May 29

EBACE: Qatar Executive increases Gulfstream order

Middle Eastern VIP operator Qatar Executive has firmed up its earlier memorandum of understanding for 20 Gulfstream business jets and added an extra 10 aircraft to the order.

Qatar Airways group chief executive Akbar Al Baker signed the deal today at EBACE in Geneva.

The 30 firm orders and options cover a combination of Gulfstream’s new G500 and G600 jets, as well as its existing G650ER.

“Qatar Executive continues to expand its operations, and the incoming addition of these new aircraft will enable us to widen the range of services available to our clients seeking bespoke and tailored travel services,” says Al Baker.

Gulfstream carried out the first test flight of the G500 on 18 May. US FAA and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) type certification is expected in 2017. The G600 flight-test programme is expected to begin 12-18 months after the G500’s with entry-into-service scheduled for 2019.

Qatar Executive will take delivery of its first G650ER in the fourth quarter of this year.

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May 29

EBACE: Bell developing airline-style support package for 525

Bell Helicopter is working on a support package for the 525 Relentless helicopter that includes aircraft availability guarantees, says Patrick Moulay, vice-president of global sales and marketing.

Guaranteeing aircraft availability rates as part of a power-by-the-hour services package is well-known in the airline industry, but has been absent from the commercial helicopter market.

But that situation is changing with the emergence of large fleets of oil and gas operators requiring reliable access to vertical lift to support offshore drilling platforms and other remote sites.

“More and more they want to go beyond the simple logistics, spare parts requirement,” Moulay says. “They want to move towards availability rates. So now it’s not about the [power-by-the-hour], and you have to deliver spare parts within 48h. It’s about what you do as an OEM to guarantee the availability of the fleet.”

Bell’s deliberations on the 525 follows the 4 March signing of a service agreement between Airbus Helicopters and oil and gas helicopter services operator Bristow Group, which included “airline-style” support agreement that transfers more of the risk for guaranteeing the availability of the fleet to the OEM.

“We are looking at it for the 525 in particular,” Moulay says.

The super-medium-class 525 helicopter is expected to achieve first flight in the next several weeks, launching an at least 18-month certification campaign leading up to entry-into-service in 2017.

The 525 is Bell’s most technically ambitious commercial helicopter development project, with fly-by-wire flight controls, a Garmin G5000 flight deck and seating for as many as 16 passengers.

Although oil and gas orders and deliveries plunged in the first quarter, Bell Helicopter executives interpret that cyclical decline as a positive development for the 525, Moulay says.

Falling oil and gas prices since a year ago have reduced exploration of new drilling fields, forcing oil and gas operators and service providers to defer making order decisions, he says.

If the market rebounds in the next two years, those deferred decisions on new orders will come due just as the 525 becomes available for delivery, he says.

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May 27

DAE sells StandardAero

Dubai Aerospace Enterprise’s ambition to become a global giant with businesses in several expanding industry sectors has effectively ended with the sale of its only overseas subsidiary, StandardAero, one of the biggest and oldest names in the maintenance, repair and overhaul of business jets and their engines.

The acquisition for an undisclosed sum of the Scottsdale, Arizona-headquartered group by New York-based Veritas Capital leaves DAE with just one division, commercial aircraft leasing firm DAE Capital.

When it was founded in 2006, the Dubai group planned to launch or acquire businesses in spheres as diverse as pilot training, component manufacturing, MRO and airport management and development.

DAE acquired StandardAero in 2007 from Carlyle Group. StandardAero is a factory approved service centre for Bombardier Globals, Challengers and Learjets, as well as Dassault Falcons and Embraer Legacys. Its Dallas-based Associated Air Center specialises in Airbus Corporate Jets and Boeing Business Jets completions. It also has approvals for General Electric CF34, Rolls-Royce AE3007 and Honeywell TFE731 engines.

StandardAero, which also has a military MRO business, was founded in 1911. Veritas managing partner Ramzi Musallam says his firm will “help drive [StandardAero’s] next phase of growth, including expanding the company’s presence globally”.

When DAE – which is majority owned by concerns controlled by the Dubai government – was seriously affected by the emirate’s financial crisis in 2010, StandardAero remained a strong performer and executives at the time repeatedly insisted that DAE had no plans to raise cash by selling the business.

