In an example of vertical integration, Signature Flight Support's parent company plans to purchase aviation fuels supplier Epic Aviation, which supplies fuel and other services to more than 200 FBOs. Together, the two companies' networks encompass more than 400 locations worldwide.
BBA Aviation, parent company of Signature Flight Support, announced May 23 that it will purchase privately held Epic Aviation for $88.1 million. The transaction is subject to government and regulatory approval, and BBA expects it could be wrapped up by the third quarter.
Texas-based Epic provides aviation fuel supply, logistics, transaction processing and through its QT Pod subsidiary, self-service fueling devices. It currently provides fuel and fuel-related services to 205 privately owned, independent FBOs, 185 of them Epic-branded and the remainder under the UVAir umbrella
According to BBA (Booth O104), Epic will act as a separate operating business within its portfolio. The addition of Epic's locations will complement the existing Signature Select affiliate program, which will operate alongside Signature’s owned FBO network, bringing it to more than 400 locations worldwide.
“We are pleased to have reached an agreement to acquire Epic,” stated BBA CEO Mark Johnstone. “This acquisition fully supports the strategic development of Signature through increasing our network relevance, extending the range of fuel and non-fuel services we offer our customers across our FBO network and continuing to establish a competitive cost structure through investment in technology and economies of scale.”
The purchase also expands the existing relationship between the two companies, which saw the development of the Epic/Signature Multi-Service Aviation Card, which is accepted for payment at more than 8,000 locations worldwide, through U.S. Bank’s Multi Service Aviation Network.
Retail transactions of preowned very light jets, which includes the Cessna Citation Mustang, rose 43.8 percent in the first quarter, according to JetNet. (Photo: Textron Aviation)
Preowned turbine business aircraft inventories tightened across the board in the first quarter, but business jets shined most brightly, according to the latest data from business aviation research firm JetNet. Across all segments, including helicopters, there were 5,675 aircraft for sale in the quarter, down 10.7 percent, or 680 units, from a year ago. That equates to just 5.4 percent of the in-service fleet on the market.
Notably, the business jet inventory showed the largest year-over-year decrease, shrinking by 350 units, to 2,020, or 9.3 percent of the in-service fleet. In terms of units, that marks the lowest inventory level for business jets at the end of the first quarter since 2008; by percentage, it is the lowest since at least 2005, the earliest year for which JetNet provided data.
Likewise, preowned turboprop inventory also showed a large decrease, falling 0.9 percentage points, to 6.9 percent, at the end of the quarter. That amounts to just 1,051 of the 15,337 in-service turboprops up for sale.
While business jet full-sale transactions fell 3.8 percent, they are taking 16 fewer days to sell versus last year, at 297 days. Business turboprop transactions slid 0.7 percent and are taking more time to sell at 303 days on the market, up 13 days year-over-year.
The FAA plans to publish proposed rules by early next year that would outline noise certification for supersonic aircraft and clarify procedures required to obtain special flight authorization to conduct supersonic flight-testing in the U.S. This would enable development of civil supersonic aircraft such as the Aerion AS2 business jet. (Photo: Aerion Corp.)
The FAA has launched two rulemakings that the agency said are designed to pave the way for development of civil supersonic aircraft. The first involves proposed noise certification for supersonic aircraft and the second is a clarification of procedures required to obtain special flight authorization to conduct supersonic flight-testing in the U.S. Neither rulemaking will rescind the current prohibition of supersonic flight over land without special FAA authorization, the agency added.
It is working in concert with the International Civil Aviation Organization Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection on noise and emissions standards for future supersonic aircraft, as well as collaborating with other national aviation authorities.
Part 36 noise certification regulations apply only to subsonic aircraft, the FAA said, adding rulemaking is necessary to establish the technological and economic basis for noise levels appropriate for supersonic aircraft. The agency is in the process of gathering data and information for the proposed rules and expects to publish proposed rulemakings next year.
These efforts, the agency says are “part of the Department of Transportation’s priority on innovation in transportation,” as well as the FAA’s continual efforts to ensure the U.S. is keeping pace with the latest scientific, technological, and environmental advancements.
Civilian commercial supersonic travel has been for the most part non-existent in the U.S. since the retirement of the Concorde in 2003. But the FAA notes that “lighter and more efficient composite materials, combined with new engine and airframe designs, may offer the potential for introduction of a viable SST.” Work is now ongoing on multiple fronts to advance supersonic travel, with aircraft projects under way within various companies, as well as research at NASA.
The FAA efforts come as Congress has drafted measures calling on the agency to work with the international community on potential means to foster development of supersonic travel.
According to NBAA, the FAA exceeded its authority when it made a “secret, one-of-its-kind” deal with the city of Santa Monica that allows the city to shorten the runway and provides the option to close the Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO) after 2028. NBAA and other groups have urged an appeals court to nullify the agreement. (Photo: Matt Thurber/AIN)
A lawyer representing NBAA and other parties yesterday urged a three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to void the January 2017 agreement between the FAA and city of Santa Monica, California. The deal allows the city to shorten the runway and provides the option to close the Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO) after 2028.
According to NBAA, the FAA exceeded its authority when making the “secret, one-of-its-kind” deal by defying the laws set by Congress, in addition to the FAA's guiding principles. During yesterday’s oral arguments in the case, NBAA and the other parties argued that overturning the settlement is the “right legal outcome, given that the agreement runs afoul of five legal requirements.”
Before the city and the FAA reached the agreement, the FAA had maintained that the city's obligation to preserve SMO lasted in perpetuity based on obligations included in a 1948 surplus-property deed.
In its court filings, NBAA said the FAA offered no explanation for the agreement; failed to engage the public, including airport users and tenants; did not comply with the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990; and violated several other statutes. The appeals court panel is expected to issue a ruling later this year.
In late April, the Gulfstream G500 and G600 established new flight records in their weight classes from Shanghai to Honolulu and also from Honolulu to Gulfstream Aerospace's headquarters in Savannah, Georgia. The soon-to-be-certified twinjets each flew at an average speed of Mach 0.90. (Photo: Gulfstream Aerospace)
As the Gulfstream G500 and G600 close in on expected FAA approvals—midyear for the former and by year-end for the latter—the twinjets have each racked up transpacific flight records in their respective weight classes, Gulfstream Aerospace announced today.
On April 20, the G500 and G600 flew from Shanghai to Honolulu at an average speed of Mach 0.90. The G500 made the flight in 8 hours and 34 minutes, with the G600 taking just one minute longer. The following day, the sister airplanes flew from Honolulu to Gulfstream's headquarters in Savannah, Georgia. At an average speed of Mach 0.90, the G500 accomplished the flight in 7 hours and 44 minutes. The G600 clocked in at 7 hours and 49 minutes.
“Gulfstream customers are accustomed to flying practically anywhere in the world at record speeds, and the G500 and G600 have been doing just that as they near certification,” said Gulfstream president Mark Burns. “These records showcase the real-world capabilities of these impressive aircraft.”
The city-pair records are pending confirmation with the National Aeronautic Association, Gulfstream said.
Worldwide shipments of general aviation airplanes rose by 12 units, to 447, in the first quarter, according to GAMA data. This was thanks largely due to a surge in deliveries of turboprops—especially those of Textron's Beechcraft King Air twins—in the first three months of the year. (Photo: Textron Aviation)
The general aviation market showed signs of improvement in the first quarter, with total airplane shipments inching up by 12 units, to 447, and billings climbing by $120 million, to $3.8 billion, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association reported today. The helicopter market, meanwhile, showed even more resiliency, with total shipments increasing by 17 percent, to 219, and billings jumping correspondingly by more than 18 percent, to $673.7 million.
“We are pleased to see the industry is, overall, trending positively,” said GAMA president and CEO Pete Bunce. “Training needs are driving the demands in the rotorcraft segment, while a stabilizing used market, overall global economic growth, and aviation innovation are driving the other segment increases.”
Turbine aircraft led the increase in fixed-wing deliveries, with an increase of 15 units overall. Most of these came in the turboprop sector, up by 13 units to a total of 115, a 12.7 percent improvement, counting both pressurized and unpressurized aircraft. Textron Aviation’s Beechcraft King Air line helped propel that total, showing a rebound in first-quarter deliveries to 17 units. That compares with 12 in the first quarter a year ago. Piper’s M-series turboprops were up six units, to 10, and Piaggio delivered three of its Avanti Evos, compared with none a year earlier. Daher delivered one more TBM in the first quarter (eight) than a year earlier, and Pilatus’s PC-12 remained stable at 12 shipments.
Pilatus also marked the first two PC-24 twinjet deliveries in the first quarter. This was exactly the difference of first quarter deliveries overall in the business jet segment. Manufacturers in the first quarter delivered 132 business jets, compared with 130 in the same time frame last year.
Cirrus also helped prop up the business jet totals, with deliveries of 10 of its SF50 Vision single, compared with none in last year's first quarter. Bombardier’s Global and Challenger deliveries offset a slight slide in Learjet deliveries, leading the manufacturer to hand over 31 aircraft in the first quarter, two more than a year earlier. And Textron Aviation delivered an additional jet in the quarter for a total of 36, including 12 Citation Latitudes. Also adding to the totals was an additional Boeing Business Jet, for four in the quarter.
But Embraer business jet deliveries were down four units, to 11, in the quarter, as were Gulfstream’s shipments, to 26 jets. The drop in Gulfstream deliveries came from its large-cabin product lines. The financially struggling One Aviation had delivered three Eclipse very light jets in the first quarter of last year, but none this year. Also, Honda Aircraft's deliveries of its HondaJet ebbed in the first quarter, with 12 handed over. This compares with 15 a year earlier. (Dassault reports mid-year and full-year totals only.)
Piston aircraft sales, however, lagged in the quarter, down three units to an even 200 deliveries. Textron Aviation’s piston single lines were down by more than half; the company delivered two of its Beechcraft pistons, compared with eight a year earlier, and 21 of the Cessna models, compared with 41 a year earlier. Diamond Aircraft helped offset that with 10 additional pistons, to 21. Piper and Mooney also were among those with improved piston results.
Of the total 447 fixed-wing aircraft shipped, 343 went to North America and another 92 to Europe. South America and the rest of the world accounted for just 12 deliveries.
Meanwhile, both piston and turbine helicopter deliveries made notable gains. Piston helicopter deliveries took a 40 percent leap in the first quarter, to 81 units, while turbine helicopters were up 7 percent, to 138.
Robinson Helicopter reported a 22-helicopter jump in its piston deliveries, while Bell ramped up on its 505 program, delivering 25 of the light turbine in the quarter, compared with two a year earlier. Leonardo delivered 11 AW139s in the quarter, compared with none a year earlier, and its total reported deliveries soared from 12 in the first quarter of 2017 to 29 in the most recent quarter.
However, Airbus H125 deliveries were down by 10 units, among the 25 fewer deliveries that Airbus Helicopters reported in the quarter. In all, Airbus Helicopters delivered 49 helicopters in the first quarter and reported billings were down by a third, to $207 million.
GAMA is optimistic about the prospect of future growth across the industry, driven by new products, Bunce said. But, he added, this “underscores just how important it is for the U.S. Congress to pass a long-term FAA reauthorization bill and the executive branch to carefully implement trade policies to avoid adversely affecting industry growth in future quarters.”
Embraer X's DreamMaker has a fuselage that doesn't stray far from that of a traditional helicopter, but the eVTOL is propelled through the air by eight electric motor-driven rotors and a tailfan. (Photo: Embraer)
A trio of airframers unveiled new electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) urban air taxi vehicles at the second-annual Uber Elevate summit, which was held this week in Los Angeles.
Embraer revealed the four-seat “DreamMaker” from its new Embraer X division, which is based in Melbourne, Florida, with innovation teams established in Silicon Valley and Boston. The DreamMaker's fuselage doesn't stray far from that of a traditional helicopter, but the eVTOL is propelled through the air by eight electric motor-driven rotors and a tailfan. “We are relentless in our quest for constant growth, and through Embraer X we will drive disruptive innovation and accelerate the creation of new businesses with the potential for exponential growth. Urban mobility is ripe for transformation and we are committed to having a major role in this key market,” said Embraer CEO Paulo Cesar de Souza e Silva.
