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July 25, 2023
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Blackhawk Aerospace Pilatus PC-12 engine modification

Blackhawk Launching TBM Engine Upgrade Program

Blackhawk Aerospace has purchased a TBM 700 testbed aircraft in preparation for flight testing of the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-66D engine for a future upgrade program. On Monday at EAA AirVenture, Blackhawk CEO Jim Allmon told AIN that the company hopes to have the modified aircraft on display next year at AirVenture. He said the engine upgrade being revealed this week at the show should boost a modified TBM 700’s cruising speed up to around 295 knots—nearly a 10-knot improvement.

Details regarding plans for the upgrade are still being formulated, but it is likely that the modifications specialist will be working with American Aviation on a revised engine inlet and with Blackhawk sister company Avex, a long-time TBM dealer and service center. Allmon estimated the market for a potential TBM 700 upgrade at approximately 380 aircraft. 

Within the past two years, private equity firm New State Aviation Holdings acquired majority stakes in both Blackhawk and Avex. Blackhawk has developed engine upgrade programs for several turboprops, including Beechcraft King Airs, Cessna Caravans, and Pilatus PC-12s. Avex installs retrofit upgrades in TBMs, including Garmin glass cockpits and custom interiors.


Delayed Beechcraft Denali Could Have $7M List Price

The price of a new Beechcraft Denali turboprop single is likely to break the $7 million mark by the time it enters service in 2025. The current list price for the aircraft in 2024 dollars is $6.95 million.

Textron Aviation executives told AIN on Monday at EAA AirVenture that the delay in coming to market was the result of continued efforts by GE Aviation to certify the new Catalyst turboprop engine and the addition of Garmin Autoland as standard equipment on the aircraft, which will be certified for single-pilot operations. Certification for the engine, which is estimated to have an average fuel burn of 300 pounds per hour, is now expected next year. 

Three test aircraft have been developed for the program. Textron brought aircraft P2, fitted with a full-up executive interior, this week to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, for AirVenture. Earlier this year, this airplane spent time in Canada for cold weather testing.

The aircraft’s single executive cabin seats, which will meet the latest FAR Part 23 standards, are larger than those in the Beechcraft King Air 260 and were developed specifically for the Denali. Garmin G3000 avionics in the Denali are integrated with autothrottle and single-lever power control in a cockpit designed to ease pilot workload, according to Textron Aviation.


Embry-Riddle Study Examines Drone, Aircraft Close Calls

With the number of small uncrewed aerial systems (sUAS, aka drones) increasing, researchers at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) have developed a new method to quantify close calls between them and piloted aircraft. In a paper published in the SAE International Journal of Aerospace, researchers from the university noted there were at least 24 near-midair collisions (NMACs) around Dallas-Fort Worth Airport (KDFW) between August 2018 and July 2021. NMACs are defined as a drone coming within 500 feet of a piloted aircraft.

For the study, the researchers used drone and aircraft telemetry data collected from a UAS detection device attached to an antenna mounted on the roof of the airport’s Terminal C concourse. It captured flight data—including altitude and launch location—for each of the nearly 460,000 drone flights within a 30-mile radius of KDFW during that span. That data was combined with ADS-B and Mode S signals and fed into a proprietary data analytics software package.

The ERAU researchers noted that most of the close encounters in its study took place within 1.5 miles of a runway approach or departure zone, leading them to recommend expanding the runway exclusion zone for drones at high-risk runways from one mile to 3.5 miles. According to the FAA, in 2020 there were approximately 1.5 million sUASs operating in U.S. airspace and by 2025 is expected to be nearly 2.4 million.

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P&WC PT6 Hits 500 Million Flight Hours

“Smarter, cleaner, greener” is the mantra for engine maker Pratt & Whitney Canada at EAA AirVenture this week. The OEM is celebrating the 60th anniversary of its ubiquitous line of PT6 turboprop engines, of which more than 61,000 have been delivered and installed on 42,000 aircraft, with a combined fleet time of 500 million hours. The company also is celebrating the one billionth flight hour of all its engines since 1928.

The latest iteration, the E series, has a 5,000-hour time-between-overhaul interval and requires 40 percent less maintenance. It features a dual-channel integrated electronic propeller and engine-control system, enabling single-power lever engine control. The control system helps to optimize power and efficiency in all phases of flight by constantly reviewing all engine parameters—as well as many aircraft parameters—and making the necessary adjustments to the fuel flow and propeller blade angle. The data is used to deliver constant engine performance at all altitudes and temperatures and enables performance gains such as increased engine takeoff, climb, and thermodynamic power.

