FAA reauthorization hearing focuses on NextGen

Panel of industry association leaders prepare to speak before the US House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation during a Feb 11 hearing for the FAA Reauthorization Act. Making up the panel are (L-R) ATA Pres & CEO James May, NBAA Pres & CEO Ed Bolen, RAA Pres Roger Cohen, AOPA Pres Craig Fuller and Rockwell Collins Chairman Clayton Jones representing GAMA, ALA and ARSA.

AA's Reauthorization Act will bring needed funding to airports and programs like NextGen Airspace. Under the act's provisions, $16.2 million is allocated to FAA's Airport Improvement Program (AIP), which provides federal aid to 3411 public airports across the US. AIP funding is given to airports that see over 10,000 passengers or equivalent cargo traffic per year.

Such airports receive a base amount of entitlement funding. NextGen Airspace was also a talking point at the FAA reauthorization hearings. The agency is seeking $13.4 billion over the next 4 years in facilities and equipment funding to support development of the system.

Industry

Bombardier is moving ahead with the Learjet 85 program now that all involvement with Grob Aerospace is at an end. Development and production of the all-composite midsize bizjet will now be carried out inhouse with guidance from the Bombardier Composite Advisory Council (BCAC). German manufacturer Grob, with its lengthy experience in composites, was formerly the Canadian OEM's partner on the Learjet 85. After Grob was forced to declare insolvency last year, Bombardier formed BCAC to determine the best way of continuing the Learjet 85 program. Bombardier says it is still on track for first Learjet 85 delivery in 2013 and on price at $17.2 million a copy. The model 85 is Bombardier's first clean-sheet Learjet family aircraft in 15 years. Powered by 2 P&WC PW307Bs each developing 6100 lbs thrust, it will carry up to 10 passengers over 3000 nm.

Dassault has launched a program to reduce cost of spares while increasing availability. The company has also announced that it will end its supplemental billing program where customers are charged on exchange purchases "that require a substantial amount of repairs." According to Dassault, these bills can arrive months after the original part was replaced and cost thousands of dollars.

Brazil's Federal Police Dept has placed an order for a 2nd used Embraer ERJ145ER through ECC Leasing, Embraer's wholly-owned leasing company. This aircraft will join the department's existing ERJ145ER (above), delivered in 2006, to provide air transportation for federal police officials and members of the Brazilian government. Embraer will fit the aircraft with special missions equipment prior to delivery in the first half of 2009.

Bombardier has received EASA certification for lowered EVS minimums on the Global Express XRS and 5000. European-based Global jets can now fly approaches to 100 ft. Global aircraft incorporate CMC's SureSight and I-Series sensors and Rockwell Collins HUD.

Piedmont Aircraft has split from the Landmark Aviation group to focus on sales of preowned Hawker Beechcraft aircraft. Landmark will continue its FBO, MRO, charter and managed aircraft operations as normal. Tom Mekis, who ran Piedmont's operations while it was part of Landmark, will be the new company's president and CEO. Piedmont "just didn't fit in the business model for us," says Landmark CEO Dan Bucaro. "This will allow us to focus in on those areas we've maintained. This is something we had been planning almost since the merger with Piedmont Hawthorne in 2005."

Associations launch campaign to turn industry image around

While business jet deliveries have been healthy in recent years, the next year may be a trying time for the industry, cautions GAMA Chairman Mark Van Tine, who is also pres & CEO of Jeppesen.

GAMA and NBAA have launched "No Plane No Gain"-a campaign intended to combat current negative public views of business aviation. Making the announcement during his association's annual industry review on Feb 17 in Washington DC, GAMA Pres & CEO Pete Bunce cautioned, "There are a lot of thunderstorms yet to come in our flightpath."

The associations are hoping that the website, www.noplanenogain.org, coupled with active contact with the mainstream media and all levels of government, will also help reduce the effects of the recession on the aviation industry.

Announcing the "No Plane No Gain" campaign, NBAA Pres & CEO Ed Bolen (L) and GAMA Pres & CEO Pete Bunce say they are determined to reshape the image of business aviation as an economic workhorse.

Bunce and NBAA Pres & CEO Ed Bolen pressed the necessity of changing the public perception of business aviation to that of a workhorse industry. "If you need to move products and people quickly and efficiently, business aviation is the way to do it," Bolen says. "Whether you have a product that you need delivered that's too big for the overhead bin or too sensitive for commercial carriers, or if you need to discuss proprietary business information on the way to a meeting, you can only do that with a business aircraft."

In recent weeks Cessna and Hawker Beechcraft have launched similar advertising campaigns promoting the idea that business aviation is not only viable but a vital business tool for companies around the world.

Management & charter

PlaneSmart has added a Pilatus PC12NG turboprop to its fleet of managed aircraft. It will serve customers in the Austin TX area. PlaneSmart expects to take delivery of the aircraft in April and is considering adding another to be based in the Dallas TX area. Currently under consideration are offers on aircraft ranging from a Cessna Citation CJ1 to a Piper Malibu Mirage. At present PlaneSmart operates an Eclipse 500 and a fleet of Cirrus SR20s and SR22s.

Sherpa Aircraft has begun flight-testing of its K650T Sherpa STOL turboprop. Designed as a 5-place utility/medevac aircraft, the Sherpa is powered by a single Honeywell TPE331-5 and is capable of 100-ft takeoffs. First production run will consist of 12 aircraft. Sherpa plans to sell subsequent production aircraft in kit form, with a builder-assist program at its Scapoose OR headquarters.

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