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March 15, 2019
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Gulfstream service center Long Beach, California

Gulfstream Makes First Alternative Jet Fuel Sale

Gulfstream Aerospace has made its first sale of sustainable alternative jet fuel (SAJF) to a G550 operated by a U.S.-based multinational corporation, the Savannah, Georgia-based airframer announced today. The customer purchased 20,000 pounds of SAJF from Gulfstream’s Long Beach, California facility. 

The sale comes about six weeks after Gulfstream participated in an industry-sponsored event, Business Jets Fuel Green: A Step Toward Sustainability, at Van Nuys Airport (VNY) in California. For that event, Gulfstream set a city-pair record, flying its SAJF-fueled G280 from Savannah to Van Nuys. 

Gulfstream announced at the VNY event that it would sell SAJF to its customers from its Long Beach location beginning this year. California-based World Energy, which has a refinery about 10 miles from Gulfstream’s facility at Long Beach Airport (LGB), provides SAJF to Gulfstream. It was available earlier than Gulfstream expected for the first sale, the manufacturer noted. 

For the past seven years, Gulfstream has used a 30/70 blend of low-carbon, drop-in SAJF and jet-A for operations at its Savannah headquarters. And in the past three years, it’s been using SAJF with its corporate, demonstration, and flight test aircraft. SAJF meets the same fuel specifications as jet-A and offers equivalent performance, Gulfstream said. 

Large-cabin completions flights departing from Gulfstream’s LGB site will also begin using SAJF, the company said. 

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AINsight: Drowning in Drones?

The current state of industry euphoria that surrounds anything resembling a drone reflects the remarkable level of investment and interest in what is clearly a technology both for the future and for now. With some notable exceptions, including companies like Bell, Boeing, Airbus, and Embraer, much of the enthusiasm, talent, intellectual curiosity, and capital that is fueling this aerial revolution is coming from outside traditional aerospace organizations. 

From a business aviation perspective, what are some of the implications of these initiatives? Is this a revolution, an evolution, or simply a distracting buzz—one that will come and go like an annoying but otherwise harmless swarm of gnats that finds its way to its ultimate fate on a bizjet’s brightly polished leading edge?

The current excitement surrounding urban air mobility will, in our estimation, not be going away anytime soon. There is much at stake and fascinating opportunities exist for personal mobility that could transform the way people live, move, work, and experience life. It is a future that business and general aviation practitioners are uniquely positioned to seize. 

Initial successes are already being realized in the areas of small package transportation of medicines, food, and other life-sustaining items in far off corners of the world.  

It will take time and capital, and there will be catastrophic setbacks. While the transformation of the business and general aviation industry will be continual, it is something we should all be thinking about and working toward.

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Helicopter Services Company PHI Files Bankruptcy

In a widely anticipated move, helicopter offshore services company PHI filed for Chapter 11 protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Texas yesterday. PHI’s move was triggered by its failure to repay $500 million worth of unsecured 5.25 percent senior notes due this month. PHI telegraphed a likely bankruptcy filing as early as last October when it terminated a previously announced cash tender offer for the repurchase of those notes and had been under pressure from creditors and investors to sell off its profitable air medical division to satisfy that obligation. 

PHI said it would continue to operate normally during bankruptcy restructuring with its existing cash and $70 million from a new Wall Street investment firm, Blue Torch Capital. Blue Torch operates a $750 million “Capital Credit Opportunities Fund” that specializes in making high-interest loans to “companies in transition.” PHI said the bankruptcy filing includes only its principal U.S. entities. The company is working on a reorganization plan and hopes to emerge from bankruptcy this summer. 

PHI’s bankruptcy is the third among major helicopter service companies in recent years. CHC Helicopters and Erickson filed bankruptcy in 2016. Helicopter leasing company Waypoint, which had a large exposure to offshore helicopter services companies, filed bankruptcy last November. 

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FAA Joins Int’l Regulators in Boeing Max Groundings

The U.S. FAA this week grounded all remaining Boeing Max 8s and Max 9s just hours after Canada moved to ban the models from its airspace based on new satellite data that suggests similarities between the March 10 crash of Ethiopian Flight 302 and the October 29 crash of Lion Air Flight 610. In its own statement, the FAA said it based its decision on new evidence collected at the site of Sunday’s crash outside Addis Ababa and “newly refined” satellite data. American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines stood as the last operators of the type following moves by the rest of the world’s aviation safety authorities to suspend their use into and over their territories.

The move by the U.S. marked an abrupt reversal after the FAA on Tuesday said its latest review showed “no systemic performance issues” and no basis for grounding the aircraft. However, a chorus of calls for grounding the airplanes by U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday and Wednesday along with President Donald Trump’s own stated misgivings placed pressure on aviation authorities.

The FAA, however, confirmed that Boeing may apply for special permits to flight-test modifications and operate production flight-test and ferry flights during the grounding.

France’s Bureau of Investigation and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA) will download and analyze the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder from the Ethiopian Max 8. The U.S. NTSB planned to send three investigators to assist in the effort.


