The National Business Aviation Association's sixtieth Annual Meeting and Convention takes place from Sept. 25 through 27 in Atlanta. Coverage by AOPA Pilot editors Thomas B. Haines, Alton K. Marsh, and Thomas A. Horne.
The staff at Adam Aircraft is working to ramp up production of the A500 centerline piston twin while completing certification of the A700 jet. The goal for early 2008 is a production rate of three A500s per month — an effort to work off a backlog of 400 combined orders for the two models. The second conforming A700 jet made its first flight in late August. Company officials aren't saying when the A700 will be certified, but it is expected sometime in 2008. Meanwhile, Adam has signed a 10-year training contract with Saferjett to provide customer training in the two models. The training will be based at Alliance Airport in Texas backed through a deal with Hillwood Development Company, owned by Ross Perot, Jr., the developer of the airport. The training program will include full motion simulators by Mechtronix, Aerosim advanced training devices, and a virtual flight display system. The training software is being created by Pelesys, a Canadian training company.
Honeywell’s business and general aviation division presented its twenty-first annual Business Aviation Outlook and the long-term sales prognosis is good. Honeywell said at the National Business Aviation Association’s annual convention that 14,000 business jets (2,100 of them very light jets) worth $223 billion will be delivered between 2007 and 2017.
"This company has been starved, so we're giving it the money to do what it can do, and take the airplane to production," said Action Aviation Investors' (AAI) John Sabovich. AAI is a joint venture between Britain's Action Aviation and ACQ Capital, an American investment group. After recent negotiations, Action has taken a controlling interest in the company that produces the Sino-Swearingen SJ30-2 business jet. According to Sabovich, by the end of the month AAI will have "more than 51 percent" of a share in Sino-Swearingen; the remainder will be owned by the company's original Taiwanese investors. The new scheme will let AAI rebuild a supply chain that "wasn't working" according to Sabovich, expand the company's San Antonio, Texas, and Martinsburg, West Virginia, factories and workforces, and achieve realistic production targets and schedules. SJ30-2s are being built and delivered, but much too slowly, said Sabovich. With 276 SJ30-2s currently on order, only two airplanes have been delivered. Another two are on the San Antonio assembly line.
Mercury Computer Systems is integrating forward-looking infrared (FLIR) technology into its two new, high-end platforms for the VistaNav Synthetic Vision System: the CIS-2000 and CIS-2200 Cockpit Information Systems. Both qualify as Commercial Class II EFB (electronic flight bag) systems. The displays have been tested with the Kollsman FLIR systems, but the Mercury FLIR interface kit should be able to handle imagery from any compatible FLIR system. In addition to FLIR inputs, the CIS-2000 and CIS-2200 are designed to support traditional chart viewing, synthetic vision, flight planning, and performance data. The FLIR interface kit retails for $1,580.
In a flashy display at its booth, L-3 Communications unveiled its much-anticipated SmartDeck integrated flight control and display system. The system, designed for lighter general aviation airplanes, includes dual primary flight displays and a multifunction display — each 12 inches on the diagonal — and a smaller center console unit and a flight display controller. It also includes dual air data attitude and heading reference systems (ADAHRS) designed by L-3. The L-3 digital radios interface with a PS Engineering audio panel. The S-Tec IntelliFlight 1950 digital flight control system is integrated into the system. SmartDeck is designed to incorporate a host of L-3 sensors, such as Stormscope lightning detection, Landmark terrain warning system, SkyWatch collision avoidance, and IRIS infrared imaging system as well as datalink weather. Besides the center console unit, which is the primary pilot interface for the system, the most unusual feature of SmartDeck is its horizontal presentation of the heading indication — giving the pilot a 3-D-type image of the airspace ahead. L-3 plans to seek certification of the system in several models of new airplanes in 2008. The company announced that the system will be aboard the Cirrus single-engine jet when it first flies. Cirrus has said that the avionics system installed in its development jet may not necessarily be the system installed in production airplanes.