DAE had launched a pilot training and education arm called DAE University, but it was axed after little over a year. DAE also owned a stake in Swiss-based SR Technics.

DAE managing director Khalifa AlDaboos, says the Dubai group, which owns 61 airliners in its leasing business, will now “redeploy capital and refocus its efforts on building a world-class aerospace footprint anchored in Dubai” and “aggressively acquire aircraft assets to expand its aircraft leasing portfolio”.

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May 27

Gulfstream says G150 future must "play out"

Gulfstream executives stopped short of fully committing to the midsize market sector for the long-term, as the 10-year-old G150 now faces two new rivals with no replacement yet identified.

The G150 and the G280 are both based on products that Gulfstream inherited from the acquisition of Israel’s Galaxy Aerospace in 2001.

“We’re definitely committed long-term in the G280,” incoming Gulfstream president Mark Burns tells Flightglobal in an interview. “The G150 [situation] will have to play out.”

The mid-sized G150 entered service in 2005 with a wing borrowed from the G100, a widened fuselage, uprated Honeywell TFE731 engines and Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics.

The G150 previously competed against aircraft such as the Cessna Citation Sovereign and Bombardier Learjet 60XR, but now faces new alternatives in the fly-by-wire Embraer Legacy 500 and Cessna Citation Latitude.

Gulfstream introduced the heavily updated, super mid-size G280 in 2012.

Compared to the G280 market, sales of the G150 have been “slower”, says Scott Neal, Gulfstream’s senior vice-president of worldwide sales and marketing.

“That [sector of the market] seemed to take the hardest hit,” adds Neal, referring to the 2008 financial crisis. Deliveries of large cabin aircraft continued to grow through the crisis, but sales of light and mid-sized jets have struggled to recover.

Last January, Bombardier cited continuing weakness in the midsize segment as the reason for putting development of the Learjet 85 on an indefinite pause.

Gulfstream does not break out sales totals between the G150 and G280, but reports deliveries as a group to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. Since the G280 was introduced in 2012, overall deliveries for both models increased from 11 to 23 in 2013 and 33 in 2014.

By comparison overall sales of Gulfstream’s three largest products now in production – the G450, G550 and G650 – rose from 83 in 2012 to 121 in 2013 before falling slightly to 117 last year.

IAI continues to assemble the G150 and G280 aircraft at its factory near the Tel Aviv Ben Gurion airport. The green aircraft are then ferried to a Gulfstream completions centre in Dallas, Texas.

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May 26

EBACE: LHT and Mercedes to design new VIP cabin concept

Lufthansa Technik has teamed up with Mercedes-Benz Style to design and develop an integrated VIP cabin concept for short- and medium-haul aircraft.

The concept departs from the traditional separation of ceiling, wall and floor, instead offering a spiral layout in which these three areas flow into each other seamlessly.

“Our goal is to offer a highly discerning global clientele a standard of interior design that leaves nothing to be desired, says Walter Heerdt, senior vice-president VIP executive jet solutions at Lufthansa Technik.

Under the design, the cabin windows are concealed by black panels which appear to float in front of the window. Mercedes-Benz’s Magic Sky technology allows the panels to be dimmed electrically from black to transparent. Displays and touch screens for entertainment and information can be integrated into the black panels.

In the coming months, the two companies will jointly evaluate the general level of customer interest in the concept.

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May 26

EBACE: H+S Aviation’s Abu Dhabi shop wins PW200 approval

H+S Aviation’s Abu Dhabi facility has received General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) CAR 145 approval to maintain Pratt Whitney Canada PW200 and PT6C-67C rotorcraft engines.

The company describes the authorisation as a “major milestone” for its newest facility.

“Our goal for this facility is to be the provider of choice for Pratt Whitney Canada engines in the Middle East,” says H+S Aviation managing director Mark Taylor.

“This authorisation opens the door for us to pursue additional approvals so that we are able to expand our rotorcraft capabilities for customers throughout the EMEA region.”

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May 24

EBACE: Honeywell doubles wi-fi speeds with software upgrade

Honeywell Aerospace has launched a High Data Rate (HDR) software upgrade that will double the speed of in-flight Wi-fi for existing Inmarsat Swiftbroadband customers, and is hoping to sign up some business aviation customers during EBACE.