WAI Hosts Hiring Frenzy

For the first time in Women in Aviation International conference history, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) is conducting interviews on site at the nonprofit organization’s 30th annual conference, being held March 14-16 in Long Beach, California. At the event, the USAF announced its “Pathway to Pilot” initiative. Candidates can sign up online at and will be assessed as potential candidates in Long Beach for officer and pilot slot positions. Those selected would go through Officer Training School with the USAF.

Business aviation companies are looking for new employees at WAI, as well. XOJet human resources representatives are in the exhibit hall speaking with potential hires, as is Desert Jet’s founder Denise Wilson, and representatives from numerous corporate flight departments.

Hiring briefings for aviation positions with regional and major freight and passenger airlines, aerospace manufacturers, and aerospace support companies are happening today and tomorrow, with 20 companies providing 45-minute open sessions to outline their basic application procedures, discuss available positions, and their requirements for employment, as well as answer frequently asked new-hire questions.

This week’s WAI conference has drawn an estimated 4,000 in attendance and is hosting more than 40 educational sessions and 160 exhibitors. Highlighted speakers for the event include Gwynne Shotwell, COO and president at SpaceX; Tammie Jo Shults, noted Southwest Airlines airline captain; Ellen Stofan, Mars director for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum; and Heidi Capozzi, senior v-p of human resources for The Boeing Company. 


Airbus Begins Shore-to-ship Port Drone Deliveries

Airbus has begun shore-to-ship trials with its Skyways parcel delivery drone in Singapore, the first time drones have been flown in real port conditions to deliver time-critical maritime supplies to working vessels at anchorage. The first delivery was made 0.8 nm from the shoreline of Singapore’s Marina South Pier to the Swire Pacific Offshore’s anchor handling tug supply vessel M/V Pacific Centurion with a payload of 3.3 pounds. The roundtrip flight took less than ten minutes. 

Skyways trials are being undertaken with partner Wilhelmsen Ships Services, which resupplies commercial vessels in ports with a fleet of launch boats. During the trials, the Skyways drone will lift off from the pier with a payload capability of up to 8.8 pounds and navigate autonomously along pre-determined “aerial corridors” to vessels as far as 1.6 nm from the coast.

Airbus and Wilhelmsen signed an agreement in June 2018 to develop an end-to-end unmanned aircraft system for safe shore-to-ship deliveries. A landing platform and control center were set up at the Marina South Pier in November 2018, through the facilitation of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, which also designated anchorages for trial vessels. 

Airbus’s Skyways said it will soon begin another trial project, this one to deliver parcels autonomously in an urban environment with drones, at the National University of Singapore.

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Bombardier’s Challenger 350 Marks Delivery Peaks

Bombardier once again captured the title of the most delivered multi-engine business jet in 2018, handing over 60 of its Challenger 350s. Last year was the second year in a row that Bombardier claimed that mark, handing over 56 of the model in 2017.

In the business and general aviation jet category in 2018, the Challenger 350 was outpaced only by the $2 million Cirrus Vision Jet single-engine personal jet—with 63 delivered in 2018.

The Challenger 350 deliveries represented 58 percent of the super-midsize segment, the company added. Both Challenger types were on the upswing in 2018. Not only did Bombardier hand over four additional 350s in 2018, but the Canada-based manufacturer also delivered two more of its Challenger 650s for a total of 23 in the year. The airframer further began deliveries of its flagship Global 7500 and said that was “the first in a much-anticipated string of Global 7500 business jet deliveries expected to follow in 2019.”

In addition to increased deliveries, Bombardier commemorated another milestone for the Challenger 300 platform (which includes the Challenger 350): surpassing the 700th delivery.

Powered by 7,323-pound-thrust Honeywell HTF7350 turbofans, the Challenger 350 flies 3,200 nm with the capability of connecting Los Angeles to New York or to Honolulu.


Alpha Star Building Medevac Business in Saudi Arabia

Aircraft management and VIP charter operator Alpha Star has grown into a key medevac provider in Saudi Arabia. Operating two A320s, an A319, two Gulfstream G450s, two Hawker 900XPs, an ATR 42-600, and two ATR 72-600s, Alpha Star points to a range of options for the air ambulance services.

The Gulfstreams, Hawkers, and ATRs generally do air ambulance missions, and one of the A320s could also fly such trips, Alpha Star CEO Abdulnasser M. Al-Kheraif told AIN.

“We're moving intensive care patients, coronary care, multisystem trauma, as well as the standard two broken legs kind of basic life support patients,” Alpha Star flight paramedic John Paladino told AIN at the Saudi Airshow. “I would say 90 percent of our missions are within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The kingdom is very big. So we cover many of the remote cities like Tabuk and Jizan.”

Around 15 percent of Alpha Star’s operations are devoted to medevac today. “Alpha Star flies between 20 to 30 [medevac] trips a month, on average,” he said. “Each flight could be between three and five hours, depending upon where we're going."

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Flying into Tough Airports: Kathmandu, Nepal

We’re at FlightSafety International’s Teterboro learning center to spend some time in a Falcon 900EX level D simulator to learn about how to fly into some of the toughest airports in the world.

Today’s challenging airport is Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal, which is nestled high in the steep Himalayan terrain. The instrument approach itself adds challenging features, including multiple step-downs during the descent and varying glidepath angles. The missed approach procedure requires a minimum 5-degree climb gradient as well as a sharp turn to avoid nearby mountains.

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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