Attendees, exhibitors flock to NBAA for record-setting show

Aviation International News » November 2006
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November 6, 2006, 6:29 AM

Enormous banners that hung from the façade of the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando last month proclaimed the NBAA Convention offered “A year’s worth of business in just three days.” It certainly felt that way.

The record-setting event held from October 17 to 19 was a showcase for airplane introductions, product rollouts and announcements of stratospheric order tallies.
Piper introduced the single-engine PiperJet at the show, Cessna announced the CJ4 and Citation XLS+, Raytheon launched a pair of Hawker derivatives and start-up manufacturer Spectrum Aeronautical took the wraps off a new midsize jet called the S-40 Freedom.

But the even bigger news was the meteoric sales pace across all segments of business aviation, from the diminutive very light jets through the bizliner class. While it was impossible to calculate a precise final order total, sales announced at the show easily reached into the billions of dollars, all but guaranteeing the health of the industry for several years to come.

The annual market forecasts from Honeywell and Rolls-Royce predicted record deliveries next year and an extended boom period through at least the next eight or nine years as all the sales being made now lead to the fulfillment of huge production backlogs in the years to come.

No doubt a result of the increased demand for private jet travel after 9/11, interest in business aviation has skyrocketed, and nowhere was that fact more apparent than at NBAA’06. Honeywell’s outlook predicted that more than 12,000 business aircraft worth $195 billion will roll off manufacturers’ production lines between now and 2016. The Rolls-Royce operators’ survey took an equally bullish view, predicting the delivery of 24,000 business airplanes in the next 20 years.

NetJets kicked off the sales bonanza, placing orders for 30 Hawker 750s and 18 Hawker 900XPs in a deal valued at “more than” $500 million. On the eve of the show NetJets also announced an order for 24 Falcon 7X trijets valued at $1.1 billion. Clearly, the fractional giant’s appetite for business jets is as insatiable as ever, even as the company struggles to report its first full year of profitability since its formation 20 years ago.

While Cessna, Gulfstream and Dassault all announced record order backlogs, the bizjet boom wasn’t limited to the established manufacturers. Honda started taking orders for its $3.65 million HondaJet at the start of the convention and by the time the dust had settled three days later it announced receiving orders for “well over” 100 copies of the unconventional twinjet. Likewise, Embraer announced bulk orders for dozens of Phenoms, providing details of three separate orders worth $188 million at list prices. Boeing Business Jets revealed orders this year for $2.25 billion worth of BBJs (including four VIP 787s and three 747s) and rival Airbus announced several orders, as well, including the first A318 Elite sale to a U.S. buyer.

The level of interest in business aviation was also apparent by the sheer number of attendees, who packed into one million square feet of exhibit space inside the convention center and filled the static display line at Orlando Executive Airport. By the end of the show, the official attendance tally was put at 33,088, about 15 percent ahead of last year’s show, also in Orlando, and comfortably ahead of the previous record attendance total of 31,665 set at the Las Vegas convention in 1998.
NBAA’06 will go down not only as a record breaker, but also as one of the newsiest shows in recent years. Highlights from the convention follow on the next three pages. For all the news, visit ainonline.com and aintv.com.   

‘Next Generation’ PC-12 To Fly with Apex Cockpit

Pilatus announced the long-awaited “Next Generation” PC-12 featuring a more powerful Pratt & Whitney Canada turboprop engine and a four-display Honeywell Apex integrated avionics suite. The Swiss airframer said a program is under way to certify the enhanced version of the aircraft by the end of next year, with deliveries to commence immediately afterward.

Pilatus executives Thomas Hunziker and Ulli Gehling shared details of the Apex avionics package with AIN, saying it will integrate and automate presentation of flight information, engine monitoring and aircraft configuration with the control and status of pressurization and environmental systems. The eight- by 10-inch liquid-crystal displays will also place flight and weather data, charts and trip planning information within easy reach of pilots.

