Eclipse 500 jet gets certified
They did it. In a special ceremony at Oshkosh Thursday, Eclipse Aviation received its provisional type certificate for the Eclipse 500 jet. The full type certificate is expected by the end of August, which will allow customer deliveries and give pilots the green light to operate the jet throughout its performance envelope. Approval for flight into known icing conditions is expected later this year. The provisional nature of the aircraft's certification is based in part on failure of the composite tip tanks in lightning strike tests, so larger aluminum ones will go on the fully certified model. The increased size of the tanks allows for the 500's NBAA IFR range to stretch to 1,125 nautical miles, a little closer to the original targeted spec of 1,280 nm. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey presented the provisional type certificate to Eclipse President and CEO Vern Raburn. "We have looked forward to this monumental accomplishment since Eclipse was founded nearly eight years ago," Raburn said. "As we celebrate today, we also know that certification is not our destination; the most important measure of our success will be our ability to continue to deliver unprecedented performance, reliability, technology, training, and service innovations to our customers for years to come." Eclipse officials said the $1.52 million airplane is the quietest jet in history. The company also announced a financing program and an expanded service center network. The airplane that will be delivered to the first customer already has made its maiden flight.
Sport-Jet pushes forward after accident
The pilot at the controls of the Excel Sport-Jet when it cartwheeled after takeoff at Colorado Springs Airport on June 26 credits the design of the jet with his survival. Pilot James Stewart spoke at the company's press conference at the show on Friday and related the details of the accident, including the sequence of events that led to it and the possible cause of wake turbulence from a departing Dash 8 turboprop aircraft. "The door opened without a rub," said Stewart, about his egress from the wreckage, "and not one drop of fuel was spilled." The company, Excel-Jet Ltd., is about two years out on development of the very light jet, which seats four and boasts a top speed of 235 KIAS or about 330 KTAS. "It fits in a standard T-hangar," added Stewart, who was previously a test pilot in the military. The company needs to produce three conforming prototypes now; the accident airplane had 25 hours on it.
Adam status report: Backlogs and progress
Adam Aircraft reports that it now has an $850 million sales backlog, up from $435 million just one year ago. The company said that its A500, centerline-thrust piston twin has completed all but its night, IFR, and pressurization certification tests, and has but 150 hours of function and reliability flying to go before its amended type certificate is awarded. This should happen in 30 days, said a company spokesman. Production certification should happen in the third quarter of 2006. As for Adam's A700 twinjet, its type certificate is expected in six months. The next available production position for the A700 is in the second quarter of 2009. Altogether, Adam has taken 412 orders for the A500 and A700. And to top it all off, an A500 figures prominently in the upcoming Miami Vice movie, which begins appearing in theaters today.
Flight Design leads the LSA pack
Flight Design, manufacturers of the CT line of LSA aircraft, says it is the number-one seller in the newly created light sport category of lightplanes. "There are 85 CTs flying now, we've sold 145 airplanes so far this year, and we're expecting 250 to 300 sales in 2007," said Tom Peghiny, president of Flight Design USA, and Flight Design's U.S. importer. In another announcement, Flight Design general director Matthias Boetsch said he welcomed Cessna's apparent entry into the LSA market. "It shows that Cessna accepts the legitimacy of the LSA idea," he said. Meanwhile, Oliver Reinhardt was named Flight Design's technical director. A former Mercedes-Benz engineer, he will oversee the CT's design and production.
Maule adds upgrades to several models
Brent Maule, director of marketing for Maule Aircraft, said new paint schemes, leather seats, and Sagem glass cockpit panels are creating new interest in Maule aircraft. The company as of July has already passed last year's sales total, reaching 50 aircraft. Next year's goal will be 70 aircraft if economic conditions continue to be good. That matches the best years of Maule's production totals.
Honda partners with Piper to enter VLJ market
Something old and something new entered the competitive very light jet market Tuesday at EAA AirVenture when Honda announced that not only was it going to go into production of its innovative HondaJet, it was also forming a business alliance with Piper Aircraft to collaborate on sales and service and to explore opportunities in engineering and other areas of aviation. This will be the mega-automotive manufacturer's first foray into aviation production while Piper is about to celebrate its seventieth anniversary in the business. Honda will form a new company to hold the FAA type and production certificates. Type certification is expected to occur in three to four years. The airplane will be built in the United States, but few other details were made available; more information is expected to be released in the fall. For more details and a look at the VLJ market as seen from AirVenture, see AOPA Online.