In addition, Karem Aircraft launched its quad-rotor Butterfly that features the company's “optimum speed rotor” technology. Karem CEO Ben Tigner said the variable-speed design delivers “higher inherent levels of safety and lower noise than other designs. Our large rotors let us draw less power from the batteries than vehicles with smaller rotors, enabling immediate economic viability without waiting for future batteries.”
Slovenia-based Pipistrel took the wraps off a family of eVTOLs that use a bat-wing design with separate dedicated lift and tilt systems. “Nothing tilts,” said Pipistrel's director of research and development Tine Tomazic, who provided few details other than that the new vehicles are “screaming fast.” Tomazic said Pipistrel is partnering with recreational products company Elan to source the composites to build the vehicles.
Meanwhile, Uber said it is adding Los Angeles as a third test market for its Elevate network, joining Dallas and Dubai, and expects to start flying there by 2023.
The National Aircraft Resale Association (NARA) is working with aircraft brokers to establish standardization for letters of intent, requirements, and certifications. It is also launching a campaign to improve the ethical standards for pre-owned aircraft transactions. (Photo: Chad Trautvetter/AIN)
The National Aircraft Resale Association (NARA) is launching a campaign to improve the ethical standards for preowned aircraft transactions. It already had developed Code of Standards and Certified Aircraft Brokers programs for members but is moving forward with a multi-pronged effort that is designed to raise further awareness on the need for ethical behavior industry-wide, as well as push for increased standardization.
"Thousands of unregulated aircraft brokers create havoc for buyers and sellers of aircraft," said NARA chairman and Mente Group CEO Brian Proctor, adding that a lack of standardization for transactions, a fragmented industry, and low barriers for entry are making the need for standardization and accreditation all the more important.
NARA is working with industry to establish standardization for letters of intent, requirements, and certifications. “The organizational focus is centered on standardizing transactions; accrediting qualified, experienced, and professional brokers who demonstrate proven ethical behaviors; and increasing data integrity," said Proctor.
The group is planning outreach on the ethics initiative through a social media campaign, additional public relations, and advertising, Proctor said, adding the association will “make important announcements soon on how to achieve our long-term goals.” NARA’s board decided to move ahead with the initiative during its spring meeting, held late last month in Scottsdale, Arizona.
"We have embraced the recent call for more ethical behavior from the National Business Aviation Association, and welcome similar initiatives by the National Air Transportation Association, European Business Aviation Association and International Business Aviation Council and others," Proctor said.
As part of its $250 million acquisition of business aviation services provider Hawker Pacific, Jet Aviation will add 19 locations across Asia-Pacific and the Middle East to its global network, including seven FBOs, 14 MROs, and more than 400,000 sq ft of hangar space, as well as Hawker Pacific’s 800 employees. (Photo: Jet Aviation)
General Dynamics subsidiary Jet Aviation has completed its acquisition of business aviation services provider Hawker Pacific for $250 million, the company announced today. The deal was announced on April 11.
As part of this acquisition, Jet Aviation will add 19 locations across Asia-Pacific and the Middle East to its global network, including seven FBOs, 14 MROs, and more than 400,000 sq ft of hangar space, as well as Hawker Pacific’s 800 employees. This includes Hawker Pacific’s share in the joint venture Shanghai Hawker Pacific Business Aviation Centre at Shanghai Hongqiao Airport, four FBOs in Australia (Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns, and Perth), and facilities at Singapore Seletar Airport and Dubai Al Maktoum International Airport. It will also build a full-service facility at Shanghai Pudong International Airport upon completion of the new runway there.
“We are now in a position to further expand our current portfolio, enter new markets across Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, and offer more options and value to our customers worldwide,” said Jet Aviation president Rob Smith. “Bringing together these two well-established brands reinforces our position as one of the world’s leading business aviation service providers.”
At 27.97 flight hours, business aircraft utilization marked the highest average level in any first quarter since 2008, according to maintenance support provider Jet Support Service Inc. (JSSI). (Photo: Falcon 8X, Dassault Aviation)
Average monthly business aircraft utilization reached 27.97 flight hours during the first three months of the year, marking the highest average level in any first quarter since 2008, according to maintenance support provider Jet Support Service Inc. (JSSI).
JSSI's first-quarter 2018 Business Aviation Index, released May 1, found that business aviation average flight hours were up 2.9 percent year-over-year. The index tracks utilization of 2,000 business jets, turboprops, and helicopters worldwide, reporting average flight hours flown on a monthly basis by region, industry, and cabin type.
“The end of 2017 saw the highest flight hour activity since the peaks of 2008. While the first three months of the year often sees a material drop in flight hours, this first quarter dropped by only 0.3 percent,” said JSSI president and CEO Neil Book. “This strong start to 2018 is a positive sign and indicator for global markets.”
According to JSSI, the aviation sector led the growth, with an 8.4 percent increase in flight activity. Healthcare similarly helped drive this growth, with an increase of 8.3 percent, followed by the power and energy sector at 7.3 percent. The consumer goods sector, however, saw an 8.3 percent decline in business aviation activity, and the manufacturing sector reported a 10.4 percent decrease.
Average flight hours were up 12.3 percent year-over-year in Europe and 8.2 percent in South America. However, activity slid 5.4 percent year-over-year in the Asia-Pacific region and 11.7 percent in the Middle East. Average North American flight hours also softened by 1.8 percent year over year.
The comprehensive, five-year FAA reauthorization bill is on the path to final passage and enactment in the next few months.(Photo: Fotolia)
The U.S. House of Representatives today overwhelmingly approved the comprehensive, five-year FAA reauthorization bill, putting the legislation on the path for final passage and enactment in the next few months. The 393-13 vote underscored the bipartisan cooperation achieved after a previous version had been held up for months over a controversial provision to carve the air traffic control organization out of the FAA.
The new version of the bill, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R.4), passed close to midday Friday without that provision but with a wide-ranging scope of measures that touch upon everything from certification reforms and a review of supersonic operations limitations to facilitation of unmanned systems into the airspace, a directive for FAA to clarify its policies on flight-sharing, and an Age 70 limit that primarily affects NetJets pilots.
House lawmakers adopted close to 100 amendments to the bill, addressing myriad noise, consumer protection, safety, and other concerns. Some of these include a pilot program that would prioritize certain equipped aircraft at certain airports, facilitate certain non-commercial Stage 2 aircraft operations at less busy airports, and a government-watchdog study on the effectiveness of FAA’s Compliance Philosophy.
The legislation was the first long-term FAA reauthorization bill to pass the House since 2012, noted Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania).
“While I would have liked this bill to have included the significant reforms to the management of the nation’s air traffic control system I proposed in earlier legislation, H.R. 4 does include many other important reforms that will help job creators lead in a competitive global marketplace for aviation, improve our airport infrastructure in large, small and rural communities, and improve air travel for millions of Americans,” Shuster said.
Passage instantly drew praise from general aviation groups. “While the bill is not perfect, a long-term reauthorization is critical to advancing our shared priorities. Equally important, this bipartisan bill will modernize, not privatize, air traffic control,“ said NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen. “We are grateful that members of Congress heard their constituents’ concerns about ATC privatization, and reflected those concerns in bringing this legislation to final passage.”
“This bill provides key provisions and language that improves safety, streamlines regulatory burdens, strengthens job creation, encourages competitiveness and innovation, and stimulates exports,” added GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce.
NATA president Martin Hiller agreed. “The legislation contains many NATA-supported provisions that will improve safety and address the needs of aviation businesses across the country, including efforts to streamline certification and flight standards processes—as well as improve the consistency of FAA regulatory interpretations,” Hiller said. “We are also pleased by the inclusion of studies to assess the current state of, barriers to entry into, and options to increase the future supply of individuals in the aviation workforce.”
Bunce further encouraged the Senate to pass its FAA legislation expeditiously. The Senate must still pass its own version of FAA reauthorization. Senate Commerce Committee chairman John Thune (R-South Dakota) has indicated a desire to finish work on it before the August recess.
Aerion Corp. now expects to fly a prototype of its AS2 supersonic business jet by 2023, with certification planned by 2025. It would be able to cruise over water at about Mach 1.5 and over land at nearly Mach 1.2 without a sonic boom reaching the ground, the company said. (Photo: Aerion Corp.)
Reno, Nevada-based Aerion Corp. is on track to fly the world's first supersonic business jet (SSBJ), the Aerion AS2, by 2023, with certification expected to follow by 2025, company senior v-p and chief commercial officer Ernie Edwards told attendees yesterday at the Corporate Jet Investor Dubai conference. “Five years [from now] and [then a further] two years is a pretty aggressive [time frame],” he said, confirming the previously stated plans for the SSBJ program.
Aerion is planning to use an existing GE Aviation engine for the aircraft, which would benefit from the agreement signed with Lockheed Martin in December to develop the aircraft. “We have been searching for an engine for [a number of] years,” Edwards said. “The challenge about the engine is longevity. We want frugality of fuel burn at altitude.”
The aircraft could fly at about Mach 1.5 over water at “super cruise,” while over land the aircraft could still achieve a speed of nearly Mach 1.2 without a sonic boom reaching the ground, he said.
“We think that, as the market leader, we will be first to market,” Edwards said of an increasing likelihood of a competitor entry coming to market. “The FAA realizes that supersonic flight is coming to our world.”
Edwards said he had flown overnight direct from Miami to attend the Dubai event, and that use of an aircraft like the AS2 would have saved him four hours' flying time, the kind of benefit many busy executives would welcome, he noted.
Despite Gulfstream delivering four fewer aircraft in the first quarter, shipments of super-midsize G280s and ultra-long-range G650/650ERs were relatively steady year-over-year. (Photo: Gulfstream Aerospace)
First-quarter deliveries at Gulfstream Aerospace fell 13.3 percent year-over-year, to 26 jets. Shipments of its super-midsize G280 held steady at seven in both first quarters, but large-cabin jets fell by four from a year ago, to 19, Phebe Novakovic, chairman and CEO of parent company General Dynamics, said this morning during an investor conference call.
The erosion on the higher end was in part due to G450 shipments ending and those of its replacement, the G500, not beginning until after the new airplane is certified in "June or July." A customer-initiated delivery delay of a special-mission G550 also worked against Gulfstream in the quarter.
While overall revenues and earnings rose slightly at General Dynamics in the quarter, they declined at its Aerospace division, which includes Gulfstream and Jet Aviation. First-quarter Aerospace revenues were $1.852 billion, down 12 percent from a year ago, while earnings slipped by 21.2 percent, to $346 million.
According to Novakovic, Gulfstream’s 0.8:1 book-to-bill ratio in the first three months is slightly higher than the 0.7:1 ratio the company has seen in the first quarters over the past few years. “Gulfstream’s sales are strong in both North America and Europe,” she noted, with U.S. sales boosted by replacement orders and tax reform. Aerospace backlog stood at $12.059 billion as of April 1, down from $12.466 billion at the end of 2017.
Barton Cole, who logged more than 11,000 flight hours over his career, went to work for NetJets in 2004. He flew professionally for 12 more years until he voluntarily retired from NetJets at age 72. A proposal in the FAA reauthorization bill would have clipped his wings at age 65.
Highly influential U.S. association AARP is opposing a manager’s amendment in the FAA reauthorization bill that would impose a mandatory retirement age of 65 for certain Part 135 charter and Part 91K fractional pilots. “AARP has long opposed mandatory retirement; using an arbitrary age as a proxy for competence is wrong in any occupation, and it is wrong for pilots,” AARP wrote in a letter to House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman Bill Shuster and ranking member Pete DeFazio.
