Business & GA

Business Aviation OEMs Adapt to COVID-19 Landscape

By Frank Wolfe | April 14, 2020
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HondaJet’s cockpit features the Garmin G3000 avionics suite. Honda Aircraft Company said that it will curtail HondaJet Elite production due to reduced demand because of the COVID-19 pandemic (Honda Aircraft Company Photo)

Business aviation OEMs and avionics makers are adjusting to the COVID-19 landscape through various measures, including decreasing production and moving to deliver critical medical supplies and produce ventilators and other equipment to combat the virus.

“Honda Aircraft Company has temporarily adjusted the HondaJet Elite production due to an anticipated decline in market demand due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” a representative for Honda Aircraft Company wrote in an email to Avionics International. “As the market impact of the fast-changing COVID-19 situation evolves further, Honda Aircraft Company will continue to evaluate conditions.”

HondaJet and HondaJet Elite are equipped with the Garmin® G3000 avionics suite. The HondaJet’s G3000’s all-glass avionics system has triple 14-inch displays and dual touchscreen controllers for enhanced navigation, flight planning and control. On the HondaJet Elite, the G3000 also has Garmin’s Flight Stream 510 to allow the flight crew to share flight plan data, primary flight data, and weather data between the Garmin G3000 and a personal device using the Garmin Pilot App or ForeFlight.

For its part, Garmin declined to comment on the impact of COVID-19 on the company’s business.

On Apr. 3, Garmin posted to its blog guidance on cleaning avionics systems. “Cleaning your Garmin avionics is a great way to not only maintain a clean cockpit environment, but also help prevent the spread of disease,” the company said. “Because our products are built with sophisticated electronic components and touchscreen materials, it’s important to take special care in choosing which cleaning method is best for your specific Garmin products.”

Garmin advised against using cleaning products with ammonia, as the latter “will harm the antireflective coating on many Garmin aviation display lenses.”

“Disinfecting using a solution of 70 percent isopropyl alcohol that does not contain ammonia is preferred,” Garmin said. “Solutions of up to 91 percent isopropyl alcohol are also acceptable. Clean the display lens using a clean, lint-free cloth and a cleaner that is specified as safe for antireflective coatings. For other exposed surfaces such as knobs, buttons and bezels, a damp cloth with soap and water is acceptable. Garmin does not recommend bleach-based cleaners, ammonia-based cleaners or other harsh chemicals on any surface. Remove all soap/soap residue to prevent buttons and knobs from gumming up or becoming slippery. Many aviation products are not rated as waterproof. Spraying or wetting the units to the extent where moisture could go beyond the exterior surfaces could damage the unit.”

Honeywell, for its part, said that it is “prioritizing the health and safety of our employees and will work with customers and suppliers to evaluate and address any potential supply chain disruptions.”

On March 26, Honeywell entered into a $6 billion delayed draw term loan agreement with Citibank, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase Bank, and Wells Fargo Bank “to maximize financial flexibility, further bolster liquidity, and further strengthen resilience in uncertain times.”

Honeywell said this month that its operations in Phoenix and Rhode Island will allow production of 20 million N95 masks per month to combat COVID-19 in the United States.

To assess the impact of COVID-19, Embraer Executive Jets runs “recurring simulations and models to continually assess the situation,” Embraer wrote in an email to Avionics. “As a result, we have scaled back business jet production in the short-term and adjusted the product mix to reflect a realistic demand. The whole supply chain is monitoring and adjusting operational capacity in order to adapt to the new demand scenario.”

Embraer also said that it has mobilized its supply chain to help build parts for COVID-19 ventilators and respirators and to develop high-efficiency filtration systems in coordination with Albert Einstein Hospital in São Paulo, Brazil to convert regular hospital beds into intensive care beds.

General Dynamics’ Gulfstream Aerospace has kept its production lines for business aircraft open, and the company said on Apr. 7 that it has donated 3,500 N95 masks and more than 3,100 protection suits to U.S. hospitals and public health organizations. Gulfstream has reported that employees at its Savannah headquarters and facilities in Westfield, Mass., Cohokia, Ill., and Dallas Love Field have tested positive for COVID-19, but the company said that it did not close those facilities wholesale but only the affected areas temporarily for disinfection.

In February, Gulfstream completed the first flight of the new G700 business jet at its Savannah, Ga. campus, where an employee was recently discovered to have tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus. Photo: Gulfstream

“Many of our facilities remain operational in accordance with identification of aviation as critical infrastructure by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cyber & Industrial Security Agency (CISA),” Gulfstream said on Apr. 9. “Per CISA, the business sectors defined as critical infrastructure are ‘… so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof.’ Guidance from the U.S. president notes that critical infrastructure industries have a ‘special responsibility’ to maintain a normal work schedule during the global COVID-19 outbreak.”

Wichita-based Textron Aviation has furloughed 7,000 of its 12,000 U.S. workers and said last week that it has begun making plastic face shields and cloth masks for medical workers, first responders, and employees.

The company said that its aircraft are aiding in medical supply and personnel delivery to hospitals, including a Cessna Citation CJ2+ business jet used by Texas-based emergency disaster response company Active Deployment Systems.

“The business and general aviation industry plays an important role in the COVID-19 pandemic relief and recovery efforts as it assists with medical flights, cargo flights of medical supplies and emergency services,” Andre Castro, a spokesman for General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), wrote in an email to Avionics. “It is imperative that our member companies can continue to deliver aircraft, engines and parts, including avionics, as much as feasible. The ability to ship avionics equipment is crucial to the continued operations of vital air services. We are working with regulators and policymakers to ensure that restrictions do not inhibit the manufacturing, trade or shipment of such integral components.”

On Apr. 2, the European Business Association and GAMA wrote to European policy makers and regulators on the COVID-19 pandemic and urged them to devise an action plan for business aviation.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is having a devastating impact on the aviation sector,” according to the letter from EBAA Secretary-General Athar Husain Khan and GAMA President Pete Bunce. “Just like our partners in the airlines’ industry, the 374,000 people who work in the European Business Aviation sector are facing a crisis of unprecedented magnitude and uncertain futures. In the last week of March, Eurocontrol observed a decrease of 72 percent in business aviation traffic, with some variations depending on countries or regions. Estimated revenue losses for the thousands of SMEs [subject matter experts] that make up our sector currently range from 50-90 percent.”


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