Photo, above left: Satoshi Toshida, senior managing director of Honda Motor Company, and James K. Bass, president and CEO of The New Piper Aircraft, exchange notes after their joint press conference Tuesday.
Diamond D-Jet lands at Oshkosh
The first Diamond D-Jet made its debut at EAA AirVenture Wednesday. On hand for the event were the aviation press corps and a small group of dignitaries, including FAA Administrator Marion Blakey. Diamond CEO Christian Dries and test pilot Anthony Brown performed a few maneuvers prior to landing, then a low pass over the runway. "The D-Jet will rotate at 75 knots, approach at 80 kt, climb at 2,800 fpm, and cruise at one-half the speed of sound," said Dries. "And the maximum operating altitude of 25,000 feet is an advantage. We hear about airplanes flying at 41,000 feet, but if you lose pressurization, your useful consciousness is just two to three seconds. First, you pass out, then you pass away. With the D-Jet at 25,000 feet, you have three to five minutes of useful consciousness." After the press event, which included addresses by Blakey, Garmin International, Williams International (the manufacturer of the D-Jet's single turbofan engine), the D-Jet took off, performed another short aerial routine, and then returned to Diamond's London, Ontario, facilities for further flight testing.
Cessna unveils light sport airplane
After much anticipation in the industry, Cessna Aircraft showed off its light sport aircraft proof-of-concept model in Aeroshell Square Monday morning. The high-wing strutted airplane, which has yet to fly, boasts an aluminum fuselage and a composite cowl, with a full-castering nosewheel. The aircraft currently has a 100-hp Rotax 912S engine, a preliminary choice made for its weight-to-power ratio. The final choice of engine, among most other aircraft components including the possibility of a whole-airframe parachute will wait until the company has determined whether it will enter the market or not. The entire proof-of-concept vehicle came together within the past 10 weeks at Cessna, under a challenge from management to the engineering team to put together an example LSA in time for the show. Cessna will be surveying show attendees on their response to the aircraft design and overall LSA concept. Said Jack Pelton, Cessna's chairman, CEO, and president, "The driver is going to be cost, not volume," whether the company enters the LSA market. If Cessna can prove to itself that the market is there at an attractive cost of production, the company will jump in. "We're not expecting numbers like 2,000 a year," said Pelton. Just a sustainable number through the economic cycles common to general aviation. "It would be an extension of our product line to stimulate new pilot starts." A "go/no-go" decision would be made by the first quarter of 2007. In a later technical briefing to the press, Pelton tipped his hat to AOPA's Project Pilot program as a natural companion to the possible Cessna LSA project.
First customer Eclipse 500 takes flight
While much of the aviation world was focused on Oshkosh this weekend as EAA AirVenture geared up, very light jet builder Eclipse Aviation announced the maiden flight of its first customer aircraft. The Eclipse 500 flew for 1.5 hours while reaching Mach 0.62 and climbing to its maximum altitude of 41,000 feet. The airplane is destined for first customer David Crowe. Delivery of his airplane is scheduled for shortly after the company receives FAA certification, which will occur soon, according to Eclipse officials. Crowe's airplane and the second customer airplane will reportedly be arriving at AirVenture later this week. Ten other customer airplanes are in various stages of construction. Photo: The first customer Eclipse 500 flies in Albuquerque.
Comp Air updates line of aircraft, explores certification
Comp Air Inc., producers of a line of composite, kitbuilt aircraft, introduced plans for a new turboprop aircraft model, the Comp Air 9, as well as updates to the Comp Air 12 and Comp Air 8. The improved line will now feature Honeywell engines as Comp Air pursues certification on the 9 and 12. The 9 is planned as an eight-seat high-wing 240-knot aircraft with fixed gear that should be priced around $1.5 million as a certified aircraft. The 12 is planned as an eight- to 10-place turboprop with a 300-knot target cruise airspeed behind a Honeywell TPE331-14GR engine and five-blade Hartzell propeller. Comp Air hopes to keep the certified version of the 12 under $2.5 million; the kit currently is offered for $249,000, which doesn't include avionics, engine, paint, and interior. The Comp Air Jet still resides at Bowling Green, Kentucky, awaiting a new engine; the Jet kit is currently available. The company recently upgraded its manufacturing facility with C&C equipment and a renewed commitment to parts quality.
Socata: With a TBM 850, who needs a VLJ?
