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Sun, Dec 31, 2006

2006 Year-In-Review: Business Aviation

For business aviation, 2006 was a year of firsts, lasts and celebrations -- first flights, last planes off the line and dreams coming to fruition for some long-suffering players. The highs and lows made for a roller coaster of a year:

January

The year started with the first flight of the Spectrum 33, a light business jet first announced at NBAA in 2005. With a cruising speed of up to 415 knots and a roomy cabin to boot, the Spectrum launched with the promise of vast improvements in the economy of business class jets... Hoping to provide a real-time resource for maintainers of business aircraft, the NBAA in January launched its Forum for Enhanced Reliability and Maintenance Standards (FERM) web site. The idea: provide users with a clearinghouse of information aimed at enhancing safety... Looking forward to full-tilt production and then some, Eclipse Aviation broke ground in January on a new production facility that, when completed, would double the size of the production floor... January also marked the first flight of the Bombardier Challenger 605 -- a flawless maiden performance that came on schedule, as announced in 2005... The FAA refused in January to ground the Mitsubishi MU-2, a line of aircraft that, while greatly appreciated by owners and operators, has certainly seen its share of mishaps.

February

National Air Transportation Association (NATA) President James K. Coyne called the FY 2007 budget released by the White House a "poorly timed retreat from the nation's responsibilities to aviation at a time when the air transportation industry needs to advance most." Most notably underfunded, according to Coyne: the Airport Improvement Program, whose budget the president proposed to cut from $3.7 billion in FY 2006 to $2.75 billion in FY2007... Marking a renewed interest in the line, Bombardier announced plans to restart production of its CRJ200/Challenger 850 line. The aircraft was shelved in October 2005... February was a big month for Eclipse Aviation -- named winner of the NAA's Collier Trophy. Vern Raburn and company thus joined the likes of the Apollo 11 crew, Chuck Yeager and Scott Crossfield at the rarified altitude of top of class.

March

Starting March 1, 2006, buyers and sellers had to comply with a new international treaty covering aircraft with eight or more seats and helicopters with five or more seats -- and with engines rated at 550 horsepower or more. AOPA reported the Aircraft Protocol to the Cape Town Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment (shown below) requires a title search and registration through the Cape Town International Registry (CTIR) whenever one of these larger aircraft changes hands -- even if the sale is domestic... Cessna Aircraft Company announced in March its first flight of the Citation Encore+, a significant step toward the anticipated certification of the airplane early in the fourth quarter... The FAA asked Hawaii Air Ambulance to keep its fleet of aircraft on the ground after the company halted operations in March. This, in the wake of an accident in which three crew members were lost in the crash of one of the company's Cessna 414 Chancellors. The plane went down on approach to land at Kaluhui Airport.

April

The new Bombardier Learjet 60 XR successfully executed a rigorous two-hour, 20-minute first flight... Citing a message posted in Arabic on an Internet forum, the Transportation Security Administration warned owners of corporate jets and airport officials to be vigilant of dangers, and urged them to boost security. The web site message cited by the TSA also included instructions on how to distinguish US tail numbers and mentioned the tail number of a bizjet used by the CIA to covertly transport terror suspects.

May

The Federal Aviation Administration Southwest Region office revoked the air carrier operating certificate of Ammerican Air Network (ANN), Inc., of Chesterfield, MO. AAN appealed the emergency order of revocation, but dropped the appeal after the FAA presented its case before a National Transportation Safety Board administrative law judge in December. The parties reached an agreement on certain terms of the revocation.The FAA determined that AAN permitted flights for hire or compensation to be conducted on its air carrier certificate when individuals who did not hold an air carrier certificate exercised operational control of those flights. AAN described itself as "a Part 135 management company."

June

Cessna Aircraft Company celebrated 10 years of producing its single-engine piston aircraft at the company's Independence, KS manufacturing facility. Over the past decade, more than 6,000 Cessna 172 Skyhawks, 182 Skylanes and 206 Stationairs have been built, painted, flight tested and delivered to customers, since the company resumed single-engine production in 1996... Then, less than two weeks after its public unveiling at that celebration, the first production Citation Mustang assembled at the plant took to the skies for the first time, on a two-hour-and-twenty-minute test flight... The flight test prototype of the Excel-Jet Sport Jet was "extensively" damaged during a takeoff accident in Colorado Springs, CO, in June. One report indicated that a wingtip contacted the ground during the takeoff roll, initiating a series of events which culminated in the accident.