EADS Socata spokesmen let slip that the company is in the process of developing a step-up airplane for the TBM 850. The airplane would be powered by twin turbofans, it was strongly suggested. No timetable or any other details were mentioned.
Eclipse Aviation CEO Vern Raburn updated NBAA guests on the status of the company's production process. So far, the Albuquerque, N.M., manufacturer has produced 52 of its Eclipse 500 very light jets, including one delivered to actor John Travolta. Air Taxi operator DayJet has taken delivery of 12 airplanes and will receive seven more in the next couple of weeks. The production rate stands at about one a day currently; higher rates will be phased in over the next year. The Eclipse training program has turned out 98 type-rated pilots so far. Certification of the Avio NG avionics suites is scheduled for mid-November. At that point, airplanes already delivered will be scheduled to return to Eclipse service centers for upgrades to NG status. The company plans to make a decision by early 2008 on whether to proceed with the single-engine Eclipse Concept Jet unveiled at EAA AirVenture this summer.
With a new product from Jeppesen, your chart case can get a lot smaller—leave the IFR en route charts at home. The company's Jeppesen Integration Toolkit (JIT) recently received FAA certification. JIT allows electronic en route charts to be integrated into multifunction displays much the way terminal procedures have been for several years. While many MFD currently feature depictions of navaids, airports, terrain, the depictions are not substitutes for IFR charts. With JIT data on the MFD, the user is actually seeing electronic charts created on the fly from data stored on the airplane—a first step in a paperless cockpit. The MFD manufacturer will have the option of configuring the chart data in a number of different ways and overlaying weather, traffic, and other information. Up to six chart windows can be displayed on an MFD. The pilot will have the option of showing terrain on the charts; another option is a night version that reverses certain colors for nighttime viewing. The system is designed for high-end MFD such as those found in business jets for now. Future versions may make it feasible for MFDs typically found in lighter airplanes.
An $11 billion order backlog is apparently enough for Cessna Aircraft to consider an acquisition, such as Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing. Cessna announced Monday that it has signed a letter of intent to acquire the manufacturer of the Columbia 350 and 400, presumably to add to its product line. See AOPA Online for more details. While the Columbia deal is working, Cessna is busy building lots of business jets. It sold 525 jets this year through August 31. It delivered 307 last year and will deliver 380 this year; stepped up production will allow it to deliver 470 next year. Among the deliveries were 27 of the newly certified Citation Mustang very light jets; Cessna will deliver 44 of the small jets this year and about 100 next year. Meanwhile, the new SkyCatcher 162 has racked up 850 orders since it was announced last summer. A production plan for the 162 will be announced in November, according to Cessna officials.
Garmin International gained another platform for its popular G1000 when Cessna announced this week that it will equip the Caravan single-engine turboprop with the integrated cockpit, including the highly capably GFC700 flight control system; the new gear will be standard equipment beginning in the first half of 2008. The Caravan edition of the G1000 will include three 10-inch displays—two primary flight displays and a multifunction display. Caravan's with the cargo pod will also have the option of a TKS ice protection system.
The two newest Citation business jet models launched by Cessna Aircraft are moving through the development process toward certification. The CJ4, a larger, longer-range version of the popular CJ line, has finished more than 75 percent of the detail design stage and the XLS+—an upgrade to the mid-size Excel/XLS—completed its maiden flight on August 2, 2007. By the end of 2008 three CJ4 test articles will be flying. Among the changes are a new higher performance and more efficient version of the Williams International FJ44 engines. The CJ4 is on schedule for first flight during the first half of 2008, with entry into service planned for the first half of 2010. Cessna already has taken 130 orders for the new $8 million jet. The company begins production of the new XLS+ within the next few weeks. Two test articles have accumulated more than 245 flight hours and continue to work toward achieving FAA certification in the first quarter of 2008. First delivery will occur by the end of 2008. The order book has reached 123. Priced at $11.595 million, the XLS+, like the Excel and XLS that it replaces, includes a stand-up cabin. The Excel/XLS fleet totals nearly 580 airplanes.
