Sarina Houston - Page 10 Aviation Articles

ABACE 2014 Highlights: Gulfstream Dominates, Airbus Unveils New Interior


Photo Courtesy: Gulfstream

The Asian Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (ABACE) is underway in Shanghai and so far, it seems like Gulfstream has dominated the show. This year, Asia's largest business aviation event is hosting almost 200 exhibitors and over 35 static aircraft displays. Here are the ABACE 2014 highlights so far:

G280 Speed Records (...again):
By now we know that Gulfstream doesn't like to fly anywhere without breaking a record. And they've done it again - this time, with the G280. The super-midsize, long-range jet had already set 45 city-pair speed records before it set two more on the way to ABACE this year, making stops in Germany, Dubai and Hong Kong before flying to Shanghai.

"The G280 flew 2,751 nautical miles/5,094 kilometers from Friedrichshafen Airport in Germany to Dubai International Airport in the United Arab Emirates at an average speed of Mach 0.84 for a total flight time of 5 hours and 49 minutes," Gulfstream said in a statement on April 14th.

From Dubai, the G280 made the 3,449 mile flight to Honk Kong International Airport with a time of 7 hours and 7 minutes at Mach .82.

Minsheng Orders 60 Aircraft from Gulfstream:
In one of the largest business aviation deals ever, Minsheng Financial Leasing Company Ltd. ordered 60 aircraft from Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. The deal was made in the last part of 2013, but the partnership was announced and celebrated at ABACE on Tuesday, according to a statement by Gulfstream on Tuesday.

The order reportedly includes 40 firm orders and 20 options - totaling over $2.6 billion, according to AIN- and includes aircraft from across the Gulfstream product line, including the G280, G450, G550 and G650.

ACJ319 Interior Change:
While Gulfstream stole the show with speed records and heavy orders, Airbus announced a new version of the company's ACJ319 corporate jet called the ACJ319 Elegance.

The ACJ319 Elegance has a newly designed interior, giving customers more options when it comes to customizing their aircraft. In addition, the new design allows for a smooth transition in the event that a customer wants to upgrade to a new cabin in the future, according to Airbus.

The Elegance design offers different module choices for lounge, office, conference or dining needs. It has a bathroom and galley up front, and a bedroom with a bathroom in the back.

Business Aviation Growth in China:
ABACE 2014 headlines also include the general outlook of business aviation in Asia, which is strong according to the deputy administrator for the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).

Asian Sky Group (ASG) announced its 2013 Greater China Business Jet and Civil Helicopter Fleet Report at ABACE on Tuesday. According to the report, Gulfstream is dominating the general aviation market in China with almost 40 percent market share. Bombardier follows at 30 percent.


Image © Asian Sky Group

In 2013, the business jet market in China grew by 21 percent, with the largest growth seen by Embraer, Dassault Falcon and Hawker. The G-550 and G-450 are the most popular business jets in China, according to the report.

Finally, between 2007 and 2013, the business jet market in Greater China has grown at a rate of 34 percent, significantly higher than the global rate of five percent.

Live-Streaming: The Future of Flight Tracking?

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 once again raises questions about the real-time tracking of aircraft. MH370 remains missing after controllers lost contact with it on March 8th. Authorities have assumed the Boeing 777 crashed in a remote area of the Indian Ocean.

The idea of real-time flight tracking has been discussed before, namely after Air France Flight 447 went missing and was later found in the ocean in 2007. It took investigators almost two years to recover the flight data recorder after the A330 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean while en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. Afterward, the public and industry folks alike wondered how we can manage to locate missing cell phones, but not missing aircraft? Even with the addition of NextGen technology like data link and ADS-B that's on board aircraft today, it's strangely not enough to find a missing airliner.

While the search for MH370 continues, industry groups are once again revisiting the idea of a live-streaming flight recorder for airliners. While the costs associated with it aren't anything that airlines want to pay, many believe that the cost is minimal when compared to the added benefits, and that it's an obvious remedy for cases like MH370 and AF447.

