeppesen’s Director of Industry Services, described the utility as a “do-it-yourself flight department.”

Sponsor Announcement
ALT
Over 24,000 Happy GAMIjectors® Customers Can't Be Wrong!
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Falcon 900LX

Dassault Aviation unveiled a new cabin design on Monday for its Falcon 900LX at the NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition in Orlando, Florida. The fully redesigned cabin features reduced noise levels, LED lighting, upgraded acoustics and enhanced connectivity and communications systems. The cockpit crew gets Dassault’s new FalconEye combined vision system and an upgraded electronic flight bag. The changes combine the advantages of “a proven and tested platform” with “an advanced contemporary interior and cutting-edge cabin and cockpit enhancements,” said Eric Trappier, CEO of Dassault Aviation. The 900LX, certified in 2010, is a large-cabin jet with a range of 4,750 nm.

Also at NBAA, Dassault’s new Falcon 8X is making its first appearance with a completed interior, at the static display. The 8X entered service just last month. The company also is displaying a full-size mock-up of its 5X, a large-cabin, long-range twinjet expected to fly next year, with first deliveries in 2020. Also at the show, Olivier Villa, deputy director for civil aircraft, said the company is studying the possibility of adding an all-new business jet to its line. “We are working very hard [on the project],” Villa said, but offered no details.

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There are two ways to look at the ongoing FAA fuels testing project called the Piston Aviation Fuels Initiative. One is that no news is good news and things must be perking along as planned. The other is that no news is bad news and that things aren’t going as planned or else we would have heard progress reports.

The rational among us would assume the former, realizing as we do that the federal rules on which the PAFI program is based require confidentiality to protect the proprietary interests of the companies doing the work. That’s not an unreasonable requirement given that the FAA is intimately involved in this process and necessarily intersects with the secrets companies doing the work would just as well keep secret until these fuels are finally approved.

But we live in a leaky world and what’s leaking out is not encouraging, especially with regard to Shell’s proposed unleaded replacement for 100LL. Recall that PAFI started in 2013 with 17 potential fuels from six entities. As PAFI has proceeded through its planned phases, that has been winnowed to two fuels for final testing, one from Shell and one from Swift. Both are now undergoing advanced testing, including flight trials toward a 2018 certification date.

The last official update from the FAA was in July at AirVenture, which delivered bland assurances that everything is just fine. From what I’m hearing, it may not be. Over the weekend, we heard from the fourth source who told us that the Shell fuel may have high toxicity and significant materials compatibility issues. One source told us the fuel is capable of stripping paint off wing surfaces and did. Two others told us the fuel has compatibility issues with seals and O-rings, a key element in the ability to drop into the existing fuel infrastructure, not the least of which is the fuel system in individual aircraft. We’re also hearing that it requires respirators and protective gear to handle, at least in the version being tested now.

Whenever a planned product overhangs the market with distant promises, whisper campaigns are inevitable. I’d say this is another one of those, except the sources I spoke to about it are highly reliable. No one wants to or can go on the record because of non-disclosure agreements and the aforementioned federal rules. However necessary such secrecy may be, it begets certain people lifting up the corner of the tent and that’s where we are.

I reached out to Shell about this and got what I expected: an assurance that Shell will deliver a fieldable fuel by the agreed-upon date in 2018. But a polite refusal to answer detailed questions about results of materials compatibility or toxicity testing. Both of these are critical because if the fuel that emerges requires HAZMAT handling at the dispensing point, that’s not just a non-drop-in, it’s worse than 100LL and of doubtful appeal in the market. For what it’s worth, we haven’t heard these complaints about Swift’s candidate fuel.

So what does all this mean? Ever the sunny optimist, I still believe there will be a viable replacement for 100LL and by 2018. The volume of business, although in graceful decline, still represents too much money to just walk away from. Something will emerge. I do have concerns that the materials compatibility will be devised in a way intelligent enough to represent every airplane, including my 78-year-old Cub.

And for the record, I’m not the only guy who has heard about this. I’m told by firsthand sources that the alphabets are well aware of it and so are people in the fuel community. (AOPA declined comment.) What I’d wish for is an honest, detailed update from the FAA and from Shell. If these problems have been addressed, say. Otherwise, if we’re headed for a train wreck here, better to find out sooner than later.  

The foregoing blog is opinion and commentary based on disclosed fact. AVweb welcomes alternate points of view, including guest blogs. 

At NBAA 2016 in Orlando this week, Cirrus announced that it has been awarded official type certification for its single-engine SF50 Vision jet. As part of AVweb's coverage of the show, we spoke with Cirrus' Matt Bergwall about production plans.

At NBAA 2016 in Orlando, Embraer showed the Legacy 450 midsize jet for the first time in the U.S. with its new interior. AVweb took a video cockpit and cabin tour.

NBAA CEO Ed Bolen is characteristically upbeat going into the show week, commenting on a changing industry that is responding to business needs. He spoke with AVweb's Russ Niles at the Cirrus Jet type certification event on Sunday evening.

Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

Don Thun shot Skip Stewart and airshow partner making a crossover pass during their routine at AirVenture. Dramatic shot, Don.