Engine models in the series include the PT6E-67XP, which powers the Pilatus PC-12 NGX, and the PT6E-66XT, which powers Daher’s TBM 960. Both are turboprop singles and the combined fleet of 400 E series engines has now amassed more than 100,000 flight hours.


Choose your inflight connectivity carefully, or else.

For the last few decades, business jet owners, operators, passengers, flight crews and operations staff have had a decidedly love-hate relationship with inflight connectivity. Fortunately, that is changing, but you need to choose your solution carefully, or…

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Biz Leaders Voice Objections to ATC Privatization

A recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) editorial endorsing the concept of privatizing air traffic control raised concerns among business leaders that the issue could gain traction once again. The WSJ editorial board wrote an editorial outlining the airline delays this summer and pointing to comments citing air traffic control staffing as contributing to these issues.

“This illustrates why the U.S. would benefit from spinning off air traffic control from government, as countries such as Canada have done to salutary effect. Air traffic control could rely on user fees, instead of taxes, and not be hostage to special-interest politics,” the editorial board wrote.

In response, 10 business leaders, who are also pilots, came together to write a letter saying they take issue with such a “quick fix” and added, “We understand effective business practices and we know the aviation system first-hand, so we know why this concept has been rejected time and again.” They also noted the safety, efficiency, and diversity of the U.S. system.

Richard Shine, CEO of Manitoba Corporation and signatory of the letter, told AIN, “I feel very strongly that this idea is a mistake for our country” and detailed his experiences of billing issues with Nav Canada. Noting the editorial was a recast of concepts that have been bandied around for years, Shine said his fear is that it could become a key issue once more.

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Epic Gradually Raising Production of Turboprop Single

Epic Aircraft plans to deliver 20 E1000 GX turboprop singles this year and 24 of the all-composite aircraft next year, company marketing director Amy Trenz told AIN on Monday at EAA AirVenture. The company has successfully completed testing for and is closing in on FAA certification for flight into known icing (FIKI) conditions, with all aircraft delivered in 2024 expected to have this approval, she added.

The price of the base aircraft is currently $4.45 million—up from $3.85 million in 2021. The 333-knot GX model features the Garmin G1000 NXi flight deck, Garmin GFC 700 automatic flight control system, and Hartzell five-blade composite propeller.

Trenz said that “like everyone else” the company has had to deal with supply chain issues, but that Epic has been successful in recruiting the appropriate workforce and optimizing production at its facility in Bend, Oregon. Epic remains committed to ramping up production to one aircraft per week, according to Trenz. “It’s all going in the right direction,” she said. Epic delivered 10 aircraft in 2021 and 16 last year.


F'boro Airport Gets Greener with New Carbon Standard

The Airport Carbon Accreditation (ACA) scheme has awarded the UK's Farnborough Airport as Level 4+, the highest level of accreditation for carbon management at ACA. In 2018, the privately owned facility became the first business aviation airport to achieve ACA’s Level 3+ carbon-neutral status.

Last July, Farnborough Airport committed to reaching net-zero controllable carbon emissions by 2030 under what it calls its Net Zero Roadmap, with a goal of achieving a 91 percent reduction in all emissions generated from the airfield. As part of this commitment, it introduced permanent supplies of sustainable aviation fuel and, for a trial period last summer, offered this to aircraft operators for the same price as jet-A.

The London-area airport has been increasing the availability of electrical ground power units for aircraft and its use of electric fleet vehicles. It has also been transitioning its diesel-powered cars on-site to use hydrotreated vegetable oil, which it said can cut net greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90 percent as it is produced from 100 percent sustainable feedstock such as used cooking oil and plant, food, and animal waste. The fuel has a longer storage life and has reduced nitrous oxide and tailpipe emissions.

In addition, a four-bay hangar that Farnborough Airport started construction last year is being built to the latest standards of the Building Research Establishment’s Environmental Assessment Method.

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People in Aviation
The Air Charter Safety Foundation hired Alexander Evans as assistant director of safety and Andrew Ha as programs administrator. Evans, who has a BA in aviation business administration from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, previously worked at Flightline Aircraft Services, where he oversaw ground operations and ground security for NFL team charters. Ha holds a commercial pilot certificate with an instrument rating and interned at Allegiant Airlines.
Steven Trowell was appointed v-p of technical for asset management and trading firm EirTrade Aviation. He previously held the roles of hangar manager and accountable manager with EirTrade Aviation Maintenance.
Brent Wouters is joining Jet Linx as CEO as Jamie Walker moves over to chairman, focusing on the company’s overall strategic vision, mergers and acquisitions opportunities, and industry and client relations. Wouters, who takes his new role on July 31, has 32 years of professional experience including as president and CEO of Iron Valley Supply and of Cirrus Aircraft.
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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