AIN Alerts
January 18, 2019
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Gulfstream, Embraer and Bombardier business jets

VNY Flies on Sustainable Alternative Jet Fuel

The business aviation industry’s focus yesterday centered on California’s Van Nuys Airport, where “Business Jets Fuel Green: A Step Towards Sustainability" took place, marking the first time sustainable alternative jet fuel (SAJF) was made available for retail sale to aircraft operators. World Fuel Services provided 8,000 gallons of the blended renewable fuel produced by California-based World Energy for the event, while Gevo, through its distributor Avfuel, offered another 6,200 gallons, which were delivered to the FBOs on the field and mixed into their fuel supplies.

According to Van Nuys Airport Association head Curt Castagna, between the time the SAJF was delivered at 6 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday afternoon, the airport saw more than 140 departures of turbine-powered aircraft. Also drawing from those supplies were aircraft supplied by Gulfstream, Bombardier, and Embraer, which took event attendees on hour-long demonstration flights to show that the fuel is a seamless replacement.

“This is drop-in fuel, it is jet-A, it just comes from a different source, you can mix it in the fuel tanks,” said Charles Etter, head of environmental and regulatory affairs and technical fellow with Gulfstream. “It has better freeze point qualities to it, it has more energy density to it, it's actually a better fuel.”


AINsight: Bizjet Market Stabilizes, Set for Growth

Although final year-end numbers for 2018 are still being tallied, the business aircraft industry book-to-bill performance was the strongest in 10 years, with most OEMs posting net new orders that matched or even somewhat exceeded factory shipments. There also is evidence that aircraft pricing has stabilized, while the rate of diminution in preowned aircraft residual values has slowed, both of which are indicators that industry supply and demand forces are rebalancing.

My best estimate right now is that there were 685 new business jet deliveries in 2018, or about 630 if the single-engine Cirrus Vision is excluded. This compares to 668 new deliveries in 2017, or 646 units excluding the Cirrus jet. Including the Cirrus Vision, business jet shipments rose 2.5 percent year over year; without it, deliveries fell 2.5 percent due to 19 fewer units at Embraer and an estimated 12 fewer at HondaJet.

With more than 2,400 preowned retail business jet transactions in the first 11 months of 2018, sales volumes were nearly matched with 2017, but transactions from September 1 to November 30 were down about 3 percent year-over-year as inventory of high-quality, younger jets dwindled.

Despite looming economic and political uncertainties, I expect new business jet deliveries to be up year-over-year on both a unit but, especially, on a dollar-value basis, driven largely by production ramp-up of several new models.

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Gulfstream Notches G280 City-Pair Record on SAJF

Gulfstream’s G280 set a city-pair record using sustainable alternative jet fuel (SAJF) on Wednesday while flying to California's Van Nuys Airport to participate in yesterday's industry-wide event, “Business Jet Fuel Green: A Step Toward Sustainability,” held to promote the use of SAJF. The record flight spanned 2,243 nm from Savannah, Georgia, to Van Nuys in 4 hours and 49 minutes, averaging a ground speed of 465.35 knots in the face of 76-knot average headwinds. 

“Gulfstream has been involved with SAJF since June 2011, when a Gulfstream G450 became the first business jet to cross the Atlantic on a blend of the fuel,” said Gulfstream president Mark Burns. “Since then, we’ve taken ever-greater steps in supporting sustainability, including securing a dedicated supply of SAJF for our corporate, demonstration and flight-test fleet.”

According to Burns, Gulfstream has flown 700,000 nm using SAFJ, reducing emissions by an estimated more than 750 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Gulfstream continues to expand its use, with plans to begin offering SAFJ to customers using its Long Beach, California facility this year, as well as using it for its large-cabin completions flights that depart from Long Beach Airport.

The city-pair record, the 64th for the G280, is pending U.S. National Aeronautic Association approval.

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NetJets, Pilot Union Sign ‘Industry Leading’ Contract

Fractional provider NetJets signed an interim bargaining agreement with its pilot union, the NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots (NJASAP), that allows crewmembers to earn additional compensation and enhances their quality of life when on duty. While the 2015 flight crew contract didn’t become amendable until December 2023, NetJets initiated mid-term bargaining to improve compensation for long-term and new-hire pilots, leading to what both the company and union term an “industry-leading contract.”

NetJets chairman and CEO Adam Johnson and NJASAP president Pedro Leroux signed a tentative agreement on Wednesday, following six weeks of negotiations. NJASAP’s 2,500 pilot members ratified the measure late last month, with more than 81 percent voting in favor of the package of amendments that extends the 2015 collective bargaining agreement an additional three years, through 2026.

“In the spirit of true collaboration, the agreement has our pilots’ best interests in mind and maintains NetJets’s position as the industry leader in pilot relations,” said Johnson. Leroux agreed, adding, “The NJASAP Executive Board is exceedingly pleased with the outcome of this negotiation—an ambitious undertaking characterized by honesty, goodwill, and a genuine commitment to continuing collaboration.”

The newly ratified amended agreement “will ensure we maintain an industry-leading safety record and to offer unrivaled customer service, positioning us for success for years to come,” Leroux concluded.


