AIN's Newsmakers feature first appeared in the January/February 1984 issue of Aviation International News, when the editors selected the Top Ten Newsmakers of 1983. As Jim Holahan, AIN's editor and cofounder, wrote at the time, "Our ten selections have provided the stuff that news is made of."
Over the years, we've added newsworthy aviation topics and events, as well as a timeline. This year we gave Newsmakers an extreme makeover and are nudging it into the digital age.
In 2011 the word "occupy," when written as "Occupy," acquired a whole new meaning. In city parks, it meant ill-defined protests about today's social order. Inevitably, its in-your-face approach lost popular support.
Occupy GPS, a.k.a. LightSquared, a wealthy telecom startup headquartered in Reston, Va., did not set out to win popular support; rather, with reportedly top political connections and Washington's leading lobbyists, it targeted decision makers.
Leveraging just two frequencies acquired from a failed satellite company, LightSquared wants the FCC to shoehorn a nationwide network of 40,000 powerful terrestrial transmitters into the radio band dedicated to weak satellite signals, so that it can broadcast AM/FM radio-style advertising across the Internet.
GPS is the stumbling block. The DOD, FAA and all other GPS users maintain that LightSquared's plan would create massive interference, confirmed by tests on one of its frequencies.
After switching to its second frequency, LightSquared announced a future interference solution, with free, custom filters offered for very specialized, federally owned, precision receivers. Military and civilian GPS receivers, plus millions of cellphone and car units, would not qualify. Filters might cost $800, but installation in cellphones and handhelds is questionable.
In Washington, "Follow the money" is key. To go nationwide, LightSquared needs $9 billion to piggyback its transmitters on Sprint's infrastructure. Covering that and making a profit requires LightSquared to rent Internet space to commercial advertisers.
The eventual payoff? LightSquared's two satellite-only frequencies cost $2 billion. Yet bending the FCC's rules turns them into commercial broadcast stations, with their market value zooming to $12 billion.
That represents a potentially huge payback for LightSquared and its lobbyists, but a colossal setback for world GPS. –A.W.
1/31-The helicopter world lost an icon when helicopter pioneer, inventor and philanthropist Charles Kaman, 91, died January 31. After working with Igor Sikorsky at United Aircraft's Hamilton Standard division, he founded Kaman Aircraft in 1945, serving as the company's CEO until 1999 and chairman until 2001.
3/11-The most severe earthquake in the country's recorded history rocked the main island of Japan on the afternoon of March 11. The temblor set off a gigantic tidal surge that swept away whole communities, killed nearly 30,000 people and inundated the nuclear reactor complex at Fukushima, setting off a nuclear meltdown that nine months later had yet to be fully controlled. The disaster affected flight patterns in the region for several weeks due to fear of radioactive fallout.
3/30-David Sokol resigned in March as chairman of several Berkshire Hathaway companies, including fractional-share provider NetJets, which he led since 2009. NetJets president Jordan Hansell became chairman and CEO.
4/2-The four crewmembers of G650 flight-test aircraft S/N 6002 died when the airplane crashed at 9:30 a.m. mountain time in Roswell, N.M. According to the NTSB, the twinjet "was performing a takeoff with a simulated engine failure to determine takeoff distance requirements at minimum flap setting" at the time of the accident.
Following the accident investigation, the development program resumed. Much to the credit of Gulfstream's executive team–especially senior vice president of programs, engineering and test Pres Henne–the G650 program held exactly to its original schedule. Gulfstream's flagship model is also now the fastest certified (albeit provisionally) civil aircraft, with a top speed of Mach 0.925. The company planned to deliver 10 to 12 green G650s to customers by year-end.
4/7-The SJ30 light twinjet program was purchased out of bankruptcy for $3.5 million by an investor group affiliated with Utah-based Metalcraft Technologies, builder of the aircraft's fuselage.
4/12-Embraer and Aviation Industry Corporation of China (Avic) agreed to start producing Legacy 650s at the Brazilian airframer's existing factory at Harbin in northern China, which has already produced ERJ regional airliners. Cessna also has confirmed "exploratory" talks about possible business jet manufacturing in the People's Republic.
4/21-Gulfstream Aerospace delivers 500th PlaneView cockpit
5/2-Textron named GE Aviation veteran Scott Ernest to lead its Cessna Aircraft subsidiary in May, following the surprise retirement of Jack Pelton. Textron chief Scott Donnelly ran Cessna in the interim.
5/12–U.S. Transportation Security Administration general aviation manager Brian Delauter resigned in May, after less than two years in the post. TSA deputy assistant administrator Douglas Hofsass took over the position.
