NBAA 2014 wrap up
Murphy’s Law dictates that which could go wrong naturally will do so. In my case technology defeated me in Disneyland. After the Satnav/Car incident it was inevitable that communication issues ensured that three members of my wonderful and scattered support team each had some kind of software and or tech issue*. Truly….so here we are some several days later with some tidbits for you from the NBAA 2014 show…
…with more delights to come from Bombardier later this week. I’ll also add some news on the Dassault Falcon 5X and 8X programmes, which are well under development in additional postings. Watch out for those in coming days.
Would like to say a special thanks to NBAA chief Ed Bolen and PR guru Dan Hubbard for their help at the show. See my previous NBAA post for news on the two new Gulfstream types (as well as the video), plus the Bombardier Challenger 650 and the two new Dassault Falcon Jets in production. And for now, some of the more interesting highlights for me included the first sighting of the Epic E1000 , imminently to be a production aircraft. Those of you who follow this sector will remember the razzmatazz a decade ago when air taxis were going to be the ride of the future. Not a new concept – one that’s been in embryo since Bill Lear produced the first Learjet. Sadly, many of the projects came to naught, so it’s good to see a resurgence.
The $3 million bird at NBAA was actually a certificated, factory-built version of the $1.95 million Epic LT kit plane, which the company stopped selling last year. It has come to fruition thanks to a cash injection from Russian parent company Engineering LLC. The first one of the new type is in assembly and will make its maiden flight by the end of this year. Certification is planned for the last quarter of 2015.
So far Epic has sold 60 of the type, which is powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67A and glass cockpit equipped with Garmin G1000 avionics. It has short legs, but can run fast for its size at a reasonable altitude with a projected maximum cruise of 325kt (600km/h), a range of 1,650nm (3,050km) and a ceiling of 34,000ft.
Piaggio, too, had good news. The Italian airframer has gained traction in the market with a big cash injection from Bravia Capital Partners. The maker of the catfish like Avanti twin-pusher turboprop arrived with new branding, changing its name from Piaggio Aero Industries to Piaggio Aerospace. According to the company, this was in line with its expanding product line, which has seen new variants over the last few years, including the latest VIP version, the Evo. There is also a special missions variant, the MPA or multirole patrol aircraft, and an unmanned air vehicle known as the P.1HH HammerHead. Bravia Capital is offering leasing to North American customers. The firm will take 10 of the Evo, promising a further 40 if the first ten goes.
The big completions houses were out in force, with Lufthansa Technik and Comlux Aviation both parading beautiful new cabin interiors. LHT has expanded on its long relationship with Airbus to create a new “Executive Shuttle” VIP interior concept for Airbus and Boeing narrowbodies. The concept, which offers configurations varying from 20 to 52 passengers for the A320 family and 20 to 56 passengers for Boeing’s 737, offers a variety of cabin designs within a “manageable budget. One of the targetsectors , is of course, the preowned market. Comlux Aviation, meanwhile, turned up with news of a massively busy 2014. Its Indianapolis based completions centre signed two major contracts – one green completion on ACJ320 and one BBJ major refurbishment for a Chinese customer – and delivered two high-end VIP interiors – one BBJ for an Asian customer and one ACJ321 for a customer based in Central Asia. It also presented an outstanding cabin concept for the ACJ319.
It was great to see the Embraer Legacy 450 and Cessna Citation Latitude at the static park. The prototype 450 is almost identical to the OEM’s 500, but comes in 3 ft 6 in shorter. Its pair of Honeywell HTF7500E turbofans offer 6,080 pounds thrust, versus its larger sibling’s 7,036-pounds-thrust engines. It also has shorter legs, flying for an NBAA IFR range of 2,300 nm rather than the 2,948 nm offered by the 500.
Also out on the static was my pal Danielle Boudreau, EVP, marketing, branding, and public relations of VistaJet. The Swiss fractional ownership provider has taken delivery of 12 brand new aircraft so far this year, with another dozen due to arrive by the end of the fourth quarter. The company’s expansion comes despite the overall market for business aviation being flatter in Europe and the Middle East than in recent times. VistaJet is also set now operating the first Bombardier Challenger 350 in Europe.
Cessna’s newest midsize business jet also made its debut at the show. The aircraft at the static was one of four Citation Latitudes flying in the company’s certification programme, which now stands at over 600 flight hours over 260 flights. Range now comes in at 2,700 nautical miles at cruise speed, and much better runway performance with a tiny takeoff distance of 3,668 feet. FAA certification is due next spring.
I have a soft spot for supersonic, so was thrilled to see that Aerion is back in the saddle thanks to backup from Airbus. The AS2 supersonic business jet (SSBJ) programme received a major filip last month when Airbus signed up for a partnership involving an exchange of knowledge and capabilities in design, manufacturing and certification. According to Aerion, the collaboration will support the Mach 1.6, $100+ million AS2 through to certification. The good news is that the Reno.-based group said that this will happen “over the course of the next year” and confirmed that it is no longer searching for a manufacturing partner.
After my wonderful Oshkosh experience with them this summer, I’m very keen to see what Daher Socata is doing, and the French airframer did not disappoint with the TBM900 on static and an announcement of an upgrade to its TBM700 workhorse. Indeed, since its official unveiling seven months ago, the TBM 900 has attracted attention from operators and owners. As of 15 October 2014, 35 aircraft have been delivered to their customers out of 50 ordered for delivery this year.
What else can I tell you? There was a humungous amount of news from the inflight entertainment sector. – see more on that at the Inflight online site, the magazine I edit for HMG Aerospace. Wheels Up plans to start King Air operations from Texas in November, with new bases in Dallas and Houston – the programme is doing superbly well – see the video of how successful its collaboration with the UK’s Gama Aviation has been so far. I also have to say a massive thanks to Canada’s MSB Design. The Quebec based company put up with me tired (trust me that’s not a good thing – with me ‘tired’ is akin to being ‘somewhat inebriated’. Not a euphemism, I’m genuinely affected like I’m drunk when I’m exhausted, and the lovely Shannon Gill, director of business development, put up with my antics, fed me coffee and generally soothed me into the next stage of my day. Anyway, they are set to provide a single pedestal Hi-Lo conference table and Crystal, China and Flatware (CCF) inserts for the G600 mock-up. Also worth checking out On Air Dining, – CEO Daniel Hulme is a rising star of the VIP catering world, and is doing some great work in North America with Paula Kraft, who owns Tastefully Yours catering.
And after I saw them I segued into bed followed by a steak dinner at one of Orlando’s marvellous steak restaurants. This enabled me to participate in the fine evening’s entertainment of Signature Flight Support’s party, followed by the show favourite ‘ Howl at the Moon.’
Big commendation to most of the Flight Global Flight Evening News team leftover on Weds night for their stamina. I left them carousing at around 1.30am, and was impressed to see their Facebook updates posted at 5am in relatively well spelled words.
Also thanks to Alison Chambers, Jane Stanbury and Kelly Murphy of Emerald Media public relations agency for their help in securing interviews.
Lastly, I promised you news on John Travolta. See him here, being photographed by my pal Stewart Foley of Caters Photographic. Go Stew! I was lucky enough to interview JT again, and found out more about his input in the Challenger programme, what he likes in an aircraft and his personal piloting style among other delights. More will be revealed when the article goes to press.
* Tom, who’s helping me with video editing all the way over in Europe had a server outage and his system was down for several days. Ian, who’s sprucing up this website, had hardware issues and Shaun, who came over to help me in Orlando, had me to help him to work out how to install the software the wonderful Annel had suggested