Providing peak speeds of up to 2.75mbps, the upgrade is twice as fast as existing Swiftbroadband in-flight connections. Honeywell vice-president marketing and product management Carl Esposito says it is “very easy to install and quick to retrofit”.

In addition to the upgrade for Swiftbroadband customers, Honeywell has been working through the certification process for its JetWave hardware, which supports Inmarsat’s upcoming Global Xpress Ka-band high-speed connectivity service.

As part of this package Honeywell has developed a tail mount antenna system for corporate and business aviation aircraft.

“Business aviation is very often an early adopter of connectivity technology because people are using these aircraft as business tools. Passengers need to stay connected to run their businesses,” says Esposito.

Honeywell also announced at EBACE that it will provide a full suite of connectivity solutions to Gulfstream’s new G500 and G600 aircraft. This will include the installation of its AMT-700 antenna to provide voice and data connectivity in the cabin and cockpit using the Swiftbroadband platform.

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May 24

EBACE: Satcom Direct amps up download speeds

Satcom Direct has unveiled a new version of an airborne data router that could more than treble download speeds on board business jets equipped with the Inmarsat SwiftBroadband satellite service.

The SkyStream bodning and aggregation service will officially launch in July with a new software version in the Satcom Direct Router (SDR), says Sanaa Saadani, head of training for Satcom Direct.

A four-channel system of SkyStream can provide data rates as high as 1.4mbps using the same Inmarsat broadband antenna with a fixed bandwidth limit of about 460kbps. A two-channel system would roughly double the download speed of the existing SwiftBroadband system.

The SDR allows passengers to make satellite phone calls and send text messages using a roaming GSM cellular signal. It means that in-flight phone calls can be made from the caller’s existing cellular number, rather than a line dedicated to a satellite handset on board the aircraft.

The baseline version of the SDR is already installed on more than 200 business jets, including Airbus Corporate Jets, Boeing Business Jets, Bombardier Globals and Gulfstreams, Saadani says.

The SkyStream service accelerates download speeds of the existing network by using data compression and caching techniques, she says.

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May 22

EBACE: Nextant G90XT poised for certification in June

Nextant Aerospace says its G90XT certification programme is racing towards the finishing line, with final approval of the remanufactured Beechcraft King Air C90 on course for June.

The Cleveland, Ohio-based company is now eyeing its next product and has set its sights on aircraft in the super midsize to long-range sectors including the Falcon 50/2000/900 families and the Bombardier Challenger 600 series. Nextant says it has been discussing various platforms with its customer advisory boards in the USA, China and Europe – a meeting was held on the eve of the show – and could result in a programme launch at NBAA in November.

“We need to have a product which gives overwhelming value to potential buyers,” says Nextant president and chief executive Sean McGeough. “The type must also have a minimum inventory of 375 aircraft.”

The new product will join Nextant’s 400XTi light business jet – a remanufactured Hawker 400A – which entered service in 2013, and the G90XT, which is scheduled to go into service at the end of the third quarter.

The aircraft replaces the C90’s Pratt Whitney Canada PT6 turboprop engines with GE H75-100 engines – the first twin-engined turboprop application for the powerplant. Other upgrades include the addition of a Garmin G1000 flightdeck, a new interior and a refresh of all life-limited components.

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May 22

EBACE: Rizon plots expansion following sale to Lionhouse

Biggin Hill’ s biggest fixed-base operation Rizon Jet has been snapped up by ­aircraft finance and leasing company ­Lionhouse for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition clears the way for the upscale FBO – originally part of a Qatar-based business – to ­fulfill its ambition to expand its portfolio of services and footprint at the London business aviation airport with additional hangarage and ramp space.

It comes after Rizon swooped for maintenance, repair and overhaul provider GroupJet – owner of the JETS engineering shops at Bournemouth ­airport and Biggin Hill – to expand its business aviation MRO offering.

Rizon currently provides base and line maintenance on Bombardier Learjet, Challenger and Global business jets, as well as the Hawker series. JETS, meanwhile, offers MRO support on a range of types including the Dornier 328, Cessna Citations and Dassault Falcons. The company is also in talks with another airframer to ­support its European-based fleet.

“This strategic acquisition allows us to consolidate our engineering offering and combine the strengths of the two companies,” says Rizon chief executive Allan McGreal. “The JETS business at both sites will give Rizon access to an increased, more consolidated and specific capability,” he continues. The sale is expected to be completed by July. ■

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