“Pilots should be judged on the basis of their individual ability, flying skills, and their health, not on stereotypes or mistaken assumptions about their fitness based on age,” the association, which has 38 million members, told the congressmen. “The pilots affected are already subject to twice-yearly medical certifications and ‘check ride’ tests of fitness and competency to fly. AARP supports requirements for testing and exams that are designed to measure the job-related characteristics needed to do the job. If different or additional types of tests are needed, the focus should be on determining that.”
AARP argues that the proposal is not about safety. “Otherwise, it would not have a coverage threshold of 100,000 flights per year, which apparently applies only to one company,” it notes. That company is NetJets.
“The shortage of pilots facing carriers—a circumstance due in no small part due to the impending mandatory retirements of boomer-generation pilots—has some experts proposing that the mandatory retirement age for [airline] pilots be increased,” AARP said in the letter. “A proposal to impose a compulsory retirement age on pilots who currently are not subject to one is a proposal headed in exactly the wrong direction.”
The new Bose ProFlight Aviation Headset, which retails for $999.95, is the company's first headset designed for turbine aircraft pilots. It features an in-ear configuration, three user-selectable levels of active noise cancellation, and Bluetooth functionality. Units start shipping in May 2018. (Photo: Bose)
Bose introduced its first active-noise cancelling (ANC) headset designed specifically for turbine aircraft pilots today at Sun ’n' Fun 2018. The company bills the new FAA TSO C139a- and EASA E/TSO C1-certified ProFlight Aviation Headset, which weighs 4.9 ounces, as the “industry's smallest, quietest, and most comfortable” ANC headset.
It features an in-ear configuration, three user-selectable levels of active noise cancellation, and a “tap control for talk through” function that allows pilots to communicate with others not connected to the intercom without removing the headset or an earpiece. Other features include an electret noise-cancelling microphone, active equalizer, and Bluetooth functionality. It also comes with a carrying case that is designed to fit a Jeppesen binder holder.
The microphone/down cable can be swapped to either side in seconds without tools, thanks to a quick-release button, according to Bose senior product manager Matt Ruwe. In addition, the earpieces—which are available in different sizes—and headphone pads are inexpensive and can be easily replaced, he said.
Bose designed the headset for long-term comfort—a feature that has already been tested on long flights in a Gulfstream G650, said Ruwe. The ProFlight Aviation Headset retails for $999.95 and will start shipping in late May.
Activity of large-cabin business jets, such as this Gulfstream G650, continues to accelerate in the U.S. and Canada, according to data from Argus International. (Photo: Gulfstream)
Business aircraft flying in the U.S. and Canada continued its ascent last month, but the 2.6 percent year-over-year increase was once again almost solely due to rising Part 135 activity, according to TraqPak data released today by Argus International. Weaker flying at the fractional providers and especially at Part 91 operators caused activity to miss the company’s estimate for a 4.2 percent increase in March; this month, it is expecting a 2.8 percent rise.
By operator category, Part 135 flying led the pack last month, climbing 7.7 percent year-over-year, while fractional activity ventured back into positive territory, with a 0.6 percent gain over March 2017. Part 91 activity also remained anemic, once again recording a slight loss, falling 0.4 percent from a year ago.
All aircraft categories saw increases last month, with large-cabin jets coming out ahead with a 4.7-percent year-over-year increase, despite a 20.4 percent erosion in fractional large-cabin jet flying. This was followed by midsize jets, up 4.4 percent; turboprops, 1.8 percent; and light jets, 0.2 percent.
The only double-digit gain in individual categories last month belonged to Part 135 large-cabin jets, which rose 15.1 percent from a year ago. All individual categories under Part 91 suffered losses, with the exception of large-cabin jets, which rose 4.5 percent.
Lockheed will build the Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator that NASA will fly to measure the noise signature and community response to supersonic booms over land in the U.S. (Photo: Kerry Lynch/AIN)
NASA is moving into the next phase of its supersonic research, awarding a $247.5 million contract to Lockheed Martin Aeronautics to build an X-plane called the Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator (LBFD). The 94-foot-long LBFD will be used to test new technologies that would result in a low-boom, or softer “thump,” as NASA officials describe it, rather than the traditional sonic boom that has accompanied supersonic speeds and served as the environmental barrier to such flight over land.
The LBFD, which will fly at Mach 1.4 at 55,000 feet, will be developed over the next two years in preparation for first flight in 2021. A three-year test program will follow that will involve measuring the noise signature and community response to supersonic flight, and accompanying thump, over land. NASA will select a series of communities representing a variety of demographics to conduct the flights. The communities will subsequently be surveyed for reaction to the noise.
The goal is to gather data that could be presented to regulators such as the FAA and the International Civil Aviation Organization for evaluating future regulations regarding supersonic flight.
The aircraft was built “as a system” that is long and slender, with a shape that controls the strength and position of shockwaves. But the aircraft will be developed with already existing components to lower risk. The canopy for instance, is off the T-38, landing gear is from the F-16, and a number of other components are from F-16s and F-18s. The aircraft will use the F-18E/F's GE F414 engine.
The airplane is not intended to be sized up for commercial flight or to be used for defense purposes, but rather solely to design technologies that could one day transfer into military or commercial applications.
Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator of NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate in Washington, called the announcement “history-making,” saying “NASA is opening a new era: the 21st century X-plane era.” Noting that NASA in the past century had flown a number X-planes with the U.S. Air Force and industry to achieve aerospace breakthroughs, he said, “Our long tradition of solving the toughest problems of flights through X-planes continues.”
Lockheed was the sole bidder for the contract, and the award follows a contract the company received in February 2016 to develop a 15-percent scale Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) preliminary design model that was the precursor of an LBFD. The QueSST was used to demonstrate that an LBFD design could achieve the mission objective of creating the softer thump rather than loud boom while flying over land. NASA and Lockheed engineers and experts concluded that the technologies could achieve the objective and finalized the design last year.
In recent years, Congress has demonstrated a heightened interest in taking a fresh look at restrictions placed on supersonic flight, writing various measures directing the FAA to evaluate whether regulations could be updated.
For Lockheed Martin, this is a continuation of a long history of supersonic flight with a portfolio that includes the Mach 3 SR-71 reconnaissance aircraft, along with the F-16, F-35, and F-22 fighters.
Late last year, Lockheed Martin signed a memorandum of understanding with Aerion to explore development of the Aerion AS2 supersonic business jet. Under the MoU, Lockheed Martin and Aerion planned to develop a framework this year for all phases of the program, from engineering to certification and production.
But the Aerion work is separate from this project, involving a different design that does not eliminate boom but rather focuses on flight over water.
For the second straight year, Sheltair's Tampa facility rose to the top of the rankings in AIN's annual FBO Survey. The location earned an overall score of 4.74, and was the only service provider to earn scores of more than 4.70 in each of the five categories. Outside of North America, Tag Farnborough maintained its long run as the top international FBO, its score of 4.69 placing it firmly in the top five percent of FBOs worldwide according to AIN's readers.
As business aviation continues its rebound from the depths of the global economic downturn a decade ago, optimism continues to grow among U.S. FBO operators, as flight activity and fleet utilization increases. According to industry data provider Aviation Research Group/U.S. (ARGUS), flight activity in 2017 eclipsed the three-million-hour mark for the first time since 2008, and year-over-year rose 5.5 percent over 2016.
That activity has translated to gains at the fuel pump in many places. In the annual FBO Fuel Sales Survey conducted by industry consultancy Aviation Business Strategies Group (ABSG), 53 percent of the service providers who responded said fuel sales increased in 2017 while another nearly 20 percent indicated that their sales were the same as in 2016. The survey also asked about their confidence in the economy. “We were encouraged to see that 73 percent gave the economy a strong thumbs-up,” noted ABSG co-principal John Enticknap. “By comparison, in last year’s survey, 53 percent approved the direction of the economy, and the year before, only 27 percent gave approval.” Based on that endorsement, 93 percent of those FBOs surveyed said they expected either the same or increased fuel sales in 2018.
“The consensus opinion from our clients is that business is relatively good, with growth in the 2 to 3 percent range, and stable margins,” Stephen Dennis, chairman of Aviation Resource Group International (ARGI), told AIN. “The outlook for the balance of the year is growth in the 3 percent range.” He added that the hiring of trained FBO personnel, especially at the general manager level, is becoming more difficult as a result of lower turnover in many senior and mid-level positions.
As a result of this stability, the needle is moving to a seller’s market, when it comes to the buying of FBOs. “The market for selling is good; however, the number of transactions remains low by historical metrics,” explained Dennis. “The transactions that are closing are skewed toward higher valuations.” While the FBO chains continue look for opportunities among the top-tier airports, the most recent round of major consolidation, which was capped off by Signature Flight Support’s acquisition of Landmark Aviation, has made that more difficult. “As we look back over the time since the turn of the century, we have seen a progressive reduction in the number of FBO consolidation opportunities,” said Dennis, adding that since 1980, the 10,000 FBOs in the U.S. has decreased by two-thirds. “This is not to say that we won’t see continued consolidation. It just means that transaction values will increase, and there will be fewer of them.”
Douglas Wilson, president of FBO industry advisor FBO Partners, noted that most of the top 200 airports in the U.S. have only one or two service providers, and those locations are now mainly owned by the chains. As an example, four of the FBOs that made up the top 5 percent in this year’s AIN FBO Survey were acquired by chains over the past few years. “You’ve got a significant number of players now out there in the field trying to acquire FBOs, all hunting for the same thing,” Wilson told AIN. In addition to the long-established chains such as Signature, Atlantic, Jet Aviation and Million Air, there are also new names, such as Ross Aviation, Hawthorne Global, Lynx and the latest, Modern Aviation. The last launched just this February, backed by private equity money, and is looking to grow networks of its own.
Among European airports, Paris’s Le Bourget remains the busiest business aviation airport, recording nearly 26,000 departures in 2017, while London Biggin Hill saw the largest growth last year at more than 16 percent, according to statistics provided by industry data provider WingX Advance.
“On the international scene, growth is accelerating, and advancing beyond the USA in several key markets in Eastern and Western Europe,” Dennis told AIN. “Very few operations are being sold internationally, as the most successful operators are increasing their investments in their operations, preparing for increased growth.”
Against this backdrop, we present the top locations in our annual FBO survey, as selected by AIN’s readers.
Embraer's Phenom 300E sports an entirely new cabin with customizable seats, updated side walls and valances, an upper technology panel along the centerline of the cabin ceiling, and a Lufthansa Technik nice high-definition cabin management/in-flight entertainment system. (Photo: Embraer Executive Jets)
Embraer Executive Jets delivered the first Phenom 300E, an updated version of the Phenom 300 with an entirely new cabin, on Thursday. This follows recent type certifications of the light jet from the FAA, EASA, and Brazil’s ANAC.
The Phenon 300E—the “E” stands for “enhanced”—was launched and made its debut at NBAA 2017 in October. Cabin enhancements include new customizable seats, available in a wide choice of leathers and stitching, that incorporate extendable headrests with bolsters, extendable leg rests, and retractable armrests. Seat coverings can also be easily removed for repair or replacement.
The table, side ledge, side wall, and valence designs are also new, while the cabin is more spacious thanks to a three-inch-wider aisle and an additional inch of headroom compared with the Phenom 300. Embraer's 300E also incorporates an upper technology panel along the centerline of the cabin ceiling and a Lufthansa Technik nice high-definition cabin management/in-flight entertainment system.
John McCormick, a South Africa businessman, said the 300E’s “interior architecture and design are modern and all the customization options allowed us to make the aircraft perfect for us.” The new airplane replaces his Phenom 300.
Because the 300E has all-new interior attach points and the seats have different rails, the updated cabin cannot be retrofitted to the approximately 450 in-service Phenom 300s.
The $125 million fleet order for 25 EC145e from Metro Aviation announced last month was only the start of orders for the helicopter that will keep the production line flowing through 2023.