6/3-Gulfstream delivers 300th G550
6/15-Emivest's SJ30 program was renamed the SyberJet, to be produced by a company called SyberJet Aircraft. Few details emerged as to when or if the aircraft will be put back into production.
6/18-Honeywell's corporate G450 landed at Le Bourget Airport on June 18 after making the first transatlantic flight using biofuel. The historic nonstop flight from Morristown, N.J., to the Paris Air Show resulted in a net-equivalent savings of roughly 5.5 metric tons of CO2. The G450's number-one engine burned a 50-50 blend of Honeywell Green Jet Fuel and jet-A; the other engine consumed 100 percent jet-A.
Two days later, a Boeing 747-8 Freighter landed at Paris, completing the first transatlantic flight of a commercial airliner with all engines gulping a mixture of biofuel (15 percent camelina-based) and jet-A kerosene.
6/20-Peter Edwards resigned as president of General Dynamics subsidiary Jet Aviation in June. Daniel Clare, formerly CFO, replaced him as head of the aviation services provider.
6/27-With bailouts of banks and automakers in the rearview mirror, business aviation was put in the crosshairs by the Occupy Wall Street protesters and the "99 percent." But it was The Wall Street Journal that effectively declared war on business aviation in June by painting a picture of corporate jets as expensive, wasteful, abused perks for the very rich. With President Obama calling for user fees on general aviation, the industry launched a counterattack through GA caucuses in Congress.
6/28-China Aviation Industry General Aircraft (Caiga) caused a stir when it announced on June 28 that it had acquired Cirrus Aircraft, despite U.S. concerns about technology-transfer issues. The Zhuhai-based group will provide the fresh capital needed to complete certification of the SF50 jet in 2015 and has committed to keeping manufacturing in Duluth, Minn.
7/3-James Hoblyn, 46, Bombardier Aerospace's president of customer services, where he oversaw aftermarket services, died while running on July 3. His personal stamp on customer services really started to become apparent in the months just before his death.
7/14-The X2, a high-speed compound helicopter with coaxial rotor, flew for the last time on July 14, after logging 22 hours on 23 flights. It had reached a max speed of 260 knots. The project is now transitioning to its first application, the military S-97 Raider.
7/27-The extraordinary circumstances surrounding the June 2009 crash of Air France Flight 447 will affect aviation for many years. Not only will pilot training – especially high-altitude stalls – be a key focus, but the deep-w available technological solutions for real-time transmission of airborne data.
8/7-Patco strike marks 30th anniversary
8/17-Honeywell's combination of synthetic vision and enhanced vision plays on a primary flight display, so pilots will have to look up at the last minute to complete the landing.
8/23-Long-serving Tom Poberezny retired in August as chairman of the Experimental Aircraft Association and the annual EAA AirVenture Oshkosh show. EAA president and CEO Rod Hightower assumed his responsibilities.
9/1-Larry Flynn, formerly senior vice president of marketing and sales, succeeded Joe Lombardo as president of Gulfstream in September. Lombardo remained executive vice president of the General Dynamics aerospace group.
9/1-Former airline lobbyist Fabio Gamba was appointed CEO of the European Business Aviation Association, effective September 1. Brian Humphries remained EBAA president. Gamba formerly worked for the Association of European Airlines.
9/13-Sikorsky announced the third prototype of the S-76D had made its first flight during the summer and joined the test fleet. Certification was repegged for the first quarter of 2012.
9/15-Congress approves temporary FAA funding extension
9/19-Dale Klapmeier became CEO of Cirrus Aircraft in September after the departure of former CEO and president Brent Wouters. China Aviation Industry General Aircraft acquired the airframer in June.
9/20-Rockwell Collins is investing heavily in synthetic vision on its head-up displays, allowing pilots to keep their eyes looking out of the cockpit. Last year, AIN flew a demonstration of the system.
9/26-Several seasons of discontent came to a jubilant end for Boeing this autumn, when after more than three years of delays and billions of dollars in cost overruns, it delivered the first 787 Dreamliner to Japan's All Nippon Airways. Some three weeks later, it delivered the first 747-8F to Cargolux, following roughly two years of delays. Next, it plans to deliver the first 747-8 Intercontinental (FAA certified on December 14) early this year.
10/10-Confirmation that the big bizav bucks now come from China was apparent when Minsheng Financial Leasing inked deals worth up to $2.6 billion at the NBAA show. Adding to earlier orders placed with Gulfstream, Minsheng will take 13 Embraer Legacy 650s and up to 10 Dassault Falcon 7Xs and Falcon 2000Ss.
