Business & GA, Commercial

Slow Ascent

By By James W. Ramsey   By James W. Ramsey | January 1, 2012
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The business aviation industry is bracing for what is forecast to be another slower-than-expected year in 2012, as the national economy struggles to come out of a recession. For the most part, airframe manufacturers are predicting flat or slightly higher deliveries in 2012 from 2011.

In recent down years, operators have been focused on increasing the capabilities of their aircraft by upgrading current systems, rather than buying new aircraft and 2012 will be no exception. Indeed, expectations for 2012 from attendees at business aviation’s biggest event, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) conference and exhibition held in October, seemed to be guarded, at best.

In its annual forecast released at NBAA, Honeywell echoed this, forecasting estimated deliveries of 600 to 650 new business jets in 2011, down 15 percent from 732 in 2010 “due to continued slow global economic recovery.” While 2012 deliveries are expected to be below 700 airframes, they will be higher than last year, with the industry “positioned to begin another period of expansion.”

The survey forecasts sales and delivery of $230 billion in new business jets in the next 10 years, with buying plans in Asia and the Middle East a bright spot.

“Sustainability is a concern due to the global economic slowdown,” said Rob Wilson, president of Honeywell’s Business and General Aviation business unit. “We noted over the last two years that the timing of planned purchases in the five-year window was heavily shifted in most regions to the post-2010 timeframe. That still remains the case, with roughly 80 percent of planned purchases timed for 2013 or after.”

Rockwell Collins’ senior marketing director for commercial systems, Joe Otto, agreed, saying, “you might see some production rates increase late in the year leading into 2013, but with deliveries for 2012 pretty level with 2011.”

Gulfstream is optimistic about 2012, saying certification and flight test programs for its G650 and G280 models are progressing. “We’re making a lot of airplanes in Savannah,” Pres Henne, Gulfstream senior vice president of programs, said during the company’s press conference at NBAA.

At the show, Gulfstream said it had an $18 billion backlog, which grew by more than $400 million in the second quarter. The delivery window for most products is an 18-month to 24-month “sweet spot,” according to Gulfstream Aerospace president Larry Flynn. G650 orders extend into 2017.

“Businesses that were once regional are now global,” Flynn said. “And their leaders need long-range transportation. They recognize Gulfstream as the leader in international markets and are the key drivers behind that growth.”

Larger-Jet Market

With the growing need for longer-range international travel both by domestic and overseas customers, the market for larger corporate jets has remained strong. Gulfstream, which unveiled its newest entry, the ultra-long-range G650 in 2010, moved closer to its anticipated certification after completing tests of its fly-by-wire and other systems.

“We expected to deliver the first 10 to12 ‘green’ G650s into final-phase completions in 2011, with customer deliveries to begin in the second quarter of 2012,” a Gulfstream spokesperson said. The Savannah, Ga.-based manufacturer’s planned production rates on the G650 for 2012, 2013 and 2014 are 17, 32 and 32, respectively, according to a report from Jay Johnson, chairman and CEO of parent company General Dynamics. There are some 200 orders for the aircraft extending to 2017.

On Nov. 18, the G650 received FAA provisional type certification (PTC), clearing the way for the company to begin interior completions in preparation for customer deliveries in the second quarter of 2012. The four G650 aircraft in the flight-test program have flown more than 2,225 hours during more than 675 flights. More than 20 aircraft are in various stages of initial or final phase production.

The G650 — which features a Thales fly-by-wire flight control system — has a PlaneView II flight deck, Gulfstream’s adaptation of the Honeywell Primus Epic avionics system. The avionics suite features four 14-inch adaptive LCD displays, and a synthetic vision-primary flight display. Gulfstream, which pioneered enhanced vision systems (EVS) on business aircraft, has its EVS II system on the G650 in conjunction with Rockwell Collins’ latest head-up-display (HUD). Rockwell Collins also provides the pilot controls and trim actuation systems for the aircraft.

Primus Epic on the G650 includes triple FMS, radio/nav package, and Honeywell’s new-generation IntuVue 3-D weather radar that can be displayed on the pilot’s MFD or PFD.

Gulfstream said a lot of progress has been made on its G280, the aircraft introduced in 2008 as the G250. The company increased its range by 200 nautical miles, allowing it to fly nonstop from London to New York. The G280 is conducting final activities required for a type certificate from FAA and EASA.

