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Sunday, January 1, 2006

Year In Review

A salute to the most important developments and events of 2005

Ready or not, here comes a new year in aviation. And if 2005 is any indication of what we can expect, 2006 should be nothing less than remarkable. In the last year alone, general aviation (GA) has seen an unprecedented boom in new types of aircraft, pilots and technology. So here’s a recap of what made 2005 special— highlighting the most important developments—with an exclusive look at what we can anticipate in 2006.

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2006 Outlook
CAM will be coming out with Garmin G1000-equipped Columbia 350 and 400 models. Customers will be given the option of having either the Garmin G1000 or Avidyne FlightMax Entegra glass panels.

Be A Sport
Since the sport-pilot rule’s inception in September 2004, the sport-pilot and LSA industry has exploded. The past 12 months saw a lot of activity not only in the huge amount of LSA being certified, but also in the addition of sport pilots and instructors. Early in the year, the first group of sport-pilot examiners and flight instructors were certificated. By the end of the year, there were more than 40 new sport-pilot instructors ready to teach. There was one hitch, however. Finding aircraft at flight schools has been a difficult task in the past year, which was the cause of a major bottleneck in the rule’s first year.

A huge number of students have applied for the sport-pilot license. At the 2005 EAA AirVenture alone, more than 380 sport-pilot student certificates were issued. Written test materials were completed and available from the FAA and private companies.

The response of new-production special light sport aircraft (S-LSA) has been outstanding. The industry went from zero to a dozen new-production aircraft in less than seven months alone, with more in the pipeline. Nearly two dozen LSA aircraft were projected to be certified by the year’s end. They include the Aerosport Ltd. Breezer, Aerosport Ltd. C42 Ikarus, Aerostar Festival, American Legend AL3C-100 Cub, AveoUSA SportRider, Evektor SportStar, Fantasy Air Allegro 2000, Flight Design CT, GRYF Aircraft Spol MD 3 Rider, Indus Aviation T211 Thorpedo, JIHLAVAN Airplanes KP-5 Kappa, Tecnam Bravo, Tecnam Echo Super, Tecnam Sierra, TL-Ultralight Sting Sport and Zlin Savage. (For more information on these and soon-to-be certified LSA, see the article “The LSA Boom” in the November 2005 issue of Plane & Pilot.)

2006 Outlook
Expect significantly more S-LSA aircraft to enter the market in 2006. The FAA is considering additional refinement of aircraft-maintenance education and training aircraft issues, as well as perhaps further definition of sport-pilot medical qualifications.

Notable Newsmakers
In early 2005, the GA industry experienced a jolt when the FAA awarded a contract for the services provided by the 58 flight service stations (FSS) in the continental United States, Puerto Rico and Hawaii to Lockheed Martin Corp. On October 4, 2005, Lockheed Martin officially took over the operation despite last-ditch efforts by legislators and the FSS union to stop it. Lockheed Martin and the FAA expect the transition phase to take approximately 18 months.

2006 Outlook
By April 2006, Lockheed is expected to launch the Flight Service 21 (FS21) Web portal, which will allow pilots to obtain preflight briefings, file flight plans and store user profiles.

Since SpaceShipOne’s record-breaking flight in October 2004, the new “space age” was born. The latest from Virgin Atlantic’s Richard Branson and Burt Rutan is that the duo has formed an aerospace production company to build a fleet of commercial suborbital spaceships and to launch aircraft. The new company will own the designs of the new SpaceShipTwo (SS2) and White Knight Two (WK2) launch systems, which will use the same care-free reentry and cantilevered-hybrid rocket motor technology developed for the first one.

Rumors of a new Cessna airplane, nicknamed the “Cirrus Killer,” have started to swirl in 2005. Cessna had kept mum about the subject until the latter part of the year, when a spokesperson confirmed the development of a “brand-new, next-generation” single-engine aircraft.

Citing confusion over the Lancair Kit Planes and the Lancair Certified Aircraft divisions, the latter half changed its name to Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing. The Columbia 350 and 400 will continue down the same production line, but will roll out from the newly named division.

New Piper has hired James K. Bass as its new CEO. Former CEO Chuck Suma will remain on the board of directors. Bass’ priority is to “grow, develop and expand Piper in such a way that is best for customers, our employees and our business.”

More than 50 Commander owners won a bid to buy all of Commander Aircraft’s failed assets. The owners have formed Commander Premier Aircraft Corporation with the hopes of continuing airframe production plus support for parts and services.


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