When Mach 0.92 isn't fast enough, add winglets — that's the philosophy shared by Cessna and Winglet Technology LLC. The two have teamed up to add elliptical winglets to the already speedy Citation X, improving climb, high temperature, high altitude, and cruise performance. The winglets retail for nearly $400,000. A Citation X with the new winglets made its first flight on September 25 from Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport. Meanwhile, charter operator XOJET has ordered 30 Citation Xs worth more than $600 million. XOJET currently operates 12 Citations Xs and will have 17 by the end of the year, making it the one of the largest operators of the high-speed jet.
Airbus has signed on with Epic Aircraft to aid in the certification process of new Epic models, including the Victory and Elite very light jets and the Escape turboprop. A multi-billionaire investor in India who owns Kingfisher Airlines and is one of the largest Airbus customers has entered a 50/50 partnership with Epic to finance Epic's quest to become the first or second largest company in the small jet industry in 10 or 15 years. But wait, there's more. On top of Epic's two new very light jets, to be certified in Canada at a new facility under construction, comes news that Epic will build a slightly larger "light" jet. The company says it has $150 million in jet orders based on non-refundable deposits. The reason Airbus signed on, other than pressure from its biggest customer, is to participate in new technology developed by Epic—a single-piece fuselage. That's not two carbon-composite halves that are then joined together, that's a single-piece, entire fuselage. Basically workers enter a cave-like tool in the shape of the fuselage and lay up strips of carbon fiber. Airbus will consider making huge transport fuselages from the technology. A patent is pending by Epic on the new technique.
Max-Viz, which concentrates on enhanced vision systems for business aircraft and helicopters, has joined forces with Forward Vision, a provider of forward-looking infrared systems for general aviation, to bring enhanced vision capability to piston-engine and turboprop aircraft operating below 28,000 feet. Max-Viz has migrated its high-performance systems into a smaller, lighter system, the EVS-100. Forward Vision will distribute the EVS-100 to general aviation manufacturers, service providers, and the Experimental homebuilt community under the Forward Vision label. The lightest system will weigh less than 2 pounds. It is small enough to mount like an antenna on the wing, fuselage, or behind the propeller, and costs $14,995. It uses a long-wave infrared sensor. The EVS-100 is now an option on the Aviat Husky tailwheel airplane.
Grob Aerospace's SPn all-composite business jet is entering the U.S. fractional market. Grob said that PlaneSense, the Portsmouth, N.H., fractional ownership firm, has ordered 25 of the 8- to 9-passenger twinjets. The first of the airplanes are scheduled for delivery right after certification, sometime in the fourth quarter of 2008. A total of 70 orders have been taken for the 415-knot, 1,800-nm (with pilot and six passengers), 13,889-MGTOW airplane. The SPns will join PlaneSense's existing fleet of 25 Pilatus PC-12s. PlaneSense President and CEO George Antoniadis said that the SPn was chosen for its large cabin, runway performance, and "best in class" comfort. Progress toward certification of the SPn is moving apace after the fatal crash of a prototype aircraft. More than 400 flight hours have been spent in flight test. The flight envelope has been fully determined, stall tests are complete, as are bird strike tests, Grob officials said. Landing gear drop tests should be finished by the end of September. Performance testing of the airplane's Honeywell Apex avionics suite should be finished by the end of 2007.The airframe is designed with a 28,000-hour design life. The SPn features an interior designed by Porsche Design Studio, and is powered by two Williams FJ44-3A turbofans.
Beginning in 2009, Bombardier Aerospace's Global 5000 and Global Express XRS ultra-long-range business jets will feature Rockwell Collins' new Pro Line Fusion avionics suites. The Fusion system—dubbed the Global Vision Flight Deck by Bombardier—will enable a wide range of evolutionary new technology. Enhanced and synthetic vision displayed on primary flight displays, heads-up guidance incorporating flight path data, ADS-B and TCAS-II functionality, and an information management system are among the capabilities. Console-mounted cursor controls let pilots manage information and input graphical flight plan and other navigation and communications commands. The Global Vision flight deck can also accommodate GPS-WAAS navigation, and controller-pilot datalink communications. The system includes four 15-inch LCD displays.