EADS Socata CEO Stephane Mayer, calling his company's TBM 850 the "fastest single-engine turboprop in the world," today said that 42 of the airplanes are scheduled to be built in 2006. That's a 30-percent increase over last year's delivery numbers. In 2007, he expects 50 TBM 850s to be delivered. "We feel that a faster TBM would better serve the owner-flown market," Mayer said. "So we're selling what we call a VFT (very fast turboprop) instead of a VLJ."
Seawind certification test article ready to fly
The certification test aircraft for the production Seawind amphibian rolled out the door for its first engine run on June 8 and received its flight permit last Friday, Seawind President Dick Silva announced Monday at Oshkosh. Flight testing of the Seawind 300C was ready to begin in Kansas, he added. Silva said that load tests, landing gear load tests, and crash testing had been completed. "We're blazing new ground in Canada," Silva noted, explaining that Transport Canada had not certified a Part 23 airplane in more than 30 years, or an amphibian in more than 50. "Like an Energizer bunny, we keep going we're stubborn." Silva said the company has 80 orders for the production aircraft, priced at $325,000 for the VFR version; it can be upgraded to a basic or deluxe IFR version the latter featuring the just-announced Garmin 600. The company hopes to obtain certification for the VFR Seawind late this year.
Cirrus offers turbo SR22
Cirrus Design has announced a turbonormalized option for the SR22 to give it better thin-air performance. It's designed for mountain pilots or those who want to fly over weather or take advantage of tailwinds. Turbonormalizing basically tricks the engine into thinking that it's still at sea level by maintaining normal manifold pressure readings as the airplane climbs to higher altitudes. How fast does it go? Try a cruise speed of 194 KTAS at 12,000 feet or 211 KTAS at 25,000 feet. Fuel burn is 17.5 gph at either altitude. Tornado Alley Turbo, the same people who souped up the 2001 AOPA Sweepstakes Bonanza, will be providing the hardware through a supplemental type certificate. The airplane also will come with a built-in oxygen system, GAMIjectors (calibrated fuel injectors), and a new Hartzell lightweight composite prop. Prices start at $520,995. The stock SR22 comes with a normally aspirated 310-horsepower Continental engine.
Business up for Flight Design CTs
If you've been wondering about the interest in light sport aircraft, take a look at what's going on overseas. Flight Design Germany plans to deliver 100 CTs to North American customers in 2006 and "substantially more" in 2007. The company is adding 90,000 square feet to its manufacturing facility in the Ukraine, which will increase production capacity by 200 percent for worldwide deliveries. The airplanes are sold in the United States through Flight Design CT.
Mooney: 2006 a very good year
David Copeland, Mooney Airplane Company's vice president of sales and marketing, summed up Mooney's recent status report by saying, "In the past three years, we went from eleventh, to seventh, to fourth in sales in the piston single market. And we brought out two new airplane designs the Acclaim and the Ovation3 within two months. That's unprecedented." Other, maintenance-related announcements at the Mooney press briefing included the addition of 20 service centers domestically, improvement of Mooney's online illustrated parts catalog, and a new three-tier technician training program through FlightSafety International. "We've rededicated ourselves to service," said Al Nitchman, Mooney vice president of customer support. As for future Mooney models, Mooney CEO Gretchen Jahn said that the current focus is on removing waste from the manufacturing process, improving processes, and lowering costs. "In the short term, certification and production of the Acclaim, and listening to our customer base" is the top priority, Jahn said. "We'll consider a new product when it's prudent and possible to build...and nothing is off the table as a next airplane design."
A new high-speed cruiser from Cessna
Cessna also on Monday treated observers to three flybys of what CEO Jack Pelton called the "NGP," or Next Generation Piston airplane, another proof-of-concept airplane from the company's skunkworks. The cantilevered-wing airplane resembles the Cardinal, but the planform presented to observers shows an intriguing forward sweep to the wings and sleek shaped fuselage. Pelton emphasized that it is too early to make any concrete announcements concerning its final composition, engine, or other accoutrements. The NGP began flying on June 23 and is in full flight testing. A Lycoming engine is on board now for the testing of the airplane's aerodynamics and performance envelope.
Sportsplanes.com signs the Remos G-3
Light-sport-aircraft liaison Sportsplanes.com has signed on to be the North American distributor for Remos Aircraft. The German company produces the G-3, a high-wing, tricycle-gear LSA powered by a 100-hp Rotax 912S. The G-3 features folding wings and a useful load in the neighborhood of 630 pounds (with the basic VFR avionics package). Base price is $89,900, delivered to the Sportsplanes.com import and assembly facility in Lakeland, Florida.
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