By J. DOUGLAS HINTON, For General Aviation News
The 2009 National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Convention held last month in Orlando, Florida, might best be characterized as a mixed bag of gloom and hope.
First day registrations were down 22% from last year, there were lots of empty display spaces in the convention hall and three of the “biggies” — Cessna, Hawker Beechcraft and Piper — elected to forego the convention hall for static display only at Orlando’s Executive Airport.
Putting a brave face on it, both NBAA President Ed Bolen and GAMA President Pete Bunce expressed confidence that the worst is over, that the stock market has rebounded, that Congress and the White House have stopped their attacks on business aviation, that banks are beginning to lend again and that used aircraft inventories are beginning to dwindle.
Under the “No Plane No Gain” banner, Bolen and Bunce espoused a new program called “Business Aircraft E-Valuation Tool Kit,” which is intended to educate aircraft owners and the general public of the value of a business aircraft. For more information: NoPlaneNoGain.org.
That said, it was the collective opinion of virtually all OEM CEOs that the recovery will be slow and that 2010 will still be a rough year. Hawker Beechcraft CEO Bill Boisture even evinced, “It may be as late as 2012 or 2013 before we see a complete recovery.”
As a consequence, further development of the HB 450XP has been put on hold, as have the Cirrus Vision jet and the Cessna Columbus.
But not all was gloom and doom. There was some good news:
STRATOS 714 JET
This is a new four-place, mostly composite entry into the VLJ market (though “personal jet” is preferred to “very light jet,” according to Chairman Michael Michael Lemaire). It will have a service ceiling of 41,000 feet, a cruise speed of 400 kts, a range of 1,500 nm, have FADEC controls on either a Williams or Pratt & Whitney powerplant, and will be sold factory-direct.
The $2 million jet is scheduled to fly late in 2010 with deliveries to begin in late 2012.
For more information: StratosAircraft.com.
The Dornier Seaplane Co. came into existence 100 years ago and has been building amphibious aircraft ever since. Present at NBAA’s static display was the company’s current offering, the Seastar, a 10- to 12-place all-composite aircraft, powered by two push and pull P&W turboprop engines mounted high on the fuselage and mostly out of spray’s way.
With a cruise speed of 180 kts, service ceiling of 15,000 feet, a range of more than 700 nm and the ability to handle waves up to 3 feet, the Seastar is ideal for maritime patrol, search and rescue, medevac, survey work and tourism, according to company officials.
Presently headquartered in Punta Gorda, Florida, manufacturing of the aircraft is being moved to Canada, either North Bay, Ontario, or St. Jean sur Richelieu, Quebec. Chairman Conrad Dornier explained: “We chose Canada because of the skilled labor pool, low real estate costs and uncrowded airspace over an abundance of lakes.” Winter operations, however, will remain in Punta Gorda. Dornier will build one aircraft in 2011 and up to 36 per year by 2016, according to CEO Joe Walker, who noted the company currently has 25 letters of intent from customers for the $6 million Seastar.
For more information: DornierSeaplane.com
Chairman, President and CEO Jack Pelton started off with the bad news: Cessna has downsized its work force by 50% to 8,000 employees, while Citation jet deliveries for 2009 will be 192 fewer than last year.
With that, he stated that Cessna is now “perfectly poised” to take advantage of the improving economy. With used inventory dropping, order cancellations declining and negative rhetoric from the press and White House on the wane, he went on to say that fuel sales are up and new orders are on the rebound.
Roger Whyte, senior vp of sales and marketing, mentioned that single-engine sales are strong, that the first Chinese-built Skycatchers will soon arrive in Wichita, and that the backlog for this new LSA entry stands at more than 1,000 orders.
Also unveiled at the show was Cessna’s ServiceDirect Program, where Cessna technicians will come to you to fix a problem, rather than you having to go to a service center.
For more information: Cessna.com.
Piper Aircraft’s PiperJet will be a launch customer for the new Garmin G3000 – the world’s first touchscreen-controlled integrated flightdeck for turbine aircraft.
“PiperJet pilots will have the ability to reach out and touch real-time information,” said John Becker, Piper’s president.
The single-pilot jet, priced at $2.2 million, is capable of reaching a cruising speed of 360 kts and a maximum operating altitude of 35,000 feet. The six passenger PiperJet – with an option for either a seventh seat or enclosable lavatory – has a range of 1,300 nm and a full-fuel payload of 800 lbs.
For more information: Piper.com
In preparation for the first flight of the conforming HondaJet in early 2010, Honda Aircraft Co. has completed major structural assemblies, including the fuselage, wing, empennage, landing gear, and other components.
The $3.9 million HondaJet also will feature the Garmin G3000.
Sales of the jet began in October 2006. Order book now stands at more than 100, according to company officials.
The HondaJet proof-of-concept aircraft has accumulated more than 500 flight test hours and attained a top speed of 420 kts (483 mph) and a maximum altitude of 43,000 feet in flight testing. It is powered by two GE Honda HF120 turbofan jet engines.
For more information: HondaJet.com.