A flood of new orders in recent weeks for military UH-72A Lakotas and civil EC-145es assures that Airbus Helicopters’s production line for those medium twins in Columbus, Mississippi, will remain open through at least 2023. Aggregate orders announced over the last 30 days amount to 76 aircraft - 51 UH-72As and 25 EC-145es. Both aircraft use the same airframe, with the former being used by the U.S. Army for primary training, National Guard, and homeland security missions and the latter by mainly civil EMS and utility operators.
Airbus and Metro Aviation announced an order for the 25 EC145es on February 27. Deliveries have already begun and are scheduled to continue over the next four years. The EC145e is a lower-cost variant of the out-of-production EC145C2, a model similar to the UH-72A. Metro was the first customer for the lighter-weight, lower-cost EC145e when it was launched in 2015, and it already flies six of them in air medical roles in various U.S. locations. Airbus's standard VFR avionics package for the EC145e features a glass cockpit with the Garmin G500H and GTN 650 GPS and communication system. It has an mtow weight of 7,903 pounds. The weight savings from Metro's VFR-only avionics package allow an extra 70 gallons of fuel or 200 to 250 pounds of payload, which translate into another hour of endurance or an additional patient, respectively, a Metro spokesman told AIN.
Metro is developing an STC for a lightweight IFR package that it will install into its EC145es at its Shreveport, Louisiana completions facility. Working with Genesys Aerosystems, Metro has developed and received FAA STCs for a VFR electronic flight instrument system (EFIS) and an autopilot and stability augmentation system for the EC145e. IFR certification is expected this year. Metro plans to operate some of the new EC145es in its own medevac fleet, but said it would also remarket others in medevac, utility, and VIP configurations.
On March 8, Airbus announced it had received an order for 35 UH-72A Lakotas from the Army valued at $273 million. The contract includes aircraft, associated technical and flight operator manuals, and program management. This procurement is broken into two configurations: 17 UH-72A Lakotas for the flight training Initial Entry Rotary Wing mission at Fort Rucker, Alabama, and 18 UH-72A Lakotas for the observer/controller mission at the Army’s Combat Training Centers. Two weeks later Airbus announced that it had received a second contract valued at $116.9 million for an additional 16 UH-72As to support the mission at Fort Rucker, the Army’s primary rotary wing flight training center. The contract includes the UH-72A production aircraft, associated technical and flight operator manuals, and program management. Fort Rucker is in the process of converting its mixed training fleet of Bell TH-67s and OH-58s to an all UH-72A fleet. Deliveries of this block of aircraft will continue through 2023.
Airbus says it has delivered more than 423 UH-72A Lakotas since the award of the first U.S. Army contract for the aircraft in 2005.
Aviation analyst Brian Foley is optimistic that a formal launch of a supersonic business jet is coming closer. Aerion Corp. has been developing key technologies for its AS2 design for more than a decade. (Photo: Aerion Corp.)
“We’re much closer to a supersonic business jet (SSBJ) being formally launched” as costs and persistent risks related to regulatory, engines and sonic boom noise are “progressively mitigated,” according to aviation analyst Brian Foley. “The final impetus will be from the realization that to command this relatively small but high-value market requires being early to capture finite sales.”
One primary regulatory risk has been defining what constitutes an acceptable sonic boom noise over land, “which can be quite subjective,” he said. The FAA is currently re-examining the supersonic flight over land ban, which Foley hopes will result in “much needed guidance and design latitude” in the coming months.
Another challenge he cited is a powerplant able to operate in the supersonic regime while still offering reasonable times between maintenance overhauls. It also comes down to an issue of money: “Who pays for the development of a new or derivative engine that meets these unique performance and durability requirements?” he asked.
An SSBJ platform needs both a civil and government market component to be successful, Foley noted. “Once the race is on with teams formed and proper funding, the concept could leap forward. While I now view a formal SSBJ launch as being more conceivable than ever, it’s still moving at the very subsonic speed of technology, regulation and money.”
The fleet of turbine aircraft, such as this Honda Aircraft HA-420 HondaJet, are expected to increase 2 percent a year in the U.S. through 2038, according to the FAA's latest general aviation forecast. (Photo: Chad Trautvetter/AIN)
The U.S. active general aviation fleet is anticipated to remain stable over the next 20 years, growing less than 0.5 percent in total through 2038, according to the latest FAA forecast. This stability is anticipated to come on the strength of the turbine aircraft and helicopter markets, which are expected to offset declines in the piston aircraft fleet, the agency added. The most recent forecast, released last week, is more conservative than the FAA’s projection last year of more than 1.5 percent growth in total over the following 20 years.
According to the 2018 to 2038 forecast, the general aviation fleet will inch up from 213,050 in 2017 to 214,090 by 2038. Looking at the turbine fleet alone, the FAA is projecting an average growth rate of 2 percent a year, for a total of 15,255 additional aircraft over the forecast period. The number of fixed-wing aircraft, however, is expected to shrink by an annual rate of 0.8 percent, for a total loss of 22,350 aircraft over the forecast period.
The FAA cited stronger U.S. GDP and corporate profits as drivers of the turbine growth, but in turn believes “unfavorable pilot demographics, overall increasing cost of aircraft ownership, coupled with new aircraft deliveries not keeping pace with retirements of the aging fleet” will dampen the piston market.
The fleet size of light-sport aircraft, meanwhile, is forecast to grow by 3.6 percent a year, expanding by 2,850 aircraft by 2038, reaching double the number of 2016.
While the fleet overall is anticipated to remain stable, the FAA is forecasting that the number of general aviation hours flown will grow 0.8 percent each year, reaching 30.2 million in 2038. As with fleet size, turbine hours will be the driver of the growth, forecast to improve 2.4 percent per year over the forecast period. Business jet hours alone are anticipated to jump 2.7 percent annually. Rotorcraft hours also are expected to increase, at a rate of 2.2 percent annually. But, fixed-wing piston hours in turn are anticipated to slide by 1 percent.
Older aircraft, such as the Falcon 50 (shown), CitationJet, and Learjet 31a may be forced into obsolescence one the U.S. ADS-B mandate takes effect on Jan. 1, 2020.
With the U.S. ADS-B Out compliance deadline looming, “we’re about 18 months from a significant reckoning in the preowned business jet market due to obsolescence,” Mesinger Jet Sales president and CEO Jay Mesinger said this morning at the NBAA Business Aircraft Finance, Registration, and Legal Conference in Fort Myers, Florida. According to co-presenter JetNet iQ managing director Rolland Vincent, U.S. operators of 13,425 business jets—one-third of the in-service fleet—currently have no ADS-B upgrade plan in place.
Vincent estimates that 25 to 30 percent of these jets are in line for retirement when the Jan. 1, 2020 ADS-B compliance date rolls around. Of those operators who have no plans yet in place, 36.5 percent intend to visit a shop to upgrade, but have not yet done so; 7.7 percent expect to replace their aircraft with one that is already upgraded; 6.3 percent said they will sell their non-upgraded aircraft; 13.3 percent have not yet decided; and 2.6 percent believe the FAA will delay the compliance deadline, despite the agency’s repeated statements otherwise, according to the latest JetNet iQ data.
Forty-six percent of the business jets on the preowned market are now more than 20 years old, Vincent said, noting that the cost to install ADS-B equipment on aging aircraft is likely to be prohibitive, accelerating their obsolescence. “After about year 25, the inventory will get cleaned up,” he said. Asked what will be done with these airframes, Vincent quipped, “Maybe the fuselages can be used for roadside stands somewhere.”
Since Santa Monica Airport (SMO) shortened its runway by 1,500 feet, to 3,500 feet, in December, business jet traffic there has plummeted by more than 80 percent, while while turboprop operations are up 40 percent. This statistic is reflected by the traffic on the ramp at Atlantic Aviation SMO. (Photo: Matt Thurber/AIN)
In the three months since the city of Santa Monica shortened the runway at Santa Monica Airport (SMO) in California to 3,500 feet, jet traffic has plummeted by more than 80 percent, the city reported this week. Jet operations at SMO last month numbered just 139, down from the average of 687 jet operations in February 2016 and 2017. Similarly, in January, jet operations had declined to 111, down 84 percent from the prior average of 696 in January 2016 and 2017.
At the same time though, helicopter operations increased 41 percent in February and 33 percent in January from the prior-two-year average, while turboprop operations were up 40 percent in February and 9 percent in January.
Overall operations were down by a little more than 400 in both January and February from their respective prior-two-year averages. February operations numbered 2,219, compared with 2,661 previously, and January operations total 2,116, compared with the 2,551 prior-two-year average. The increased turboprop activity may be an indication of jet traffic beginning to transition to turboprop, said senior advisor to the city manager Suja Lowenthal.
The city in December completed its runway-shortening project as part of a larger plan to set the stage for closing the airport altogether by the end of 2028. NBAA had urged the city to delay the shortening in light of a pending lawsuit before the U.S. Court of Appeals that seeks to overturn an agreement between the city and the FAA that enables not only the runway shortening but also the ultimate airport closure. Oral arguments in that case have been scheduled for May 14, keeping the lawsuit on pace for a decision by year-end.
Sens. Inhofe, Blumenthal, Moran, Cantwell Sponsor The Legislation
Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) have introduced the Aviation Maintenance Workforce Development Pilot Program today, bipartisan legislation that will help close the skills gap and fill aviation maintenance jobs.
“Our aviation industry needs skilled workers and the aviation maintenance industry provides high-paying, high-skilled jobs across the country,” Sen. Inhofe said. “Aviation is an economic multiplier, connecting local communities and cities in support of commercial activity and generating tourism revenue. We can’t afford to let these skilled jobs go unfilled. This bill will make it possible to close the skills gap by incentivizing businesses, labor groups, educational institutions and local governments to develop innovative ways to recruit and educate the next generation of America’s aviation workforce.”
“This commonsense bipartisan bill is a win-win for Connecticut companies and Connecticut jobs,” said Sen. Blumenthal. “The measure establishes federal grants that will support Connecticut employers in our state’s aviation sector, aiding recruitment and retention of technical workers to address the chronic skills gap in the aviation maintenance industry.”
"The aviation maintenance industry contributes $44 billion to our economy, but is struggling from a severe shortage of skilled workers,” said Sen. Moran. “Our legislation would encourage collaboration between public and private entities to issue grants to support technical education and career development on a local level. Our aviation industry is only as strong as its workforce – incentivizing people across America to pursue technical careers in this field will help fill good-paying jobs.”
“Across the country, there is a severe shortage of workers with the skills to repair airplanes,” Sen. Cantwell said. “These good-paying jobs are essential to keep Washington state at the forefront of the 21st century commercial aviation industry. This bill will create and expand training programs, like the one at Everett Community College, to skill Washingtonians to meet the needs of our state’s industry-leading aerospace businesses.”
The legislation was overwhelmingly praised by the aviation industry:
“We’re extremely grateful that Senators Inhofe, Blumenthal, Moran, and Cantwell have taken up this cause,” said Christian A. Klein, executive vice president of the Aeronautical Repair Station Association. “If there’s one issue keeping our members awake at night, it’s where to find the next generation of technical talent. This bill is an important step in the right direction. It will incentivize local cooperation to develop new aerospace professionals and help veterans and others transition to careers in this high-tech, growing sector.”
“The National League of Cities thanks Senators Inhofe, Blumenthal, Moran and Cantwell for their bipartisan leadership on this important piece of workforce legislation,” said National League of Cities President Mayor Mark Stodola of Little Rock, Arkansas. “We must close the gap between supply and demand across all infrastructure sectors to ensure our citizens are prepared for high quality jobs that provide critical services to our communities. The skill sets for aviation maintenance are vital to the economic vitality of cities across America.” The National League of Cities also sent a letter of support for the legislation.
"AAR welcomes and strongly supports the measure introduced by Senator Inhofe,” said David Stroch, chairman and CEO of AAR. “As the largest independent employer of aviation maintenance technicians in the United States, we are all too familiar with the challenges the aviation maintenance industry faces in hiring skilled workers. This measure will help us begin training the additional employees that we need and can put to work immediately in our facilities in Oklahoma City, OK, Miami, FL, Rockford, IL, Indianapolis, IN, and Duluth, MN. We appreciate Senator Inhofe's leadership on this issue."