The avionics certification is moving forward as well. The PlaneView avionics suite, based on the Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion system, was “on target to be certified on the G280 during the first quarter of 2012,” Otto said.

The G280 features PlaneView avionics suite includes three 15-inch diagonal LCD displays working in concert with the Gulfstream-designed multifunction controller. It has dual flight management systems (FMS) with wide area augmentation/localizer precision vertical and required navigation performance capabilities. It also includes Rockwell Collins’ MultiScan weather radar and TSS-4100 traffic surveillance system with automatic dependent surveillance broadcast capabilities. The Rockwell Collins HGS-6250 digital LCD head-up guidance system (HUD II) is optional.

A similar Pro Line Fusion-based system, named Global Vision, is on the Bombardier Global 5000 and 6000 aircraft and has already been certified, with entry into service expected in the next few months.

Light-to-Medium Jets

Outside of the larger Gulfstream-sized jets, the market has been slow to recover. While Gulfstream’s backlogs have grown, Cessna said its aircraft backlog shrank by $400 million during the first six months of 2011. However, airframe and avionics manufacturers see growth potential in this market, and are introducing new products in hopes of capitalizing on some of it. Cessna CEO Scott Ernest characterized the overall business aviation market as “spotty” but said the company would see a slight uptick in deliveries in 2011 from 2010. “The economy is what it is,” said Mark Paolucci, head of sales at Cessna. “We can’t wait; our destiny is in our hands.”

At NBAA, Cessna introduced the Citation Latitude mid-size business jet, positioned between the Citation XLS+ and Citation Sovereign in Cessna’s product line. With space for a crew of two plus up to eight passengers, the Citation Latitude features Garmin G5000 avionics and an 84-inch fuselage for a six-foot high, flat floor passenger cabin.

“The Citation Latitude is a game-changer for the mid-size segment, offering the payload, speed and range the market requires with an unmatched cabin experience at this price point,” said Brad Thress, senior vice president, Cessna Business Jets.

The Latitude’s Garmin G5000 system includes three 14-inch LCD primary and multifunction displays and four touch-screen control panels. It includes an integrated Flight Director/Autopilot and Electronic Flight Instrument System (EFIS). Among the standard features are a pilot-vehicle touch-screen interface, TCAS II with Change 7.1, Synthetic Vision Technology, electronic charts, Garmin’s SafeTaxi, a dual flight management system with WAAS LPV and RNP, solid-state weather radar with turbulence detection and vertical scan capability, integrated terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS), ADS-B Out and Link 2000+ data link. Options include satellite weather and an ICAO Type 1A flight data recorder.

The Latitude was released only two weeks after the company introduced the Citation M2 light business jet, positioned between the Citation Mustang and the Citation CJ family with room for two crew members and up to six passengers. The $4.2 million jet has a range of 1,300 n.m. and can operate at airports with runways as short as 3,250 feet.

“Since M2 has been introduced, market response has been meeting expectations,” Brian Rohloff, Cessna’s business leader for Mustang and M2 said. The first flight of the M2 is expected in the first half of 2012 with FAA (Part 23) certification in the first half of 2013, followed by deliveries in the latter part of the year.

The M2’s cockpit design features Garmin’s G3000 avionics suite, featuring three 14.1-inch LCD primary and multifunction displays, and two infrared touch- screen control panels. Using the touch-screen controls, “the pilots can select just what they want to be looking at on the display — whether it be the weather radar, approach charts or other information, and they can have it full screen or choose to move it to a half screen and have the other half bring up another critical piece of information for that phase of flight,” said Ben Kowalski, director of aviation OEM sales and marketing for Garmin in Olathe, Kan.

Rockwell Collins is bringing its Pro Line Fusion avionics system to the light- to medium-range business jet market. The company recently unveiled a new configuration of its latest Pro Line Fusion system, tailored for the light jet and turboprop market segment. “What we announced at NBAA is taking the Fusion software … and putting it into a hardware configuration that is scaled to the fuselage-size cockpit dimensions and other things for light turboprop and mid-sized business jets,“ Otto said.

Hawker Beechcraft has selected the new Pro Line Fusion version to be a retrofit offering to its King Air line and to be a replacement for the Pro Line 21 flight deck displays currently being delivered in that aircraft, Otto said. Certification of the new system is planned for 2013.

