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Summer Reflections

by David Wyndham 1. August 2006 00:00
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It is summer and you know what that means, no not heat waves, but EAA AirVenture! I got my start in aviation at a small airport and along with the EAA, really developed my aviation interests. Today, their air show and meeting covers all aspects of aviation. For those of us not lucky enough to go this year, like me, I'll weigh in on a few items of interest.

For those involved in business aviation, big news event number 1 was the announcement that Honda will build a jet. The HondaJet is another entry in the tight very light jet market. They will be collaborating with New Piper and plan to start accepting sales orders this fall (I'm thinking the NBAA). Honda's goal is to complete type certification within four years. Production will be in the U.S.

They are relatively late entries into what could become a crowded field. Being a Honda-car owner, I see them as a very savvy company who won't enter the competition unless they have a chance at being a leader. The basic data on the jet is promising, and they do have the money, but again, they are late entries and that will work against them.

Business aviation big news event 1B is that Eclipse Aviation received provisional type certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The company expects to receive the full type certification for the Eclipse 500 by August 30th.

Keep an eye on Embraer. I'm hearing some interesting things about how they are developing their Phenom line of aircraft.

The fun will really begin when these point-to-point air taxi services start operations. That is the biggest question surrounding these jets - can it earn a living in the for-hire world? I'm with Missouri - Show Me. Most VLJs are limited in cabin size, thus limited in baggage, too. They might work well for day travel though. However, who is putting in the entire infrastructure at these small airports to handle the passengers – security screening, baggage, waiting areas? It is an interesting idea and now that the Eclipse is almost ready for their first deliveries, it will be time for these point to point carriers to start putting up the numbers. I wish them luck. They will need it.

I was a bit surprised at big news number two - Raytheon (the parent) is again shopping around for a buyer of Raytheon Aircraft Corp. RAC is having a good year, and despite lengthy delays in the certification process of the Hawker 4000, has a good order book. With increasing fuel prices, those stodgy turboprops don't look so bad after all.

I'd like to see them separate from Raytheon and bring back (in full) the Beechcraft name. That won't solve any problems, but will remind them of their incredible heritage. The big issue they will face is in developing new models. They don't have a strong record of accomplishment in recent years of developing new aircraft on time. My two cents is that it's late to be developing another VLJ. They have some great products, but not a lot of new ones.

Light Sport Aircraft were all the buzz again this year – literally with the sound of some of their engines. Last count I think there were some two dozen models to choose from. That is without Cessna entering the fray. Most of these planes are from small entrepreneurial companies (like Cessna, Piper and Beech in their beginnings). These aircraft are much simpler to design and there may be room for a number of manufacturers to exist. Be careful of the hype, however. Their engines still need maintaining and they will still cost something to insure and store. I wouldn't mind having one for fun flying myself. Anyone know of one that will fit a six foot three pilot?

This is one fun part of my job. We don't sell aircraft so we can stay neutral, run the numbers and see where the competition goes next. While not quite the same as aviation's golden age, there sure are a lot of exiting goings on in aviation today. Let's hope $5/gallon fuel doesn't put out the fire.

Where do you think things are going? Click Reply and let me know.


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