While it’s identical to its predecessor on the outside, the Next Generation PC-12 benefits from additional climb performance and cruise speed thanks to a P&WC PT6A-67P engine that provides 15 percent more thermodynamic power than the currently installed PT6A-67B, which is flat-rated to 1,200 shp.

Other PC-12 enhancements include a digital dual-zone environmental control system, fully automatic cabin pressurization control requiring no pilot input, and an electric power generation and distribution system to provide full redundancy and automatic load-shedding when required. Pilatus also promises pilots and passengers greater comfort from a BMW-designed cabin and cockpit embodying “the ultimate in both ergonomics and aesthetic appeal.”

10,000-pound-thrust Engine Wars Begin
After hinting about future development at last year’s convention, engine makers at NBAA’06 put renewed emphasis on advanced technology aimed at developing state-of-the-art turbofans in the 10,000-pound-thrust class for a new breed of midsize to large business jet.

In the past, Honeywell, Pratt & Whitney Canada and Snecma have briefly outlined technology demonstration programs that they indicated might someday lead to the introduction of engines for the coming generation of quiet, environmentally friendly and fuel-efficient large business jets. At the show, Honeywell and Snecma revealed full-scale development programs as Cessna rolled out a cabin mockup of a large airplane that very well could fly with the new-generation engines from one of these manufacturers.

Honeywell at the convention unveiled a model of the newly dubbed HTF10000 engine, with an external diameter 10 to 15 percent larger than the Honeywell HTF7000 on which much of its architecture will be based. Bob Smith, the manufacturer’s director of advanced technology, said the engine would build upon the demonstrated reliability of the HTF7000 now flying aboard the Bombardier Challenger 300, which has achieved a 99.99-percent dispatch reliability rate through 140,000 flight hours since its introduction in 2004.

Using the HTF7000 as a baseline, a new 10,000-pound Honeywell engine would have low development risk while incorporating technologies that would give a launch customer improved performance and durability, he predicted.

Snecma, meanwhile, introduced Silvercrest, the first of its new line of engines for tomorrow’s big business jets. The Safran subsidiary announced last January that it was developing a state-of-the-art turbofan codenamed SM-X for entry into the market around 2010. Now the wraps have come off and the Silvercrest program is a go. The development is part of Snecma’s strategy to gain market share with commercial engines for new business jets and regional airliners and follows the recent launch of the SaM146 engine for Sukhoi’s future Russian Regional Jet, now known as the Superjet 100.

Pratt & Whitney Canada president Alain Bellemare, meanwhile, said the company has been working on the Advanced Fan Technology Integrator (AFTI) project for the last four years and is now ready to enter the 10,000-pound-thrust class market. “We believe that there is a market for such an engine, and we continue to invest in developing technologies to be ready” for the next generation of large corporate jets. Bellemare added that the company is in discussions about the ATFI concept with OEMs.

Cirrus Booth Was a Tease for ‘The-jet’
Visitors to the Cirrus exhibit on the show floor who took a look at the Cirrus SR22 on display there might have noticed a subtle hint of a shape to come: a new very light jet from the Minnesota company.

The lightplane maker announced a couple of months ago that it plans to produce a jet eventually. But vice chairman and cofounder Dale Klapmeier told AIN, “We’re not saying when it will be produced, or what the performance will be.” What they are telling is that “The-jet by Cirrus” (the name for now) will be powered by a single Williams FJ33-19 turbofan with 1,900 pounds of thrust. Cirrus made the announcement of the engine choice at a press conference during the show.

At the Cirrus booth, a black “shadow” was woven into the carpet where the SR22 sat. The faux shadow matched the real airplane perfectly, except for the racy tailfeathers shown in the photo here.

“We’re building an airplane that our customers want,” Klapmeier said, but he declined to reveal a timeframe except to say it won’t be “anytime soon.”
Cirrus, however, is taking $100,000 nonrefundable deposits for the new jet, he added. “One thing we will say about it is that it will be really cool,” Klapmeier said. “We don’t know yet what the eventual name will be, but for now it’s The-jet by Cirrus.” He noted that the SR20 started out being called “Single Reciprocating Series 20.”