The Pro Line Fusion system includes the displays, FMS, comm/nav surveillance systems, safety situation awareness system, crew alerting, engine indication and Multiscan weather radar. Terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS), synthetic vision and the Head-Up display are options.

Rockwell Collins also announced a synthetic vision offering that will be available in 2012 as an add-on for Pro Line 21 system users. Pro Line 21 is currently in production and being delivered for a number of aircraft — from the Challenger 650 to the King Air. “Now with Fusion for the Global 5000 and 6000, and the Gulfstream 280 and other platforms that will follow, we will start to transition out of Pro Line 21 into Pro Line Fusion,” Otto said.

Honeywell is also offering a new product for the smaller bizjet/turboprop market. It has several new “wins” — including on the Pilatus PC-12 turboprop and Viking Twin Otter — for the Primus APEX flight deck system, which is tailored after the Primus Epic platform, but is smaller with less redundancy, according to Honeywell’s Snodgrass. Primus Epic is “scalable from mid-size to air transport aircraft” and customers include the Augusta 139 helicopter and the Embraer 190/170 regional jets, Otto added.

With some 3,000 Primus Epic systems currently flying on bizjets and on regional carriers, Snodgrass described the platform as being solid.

“We are not working on new platforms. For the next decade, we will be providing mostly software upgrades with more functions,” he said. “For Primus Epic retrofits to Primus Elite we can drop in new LCDs, add synthetic vision and graphical capability, and still use the same wiring. Older cockpits require continual updates,” Snodgrass said.

The HondaJet is expected to receive its scheduled certification in 2012, which has been delayed by more than two years. Customer deliveries are expected to begin in 2013.

Return of the Eclipse

The Eclipse light business jet is back, this time in the form of the 550 offered by Eclipse Aerospace, based in Charleston, S.C.

In October, the company said the Eclipse 550, with a base price of $2.7 million, will have the same airframe and Pratt & Whitney engines of the original Eclipse 500, and will include enhanced avionics systems from Innovative Solutions & Support (IS&S), of Exton, Pa.

Eclipse said it expects to make 50 to 100 per year with deliveries in 2013.

Eclipse Aviation, founded in 1998, developed, manufactured and delivered about 250 Eclipse 500s before a lack of funding shutdown the company in 2008. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009 and was purchased by a group of investors, rebranded as Eclipse Aerospace. Last year, the company secured a minority stakeholder in Sikorsky Aircraft.

“We expect a robust customer response based on the support we’ve received from current Eclipse owners, our suppliers and the aviation community in general. Ultimate production and production levels will be driven by overall market demand, and we couldn’t be more excited or optimistic,” said Mason Holland, CEO and chairman of Eclipse Aerospace.

IS&S is providing the electronic flight instrument system (EFIS) portion of the Eclipse’s integrated Avio FMS package. The IFMS received an FAA supplemental type certificate in March.

IS&S will provide a version of the glass panel Vantage Premier avionics suite that features two 10.4-inch displays on each side, plus a 15-inch center primary flight display (PFD), Ross Cairns, IS&S vice president of business development, commercial and general aviation, told Avionics Magazine.

Other avionics enhancements in the Eclipse 550 include expanded aircraft computer systems and integrated avionics package, which will now support features such as Synthetic Vision, Enhanced Vision, dual-mode FMS, TAWS, TCAS-1, ADS-B, on-board color radar, Radar Altimeter and iPad data entry integration.

Eclipse Aerospace said it will become the first in its industry to offer Auto-Throttles as an option for the Eclipse 550.

by Cessna, introduced in September, is positioned between the Citation Mustang and the Citation CJ family. The aircraft features Garmin G3000 avionics, engines similar to those found in the Citation CJ series and an all-new cabin design.Cessna’s Citation Latitude mid-size business jet, introduced in October, has a full fuel payload of 1,000 pounds, a maximum cruise speed of 442 knots true airspeed and a range of 2,000 nautical miles.Photo courtesy CessnaGulfstream in October unveiled a new Elite Interior, an optional package featuring elements from the G650. The option is available for G550 and G450, Gulfstream said.Photo courtesy Gulfstream AerospaceHoneywell projects sales and delivery of $230 billion in new business jets in the next 10 years, with buying plans in Asia and the Middle East a bright spot. Graphics courtesy HoneywellThe Gulfstream G280’s PlaneView avionics suite, based on the Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion system, is on target to be certified during the first quarter of 2012.Photo courtesy Gulfstream Aerospace

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