I love the aviation industry; it’s always innovating and producing newer and better things to help us fly faster/smarter/better/safer, etc. When Plane & Pilot asked me to subjectively investigate “what’s cool and what’s new,” I jumped at the prospect. So, here’s our take on what’s new, what’s cool and what’s on the horizon.
On June 28, Cirrus Design Corporation finally lifted the veil on “the-jet,” the much-anticipated clean-sheet design for its “personal jet.” “We’re calling it a ‘personal jet’ not because of its size, but because it’s a natural extension of our SR22 line,” said Cirrus cofounder and CEO Alan Klapmeier. “Like the SR22, the-jet is designed to be owner flown, and it will be loaded with innovative features, including the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System. While it’s technologically advanced, it’s also designed to be exceptionally easy to fly, offering customers the opportunity to grow into yet another lifestyle change with Cirrus.”
For instrument flight, the glass panels that are increasingly common in today’s general aviation fleet may be a huge improvement over old-fashioned round “steam gauges”—but if the weather closes in, you’re still depending on instruments to provide an artificial substitute for a view of the terrain and runway environment. The primary flight display (PFD) in a typical glass panel combines the functions of yesterday’s attitude indicator, airspeed indicator, altimeter and course/deviation indicator on a single screen.
The year 2006 was the best for Pilatus since the company was founded. They recorded a double-digit increase in number of aircraft sold; additionally, sales and operating income have been on an upward curve for the past four years. More than half the company’s sales (51%) were generated in North and South America, and more than a quarter (29.2%) in Europe, followed by Asia (9.2%), Australia (7%) and Africa (3.6%). In 2006, 102 aircraft were manufactured—13 more than in the previous year. With 90 aircraft, the PC-12 represented the highest proportion, followed by seven trainer aircraft and five Pilatus Porter PC-6s.
The prototype Next Generation PC-12, which is slated for certification at the end of 2007, has completed its first transatlantic journey from Switzerland. On its way to the United States, it stopped in Iqaluit, Canada, for a series of cold-weather trials before continuing on to Pilatus’ North American headquarters in Broomfield, Colo.
Cessna received full FAA type certification for its Citation Mustang, making it the first official entrant into the highly anticipated very light jet market. “This is an immense achievement,” said Cessna Chairman Jack Pelton, “marking another point in history when Cessna has led the aviation industry into new territory.”
The crown jewel of New Piper Aircraft’s piston singles, the Mirage, has made its debut with the all-glass Avidyne Entegra panel. Its first cousin, the turbine-powered Meridian, made the conversion earlier, making the Vero Beach-based aircraft manufacturer all glass, all the time.
The latest sales figures from the General Aviation Manufacturers Association are sizzling! First quarter 2006 billings, which include pistons, turboprops and business jets, came in at $4 billion—the biggest first quarter in history. This year’s sales were up a healthy 37.9% over the same period last year and early indications are that the trend will continue.
In 2005, the general aviation industry hit $15.1 billion in billings, an all-time high and a 27.2% increase over 2004. The good news came from the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) at their annual Industry Review & 2006 Market Outlook Briefing. GAMA (www.gama.aero) figures put worldwide shipments of general aviation airplanes at 3,580 units for 2005, up 20.8% from the previous year’s total of 2,963 units.
Sino Swearingen Aircraft Corporation is celebrating a well-deserved FAA certification for its SJ30-2 business jet. Approved for day/night/VFR/IFR single-pilot ops, the new speedster reports a cruise speed that exceeds 460 knots. Passengers will enjoy a sea-level cabin pressure all the way to FL410, and the SJ30-2’s max altitude is another 8,000 feet higher. The “entry-level” jet will compete with the Cessna Citations and Raytheon Premier I. Sino Swearingen says that customer deliveries are forthcoming. For more, log on to www.sj30jet.com or call (949) 851-0900.
There’s excitement in the air in both Albuquerque, N.M., and Wichita, Kan. Final certification for the Eclipse 500 and the Cessna Mustang is almost in sight, and soon, all of us will get the first hints of just how deep the water is for the very light jet (VLJ) aircraft market. At the recent EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis., Eclipse flaunted two of its conforming prototypes, and Cessna debuted its Mustang, direct from Wichita, with CEO Jack Pelton at the controls.
It’s always a bit mind-boggling when Cessna finds ways to improve the most popular line of jets in the world, but once again, that’s exactly what it has done. A new and improved Model 525 Citation CJ1+ has earned FAA certification and is headed to a runway near you before the year’s end.
Adam Aircraft received the final type certificate for the pressurized, twin-engine A500. Less than one year after founders Rick Adam and John Knudsen gave Burt Rutan $1 million and a back-of-the-napkin design for an all-composite, centerline-thrust twin, a proof-of-concept A500 was flying over Mojave, Calif. In 2002, flight testing began out of Denver’s Centennial Airport.
Final numbers for general aviation’s 2004 financial year have been released by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), and the news is great. Piston singles sales hit a 20-year high. “Bonus depreciation, coupled with the continuing growth of the U.S. economy helped make 2004 a turning point for our industry,” says GAMA chairman Jim Schuster.
An unusual rash of activity has come out of Washington, D.C., this year that affects all pilots. Changes in regulations, aviation services, airspace and even outer space have, thus far, been the hallmark of 2005.
After nearly a decade of many birthing pains, the new sport pilot’s license as well as light-sport aircraft category has become a reality. The new 4,700 pages added to the FAA rules and regs went into effect on September 1st of this year, and while no one quite knows what’s next, aviation’s general consensus is positive.
If you’ve been wondering if this tsunami of new technology that’s been threatening to forever change the way we fly is just a passing fancy, the news is now clear: Every major airframe manufacturer has announced they’re presently or will shortly begin shipping airplanes featuring glass panels. Cessna Aircraft Company (www.cessna.com) just received the FAA’s blessing to begin delivering Garmin (www.garmin.com) G1000-equipped Skylanes, both turbocharged and normally aspirated models.