“Developing an aviation maintenance workforce pilot program is essential to maintaining a pipeline of well-trained and knowledgeable aviation maintenance technicians who can sustain this vital work for our industry,” said David Seymour, Senior Vice President of Integrated Operations at American Airlines. “American Airlines is proud to support Senator Inhofe’s bill, and we look forward to partnering with businesses and educational institutions as the program develops.”
“A skilled workforce is essential to the success of Oklahoma’s aerospace community,” said Meredith Siegfried Madden, CEO of NORDAM. “NORDAM supports Sen. Inhofe and his effort to enhance aviation-maintenance education in our state, which will provide opportunity for workers, businesses and communities alike.”
“Serving the needs of the nation’s aviation industry for ninety years, Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology supports Senator Inhofe’s legislation to establish an Aviation Maintenance Workforce Development Pilot Program,” said Dr. Dan Peterson, president and CEO of Spartan College. “There is a global demand for well-qualified aviation technicians. To keep pace, this bill will afford service providers the opportunity to develop innovative new training programs and provide vital financial support to those seeking career employment in the field of aviation maintenance.”
“The Aviation Maintenance Workforce Development Pilot Program represents an important step forward for America’s aerospace industry,” said David, Silver, Vice President, Civil Aviation for the Aerospace Industries Association. “Today’s success is built on our 2.4 million employees. We must maintain that strength for the future. This legislation, by focusing on technical acumen, promotes the workforce of tomorrow and solidifies the foundation of our nation’s security and prosperity.”
Additionally, 17 additional professional organizations in the aviation industry also support the Aviation Workforce Development Pilot Program, writing in part: “The U.S. aviation industry is a diamond in the crown of our economy. Working together, manufacturers, operators, maintainers, labor organizations, schools, and workers have built an industry that provides unprecedented mobility for people and goods. Your legislation will help ensure our member organizations have the technical professionals they need to grow, compete globally, and, most importantly, continue to ensure the safety of civil aviation aircraft.”
GE Aviation's new Advanced Turboprop (ATP) engine is now known at the Catalyst. The formal naming of the Catalyst comes as GE Aviation has moved into the testing phase, completing first run for the first model—a 1,300-shp variant for the Cessna Denali—in December. (Photo: Kerry Lynch/AIN)
GE Aviation rolled out the official name for its Advanced Turboprop (ATP) engine, dubbing the new 900- to 1,700-shp family the Catalyst. Speaking to reporters in Prague today, Brad Mottier, v-p and general manager of GE Aviation's Business and General Aviation & Integrated Systems division, said the new name signifies the family is “a catalyst for change [and] for the competition,…for new airframe designs,...for new maintenance,...for new operations,...for better pilot experience, [and] for better service.”
Stressing the engine was not just intended to provide a means to go faster or be more fuel efficient, Mottier said it is designed to change the pilot experience to that of more a “jet like” environment. This includes a simplified cockpit, thanks to the dual-channel Fadec digital capabilities. Calling the engine a digital design from birth, he added the Catalyst family also will pull down from GE’s commercial family the “digital twin” concept, which moves toward on-condition maintenance capabilities, with the ability to track exact flying conditions, from weather and flying environment to how the engine is flown on every flight. GE Aviation’s long-term goal is to be able to eliminate service bulletins and unnecessary inspections by knowing the specific operating conditions of each Catalyst engine.
“We believe it’s a new standard. We’re already working on additional applications and additional engines and engine models,” he said.
The formal naming of the Catalyst comes as GE Aviation has moved into the testing phase, completing first run for the first model—a 1,300-shp variant for the Cessna Denali—in December. The engine had since accrued close to 40 hours of testing at GE’s test cell, before moving to a new test cell as part of a collaboration with a Czech Technical University team (CVUT) in Prague. Tests are expected to restart on Monday under the partnership with CVUT, which will be testing that engine over the next several years for health-engine monitoring.
The next engine—referred to as number 5—is in assembly, being outfitted with instrumentation and is anticipated to be ready to for testing in a couple of months. That engine, to be used for altitude testing, is slated to head to Canada this summer for trials. Meanwhile, three engines will go to Cessna beginning later this year in preparation for the Denali's planned maiden flight in first-quarter 2019.
With a 16:1 pressure ratio, the Catalyst will provide up to 20 percent lower fuel burn and 10 percent higher cruise power, compared with competitors. The engine is designed with two stages of variable stator vanes and cooled high-pressure turbine blades. GE is incorporating additive manufacturing (3D printing) with a dozen key parts that will lower the parts count by 855, reduce weight by 10 percent, and help provide a 1 percent improvement in specific fuel consumption.
Cirrus made first delivery of its Vision jet in late 2016, and handed over 22 last year.
If it had it not been for the shipments last year from two relatively new very light jet aircraft newcomers—Honda and Cirrus—delivery figures in 2017 would have been significantly lower than in 2016. According to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, manufacturers delivered 667 business jets in 2016 plus just nine more in 2017, resulting in a 1.3 percent gain.
In its weekly report on the business aviation industry, independent consulting and research firm Corporate Jet Investor observed, “Without the HondaJet and SF50 shipments, total deliveries last year would have fallen by 8.3 percent.”
Honda finished 2016 having delivered 23 HondaJets. Last year, Honda almost doubled its shipments, to 43 aircraft. Meanwhile, initial deliveries of the Cirrus SF50 single-engine very light jet occurred in the final quarter of 2016, but last year Cirrus delivered 22 new aircraft.
The report also highlighted the fact that Airbus did not deliver any ACJs during the year, and Boeing did not deliver any BBJs. “Gulfstream’s G450 and G550 deliveries have slowed over the past two years, as have Bombardier Global family deliveries.” The report concluded, "It could be easy to jump to conclusions and say that we are seeing a shift towards smaller aircraft. But it would not necessarily be true. We are now effectively in a lull between periods, waiting for the next set of new [larger] aircraft to be delivered.”
Corporate Jet Investor also recognized that this year’s figures will be influenced by double-digit deliveries of another newcomer in the light jet segment: the Pilatus PC-24.
Matt Zuccaro, HAI’s president and CEO, briefs AIN staff on what to expect at this year’s event during a video interview before Heli-Expo 2018. In addition to responsibility for everyday operation of the association, Zuccaro is a member of HAI’s board of directors.
Heli-Expo 2018 attendees woke to some good news on the second day of the show yesterday, after Congress ended its most-recent effort to privatize the U.S. air traffic control (ATC) system. The Helicopter Association International (HAI) and other aviation organizations applauded the move and indicated support for the plan for a reauthorization bill that would assure longer-term funding for the FAA. “HAI stands committed to working with Congress to modernize the FAA to maintain its world-class level of service and safety,” the association said.
“The voice of the entire general aviation community was heard,” added HAI president and CEO Matt Zuccaro. “I want to thank our members for their commitment and passion to engage their elected officials. I also want to express our community’s gratitude to our representatives for listening. This is a great example of what can happen when people unite and speak with one voice.”
On Tuesday afternoon, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania) admitted that the proposed reform of ATC that was part of H.R.2997, the “21st Century AIRR Act,” did not receive enough support from Congress to pass. Shuster said he plans to work with his colleagues in Congress on a reauthorization bill “to provide long-term stability for the FAA.”
The Falcon 6X, a replacement for the 5X incorporates numerous improvements from that model. (Image: Dassault)
Dassault released details on its newest business jet, the Falcon 6X, during a day-long technical briefing today. The latest model is a replacement for the 5X, a project canceled due to multiple delays in the development of its proposed Snecma Silvercrest engines. The 6X will have Pratt & Whitney Canada PW812D ("D" for Dassault) engines. The 13,000- to 14,000-pound-thrust PW800 family has logged more than 20,000 test hours. It has also been selected to power the Gulstream G500, with the PurePower PW814GA, and the G600 with the PW815GA.
“I had no choice to stop the 5X program and find the best possible engine,” chairman and CEO Eric Trappier told reporters gathered in the company’s large Le Bourget hangar, where he unveiled a large model of the new 6X. He revealed that in 2015/2016 Dassault engineers began developing a Plan B for the Falcon 5X when the Silvercrest engine begain experiencing problems with its high-pressure compressor. As the troubles intensified, the company took the opportunity to design an aircraft with more range and more space. Olivier Villa, Dassault’s senior v-p of civil aircraft, told AIN, "We talked with Pratt & Whitney Canada, and they modified their engine somewhat for us. And we adapted the airplane to match the engine."
Dassault today unveiled a model of its Falcon 6X, scheduled for entry into service in 2022. (Photo: Ian Sheppard)
The engines are far from the only change. The new twinjet will have a 20-inch-larger cabin, enabling either a larger aft lounge area or a choice of larger forward galley or a crew rest area. The 6X will also have a 300-nm range increase over the 5X (to 5,500 nm), and first deliveries are scheduled for 2022. As for commonality with the 5X, Villa said, “Much of the systems architecture will be retained—the fly-by-wire system is one step beyond that of the 8X—and there will be some commonality in the cockpit and the empennage. But otherwise, it is a thorough redesign.”
For example, he said, though the aerodynamics of the wing remain, heavier loads required significant changes. “There are no common parts,” Villa said. He also added that the extra fuel required for the additional range caused Dassault to switch to a nitrogen-based fuel pressurization system. “We were first to have a pressurized fuel system, which is safer for crossfeeding. And our experience with military aircraft led us to add a nitrogen system for the 6X. It’s a first for a business jet, and the ultimate in fuel system safety,” he said.
“It wasn’t something we wished,” said Villa of the 6X program, “but we’re excited by the capability, and customers have responded enthusiastically.”
UTC Aerospace Systems (UTAS) will supply the nacelle system for the 6X, including an inlet, fan cowls, thrust reverser and an engine build-upsystem. “This program will enable us to bring the many new nacelle system technology advancements we’ve developed and matured for large commercial aircraft over the last 15 years to the business and corporate jet market,” said UTAS Aerostructures president Marc Duvall.
Trappier noted that most customers switched from the 5X to 7X and 8X as they “didn’t want to wait,” but some are in contract negotiations now to switch to the 6X. He expects some to be finalized in “the next few days.” The price will be about the same as the 5X, $47 million “in 2018 economic conditions.”
Ian Sheppard and Guillaume LeCompte-Boinet contributed to this article.
EMS is among the expected uses for planned purchases, according to the Honeywell outlook survey.
Honeywell's 20th annual “Turbine-powered Civil Helicopter Purchase Outlook,” released on the eve of Heli-Expo 2018, anticipates a better long-term global economic outlook and increased customer confidence, predicting deliveries of between 4,000 and 4,200 new helicopters over the next five years—5 to 10 percent more than the 3,800 handed over between 2013 and 2017. In last year’s forecast, the company (Booth C1329) predicted deliveries of between 3,900 and 4,400 rotorcraft worldwide during the five-year window ending in 2021.
“In addition to better global economic conditions expected in the coming years, potential positive impacts of U.S. tax reform on new helicopter demand and lower volatility in oil and gas-related markets have helped fleet managers confirm what they told us last year,” said Ben Driggs, Honeywell Aerospace’s president for the Americas.
The results indicate that, over the next year, rotorcraft fleet utilization is expected to increase significantly in North America, which is home to more than 40 percent of the world’s helicopter fleet, and more modestly in Europe and Latin America.
Overall, light, single-engine helicopters make up approximately half of the purchase plans, followed by medium twins at 27 percent, light twins at 20 percent, and large cabin multi-engines at 5 percent, up from just 1 percent in last year’s survey. Thirty-four percent of those purchases are expected to occur within the next two years.
In a change this year, brand experience and customer support were noted as the leading motivators in new rotorcraft purchases. “Typically every year when we do this survey, cabin and range are always the number one reason why people are going to buy their next helicopters. Now this year they are down significantly,” said Gaetan Handfield, Honeywell’s senior manager of marketing analysis for the helicopter, business and general aviation markets. “So [we see] a move from technical attributes of the helo to actually more the intangibles of the OEM. This is a first, so we will see if it repeats in the future.”
