Big NBAA News Including A Supersonic First Flight Date

Embraer Praetor 600
Embraer Praetor 600. Photo courtesy of Embraer

While it officially kicked off on Tuesday morning, the National Business Aviation Association tradeshow in Orlando, Florida (Oct 14-16) has been spinning up big news for the past few days, with announcements that run the gamut from one of the biggest biggest bizav orders ever to the introduction of a really fast King Air upgrade kit. 

Supersonic Coming Soon: Or so says Aerion, which announced a first flight date of 2023 for its slowly emerging supersonic bizjet. If the ambitious project does indeed fly, the plane will be powered by a GE Affinity Engine, which the planemaker says is the first supersonic engine for civil flight in 55 years. It’s also working with Honeywell on the flight deck.

Speaking of Honeywell: The aerospace giant Honeywell released the results of its latest forecast for the future of the business aviation market and it’s bullish, with predictions of sales of 7,700 turbine aircraft over the next ten years, a market valued at better than $250 billion dollars. Cabin size inequality is forecast to rule the coming decade, with 62 percent of aircraft purchased (by number) over the period predicted to be large-cabin models, a figure that represents 87 percent of the market value, as compared to just six percent of total value predicted for small cabin jets.

New Garmin Retrofit Options: Garmin launched retrofit programs for a few new jet models with its G700 TXi touchscreen flat-panel avionics systems. The company will work with partner JETTECH on the program to put the systems into the Citation 500, 550, and 560 platforms, bringing operators of those legacy planes a great upgrade option to keep their planes flying.

New Brazilian Planes: Embraer made a big splash at NBAA with the launch of its Praetor 500 Mach .83, 3250 nm range and $17 million) and the Praetor 600 (Mach .83, 3900 nm and $20.1 million). The new models are midsize and super-midsize business jets, respectively, both of which are derived from the company’s Legacy 450/500 business jets and both of which feature fly-by-wire flight control.

Blackhawk Making Waves: Waco, Texas-based Blackhawk announce that it is formally starting the certification flight test program on its Pratt & Whitney XP67A engine upgrade for the Beech King Air 300. While sporting the same power figures as the engines they will replace, the XP67A models will shine at higher altitudes, giving the Blackhawk-upgraded King Air a level of performance more typically found on light jets. Company president and CEO Jim Allmon says the new model be as fast as 350 knots.

HondaJet Updgrades: HondaJet announced an upgrade to its HondaJet HF420 called the Advanced Performance Modification Group (APMG) that will cut takeoff distance, increase maximum weight, add upgrades to the G3000 avionics suite (including takeoff and landing number calculations and improved connectivity) and more. The upgrade can be done to existing HondaJets, too.

Colossal Order: Textron Aviation and NetJets announced the fractional provider has placed a colossal order for Cessna’s emerging jets, the Longitude and Hemisphere. NetJets has agreed to purchase as many as 175 super-midsize Cessna Citation Longitude jets and up to 150 Cessna Citation Hemisphere wide-body aircraft, a deal valued at about $10 billion, based on the retail price of the aircraft. It was also announced that NetJets will be the launch customer for the Hemisphere.

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Did Avidyne Strike Gold At NBAA?

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ADS-B are four letters (and a hyphen) that strike fear into the hearts of aircraft owners, at least those who have yet to equip their birds with the next-gen surveillance gear, which the FAA is mandating be in the cockpit for essentially all business aircraft (and lots of non-business aircraft, too) by January 1, 2020.

At NBAA earlier this week Avidyne announced that it had a solution to the ADS-B problem, which it calls “G.L.A.S.,” for GPS Legacy Aviation Support–perhaps it’s not the greatest acronym, but wait until you hear what it does. The announcement might not have seemed like big news at the time, but once owners caught wind of the offer, the appeal of it was immediately clear.

Avidyne IDF-550
IDF-550 multi-function navigator from Avidyne.

The Avidyne “fix,” which is much more than just making the plane ADS-B compliant, involves installing the company’s IFD550 multi-function navigator, which does the ADS-B thing very nicely and includes a built-in ADS-B compliant WAAS receiver. It also has a wealth of other great stuff. It’s a terrific navigator—we flew and loved the IFD540 version of the product—it has built-in attitude reference sensor and 3D synthetic vision, touch and/or bezel control, built in nav-comms, terrain alerting, approach charts, and more, so in addition to the ADS-B component, owners get tons of additional features, and at a cost that’s a lot less than updated the factory installed legacy hardware. Avidyne estimates that it could be half the price and a fraction of the time of competing solutions, while, again, bringing tremendous additional features and capabilities.