The NTSB is one industry group that is still interested in the concept of live-streamed data from aircraft. According to Reuters, the NTSB plans to continue to examine potential solutions that could include real time streaming of aircraft data from the flight recorder or ACARS, or both.

What About ACARS?
Currently, many planes are equipped with data tracking services like ACARS - data link technology that uses VHF and satellite communication to gather data from sensors on the aircraft. The data is sent from air to ground at certain times during the flight, transmitting things like flight times, location and fuel usage to air traffic controllers and dispatchers. The ACARS system on MH370 was disabled in flight, but satellites were still able to "ping" the aircraft about once per hour.

Why Can't We Stream Flight Recorder Data?
The short answer is that we can. The technology is there, according to this New York Times article. The cost, however, is prohibitive. And the logistical demands associated with thousands of airliners transmitting real-time data all day aren't there yet. And according to the New York Times article, the infrastructure required for constant live-streaming from thousands of airliners would be huge.

To become equipped for live-streaming, airlines would pay $50,000- 100,000 per airplane, according to some sources, and an additional cost for the service might range from $5-10 per minute. In an already cash-strapped industry, airlines just aren't going to pay that much if they don't have to.

Future Technology
The conversation doesn't end there, though. At least one supplier, Flyht Aerospace Solutions, Ltd., is already able to stream black box data in an emergency.

Flyht claims that while live-streaming technology on airline flights is an investment, there is also a cost-benefit involved. Security isn't the only topic at hand here: Live-streaming of data can alert airlines of maintenance issues immediately, instead of hearing about it after the flight lands or minutes or hours after the event. It also allows for better monitoring of new procedures and the system can record data for future safety and cost analysis. Operators would be able to implement improvements and safety measures with this kind of access to data.

And of course, in the wake of MH370, a more secure system of tracking airliners would be a welcome one. Live-streaming of aircraft data could ensure that an aircraft never disappears again (as long as the system can't be easily disabled or manipulated from the cockpit.)

What's your opinion? Should future airline flight data be live-streamed?

Business Aviation & NextGen, Part II: Upgrade, Sell, or Do Nothing?


Image: Creative Commons/SempreVoldano

For aircraft owners, there are still a lot of issues surrounding the FAA's NextGen program. Determining what you should do to remain compliant without drowning in the high costs associated with the new avionics involved is challenging, to say the least.

Last month, in part one of our NextGen series, I discussed avionics equipment and mandates associated with the NextGen program, including what equipment is already mandated, what will be mandated come 2020 and what could potentially become required in the future. These scheduled and proposed mandates have become an important factor to consider for aircraft owners, especially when it comes to deciding whether to upgrade their aircraft's avionics or upgrade to a new airplane altogether.

Here's a rundown of what some aircraft owners have experienced, including how much cash you may need to shell out to get up to speed:

The Trends:
While some business jet operators have a little bit of time to think it over, others are already finding it necessary to upgrade their airplanes to ADS-B and FANS-1/A for international operations. And others are choosing to upgrade early to get it over with and avoid the consequences of not being ready for the 2020 ADS-B mandate.

"What I'm seeing is people using the cost of NextGen to justify an aircraft replacement sooner rather than waiting," says David Wyndham, President and Co-Owner of aircraft consulting firm Conklin & de Decker. "They are fearful of the cost of the upgrade on their older aircraft, or having an older aircraft with little resale appeal if they don't upgrade."

The resale value of an old airplane is one thing. The cost of new, mandated equipment exceeding the cost of the aircraft itself is another reality that aircraft owners must face.

But not everyone shares the opinion that upgrading now is the best option. Some aircraft owners are willing to wait it out with the preconception that the FAA won't be able to meet its own mandate in 2020, and with the hope that the cost of equipment will decrease as more manufacturers put their solutions on the market and better options start to emerge than exist right now. This plan could backfire, though: According to Duncan Aviation's website, as the deadline approaches, the cost of ADS-B will likely go up and aircraft owners could find themselves on a wait list for installation, and, ultimately, grounded.

The Challenges:
Equipment upgrades for NextGen have become a bit of a headache for aircraft owners, as much of the newer technology isn't compatible with what's currently on board aircraft, especially aircraft older than 10 years.