Broken down by region, 13 percent of North American respondents indicated they would either replace or expand their fleets with a new helicopter over the next five years, and more than 50 percent of those purchases are expected to be light singles, while light and medium twins each accounted for approximately 20 percent.
European operator purchase plans remain stable, with more than 20 percent of the respondents in the region saying they plan to make a new helicopter purchase in the next five years. Notably, 12 percent expect to purchase heavy-twin helicopters, a 10-point increase over last year. Honeywell noted that the sample of Russian operators responding to this year’s survey was small, adding some uncertainty to the overall European results.
In Latin America, the region’s purchase plans exceeded the world average, with 35 percent of respondents reporting intention to purchase over the next five years, an increase of 12 percent from the previous year. It is the only region to anticipate increased purchases based on oil and gas sector usage. Reflecting better economic growth expectations, Brazilian purchase plans increased to 35 percent. More than 50 percent of those purchases are represented by light singles.
The Asia-Pacific area saw an overall 18 percent positive response when asked about purchase plans over the forecast window. Plans in China increased by 9 percent year-over-year, to more than 21 percent, while the replacement plans in India plunged by more than 40 percent.
The region with the lowest purchase expectations was the Middle East and Africa, with only 10 percent of operators there responding that they expected to purchase a new helicopter over the next five years. Of those light, single-engine rotorcraft represented the vast majority of purchase plans.
Among expected usage for the planned purchases, medevac and search and rescue (SAR) rose significantly, from 13 percent in last year’s survey to 22 percent this year, while oil and gas declined year-over-year from 13 percent to 7 percent.
“We’ve been hearing from the OEMs over the past two or three years that EMS was coming,” Handfield told AIN, “that it would be the market segment that would actually buy a lot of new helos down the road. We believe there’s a replacement cycle starting for EMS—it was the case 10 to 15 years ago—and I think they are actually at the point where they have to replace all their helicopters.”
In North America, fully one-third of the planned purchase mentions concerned medevac and SAR use, up from 11 percent last year. Asia and Europe also showed strong growth in plans for the segment.
The results of this year’s survey are based on responses from more than 1,000 chief pilots and flight department managers from companies operating 3,489 turbine and 334 piston helicopters worldwide, excluding major fleet operators, representing approximately 14 percent of the world’s fleet. Honeywell strives to ensure that the sample is geographically representative of the installed base.
Buoyed by increased production by HondaJet, Cirrus and Textron, business jet deliveries improved in 2017, according to statistics released today by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association in its annual "State of the Industry" press conference. (Photo: Chad Trautvetter)
Business and general aviation manufacturers finished 2017 on an upswing, pushing up global shipments on the year 2.5 percent, to 2,324 units, and providing momentum into 2018, according to year-end statistics released by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA). At the same time, the rotorcraft market underwent a turnaround, with total shipments jumping by almost 7.5 percent in 2017.
“The news is good this year,” said GAMA president and CEO Pete Bunce, adding, “I am very bullish on where the industry is going right now.”
The fixed-wing gains were led by increases in the piston (up 66 units in 2017 to 1,085) and business jet segments (up nine units to 676). The only dip in fixed-wing shipments came from turboprops, with a total of 19 fewer deliveries, to 563 units, in 2017.
However, even with the 1.3 percent increase in business jet shipments and a 6.47 percent gain in piston-aircraft deliveries, billings were down by more than $900 million in 2017 to $20.2 billion. Bunce attributed the slide in billings to a shift in the mix of aircraft delivered.
On the business jet side, gains were made from a continued ramp up in the HondaJet, from 23 units in 2016 to 43 last year, as well as the Cirrus Vision SF50, from the first three units in 2016 to 22 last year. Textron also saw its Citation Latitude deliveries increase by 12 units.
At the same time though, Bombardier’s Global and Challenger shipments fell by 13 units, to 139, and Dassault’s deliveries were flat at 49. Gulfstream’s large-aircraft shipments, meanwhile, were down four.
Also affecting billings was the continued pricing pressure the OEMs faced.
The turboprop drop came primarily from the multi-engine models. King Air deliveries slid by 20 units and Piaggio Avanti Evos were down by one. The single-engine turboprop models, meanwhile, were up by six units, to 473. Bunce called the overall dip a “minor blip” and noted that there is activity on the turboprop front with new models and technologies in the works.
Overall though, Bunce was encouraged by the outlook in the turbine market, pointing to positive signs in the used market. “You have an interesting dynamic coming into play with the used market. We’re getting some really nice action happening on the used side,” he said, noting this has a ripple effect to new models. He suggested that many factors could be playing into this strengthening, including the recently passed 100 percent expensing option for used aircraft, as well as the right aircraft with the right equipment. “There’s some great deals to be had that won’t exist forever in the used market,” he said. Conversely he sees new aircraft also being helped by upcoming equipage mandates, such as ADS-B that may be forcing purchase decisions.
Bunce sees this dynamic carrying forward, noting that with a more solid gross domestic product, tax reform, and stability in many global markets. “All indications are that it’s been very healthy for the jet manufacturers.
In the piston market, trainers have provided a significant boost to deliveries. Piper aircraft reported 50 percent year-over-year jump in single-engine primary trainer aircraft deliveries and a 70 percent leap in multi-engine trainers.
Bunce sees a different dynamic playing into this improving training market for both fixed-wing aircraft and rotorcraft. “We know that pilot wages are coming up because there is a very strong demand for pilots, and no one sees that abating any time soon,” he said. With a rapid improvement in wages, the training market now has a need to build up fleets. “On the rotorcraft side and piston side that’s very good news,” he said.
As for rotorcraft results, the piston market increased by 40 units, to 264, and the turbine market by 25 units, to 662 (turbine market totals do not include Leonardo fourth quarter tallies since the company does not report results until this month).
Along with an improved training market, Bunce sees the rotorcraft market, particularly on the turbine side, benefitting from a strengthening oil-and-gas industry along with emerging markets. China in particular has been strong for rotorcraft, he said.
While Bunce admits he is not an economic prognosticator, he remains upbeat about the prospects throughout the industry. “There’s nothing out there…that leads to pessimism about where we are going,” he said. “We’ve got some very healthy markets out there. If we can get some geopolitical stability in other parts of the world, then we can really get going.”
However, the GAMA chief also cautioned that pitfalls still may lie ahead for the industry. Chief among them, he said, is the continued push to carve the U.S. air traffic control organization out the FAA and create an independent, user-funded organization controlled by an appointed board. “We absolutely have got to beat that back. [This] would be very debilitating not only for our industry, but overall would be terrible for all of aviation,” he said.
Bunce questioned why backers are insistent on tinkering with a system he called the envy of the world. He noted that the U.S. system is an example to other locations with capabilities not found elsewhere. He added that other countries come to the U.S. to learn technologies.
Another concern is the “bandwidth within the FAA” to keep up with an increasing list of responsibilities, including the regulation of unmanned and urban mobility vehicles. The FAA will need to address how to fold them into the airspace and develop operational rules. “It’s going to happen,” he said of these markets, but added the FAA will need the resources to facilitate these initiatives. Bunce suggested that the aviation community, working with government, should develop means for new users to contribute to the system to provide the necessary resources. This would pave the way for such additions to the airspace, he said, expressing concern that otherwise, the technologies will be ready long before the operational rules.
On the certification side, Bunce is more optimistic, saying the new Part 23 is providing a means for certification of such new technologies. And he added that he is “absolutely convinced we are already seeing benefits” of the rewrite with new safety technologies coming on the market.
However, Congress still needs to push through with certification reforms to help on the Part 25 side, he said. This includes increased access to organization designation authorization (ODA). Companies invested heavily to transition to the ODA system, but the benefits have yet to be fully realized, he said.
ADS-B equipage remains a concern for GAMA, and Bunce said he believes aircraft will be left grounded when the 2020 deadline rolls around because owners don’t book their slots early enough. The capacity is still there, but it is slowing down, he said.
Editor's Note: The 2016 tallies were updated to reflect a change in Gulfstream accounting, which added six large aircraft to its delivery report in that year.
The hybrid-electric XTI TriFan 600 is designed to be able to fly like an airplane but land and take off like a helicopter. It is slated to enter service in late 2022/early 2023. (Photo: XTI Aircraft)
Denver-based XTI Aircraft received the first order from an Indian customer for its hybrid-electric vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft, the TriFan 600. Arvind Lal, chairman and managing director of Dr. Lal’s Path Labs, placed the milestone order for the $6.5 million TriFan 600, which is expected to enter service in late 2022/early 2023.
Dr. Lal’s Path Labs has more than 170 pathology laboratories and 1,600 collection centers across India. “We have plans to run these VTOL/STOL aircraft that suit our needs for picking up samples in underserved remote areas, which will help in speeding up results for our patients.” Lal also runs an alternative therapy resort in the Himalayan foothills that has no airstrip and, since the road journey can take more than eight hours, this transport will “get all our healed patients feeling fresh on their return home.” He expects to be one of the first customers to receive the aircraft about five years from now.
Meanwhile, XTI is laying plans for certification. A flight-test program with the U.S. FAA “will take four years, with production in 2022,” XTI vice president of global business development Saleem Zaheer told AIN at a recent aviation summit in Mumbai. “India generally accepts airplanes that have been certified under FAA or EASA regulations. FAA certification will occur under the existing ‘powered lift’ category, which might be something new for India.”
With the initial configuration and engineering analysis complete, XTI is assembling the first 60-percent-scale prototype to fly by September. “The program is on schedule,” Zaheer said. “In the second phase of development, we plan to build a 12-seater, which will be suitable for India’s regional connectivity scheme since no airports would need to be built by the government—only a helipad and basic infrastructure. This can cost-effectively connect any part of the country.”
Of the more than 60 orders placed for the TriFan 600 to date, about 30 are from customers in the Middle East and Asia, the company said. The TriFan 600, which is designed to be able to carry one pilot and five passengers, would take off and land like a helicopter but cruise at 29,000 feet at 300 knots as fixed-wing aircraft. Range is expected to be 664 nm/1,230 km, and XTI estimates direct operating costs of just $350 per hour.
(AIN) Avionics sales climbed 2.9 percent last year, to $2.33 billion, reversing two straight years of declines, according to the latest data from the Aircraft Electronics Association. This year-over-year increase was solely due to a 20.1 percent uptick in retrofit avionics sales, offset by lower forward-fit sales.
Of last year’s sales, 42.3 percent, or $984 million, came from forward-fit sales, marking the lowest dollar amount in this category over the last five years. In total, forward-fit sales fell nearly $160 million year-over-year in 2017. By contrast, the retrofit market showed an increase in its percentage of total sales for the fifth-straight year—to 57,7 percent—recording an all-time high of more than $1.3 billion in sales last year. Nearly three-quarters of the 2017 sales volume was in North America (U.S. and Canada), while 26.5 percent took place in other international markets, AEA said.
AEA’s data covers all business and general aviation aircraft electronic sales, including component and accessories in cockpit/cabin/software upgrades/portables/certified and noncertified aircraft electronics; tip-to-tail hardware; batteries; and chargeable product upgrades from the participating manufacturers. The amounts do not include repairs and overhauls, extended warranty, or subscription services.
(AIN) While Bombardier’s business jet delivery guidance for 2018 is flat at 135 units, company president and CEO Alain Bellemare is optimistic about the segment and is prepared to increase production volumes “if the market supports it,” he told financial analysts this morning. He described the business jet market sentiment as “positive,” with the company seeing increased sales in the fourth quarter—a trend he said has continued thus far this year.
This year “will be a pivotal year for Bombardier,” Bellemare said. “We are moving out of our investment cycle and into a strong growth cycle.” He said that one of the largest contributors to this growth is the Global 7000, which is set to enter service later this year and has a three-year backlog. Overall business jet backlog stood at $14 billion at year-end, down from $15.4 billion at the end of 2016.