Iridium Switches on Certus Satcom

The airborne connectivity arena is going to see a surge of new products now that Iridium’s Certus network is live. Iridium’s new constellation of 75 satellites (66 primary and the remainder backups) was completed January 11 after the launch of the final 10 Iridium Next satellites.

Although Certus aviation services won’t begin until later this year, Collins Aerospace, Gogo, L3 Aviation, Satcom Direct, and Thales are developing airborne terminals that will enable high-speed voice and data communications on the new network, according to Iridium. The company has selected 36 service providers to serve Certus customers.

The Certus network’s satellites are positioned in low earth orbit and communicate with each other to provide coverage anywhere on earth, including polar regions and oceans. The 66 cross-linked satellites eliminate the need for an extensive ground station network.

Iridium's Certus 350 service will offer speeds of 352/352 Kbps (upload/download). A subsequent firmware upgrade will facilitate Certus 700 at 352/704 Kbps. While these are roughly comparable to Inmarsat SwiftBroadband speeds, the Inmarsat satellites don’t cover the entire planet. Current Iridium satcom speeds are 2.4 Kbps, so the Certus network is a significant improvement. Other service levels will be available, from Certus 20 (for ACARS) through 1400 (for high-speed video).

According to Iridium, Certus will facilitate new flight deck communications using “satcom as a primary means.”

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Airbus Preparing for ‘Worst’ Brexit Outcome

Questions about Airbus’s strategy in the event of a so-called no-deal Brexit following the crushing defeat in the UK parliament of British prime minister Theresa May’s plan for a negotiated “soft” exit from the European Union largely overshadowed Wednesday’s groundbreaking ceremony for an Airbus A220 assembly site in Mobile, Alabama. Ahead of that event, Airbus CEO Tom Enders lamented recent trends toward protectionism and nationalism and referenced the development of Airbus’s presence in the U.S. as a hedge against such inclinations.

Closer to home, however, the Brexit vote stands to disrupt Airbus’s operations in a profound way, particularly given the location of its wing production plant in Broughton,  UK. “We will carry on preparation [for Brexit] and possibly accelerate them, planning for the worst and hoping for the best,” said Enders.

Enders added that Airbus was “well represented” in a conference call among ministers on Tuesday and that they have expressed a certain degree of optimism that a no-deal Brexit won’t happen. Nevertheless, he explained, Airbus must prepare contingencies for any outcome. In fact, Airbus’s plans include stockpiling parts “for a number of weeks” in preparation for interruptions to supply from the UK, confirmed Airbus Commercial Aircraft president Guillaume Faury. Still, Faury characterized a no-deal Brexit as a “potential disaster” that both sides must avoid by any means.

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Canadian King Air Summit Set for April 25

Registration has opened for what organizers say is the largest event for Beechcraft King Air owners and operators in Canada. The 2019 King Air Summit will be held on April 25 in Winnipeg and include education and information sessions on best practices and upgrades to the venerable twin-turboprop. Early bird registration is $35 and $60 after March 10.

On the agenda are sessions on ADS-B and Wi-Fi/connectivity installations, benefits of up-gross operations, affordable “must have” King Air modifications, runway excursion prevention, Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 troubleshooting best practices, engine and flight control tips, increasing aircraft interior life, and a look at the future from Textron Aviation/Beechcraft. In addition, it will touch on the pilot and aircraft maintenance technician shortage, with a session addressing millennials in the aviation workforce.

The event will also include a static display of King Airs, and awards will be given to owners and operators with the best examples of aircraft in three categories: medevac, executive and high-capacity configuration.


TurbineAero Acquires More Triumph Work in Asia

An auxiliary power unit (APU) MRO service provider created from the sale of a pair of Triumph Group businesses is adding a third segment of work previously done by Triumph. TurbineAero said Tuesday it is acquiring the APU piece part repair product line from Triumph Aviation Services Asia.

TurbineAero will integrate the new work into its APU Systems MRO housed in its new 80,000-sq-ft facility in Thailand. The facility, which can accommodate up to 250 workers, is where TurbineAero does high technological testing, maintenance, repair, and overhaul of aircraft components and systems, including APU MRO, LRUs, and APU part repair.

The company said the additional work will increase its in-house capabilities, improve turn-times and yield extra cost savings. “This acquisition emphasizes our focus on APU MRO and enables us to provide increased value-added services to our worldwide customer base,” said Peter Gille, v-p and general manager of TurbineAero Repair-Asia.

Chandler, Arizona-based TurbineAero is a portfolio company of investment firm The Gores Group. Gores launched TurbineAero after acquiring the APU MRO business of Triumph Air Repair and Triumph Engines, and the APU overhaul operations of Triumph Aviation Services-Asia, in 2017.


Flying the Quest Kodiak 100 Series II from Land and Water

AIN’s Matt Thurber had an opportunity to fly the new Quest Kodiak 100 Series II from the company’s factory in Sandpoint, Idaho to Santa Monica, California. In the 11 years since it entered service, the capable utility single-engine turboprop has proven its mettle in challenging flying all over the world.

AINalerts News Tips/Feedback: News tips may be sent anonymously, but feedback must include name and contact info (we will withhold name on request). We reserve the right to edit correspondence for length, clarity and grammar. Send feedback or news tips to AINalerts editor Chad Trautvetter.
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