PiperJet Altaire

Piper Aircraft has suspended its PiperJet Altaire single-engine bizjet program indefinitely. On Oct 17, Simon Caldecott was appointed as interim CEO, replacing the outgoing Geoff Berger, and Exec VP Randy Groom left the company. At that time, Caldecott announced that Piper was reviewing the Altaire program "to ensure the company is properly aligning business goals and light jet market forecasts with investment strategies and economic forecasts." One week later, the company issued a formal statement in which Caldecott noted, "The market for light jets is not recovering sufficiently and quickly enough to allow us to continue developing the program." Caldecott is Piper's 3rd new CEO in as many years. He joined Piper in 2009 after a stint as vp of assembly operations at Hawker Beechcraft, and took over the PiperJet Altaire program.

Bombardier reports that parts production has begun for its new Learjet 85. The manufacturing site at Querétaro, Mexico, has turned out several test fuselages and key elements of the composite structure, while production of the first flight test vehicle is under way. The Belfast, Northern Ireland, factory has produced several sets of spars, while in Wichita the first phase of expansion has been completed, and the facility is ready to begin final assembly of the Learjet 85. Some 40% of supplier test rigs are reported to be operational as well. The Learjet 85, positioned between the midsize Learjet 60XR and the supermidsize Challenger 300, is due to enter service in 2013.

Nextant Aerospace of Cleveland OH delivered its 1st Nextant 400XT at the NBAA convention in Las Vegas on Oct 10, five days after receiving FAA certification. Built on a remanufactured Beechjet 400A/Hawker 400XP airframe, the Nextant 400XT is the world's first completely remanufactured bizjet. (See Flightcheck, Pro Pilot, Sep 2011, pp 74–76.)

The aircraft delivered in Las Vegas was the 1st conversion for Flight Options, which operates 55 Beechjet 400A/Hawker 400XPs and expects to have them all converted to Nextant 400XTs over the next 5 years. Current firm orders cover 40 of these. (Photo) Nextant Aerospace Pres Jim Miller (L) presents a commemorative plaque to Flight Options CEO Michael Silvestro.



Nearly 1/3 of Congressmen have come out against the Obama administration's proposed $100-per-flight user fee on the aviation industry. In a letter to the Joint Com­mittee on Deficit Reduction—the so-called Super Committee—Sam Graves (R-MO) and John Barrow (D-GA), co-chairmen of the House General Aviation Caucus, wrote, "Per-flight user fees have crippled the general aviation industry in other countries, and we are concerned about the ramifications such fees would have in the US."

A similar letter from Chairman Tom Petri (R-WI) and Ranking Member Jerry Costello (D-IL) warned, "Imposing a new fee on the aviation industry in order to raise revenue would have a devastating impact on the aviation industry and fails to achieve our shared goal of improving the economy and creating jobs." A total of 134 members of the US House of Representatives signed letters strongly opposing the scheme.

Air traffic control errors are almost twice as common now as they were just 3 years ago, according to the US Government Accountability Office (GAO). But maybe not. The studies showed that the number of incidents in which controllers working approaches and departures had routed aircraft too close together nearly doubled in the 36 months ending Mar 2011. FAA attributes the apparent increase to better reporting, but the GAO suspects that the true error rate may be higher now.

Separately, runway incursions grew from 11 incidents per million takeoffs and landings in FY2004 to 18 per million in FY2010. Since at least 2007, FAA's program to reduce incursions has met its overall goals. However, the GAO report found the frequency of incidents at controlled airports has increased over the period. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL) has said that he will meet with FAA officials to study the problem.

Aviation groups have gained some unexpected new allies in their battle to block potential GPS interference by LightSquared's proposed L-band wireless broadband network—the American Soybean Association (ASA) and a coalition of 12 other national farming organizations. GPS-based technologies add an estimated $19 billion per year to US farm revenues, according to ASA officials, and provide significant environmental and safety benefits to farmers. LightSquared suggests that any risk of GPS interference could be eliminated by adding a $6 filter to receivers.


Copenhagen, Denmark-based Thrane & Thrane, which specializes in satellite communications systems, celebrated its 30th anniversary during the recent NBAA convention. The company provides office-in-the-sky systems for business aircraft as well as land, marine, and military satellite communications equipment. (Photo) Thrane & Thrane Product Brand Mgr Jennifer Marts (L) and Dir Aeronautical Sales North America Andy Beers cut a cake celebrating the anniversary.

West Star Aviation has partnered with Hawker Beechcraft for sales and installation of the Safe Flight AutoPower system on Hawker 800 series aircraft equipped with Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics. Auto­Power provides continuous thrust management from takeoff to landing or go-around. West Star expects STC approval of the system for the Hawker 800XP, 850XP, 750, 900 and 800XPr in the near future.



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