The 140 business jet deliveries last year at Bombardier Aerospace were up five units from the company’s 2017 outlook, but fell 16.4 percent from the 163 jets it shipped in 2016. Last year’s shipments included 56 Challenger 350s, 45 Global 5000/6000s, 23 Challenger 650s, 14 Learjet 70/75s, and two Challenger 850s. In 2016, the mix was 62 Challenger 350s, 51 Globals, 26 Challenger 605/650s and 24 Learjets.
(AIN) Airbus Helicopters is incorporating helicopter booking platform Voom as part of its urban mobility strategy. Developed by Airbus A3 in Silicon Valley and initially deployed commercially in April 2017 in São Paulo, Brazil, Voom has been used to successfully fly thousands of passengers by helicopter over the past 10 months.
The platform connects travelers with trusted and licensed helicopter operator partners, allowing air-taxi flights to be booked in as little as 60 minutes in advance. “Following our launch in Brazil, we are expanding into additional cities, beginning with Mexico City early this year,” said Voom CEO Uma Subramanian.
“Urban transportation on and below ground is reaching its limits, and naturally Airbus is looking to the skies to redefine a third axis for public transportation solutions,” said Matthieu Louvot, Airbus Helicopters executive vice president of customer support and services. “Voom will allow us to expand the usage of existing helicopters for the benefit of urban citizens and operators.”
In addition to applying Voom to helicopters, Airbus is exploring a range of urban mobility solutions, including the four-passenger, self-piloted CityAirbus eVTOL demonstrator; the single-passenger, self-piloted A3 Vahana eVTOL aircraft; A3's Altiscope project to help shape regulations and certification requirements to safely integrate eVTOLs in urban skies; autonomous urban parcel delivery by drones; and the Racer high-speed demonstrator, which aims to connect urban centers.
Those looking for pristine preowned business jets are being advised to "buy now" by business aviation data firm JetNet, which has declared that the pendulum has swung to a seller's market. (Photo: David McIntosh/AIN)
The preowned business jet market transitioned to a seller’s market in December, with inventory now at 9.9 percent, just below the 10 percent threshold of inventory for sale and down from 11 percent in December 2016, according to data released yesterday by JetNet. Inventory of preowned business jets has decreased steadily from a high point of 2,938 aircraft in July 2009, or 17.7 percent of the in-service fleet, to 2,143 jets in December.
“A period of transition is now in play, wherein the pendulum swings [from] in favor of the buyer to the seller,” the business aviation data firm said. “The pristine used jets that were on the market a few years ago have become more challenging to locate. The sage advice for buyers is to act now. The counsel of ‘just wait a few months—the price will come down’ may not present itself as we break into the seller’s market environment.”
According to JetNet, there were 2,668 business jet transactions last year, an increase of 177, or 7.1 percent, over 2016. Preowned transactions were boosted last year by large-cabin jet deals, which accounted for 37 percent, or 992, of the total transactions; this was up 17.3 percent from 2016. Sales of preowned light jets also surged 8.2 percent last year, to 952 transactions. Meanwhile, preowned midsize jet sales slumped 4.9 percent, falling from 630 in 2016 to 599 last year.
“The recovery in business aviation during the post-recession period has been underwhelming,” JetNet said. “Now that 2018 is here, we hope the U.S. preowned market, along with improvements in the world economy, will continue to push more new aircraft purchases.”
An infrastructure plan introduced by the White House would shift an emphasis from federal investment to state, local, and private funding for major projects, including for airports. (Photo: Foster CM Group)
The White House today unveiled an infrastructure plan that shifts an emphasis from federal investment to state, local, and private funding for major infrastructure projects, including for airports. The plan does not focus on air traffic control functions, but seeks to increase non-federal investment in and/or privatization of more U.S. airports. In addition, the plan seeks to curb the FAA’s activities involved in approval and management of certain airport projects.
A key to the plan is an infrastructure incentive program, backed by government grants, that would encourage state, local, and private investment. Such a program would apply to a range of infrastructure, from surface transportation and rail to waterways and airports. In addition, the plan seeks to widen availability of federal credit facilities and bond options, including for airports. Also on the funding front, the plan calls for streamlining and reducing the paperwork required for passenger facility charges (PFCs) at small hub airports.
The plan would enable the divestiture of certain federal infrastructure—including Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Dulles International Airport—to state, local and/or private entities. Also, the plan would remove certain constraints on privatization of airports, including a limit on the number and size of airports that can participate in the current pilot program.
As for the FAA’s involvement, the plan states that the current review process for projects burdens the FAA and slows project delivery. Limiting the scope of the FAA’s approvals and oversight “would create more efficient FAA oversight of critical airfield infrastructure,” the White House said.
The infrastructure proposal is designed to stimulate investments, reduce regulatory barriers, and shift decision-making authority to state and local governments, the White House said.
While aviation groups were still reviewing the proposal today, the initial review from the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), was positive, at least reagarding the PFC aspect. “For airports, the answer to building infrastructure is as easy as PFCs. Lifting the outdated federal cap on airport user fees would allow airports to utilize local dollars for investment immediately and to leverage those resources through bonds to further multiply their benefit into the future—100 percent consistent with what the President has outlined today,” AAAE president and CEO Todd Hauptli said. “If Washington is serious about airport infrastructure investment, it will move quickly to approve the bipartisan proposal on PFCs that is under consideration as part of the FY 2018 budget package.”
After two decades in development, the HondaJet was FAA type-certified in 2015. The jet features distinctive overwing-mounted turbofans.
Honda Aircraft president and CEO Michimasa Fujino is trying to change the attitude of business jet buyers in the Asia-Pacific region, but especially in China, hoping to convince potential owners that the light HondaJet is an ideal fit.
Interest in business jets in Asia tends to favor large-cabin jets, and that is where most sales have trended. “We’re looking to penetrate this market by introducing a very efficient jet,” Fujino said. And to that end, Honda Aircraft brought two HondaJets to Singapore, one for display at the Singapore Airshow (Chalet CD65) and another for customer demonstrations at Seletar Aerospace Park. This is the first time that Honda Aircraft has exhibited at the Singapore Airshow.
Honda Aircraft’s new China dealer, Honsan General Aviation of Guangzhou, will play a key role helping spread the word about the benefits of light jet flying in China, by setting up alternative ownership opportunities for interested buyers. What this will look like is helping potential buyers, especially the younger generation that don’t like to own expensive assets, to take advantage of charter, fractional share, and jet card opportunities. “This is ideal for the young entrepreneur,” he said. Honsan General Aviation will help manage its customers' aircraft and make all of these ownership opportunities available, Fujino explained. “We’re trying to create a new business model, and looking for a holistic way to expand.”
Fujino is encouraged at the rapid expansion of airports in China, but he also believes that, for traditional large-cabin jet owners, the six- to seven-seat HondaJet could be an efficient sporty adjunct for short trips with fewer passengers.
Honsan’s first HondaJet is due for delivery in the first quarter of 2019. Honda Aircraft (Chalet CD65) is expecting Chinese CAAC certification in early 2019.
Despite some retrenching in deliveries of new jets in China and the Asia-Pacific region, Fujino sees plenty of opportunity in Asia. “The perception of Chinese people for business jets is much stronger than I thought,” he said. And the Honda brand recognition helps, too, as potential buyers are comfortable and familiar with the company. “Not many people know the other aircraft manufacturers,” he said, “but they know Honda. We have very good trust from our customers.”
In three to five years, Fujino believes, the Asian market will account for 10 percent of the world’s business jet deliveries. “It’s a challenging target, but I think it’s an achievable target.”
An increase in business aviation flight hours yielded a similar boost in fuel sales, FBO operators reported.
On the eve of the NBAA Schedulers and Dispatchers Conference this week in Long Beach, California, the Aviation Business Strategies Group (ABSG) released the results of its annual FBO Survey and Industry Forecast. According to the company, 53 percent of FBOs surveyed indicated they saw a year-over-year increase in fuel sales in 2017. While nearly a third of surveyed FBOs reported lagging fuel sales from 2016, the top-fifth performing facilities saw fuel sales climb by more than 8 percent last year, noted ABSG co-principal John Enticknap. “In fact, several that we talked to reported back-to-back months of record fuel sales.”
Those sales were boosted by a surge in business aviation flight hours, said ABSG co-principal Ron Jackson. “Flight data provided by Argus TraqPak shows that flight activity in 2017 eclipsed 3 million flight hours for the first time since 2008,” he said. “With Part 135 operators leading the way, 2017 flight activity rose 3.9 percent from 2016, while flight hours rose 5.5 percent for the same period.”
Nearly half of those businesses responding to the survey said they added to their workforce last year and plan to boost staffing with newly created positions this year. “This not only shows increased economic confidence, but it also helps verify leading market indicators that point to at least a mild business aviation market recovery,” added Jackson.
When asked about their confidence in the economy, nearly three-quarters of the respondents said it is headed in the right direction. “We were encouraged to see that 73 percent gave the economy a strong thumbs-up,” Enticknap said. “By comparison, in last year’s survey, 53 percent approved the direction of the economy, and the year before, only 27 percent gave approval.”
When asked about the coming year, half of the respondents said they expect their fuel sales to rise between 1 and 8 percent, while nearly 10 percent predicted even greater improvement. Only 7 percent forecast lower fuel sales in 2018.
As part of its analysis, ABSG predicts that the FBO industry will continue its moderate recovery from the 2008-09 downturn, and consolidation will be moderate among the larger chains while new FBO networks will emerge with target acquisitions that include second-tier FBO locations. Based on continued expansion of the U.S. economy, the company expects business aviation flight hours will continue to grow at a pace of between 2 and 4 percent monthly throughout the year, translating to increased FBO fuel sales.
Still wearing its ‘Experimental’ markings, this Gulfstream G600 will be on static display throughout the Singapore Airshow 2018. FAA type certification is expected later this year. Photo: Mark Wagner
Gulfstream’s two newest business jets, the G500 and G600, are making their Asia debuts this week at the Singapore Airshow.
“We’re excited to have the G500 and G600 in Asia, so customers can explore their exquisite interiors, unparalleled comfort and superior craftsmanship,” said Mark Burns, president of U.S.-based Gulfstream Aerospace (Stand CF27).
Both the G500 and G600 are on track for U.S. Federal Aviation Administration type certification and entry into service this year, Burns said. The G500 is entering the final stage of its certification program, while the G600 recently completed field performance testing. Last October, Gulfstream announced performance enhancements for both aircraft, including a range increase in the G500 to 5,200 nautical miles/9,630 kilometers, while the G600’s range has been upped to 6,500 nm/12,038 km. Each has a maximum operating Mach number of 0.925.
Along with a flight-test aircraft from each program, Gulfstream also has on static display its flagship G650ER, along with examples of the G550 and G280.
“Customers based in the Asia-Pacific region require aircraft that have the range, speed and payload capability to travel easily between world business centers,” said Burns. “Each aircraft we’re showcasing in Singapore, including the G500 and G600, is at the top of its class.”
More than 330 Gulfstreams are in service in the Asia-Pacific region, the majority of them (280) its signature large cabin jets. To support the fleet, the company has its Gulfstream Beijing service center; two factory-authorized service centers; and four Gulfstream-authorized warranty facilities in the region.
Gulfstream’s jets are also used in special missions roles, and company representatives are on hand at the U.S. Pavilion to discuss these applications with interested parties.
Sales of new business jets, such as this Cessna Citation M2, aren't likely to see an increase this year from the recently passed U.S. tax law, according to Citi Research U.S. aerospace and defense senior equity analyst Jonathan Raviv. He believes the tax benefits will help clear out preowned business jet inventory this year, which could then lead to a resurgence in new aircraft sales in 2019. (Photo: Textron Aviation)
Citi Research U.S. aerospace and defense senior equity analyst Jonathan Raviv believes that the new U.S. tax law, which allows for “full expensing” of both new and preowned business jet purchases, won’t provide an “immediate boost” for new aircraft sales. He also does not see “much change in the price delta, which has pressured new aircraft demand.”