Rockwell Collins has developed "Venue," a new aircraft cabin entertainment system designed to mimic a standard home entertainment system. Apple iPods will plug into a panel next to each passenger seat, or four iPods can be plugged into a bank of docking ports for hours of personal music and video. The system includes HD video. Through a pushbutton panel that uses programmable icons, passengers can select airshow maps showing the present location, control the cabin environment, watch a movie, or listen to music. Up front in the cockpit, Rockwell Collins will continue to offer Pro Line 21 systems but now adds a new one, the four-display Pro Line Fusion. Like the cabin system, Pro Line Fusion combines information the pilot needs when it is needed, like synthetic enhanced vision and weather radar, using simple graphic controls. The radar is new, and can be programmed with expected weather typical of the area to be flown. The radar will then increase sensitivity to that type of weather.
Gulfstream said that flight testing is nearly complete on a new synthetic vision primary flight display (SV-PFD) it's developing for its G350, G450, G500, and G550 business jets. The display puts black-and-white, enhanced vision system (EVS) infrared imagery on the attitude direction indicators, and conformal, color synthetic vision terrain, obstacle, and airport imagery on the aircraft heading indicator symbology. The result is greatly improved situational awareness, thanks to the synthetic vision's depiction not just of terrain and obstacles, but extended runway centerlines as well. Certification of the SV-PFD should come later this year, after a scheduled FAA demonstration program set for October 2007. Gulfstream also said it was developing an EVS II upgrade for the EVSs installed in current Gulfstreams. The EVS II will have four times the computational power of existing units, plus a camera that's 27 pounds lighter. FAA certification should come by the end of 2007, Gulfstream said. Other avionics upgrades are also in the works. Gulfstream's PlaneView avionics suites are set for two major new certifications by 2009. They will allow pilots to fly GPS WAAS approaches, insert airways and VNAV profiles graphically onscreen using cursor controls, add XM WX satellite weather capability, and allow controller-pilot datalink communications, among many other enhancements. The company is still interested in the idea of developing a supersonic business jet, but is in the research phase. Currently, it's exploring a new, twin-stream exhaust nozzle design that would reduce the impact of sonic booms when flying over land, and seeking patents for this and other supersonic technologies.
To keep up with increasing global demand for its business jets, Dassault Falcon Jet (DFJ) said it would increase its production rate to 120 aircraft per year, beginning in 2009. An additional 200,000-square-foot assembly plant will be added to the existing assembly center at Falcon's Bordeaux-Merignac, France, manufacturing facility. This follows expansions that have already occurred at the company's Little Rock, Ark., completion center. Falcon spokesmen said that sales of its new Falcon 2000LX (the replacement for the Falcon 2000EX EASy) have been strong since the airplane's announcement at this year's European Business Aircraft Convention Exposition in Geneva this past May. The 2000LX has 5 percent more range than the current production 2000EX, climbs faster, and will have advanced winglets designed for transonic flight. Saudi Arabia's National Air Service ordered 20 of the 2000LXs alone. The production increase may not be enough. John Rosanvallon, president of DFJ, said that 2006 was a banner year, with a record 125 business jet deliveries. In the first half of 2007, 87 firm orders for new Falcon Jets have been posted. "Can this boom last?" Rosanvallon asked. He answered by saying that "even if there is a downturn in the United States economy, the rest of the world will make up for the effects of an American recession." This reinforces a continuing theme at this year's NBAA convention: Rapid growth in international business jet sales is beginning to overtake sales activity in the United States — the traditional leader in business jet sales. Charles Edelstenne, DFJ's chairman and CEO, ebullient over the peak sales, was less than verbose about a new Falcon Jet model — the SMS-7. The in-development SMS (for super-midsized) 7 was announced at EBACE this year. "The airplane has met with a great reception, but I have no information for you now," Edelstenne told reporters. "You will learn more when orders are taken at the end of 2008. And you won't be disappointed."