Cirrus first announced the jet at the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association meeting in June, when more than 400 owners gathered in Duluth. “We had an auction to raise money for the Tuskegee Airmen Red Tail Project, and auctioned off four The-jet T-shirts,” he said, raising $6,000 for the cause. 

L-3 Avionics Introduces an EVS for the Masses
L-3 Avionics Systems introduced the company’s low-cost enhanced-vision system, called Iris and notable for having a price of around $15,000.

The core of L-3’s Iris infrared camera system is a barium-strontium-titanate (BST) sensor, adapted from the automotive industry and modified with added electronics for aviation applications, according to the company.

The BST sensor is mounted within a 1.7-pound camera pod that delivers a composite video feed to any cockpit display or electronic flight bag capable of accepting analog video signals. L-3 demonstrated the Iris camera at NBAA’06 with a video at its booth and also in the company’s King Air 90 parked at the NBAA static display.

“We’re changing the game in how enhanced vision is brought to the market,” said Adrienne Stevens, L-3 Avionics president.

L-3 plans to begin deliveries after earning initial supplemental type certificates in the first quarter of next year. The first airplane to be STC’d will be L-3’s King Air 90, after which the company plans to obtain STCs for other airplane types.

L-3 plans to focus on aircraft manufacturers as a primary target for the Iris camera, according to Joe Hoffman, L-3 group vice president for strategic planning, and then later target the aftermarket. “We’ve been working on this for 18 months,” he said. “We just got corporate approval [to go public] in August.” Airplanes from business jets to four-place piston singles are the optimal market, he said. “It’s affordable. That’s what changes the rules of the game. Prices of systems out there today restrict who can buy them.”

L-3 Avionics considers the combination of its Iris camera with a cockpit display to be an EVS for the masses. Larger jet EVSs that display their images on head-up displays use infrared sensors that must be cooled for optimal performance, but these cost as much as $500,000. While these systems deliver greater sensitivity than the Iris camera, Larry Riddle, vice president of business development, noted that the L-3 product does not need to be cooled, which reduces the cost dramatically. “For the price range,” he said, “it meets and exceeds what general aviation needs.”

For pilots, the Iris camera’s video feed is advisory only and doesn’t provide information that they can use to fly to lower minimums as HUD-based EVS does. L-3’s video shows side-by-side views of unlit mountains at night that can be seen by the Iris camera but not the pilot’s eyes. Other examples of the camera’s capabilities include deer on airports, poorly lit airplanes taxiing at night, clouds and the nighttime view spotting a runway surrounded by city lights.

L-3 Avionics obtained the Iris technology from sister company L-3 Communications Infrared Products, which sells the Thermal-Eye camera used in Nightdriver automotive applications.

Cessna Shows Large-cabin Mockup
Visitors to Cessna’s NBAA’06 exhibit toured what the Wichita manufacturer called a “large/midsize cabin concept” (LCC) mockup, providing a glimpse of what the next Citation could look like.

Cessna officials emphasized that the mockup’s appearance was not a product launch, but rather an attempt to gather market research from those touring the concept airplane. “This is a more public approach to a new aircraft program,” said Cessna director of marketing support Mark Fuhrman. “We’re seeking earlier input from customers versus our previous Citation programs.”

While no specific performance specifications have been announced yet, visitors were given the chance to sign up for private briefings where two potential performance concepts were discussed, after which Cessna polled attendees about which one they preferred.

“This is the next natural place to take our XLS, Sovereign and Citation X customers,” said Jack Pelton, Cessna chairman, CEO and president. But, he said, the airplane would not be positioned “to compete with the large-cabin Gulfstreams.” Pelton said that the LCC aircraft would need an engine in the 10,000-pound-thrust class, technology several engine makers are working on now.

According to Cessna, the nine-passenger, two-pilot concept Citation would have provisions for a flight attendant and kitchenette, and would offer a wider floor with standing room equivalent to a Gulfstream G550.

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