The other part of the equation—yes, more value-added capability—is that IFDs with G.L.A.S. will drive existing displays—EFIS displays and even mechanical HSIs—to display LPV approaches, something they are currently incapable of doing. Avidyne pulls this trick off by essentially getting the FMS to drive the nav needles in such a way as to make them behave as though they are flying an LPV approach instead of an ILS. WAAS approaches, of course, hadn’t been invented when many of these systems were installed. The end result to the pilot is transparent.

Avidyne says its GLAS package will typically go for under $100,000, in some cases a great deal under that figure. While that still might sound like a high sum, compared to the alternative of paying as much as $200,000 or $250,000 for a legacy solution… well, it quickly becomes clear why owners were excited by the prospects.

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NBAA Wraps Up Successful Week

NBAA 2018
NBAA 2018

On Thursday NBAA/BACE 2019 wrapped its successful three-day run at the Orlando Orange County Convention Center, once again hosting a thousand exhibitors, attendees from nearly 100 countries, more than 100 aircraft on static display and countless educational, networking and other informational and business building opportunities.

In addition to the product announcements, we’ve covered elsewhere, which included new planes and big deals, some of the highlights of the show included the NBAA’s ongoing discussions with partner association the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) about the future of the mobility movement. On the Tuesday opening session, one of the speakers was Uber Elevate’s Eric Allison discussing electric vertical takeoff and landing urban mobility and a panel discussion on Wednesday moderated by GAMA chief Pete Bunce that included panelists Bruce Holmes from SmartSky Networks, Kate Fraser, head of aviation policy for Uber Elevate, Antonio Campello, president and CEO of Embraer X, and Carl Dietrich of Terrafugia, which is developing an LSA roadable plane. Topics included such things as finding the bandwidth to coordinate communications and surveillance among aerial mobility vehicles, establishing safety pathways and finding ways to work with the federal government on certification and airspace issues, among others.

Tuesday’s opening session honored members of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) with a Meritorious Service to Aviation Award, recognizing the WASP’s “extraordinary lifelong contributions to aviation,” in the NBAA’s words. Erin Miller, whose grandmother, Elaine Harmon, was a WASP accepted the award on behalf of the women. After Harmon passed away, Miller worked diligently to get legislation approved to allow WASPs burial rights at Arlington National Cemetery.

Next year’s NBAA-BACE takes place at the Las Vegas, Nevada, Convention Center October 22-24, 2019.

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Going Direct: NBAA Opens With High Hopes But Real Concerns

NBAA 2018 Kickoff Press Breakfast
NBAA 2018 Kickoff Press Breakfast

At the organization’s annual NBAA Kickoff Press Breakfast, NBAA chairman of the board General Lloyd W. “Fig” Newton and president and CEO Ed Bolen welcomed industry leaders and members of the press to the annual NBAA/BACE Convention in Orlando, Florida. Bolen, along with guests Phil Straub of Garmin and Pete Bunce of GAMA, expressed optimism for the industry, along with concerns for its future, all informed by questions about how changes in technology might affect that future.

The event is shaping up to be a big success, with more than 25,000 attendees registered for the show (October 16-18), more than a thousand exhibitors and more than a hundred of planes at the static display at Orlando Executive Airport.

During the kickoff event, Bolen shared that NBAA is celebrating a big victory, having played a big role in defeating the move in Congress, underwritten by the airlines, to privatize air traffic control. At the same time, he applauded the passage last week of a five-year FAA reauthorization bill, the first time in many years the FAA will be funded with any long-term vision instead of continuing resolutions.

But Bunce shared that one big hurdle the industry faces, and this is no secret al all, is the dearth of pilots to fly the planes that GAMA’s member companies are building, a situation so critical that Bolen floated the idea of Congress sponsoring a jobs program to promote aviation education and employment.

Predictably, the subject of ADS-B equipage came up, and Bolen mentioned that helicopters are in particularly bad shape, with just around 30 percent of them currently equipped for flight in ADS-B airspace, with the January 1st, 2020, deadline looming. When he suggested that operators need to get started on getting their planes into the shop, it was hard not to sense a level of resignation that equipage will not happen in time…what happens then, no one is discussing, most likely because there aren’t any good answers.

Pete Bunce made a chilling observation during the presentation, as well, when he observed that while it pains him, because he is a pilot, to acknowledge the fact that automation might help ease the pilot shortage in as little a time as five years. He didn’t say it out loud, but the message was clear. The days of fewer pilots in cockpits is coming sooner than we might know.