Serial No. RC 7, the first-delivered Hawker 4000, is on display at the NBAA static site at the Fulton County-Brown Field. Hawker Beechcraft officials said that 14 more 4000s are now on the assembly line. Meanwhile, RC 6 is on a global operational readiness tour it's conducting with fractional operator NetJets. The tour takes in 29 nations, involves 700 flight hours, and more than 300 demonstration flights. The awarding of the 4000's production certificate, which will speed the aircraft's delivery schedule, is set to be granted by the FAA in December 2007 or January 2008, company officials said.
With 500 firm orders for its Phenom 100 and 300 light jets under its belt, 113 Legacy 600 super-midsized jets in service, and plans to put its Lineage 1000 global-reach, large-cabin jet (based on Embraer's 190 series of regional jets) into service by the end of 2008, the company today took an extra step and announced two new concept designs. The new Embraer MLJ (mid-light) and MSJ (midsize) jets are concepts only, said Luis Carlos Affonso, Embraer executive vice president of business jets. They are designed to fill the niche between the Phenom 300 light jet and the Legacy 600. Plans are for the MLJ to have a range—at long-range cruise power—of 2,300 nautical miles with four passengers. At maximum cruise power, the airplane should be able to fly at 0.78 Mach and have a range of 2,200 nm carrying eight passengers. Maximum useful load is anticipated at 2,800 pounds; full-fuel payload will be 1,600 pounds. The MSJ will be able to max out at 0.82 Mach, fly eight passengers 2,800 nm at 0.80 Mach, and four passengers 3,000 nm at long-range cruise power. Full-fuel payload will be 1,600 pounds, says Embraer. Both airplanes will have stand-up (6-foot high) cabins with flat floors, interiors designed by BMW Designworks, and advanced, integrated avionics suites. Embraer is now looking for component suppliers and engines for the MSJ and MLJ, and so would not provide price or production schedule information. The company is taking letters of intent to purchase the jets. Plunk down $70,000 (MLJ) or $90,000 (MSJ) and they'll hold a delivery position for you.
The largest inhibiting factor to increasing sales of the 400-knot TAS Piaggio P.180 Avanti II is the production rate. Company officials are working to speed production and expect deliveries to grow from 23 in 2007 to 35 in 2008. There are 132 of the twin-engine, pusher-prop aircraft in service, with 80 of those in North America. The company has recently switched to Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-66B engines that result in a 402-KTAS average speed. The aircraft can now make a direct climb to 40,000 feet. The $6 million-plus aircraft holds 18 speed records, but that number is expected to increase using the new engines.
In 2006, the Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) company had 19 orders for all models of its business and personal aircraft, a new record. This year there are 30 orders worth $2.9 billion, and they range from Boeing 737s to 747s and 787s. There are now 151 BBJ transport aircraft in the fleet. Of those, 60 percent are in private hands while 30 percent were bought by the government. Corporations account for only 3 percent, while charter operators have 7 percent. The company is sold out for all models through 2012. The aircraft feature 6,500-foot pressurized cabins, while all airline aircraft have 8,000-foot pressurized cabins. Customers report feeling less tired on 12-hour flights. Now the BBJ Company is getting into offering convertible 737s—that is, a cabin that can be configured overnight for either cargo or passengers.
Spectrum Aeronautical will concentrate first jet certification efforts on its larger Freedom model, with the smaller Independence business jet to follow. The Freedom may fly by the end of 2008, shortly after the company receives the first of the new GE Honda Aero HF120 engines. The engines are expected to be certified in 2009, but will first be flown by October 2008 aboard a Cessna test aircraft. Both the new HondaJet and Freedom will use the HF120, rated at 2,095 pounds of thrust.
Internet speed just went from 64 kilobytes per second to 432 kps using new equipment from eNfusion and provided through the Canadian company, EMS Satcom. It means you can leave your e-mail up all the time, just like in the office, and transfer larger documents more quickly. It also means you can teleconference at 128 kps using streaming video wherever your corporate jet may fly.
Updated Thursday, September 27, 2007, 8:58 a.m.