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Special Expanded Edition: NBAA Rocks Vegas, An Electric Diamond DA-40 Coming, And Blackhawk Does Pilatus

Plus, a new HondaJet, Latinas in Aviation get a voice, High Sierra Fly-In kicks off and so much more!

NBAA had a rocking show at the Las Vegas Convention Center, with large numbers of attendees and exhibitors. To attend the event, NBAA required proof of vaccination. Next year’s NBAA Convention is in Orlando, Florida, and runs from October 18-20, 2022.

Plane & Pilot incorrectly reported that NBAA would accept proof of negative Covid test for admittance. The organization is requiring proof of vaccination, period. In part, that’s because the State of Nevada requires vaccinations and not alternative means of compliance, according to an NBAA spokesperson.

Although it’s not being boasted about directly, the biggest takeaway from NBAA 2021 was arguably that business aviation is rocking, with record numbers of private and charter flights and operators of fractional and charter aircraft clamoring for more planes from manufacturers, many of whom are already booked a year in advance or more.

Another big theme at NBAA was Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). Because it’s carbon neutral, claims its manufacturers, credibly, too, SAF is like magic for business aircraft operators, who have long fought against attacks based on the environmental unfriendliness of turbine engines. NBAA was giving what it calls BLADE flights in a helicopter using just SAF, and turbine aircraft getting fuel at Henderson, where the outdoor displays are located, were topped off with SAF the trip back home.

Southwest Airlines had to cancel around 2,000 flights last weekend due to what it said but few believe were severe weather issues in Florida coupled with a shortage of pilots. A staunchly conservative pilots’ group, which is on the record against mandated vaccines for flight crewmembers, is claiming credit for the sick-out, but there’s no direct evidence that such an action took place.

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The High Sierra Fly-In kicked off on Thursday with capacity participation. The event, which is focused on pilots with planes that that fly into the gathering, held on a remote dry lake in Northern Nevada, does not allow drive-in spectators not associated with an airplane at the event. Look for a full report on the event in coming editions of Plane & Pilot eNews.

Diamond Aircraft announced that it would field an all-electric-powered trainer, the Diamond eDA-40, based on the company’s DA-40 four-seat single, available with gas piston or turbodiesel engines. The electric model seems a work in progress, and Diamond says it’s aiming for a 90-minute endurance while admitting that figure might not attainable right away.

Just prior to the NBAA Convention in Las Vegas, Textron Aviation announced two updates to its Cessna Citations, the Model 525 Citation M2 and the Model 560XL XLS Plus. Both will be branded as NexGen models. The updates are largely to the interior, but the M2’s boasts an additional 3 inches of leg room for the co-pilot’s station, which might not sound like a big deal unless you’ve been in that seat for a few hours. The two updates, said Textron Aviation’s CEO Ron Draper, are part of the company’s ongoing commitment to product quality.

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Well, if you can really launch a concept, Honda Aircraft did just that at NBAA with the introduction of its HondaJet 2600, which has not yet been greenlighted and which might get major changes based on potential customer input. The jet seats 11 total, and Honda is aiming for single-pilot certification for it. Part of its plan is for electric brakes and brake-by-wire, a key feature in enabling autoland, a feature Honda didn’t mention during its introduction, but which would dovetail nicely with the single-pilot certification direction.

The inaugural Latinas in Aviation gathering, which took place in College Park, Maryland, was a huge success, with more than 300 attendees and numerous exhibitors and presentations, including from 14 authors of the recent book, Latinas in Aviation. These women, the organizers say, are an underrepresented and underappreciated segment of the aerospace world, and its goal is to change both of those things.

Blackhawk announced a program for re-engining the Pilatus PC-12 single-engine pressurized turboprop’s P&W PT6 with the more robust and powerful PT6 engines. The change would give the PC-12 a host of performance improvements, including better hot and high performance, better time to climb numbers and better cruise speed numbers at higher altitudes. Blackhawk plans to start flying a re-engined PC-12 early next year.

An innocent passenger who was looking at information on vintage cameras while examining his own camera on a flight from Indianapolis to La Guardia in New York City caused the flight to make an emergency landing and for the passengers to be evacuated via emergency slides after a fellow passenger got worried the guy was trying to figure out how to make a bomb. After exiting the airplane, the camera buff was thrown to the ground and restrained before being taken in for questioning and released without charges.

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William Shatner, who played Captain James T. Kirk on the short-lived but still popular original Star Trek series, went to actual space on Wednesday, October 13, when he flew aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard. Shatner was one of four passengers who experienced weightlessness in the capsule as it reached the apogee of the suborbital flight, which lasted just over 10 minutes. An emotional Shatner said of the galactic ride: “No description can equal this.”

Longtime aviation educators Greg Brown and Martha and John King were inducted into the National Flight Instructors Hall of Fame. Brown wrote columns for AOPA Pilot and AOPA’s Flight Training magazines for many years, and the Kings helped pioneer video and computer aviation training courses though the company King Schools, which they founded.

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