Bolen mentioned drones, and cockpit automation, and the new urban aerial mobility movement to underscore how aviation will be changing and it’s to us to keep up.  As Bob Dylan observed more than a few years ago, and it holds true for business aviation, “The times they are a changing,” and as a wise man once said, time stands still for no one, and no organization. We live in interesting times. They will only get more interesting in the years to come.

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Accident Briefs: September 2018

NOTE: The reports republished here are from the NTSB and are printed verbatim and in their complete form.


South Lake Tahoe, CA / Injuries: 1 Fatal

The noninstrument-rated private pilot was returning to his home airport along a mountainous route that he had traveled multiple times in the accident airplane. After landing for fuel at an intermediate airport, he called his wife and reported that the landing was challenging due to strong winds. He subsequently departed on the final leg of the flight, and shortly after departure, he sent her in-flight photographs which revealed limited visibility, dust storms, and lenticular cloud formations in the general direction of his intended route.

The flight progressed on a relatively constant track for the next 2 hours, during which time the airplane encountered significant headwinds, which reduced its ground speed to about half of its typical cruise speed. As the airplane approached the high terrain of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, the flight track began to deviate left and right with rapid climbs and descents. During the last 1.5 minutes of flight, the airplane descended from 10,800 ft to the last radar-recorded altitude of 9,700 ft.

Snow, rain, and strong wind hampered the search effort, and the wreckage was found 3 days after the accident covered in snow at an elevation of 8,630 ft, about 3,300 ft south of the last radar target and about 50 miles short of the destination airport. The debris field and airframe damage was consistent with a high-speed, right-wing-low impact. The airplane was equipped with a 406MHz emergency locator transmitter (ELT), which should have provided search and rescue teams with an accurate location of the wreckage, however, due to the severity of the impact, the ELT detached from the airframe and thereby its antenna. The pilot’s injuries were determined to be non-survivable.

Examination of the airframe and engine did not reveal any anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.

About 30 minutes before the accident, an air traffic controller issued the pilot a frequency change, which the pilot read back correctly. Although the airplane’s flight path continued, the pilot never made radio contact with the next controller, and neither that controller nor the previous controller was able to reach the pilot despite numerous attempts. It is possible that, during this portion of the flight, the pilot was occupied with maintaining control as the airplane began to experience the effects of downdrafts and mechanical turbulence while approaching mountainous terrain from the lee side.

A storm was passing through the area at the time of the accident with high winds, mountain obscuration, and precipitation; these conditions were both predicted and widely disseminated in published weather products. Weather analysis revealed that, during the final minutes of flight, the airplane likely either entered or was drawn into instrument meteorological and airframe icing conditions after encountering downdrafts with velocities that exceeded the airplane’s climb capability. It could not be determined whether the impact was the result of spatial disorientation after entering Page 2 of 4 WPR17FA008 the instrument conditions, the encounter with downdraft conditions, or some combination of the two. Additionally, the pilot did not use his shoulder harness, and his lap belt appeared to be loose at the time of impact. He had struck his head on the cabin roof during a prior turbulence encounter, so it is possible that this happened again, leading to some form of incapacitation during the final minutes of the flight. Furthermore, none of the airplane’s cargo, including folding chairs, water canisters, coolers, tools, and clothing had been secured. These items most likely began to shift during the downdraft encounters, possibly becoming a distraction, or even interfering with the pilot.

Although the pilot did not receive an official weather briefing before the accident flight, he was likely using a tablet-based mobile application and ADS-B device that would have provided him with weather information; additionally, conversations with his wife about the flight and interactions with air traffic control personnel regarding a temporary flight restriction (TFR) in the area indicated that he had a source of aviation weather and flight information. After departing on the flight, the high wind conditions were apparent to the pilot given the airplane’s slow ground speed, and the lenticular cloud conditions reflected the presence of mountain wave activity. Additionally, pilots on the air traffic control approach frequency that the pilot was tuned to were discussing landing options given the high wind conditions in the area. The presence of clouds at and above his flight level during the latter parts of the flight would have been obvious to the pilot.

The worsening weather conditions in the region (in particular the extreme surface winds at area airports), along with the TFR, which was located just below the final segment of his route before crossing over a large lake and into remote, mountainous terrain, may have contributed to the pilot’s reluctance to discontinue the flight and land. Additionally, his familiarity with the area and route, along with the relative close proximity of his destination, may have lulled him into a false sense of security, predisposing him to continue the flight.

Probable cause(s): The noninstrument-rated pilot’s decision to depart on and continue a flight over mountainous terrain into forecast instrument metrological conditions, icing, and hazardous wind conditions that exceeded the airplanes performance capabilities and resulted in an uncontrolled descent and collision with terrain.

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