July

Based on a months-long investigation into the safety of cargo and charter operations, the Miami Herald suggesting that the government often bypasses other factors to blame the pilot in eight out of ten cases. This, in an industry the Herald says is dogged by safety woes... At the onset of the EAA Oshkosh fly-in, ANN confirmed rumors that Honda was going to announce a committment to produce the HondaJet and that a major deal was in the works for Piper Aircraft. The rumors were right. Not only did Honda commit to production of the innovative Honda TwinJet, but Piper was named a partner in a venture that will, in part, result in the production of that aircraft in the United States... What, at the beginning of the year, looked like the beginning of a remarkable new light jet ended in flames and shattered hopes in July. As Oshkosh was just getting underway, two crew members were killed when the Spectrum 33 crashed on take-off at Spanish Fork, UT... That big sigh of relief you heard during AirVenture 2006 came from Vern Raburn. FAA certification was officially granted to the Eclipse 500 at a ceremony at AirVenture 2006. The provisional type certificate was presented to Vern Raburn, president and CEO of Eclipse Aviation, by FAA Administrator Marion Blakey.

August

Even as AirVenture continued, the NTSB issued a preliminary report on the Spectrum 33 crash, citing bad rigging of the attitude controls as a possible factor in the fatal mishap. The safety board found that the aeliron controls were rigged backwards, making any input have the exact opposite effect of the one intended... The NTSB followed up on its concerns over the 2004 crash of a Bombardier CL-600-2A12 with a series of recommendations owed to the "...particular concern to the Safety Board is that a qualified 14 CFR Part 135 captain and first officer, both of whom received winter weather operations training in accordance with the company's FAA-approved winter operations procedures, could fail to understand the insidious nature of upper wing surface contamination and its threat to the safety of the flight. Further, proper CRM could have helped the crew identify the risks associated with winter weather operations..." In a letter to FAA Administrator Marion Blakey, NATA requested the agency delay implementation of the recent notice announcing a new policy requiring landing performance assessments prior to landing for all turbojet aircraft. According to the notice, all Part 121, 135 and 91(K) operators will be issued a new Operation Specification (OpSpec) or Management Specification (MSpec), as appropriate, requiring completion of a new en-route landing distance assessment for all turbojet aircraft. This calculation must take into consideration current runway conditions and allow a full stop landing with at least a 15% safety margin beyond the actual landing distance. The calculation must also occur as close to the time of arrival as practicable.

October

Although September was a quiet month for business aviation, the last Bombardier Challenger 604 business jet, serial number 5665, rolled off the assembly line in October at Bombardier's Montreal-Trudeau International Airport facility. The green aircraft will be completed by Midcoast Aviation, and is scheduled to enter customer service in spring 2007... "Get rid of the noisy jets!" That's what state officials and residents living near Teterboro Airport have been saying for over a year, and that's what users of the airport agreed to in October. Operators at the busy New Jersey airport pledged to limit night flights and ban the loudest Stage 2 aircraft. All this, to placate nearby homeowners amid fears they might seek to close the airport... October also saw the annual NBAA convention, where, in addition to announcing a proof-of-concept program for a large-cabin business jet, Cessna also formally launched the new Citation CJ4 business jet, with more than 70 orders already on the books... Also at NBAA, Piper confirmed that it will move into the jet market with the all-new PiperJet, a bird that they call "a revolutionary new aircraft that will offer customers a class-setting combination of performance, style, utility, capability and pricing."

November

The first production version of the promising -- but oft-delayed -- Sino Swearingen SJ30-2 has been delivered to its first customer. Douglas Jaffe will base his aircraft at the San Antonio International Airport, where it will fly for his company, JetTran International... With its ever-increasing concern over abuses in charter certification, the NTSB in November recommended that the FAA disseminate guidance that includes specific procedures on appropriate methods by which a certificate holder can demonstrate it is maintaining adequate operational control over all on-demand charter flights conducted under the authority of its certificate... Just in time for Thanksgiving, Cessna Aircraft Company delivered its first Citation Mustang business jet, following receipt of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) production certificate (PC) for the aircraft's Independence, KS assembly line.

December

A Brazilian court released the passports of American pilots Joseph Lepore and Jan Paladino. The two men had been held in Brazil since the September 29th midair collision between the Embraer Legacy 600 they were piloting, and a Gol Airlines 737. An inquiry appears to show the two pilots were following ATC instructions to fly at the same altitude as the 737 traveling in the opposite direction. All 154 persons onboard the airliner died when it crashed into the Amazon rain forest; the Legacy was able to execute an emergency landing with damage to one of the plane's wings.

FMI: www.aero-news.net

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