Jeremy Cox, Vice President of JetBrokers, Inc says there are problems at the manufacturer level when it comes to compatibility. "The main problem with ADS-B compliance…is that both Collins and Honeywell are still working on their FMS modifications to enable the ADS-B functionality."

"Worse, there will not be any weather depiction through most of the large aircraft FMS units, as they will not support the frequency," Cox says.

Add to this the possibility of STCs and required waivers for some equipment upgrades, and aircraft owners are experiences delays and down time for expensive equipment that they didn't want to begin with.

The Real Cost:
There are numerous options to consider when it comes to upgrading an airplane for NextGen, which is why every aircraft will be different when it comes to determining the cost of NextGen upgrades.

International operators will be hit the hardest, according to Cox. A full NextGen-compliant upgrade for an international, long-range business jet could likely mean numerous equipment upgrades, such as a new GPS, NAV system, FMS, transponder, Multi-Function Display (MFD), SATCOM, cockpit voice recorder (CVR), or a datalink printer.

Some owners will have additional options to consider, like whether to install ADS-B In along with ADS-B Out equipment. (As of now, the FAA is only mandating the use of ADS-B Out.)

Cox says the cost could add up to millions for business jet owners. "A Gulfstream IV will cost about $1 million to comply. A Falcon 900 will cost anywhere from $1.1 million to $3.5 million. A Challenger 601 will cost more than $1.5 million. Add to this the cost of in-flight SATCOM data that will always be turned on when operating within FANS and CDPLC airspace."

The Silver Lining:
If there's a silver lining to the cost of NextGen equipment, it's that the safety and efficiency that comes with these upgrades will benefit everyone who participates.

While the initial installation is no doubt costly, some people (depending on the type of ADS-B equipment used) will get satellite weather and traffic information at no cost. For those used to paying fees for satellite weather and GPS subscriptions, the high initial price of ADS-B might be worth it in the long run.

And still others see the value in NextGen overall. Pilots are all different when it comes to what they find necessary or valuable in avionics, and many see ADS-B and other equipment upgrades as a welcome and necessary part of the flying world.

Aircraft owner Neal Clayton says the technology is worth it. "I am not a weekend-afternoon local flyer. If I fly I'm going somewhere, at least across state lines, maybe at night, maybe in IMC, or maybe both. So things like synthetic terrain, weather display, and GPS steering are more than toys to me."

Business Aviation & NextGen, Part I: Updates and Mandates


Image Courtesy: FAA

By now, everyone on the general aviation industry is tired of hearing about NextGen and its amazingness, right? I mean, it all sounds great - until you realize that in just a few short years, that new avionics upgrade you got a few years ago could be almost worthless.

While it will be beneficial to have ADS-B, weather mapping and CPDLC, these fancy upgrades don't come cheap. And it's not just the high dollar that destroys people's optimism. There are other decisions involved, too - like whether to upgrade now, wait until the equipment is required or just start over with a brand new jet. Add to this an overabundance of confusing FAA rules, the need for STCs, waiting for paperwork to go through and aircraft downtime, and it's a pretty unappealing process for the typical Citation or Gulfstream owner.

But NextGen has its benefits, too, in the form of safety and efficiency, and maybe it's time for everyone to get on board. But what exactly will you need? When should you equip your aircraft? How much will it cost? Should you upgrade or sell?

In this two-part series, we'll look first at the requirements of NextGen, the equipment upgrades in question, what is mandated and what will be mandated soon. In part two, we'll examine insider opinions and go over some advantages and disadvantages of upgrading avionics versus replacing your aircraft.

If you're not familiar with The FAA's NextGen program and all that it entails, it's time to get cozy with it. The program is a complex one with many different facets within it, including a series of new technologies that will allegedly make the nation's airspace more safe and efficient. A few of these new systems are especially important to aircraft owners because of the high cost and complex avionics involved. We'll go over two of the more significant systems below:

ADS-B:
ADS-B, or Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, is the most accurate system to date for determining aircraft position. Because both ATC and other pilots in the area will be able to determine your aircraft's precise position while flying, ADS-B will allow for reduced separation minimums and a safer flight environment.