Raviv, however, expects the new rules to help clear the used inventory faster, thus improving “residual values, pricing and then eventually new aircraft demand.” But, he noted, “This takes time, so we think 2019 is the earliest we’d see a material benefit for OEM production rates.”
He also believes that the new tax law is more likely to benefit the more “economically sensitive” customers who opt for light and midsize jets, rather than those purchasing a large-cabin jet. “But, overall we think tax reform is another sentiment boost for business as it approaches the end of the ‘lost decade,’” he concluded.
The fifth Global 7000 flight-test vehicle made its first flight on January 30, as the program progresses toward certification later this year. (Photo: Bombardier Aerospace)
Bombardier’s fifth Global 7000 (FTV5) competed its first flight late yesterday afternoon, rounding out the full complement of flight-test vehicles for the program. The initial flight, from Bombardier's Toronto facility, lasted 4.6 hours. Dubbed “The Masterpiece,” FTV5 incorporates a slightly lighter wing and will be used to validate tests completed to date. The aircraft will complete the type certification campaign, paving the way for entry-into-service later this year, Bombardier said.
Since the first Global 7000 flew on Nov. 4, 2016, the test fleet has accrued more than 1,300 flight hours. “It’s an exciting time for the program and the team as we enter the certification phase and get closer to the aircraft’s entry into service in the second half,” said Michel Ouellette, senior v-p for the Global 7000 and 8000 programs.
The program continues to check off key milestones, including testing in crosswinds at high-altitude airfields and in all-weather conditions. “The results speak to the aircraft’s maturity, reliability, and strong performance,” said François Caza, v-p of product development and chief engineer. “In addition to flight testing, we continue to progress our ground-test program and have now met the full airframe fatigue test milestone as required by authorities for entry into service.”
Once certified, the four-zone, $75 million Global 7000 will become Bombardier’s flagship business jet, flying 7,400 nm and achieving speeds of up to Mach 0.925.
For more than a decade the G450 has been a mainstay of Gulfstream's product line, but after production of more than 360 of the long-range twin jets, the OEM has ended its run to make way for the all-new G500, which is expected to achieve certification in the first quarter of 2018. (Photo: Gulfstream)
Gulfstream Aerospace delivered its final G450 as it prepares to usher in its replacement, the fly-by-wire G500, the company announced on Friday. The G450 entered service in 2005 and quickly proved it had longer legs than anticipated, flying 4,350 nm at Mach 0.80.
“For the past 12 years, the G450 has been one of the best-selling jets in the industry, beloved by pilots and passengers alike for its technological advances, smooth handling, range, and passenger comfort,” said Gulfstream president Mark Burns. “During its 30-year history, the GIV series transformed business aviation, and the G500 is already well on its way to doing the same, with the industry’s first active-control sidesticks and the most integrated application of touchscreen controls in the flight deck.”
Like its predecessor, the G500 is exceeding its anticipated range, able to fly 5,200 nm at Mach 0.85. Five of the new clean-sheet types are currently participating in its test program, and certification is expected in the next few months.
The Savannah, Georgia-based airframer has produced more than 360 G450s, which have amassed nearly one million flight hours over more than 461,000 flights. Burns noted the company will continue to provide full product support and sustaining engineering for G450 fleet.
Bell Helicopter's four-passenger, electric VTOL urban air-taxi design will offer full connectivity, including video conferencing capability. (Photo: Bell Helicopter)
Bell Helicopter will unveil its design for an urban air-taxi design tomorrow at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The four-passenger design will offer full connectivity, including video conferencing capability.
“The future of urban air taxi is closer than many people realize. We believe in the positive impact our design will have on addressing transportation concerns in cities worldwide,” said Bell CEO Mitch Snyder. “While we are laser-focused on the passenger experience and eager to share with the public, Bell continues to develop our air-taxi design to provide safe, reliable transportation services to the world.”
Attendees can use augmented reality to see operation in various scenarios. (Photo: Barry Ambrose)
This week during CES 2018, attendees can experience an augmented reality simulator, inside the air-taxi cabin, designed to portray a variety of flight scenarios, including cross-city day and night trips. Last year, global ride-sharing service Uber and Bell announced plans to partner and accelerate the eventual large-scale deployment of electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicles.
Seat-back monitors give passengers in the rear row a look ahead. (Photo: Barry Ambrose)
Last year, Scott Drennan, Bell’s director of engineering innovation, said his company’s design would be robust enough to fly 2,000 hours per year; be “modular, adaptable, and scalable”; be able to use a variety of powerplants; have both civil passenger and military logistics applications; and likely be certified under the FAA’s new powered-lift category developed for tiltrotors. Uber believes urban air taxis can be operated for a cost near $1.32 per mile, about one-third of the price of operating a turbine helicopter.
by Ian Sheppard - December 27, 2017, 12:11 PM (AIN)
Piaggio is reiterating its commitment to the civil aviation sector, for which it manufactures the Piaggio Evo. (Photo: Mark Wagner)?
The board of Italy’s Piaggio Aerospace has approved a new strategic industrial plan that will cover the next five years and will, according to the Vollanova d’Abenga-based company, “secure the long-term financial and operational stability of the business.”
The plan is based on two main pillars: comprehensive financial restructuring and “operational commitments and developments.” The former will include a £255 million ($342 million) cash injection by Mubadala Investment Company “to support Piaggio Aerospace’s financial needs” combined with a “total bank debt repurchase and conversion to equity by the shareholder in support of Piaggio Aerospace’s balance sheet.”
On the operational side, there are four key elements: an “increased focus” on the P.1HH Hammerhead MALE (medium-altitude long-endurance) UAV, first deliveries of which are due to take place during 2018; a strengthening of the existing industrial relationship with fellow Italian aerospace company Leonardo, covering the defense and security sectors; the development of a “new production and commercialization strategy” for the P.180 business turboprop, “including the assessment of potential partner opportunities;” and, finally, the sale of Piaggio’s engines and civil aviation MRO activities.
Piaggio confirmed that “key stakeholders” supported the plan, including the Italian government and the Italian Air Force, along with the company’s sole shareholder, Abu Dhabi-based Mubadala.
Piaggio Aerospace CEO Renato Vaghi commented, “The industrial plan will be transformational…and lays the foundation to deliver long-term security built around our core programs, while creating opportunities for growth in new areas of development.”
Vaghi said, “This plan is a combined achievement for Piaggio Aerospace and its key stakeholders: our employees and union representatives; our shareholder; our strategic partners such as Leonardo; the national and regional government; and the Italian Air Force.”
Piaggio has had a difficult recent history. In September 2015 Mubadala became 100 percent owner of the company, but this was some 17 years after the UAE company headed a consortium to rescue the Italian OEM from bankruptcy.
Then last year, it was forced to reassure the business aviation sector that it was still committed to the P.180 Avanti twin-turboprop pusher, especially having launched the Evo upgraded version, after it stated 17 months ago that the primary focus of its new industrial plan would be military programs.
Deliveries of P.180s have gradually dwindled to a handful a year, and there were concerns about support, according to operators contacted by AIN in 2016. This was exacerbated after the company appeared to indicate it was about to walk away from the civil aerospace sector. The latest plan indicates divestment of the company’s remaining engines and MRO businesses, while this time supporting renewed focus on Avanti production and support.
by Matt Thurber - December 27, 2017, 10:30 AM (AIN)
With the FAA’s change to allow lower-cost modern electronics to be more easily used in cockpits, AIN expects further developments from this trend, and many new upgrade opportunities for older aircraft.
Head-up displays (HUDs), long exclusive to larger aircraft because of their weight and complexity, will find new markets in smaller aircraft. Products such as Rockwell Collins’s HGS-3500 compact HUD and the new Garmin GHD 2100 allow midsize jets to carry this valuable safety equipment. And small airplanes may soon be able to add a HUD, as MyGoFlight completes development of its low-cost SkyDisplay HUD.
Along with HUD developments are new types of sensors that will enable viewing through moist fog, something that current infrared sensors can’t accomplish. Kerr Avionics, for example, is developing a system that pairs a video camera on the aircraft to an encoded LED beacon on the ground. Others are working on various advanced sensors that will eliminate the fog problem, possibly leading to true zero-zero landing capability without the complexity of currently available autoland systems.
Of course, no look at the future of avionics would be complete without mentioning the recent strides made in airborne connectivity. High-speed Ka-band broadband on new Inmarsat and ViaSat satellites is changing the way travelers stay connected to the Internet. On the horizon are new air-to-ground technologies that will offer lower-cost access to high-speed Internet access in regions where companies such as Gogo and SmartSky are adding to and building new networks. Iridium’s new Next satellite constellation should go live this year, offering high-speed worldwide satcom services with less latency (delay) and coverage that includes polar regions. All of these technologies will enable new products that will serve passengers, pilots, and even not-so-futuristic pilotless airborne platforms.
by Sean Broderick - December 27, 2017, 11:38 AM (AIN)
The International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) governing board recently outlined the rapid growth of the International Standard for Business Aircraft Handling (IS-BAH) program and progress on gaining further recognition of the International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO). During its recent fall meeting, IBAC reported that work with ICAO's ground-handling task force on creating global guidance for flight support service providers continues. The document is expected to recognize IS-BAH as an industry standard for stakeholders to meet safety management system (SMS) requirements. A draft is expected in February for review by the ICAO task force in March. Meanwhile, IS-BAH continues to grow. There are "about 90 stations" that have met the standard, and that number could reach 120 by April based on the number awaiting audits, IBAC reported. The council also continues to work with EASA on recognition of IS-BAO as an alternate means of compliance for EASA Part NCC (non-commercial complex aircraft) “or provide significant credit toward compliance with Part NCC across all EASA member states,” IBAC said. An EASA audit team is slated to scrutinize IS-BAO in February as part of the effort. IBAC said information on ICAO's Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (Corsia) as it relates to business aviation is now available online. Operators and trip-support companies are encouraged to sign up to stay abreast of the latest developments. The council also announced its intention to develop an SMS for business aircraft operators, and approved its first-ever communications plan. More details on both are expected in early 2018, according to IBAC. The group also recently welcomed the African Business Aviation Association as its 15th member organization.
The Chinese company reasserts its strategy to increase global sales volume.
By Ashley Burns December 26, 2017 (Flying Magazine)
Bin Chen, Chairman of Diamond Aircraft Industries GmbH, Chairman of Wanfeng Aviation and President of the Wanfeng Automotive Holding Group. Diamond Aircraft
China’s Wanfeng Auto Holding Group announced it has completed the acquisition of Diamond Aircraft Group, just a year after it acquired a 60 percent share of Diamond Canada. The company said the move will have a significant impact on Diamond’s long-term future and increased global sales. When it announced last year’s cash infusion to Diamond, Wanfeng promised globally expanded production, sales and support, as well as a stronger focus on the U.S. market.
“We were attracted to Diamond’s leadership position in the market,” said Bin Chen, Chairman of Wanfeng Aviation Industry and President of the Wanfeng Auto Holding Group. “Under the 25-year leadership of founder Mr. Christian Dries, the Diamond team has developed a broad range of superb aircraft that have gained worldwide respect for their performance, efficiency, safety and innovation. Based on this excellent foundation, we intend to take Diamond to a long-term leadership position in worldwide general aviation.”
According to a company statement, Diamond employees celebrated the acquisition as part of their annual holiday festivities, touting Wanfeng’s strategy and available resources for continuing the company’s vision.
“Diamond is my life’s work,” Christian Dries, former CEO of Diamond Aircraft, explained. “In the interest of a successful long-term future, we needed to find the right partner to continue our good work. Wanfeng and specifically Mr. Bin Chen share my vision of the future of general aviation and are investing for the right reasons, with a long-term strategy and the resources to see their vision through. I look forward to seeing Diamond develop further and based on our successful year-long partnership in Diamond Canada, I am fully satisfied that I leave Diamond in very good hands.”