10/10-Richard Gaona, at 53, is on top of his game as chairman and CEO of Comlux The Aviation Group, formed in 2007 when it acquired a small Swiss charter operator. Five years later, the Zurich-based group has 22 airplanes in its Fly Comlux charter operation and a major completion center–Comlux America–in Indianapolis. Currently in the works at Comlux America are a BBJ3, an ACJ319 and a Boeing 757, and the backlog stretches into 2013.
10/10-It's hard to believe that Apple's iPad is not even two years old. The capable Apple tablet computer has spawned legions of competitors, upended the traditional laptop computer market and taken over as the choice FAA-sanctioned cockpit device for displaying charts and documents. If anything, the iPad is showing the way to an app-enabled future, where pilots pick and choose software applications that play on their tablets and cockpit displays.
10/18-Simon Caldecott replaced Geoff Berger as president and CEO of Piper Aircraft, which in October suspended its PiperJet Altaire development program. Randy Groom, executive vice president, departed the company.
10/19-The battle over leaded aviation gasoline in California took a turn against a coalition of associations representing avgas users, distributors and producers. On October 19, a U.S. District Court judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by the aviation coalition that attempted to halt legal action by the Center for Environmental Health prohibiting the use of avgas in the state.
10/24-Piper indefinitely suspended the PiperJet Altaire program less than two weeks after replacing its top management. Interim CEO Simon Caldecott blamed high development costs and a dwindling market, and laid off 150 employees and 55 contract workers.
11/1-CitationAir founder, president and CEO Steven O'Neill stepped down in November. He was succeeded as head of the air services company by Bill Schultz, formerly executive vice president and COO.
11/13-MEBA announces venue change for 2012 show
11/14-The Medrar Financial Group purchased a majority interest in the perennially under-funded Canadian airframer for an undisclosed amount, breathing new money into the limping D-Jet development program. Medrar CEO Jamil Marmarchi predicts a grand future for the single-engine jet and the "derivative models to follow."
11/15-China's ambitions to step onto the world aerospace stage were manifest in the international debut of Avic's MA600 twin turboprop at the November's Dubai Air Show. Meanwhile, the company has had to acknowledge another delay to the first delivery of its ARJ21 regional jet, which is now set for this year. In April, Avic acquired Teledyne Continental Motors. And Avic's parent group, Comac, is developing the larger C919 and also forged a prospective alliance with Bombardier in 2011.
11/20-Teddy Forstmann, 71, the man who was credited with turning around Gulfstream Aerospace in the 1990s, lost his battle with brain cancer on November 20. During his seven-year tenure as Gulfstream chairman and CEO, he revamped the management team, created new product lines, expanded production capacity and launched the then-flagship GV.
11/29-AgustaWestland took full ownership of the 609 civil tiltrotor program from Bell, ending a joint venture beset by delays and public squabbling. AW will move development to Italy, and is setting up a U.S. office to continue seeking FAA certification, which it hopes to have by 2015 or 2016.
12/6-FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt resigned from the agency on December 6 in the wake of his arrest in a northern Virginia suburb on a charge of driving while intoxicated (DWI). FAA deputy administrator Michael Huerta is serving as acting administrator.
12/11-Former FAA Administrator J. Lynn Helms died December 11 at 86. Helms managed the FAA during the 1981 strike that caused President Ronald Reagan to fire 11,000 air traffic controllers.
The U.S. Congress continued sitting on its collective hands on the question of long-term funding for the FAA's operations and programs. As the New Year approached, the agency limped along under the 22nd extension of a reauthorization bill that was supposed to have died in 2007. Inaction by lawmakers threatened emulation of July's partial shutdown of the FAA, which put thousands FAA employees and airport construction workers out of work for two weeks and cost the federal treasury millions in lost taxes.
Meanwhile, promises to revive a security program for "large" general aviation aircraft–announced in 2008–still had not reached fruition by year-end. But the Transportation Security Administration was promising that whatever finally emanates from the ashes of the Large Aircraft Security Program will sport a new name and more logic in its implementation.
And also still unresolved: the U.S. and the EU remained at loggerheads over the latter's plan to begin a carbon emissions tax on Jan. 1, 2012. The House passed a bill in October prohibiting U.S. operators from acquiescing to the scheme, and at year-end an identical version was working its way through the Senate.
But one issue did reach the end of the tunnel, though only after a nearly year-long battle. A rider on an appropriations bill passed by Congress in November ordered the FAA to reinstate the Block Aircraft Registration Request program, which allows operators to block tail numbers from flight tracking services. The FAA complied on December 2.