According to an FAA mandate, all aircraft owners that intend to fly in class A, B or C airspace must be equipped with ADS-B Out capabilities by January 1st, 2020. This sounds easy enough, but the exact installation requirements vary greatly from aircraft to aircraft, depending on the current avionics package and the type of flying accomplished.

At a minimum, aircraft will need to be equipped with a WAAS-enabled GPS receiver and (for aircraft flying above 18,000 feet) a 1090 MHz ES link with a Mode S Transponder.

ATN-B1 (Datacomm) and FANS-1/A:
ATN-B1 has many names. It's known by the FAA as Datacomm and it's known still to others as Link2000+, PMCPDLC, or CPDLC. It uses datalink technology to send data communications from air traffic controllers to the cockpit of the aircraft via a text message, and vice versa. The FAA's Datacomm program intends to improve communication by reducing voice communication errors that come with fuzzy or congested radio frequencies and improving the accuracy of transmissions. Currently, there is no FAA mandate for the use of Datacomm in the United States, but ATN-B1 will be mandated by EASA in February 2015. The program is expected to be implemented in the U.S. in 2016 and expanded on until 2024.

FANS-1/A is a datalink system that incorporates CPDLC with a surveillance feature called ADS-C. The ADS-C feature provides position reports over areas not served by ground systems, such as the Atlantic Ocean. FANS-1/A is mandated by the North Atlantic Track System (NATS) for the two center tracks over the Atlantic, and this mandate is expected to expand.

Whether an operator decides to equip with ATN-B1 or FANS-1/A will largely be determined by mandates, cost and the aircraft's current equipment status. But one thing is for sure: These datalink upgrades are something operators should prepare for in one way or another.

Stay tuned more information about how business aviation is preparing for NextGen, including why some business jet owners are choosing to upgrade now!

Eclipse 550 Receives Approval for Part 23 Auto Throttle and Anti-Skid Brake Systems


Photo © Eclipse Aerospace

Eclipse Aerospace announced on Thursday that the company has received a supplemental type certificate (STC) from the FAA for new auto throttle and anti-skid brake (ASB) systems for its Eclipse 550, a new-production very light jet that the company says is the "most fuel-efficient jet in the world."

The new auto throttle system was developed in conjunction with Innovative Solutions & Support, and this STC is the first of its kind for a jet certified under FAR Part 23. The new auto throttle system will allow pilots to input the intended airspeed into the autopilot system and the auto throttle system will automatically adjust to the correct power setting. To gain the STC, the auto throttle system had to conform to some Part 25 standards, including quick disengagement controls for each pilot.

The Anti-Skid Brake system, also approved with this STC, was designed by Advent Aerospace and is the only light aircraft ASB system that doesn't require a bulky hydraulic system. Advent Aerospace boasts that it's a lightweight, easy-to-install system that provides better control and improved stopping distance for very light jets.

The Anti-Skid Brake system can also be retrofitted to fit Eclipse 500 aircraft that have the IFMS Avionics package.

Since the Eclipse 550 is in the very light jet category, it can be certified under FAR Part 23, which is designed for light general aviation aircraft under 12,500 pounds. Since most general aviation aircraft fly under Part 91 and occasionally Part 135 operating rules, FAR Part 23 is less restrictive than FAR Part 25.

FAR Part 25 certification stadards apply to commercial operations including business jets. Aircraft certified under Part 25 are required to have certain standards of system redundancy and procedures in place that would allow for the safe continuation of flight in case a system fails.

According to a federal register docket regarding the Eclipse 500 auto throttle STC, FAR Part 23 does not "sufficiently address autothrottle technology and safety concerns" and in response, required special conditions to be met for approval of the Eclipse 500, and ultimately, the Eclipse 550.

The Eclipse 550 has two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW610F engines rated at 9oo pounds each, giving the lightweight aircraft enough power to cruise at 375 knots to 41,000 feet smoothly and efficiently. The Eclipse 550 starts $2.9 million.

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