Major orders were scarce this year at the 2008 NBAA Convention, but attendance was right below last year’s record with 30,811 people in Orlando, Florida for the three-day event. One major new aircraft was revealed and the many business deals saw Russian companies inching further into the Western business aircraft market.
Gulfstream’s G250 super mid-size jet was the big splash, boasting speeds up to .85 Mach and a maximum altitude of 45,000 feet. Certification and deliveries are expected for the US million jet in 2011 with its twin Honeywell HTF7250G engines. The PlaneView 250 cockpit from Rockwell Collins controls the aircraft, with design and manufacturing by Israel Aerospace Industries.
The show’s largest order was $ 2 billion total for Parker Aerospace, which was selected by Gulfstream in a $ 390 million deal to supply the fly-by-wire flight control actuation system for its new long range G650 jet. Embraer wants Parker to supply the control system, hydraulics and fuel system for the new Legacy 450/500 executive business jet aircraft for an estimated $ 1.1 billion, and 0 million gets Cessna a control system for the new Citation Columbus.
Hawker Beechcraft announced upgrades for two of its best-selling business aircraft, the Hawker 450XP and Beechcraft King Air 350i. The 450XP gains Collins Pro Line 21 avionics, and more powerful Pratt & Whitney engines, setting it apart from the 400XP. The new model should be delivered in mid 2010 and is on sale now for $ 7.695 million. The new P&W PW535Ds give more thrust per pound of fuel than the current JT15D-5R. They increase range and allow better performance at high altitudes and hot temperatures.
Major changes to the King Air 350i’s cabin interior merit the new name. The revised design shuts out four more decibels of noise, allowing better enjoyment of its new entertainment systems. Those features and new styling aim for the feel of a jet costing more than this turboprop´s .52m price. FlexCabin seating can be rearranged before each flight, and a full-utilization lavatory is offered for the first time in a King Air.
In helicopters, ten AW139 medium twin helicopters were sold to Canadian medical transporters Ornge for 0 million from AgustaWestland.
An unknown Russian company is working with Comp Air in the US to build a new twin turboprop. Comp Air is building the 22-seat composite aircraft at the request of an undisclosed Russian company, which may be preparing to produce the twin simultaneously. “Yes we will be building other aircraft, starting immediately,” says owner Ron Lueck. “It´s a big airplane. I mean big-big!”
Lueck may be ready to announce the identity of the Russian partner by the AOPA expo in San Jose, California on November 6. The aircraft will be powered by twin TPE331-14s, which Lueck selected earlier this year for the Comp Air 12. The company announced a 0 million investment at the show for the Comp Air 12 from MercMed LLC, allowing a move into a 23,000sq ft hangar at Melbourne International Airport.
The Epic Elite VLJ that Epic Aircraft President Rick Schrameck insists “is still being held hostage” in Tblisi, Georgia, could actually take off on the undamaged runway, he conceded at the show. Potentially dangerous airspace is what keeps it grounded at the Tblisi Aircraft Manufacturing facility. TAM has co-developed the Elite and plans to manufacture 10 by 2010 and 65 each year by 2017, but their plans for the Russian market have stalled with weakened relationships with Moscow after the recent conflict.
For his part, Schrameck’s certification plans are slowed while he still waits for $ 200 million from Kingfisher airlines owner Vijay Mallya, and Epic Air is separating into four diverse companies. "They are 100 percent owned by Aircraft Investor Resources," says Epic President and CEO Rick Schrameck, adding that AIR has always been the holding company for Epic and he´s the majority owner of it. Composites technology and design will be marketed out, while their experimental and certified aircraft will get different brand names.
A new name is down the road for AAI Acquisitions, the Russian-owned startup that bought the assets of bankrupt Adam Aircraft last April. The company needs $ 200 million to earn a type certificate on the A700 VLJ and it is dropping the A500 piston twin, says AAI Acquisitions CEO Jack Braly. Half the A700 certification work was already completed by Adam Aircraft Industries before its bankruptcy, when Russian companies Industrial Investors and Kaskol jointly formed Air Management Group (AMG) to pay the million price in auction. AMG chairman Evgeny Andrachnikov says AMG will inject 0 million to the program to accelerate production and certification.
Braly is cautious about specific a price and performance stats while testing continues and a final avionics package is selected. “We will be priced right with the Mustang and the Phenom 100, and we will be very competitive in terms of performance,” he states. Andrachnikov is more specific, saying the A700 will likely cost between $ 2.5m and $ 2.9m. Orders will not be taken until that price is settled, Braly says. Profitability will be reached by 2012 when the company is producing four aircraft each month.
Andrachnikov also heads up Russian air-taxi company Dexter, which operates a fleet of four Pilatus PC-12 and three Myasischev M101T Gzhel single-engine turboprops. Dexter also has 20 Cessna Citation Mustang VLJs on order, and Andrachnikov clarifies that the Adam purchase was never meant to be a “feeder” for Dexter.
New life is also being breathed into the Dornier Seastar, which ceased production in 1991 after only three were made. The new Dornier Seaplane Company will assemble the aircraft in the US, with fabrication is being outsourced to suppliers in the region. "It´s wholly owned by my family," says Conrad Dornier, and thus far they´ve invested 0 to launch it. "It is totally independent of all other Dornier Aircraft businesses, which are owned by EADS, with us as a shareholder."
The composite 12-seat aircraft is powered by twin Pratt & Whitney PT6A-135As, set together above the wing for a pusher/puller configuration. CEO Joe Walker lists the corrosion-proof composites and custom design among its merits. “We´d like to build one airplane 24 months from now," Walker says, and they could ramp up to 48 per year by 2015. Deposits are being taken now with an incentive price of .5 million for the first ten and $ 6 million after.
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