May 7

Embraer prepares first European-owned Legacy 500 for delivery

Embraer is poised to deliver the first European-based Legacy 500, less than six months after its midsize business jet secured certification from the continent’s aviation authority, EASA.

The Brazilian company had delivered five of the Honeywell HTF7500E-powered clean-sheet aircraft by the end of March from its São José dos Campos headquarters.

Embraer will not disclose its current order backlog for the fly-by-wire Legacy 500, but it has set guidance of between 35 and 40 deliveries this year in what it defines as its “large jet” portfolio. This includes the Lineage 1000E, Legacy 600/650 and the Legacy 450 currently in production.

The six-passenger business jet, dubbed a “mid-light” by Embraer, is a shorter version of the eight-passenger Legacy 500 and is on course to enter service in the fourth quarter.

Embraer’s entire business jet line-up will be on display from 19 to 21 May at the Geneva-based European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (EBACE).

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May 6

AUVSI: Amazon reveals full UAV delivery concept

Online retailer Amazon has disclosed full details of a concept for delivering packages with unmanned air vehicles in a US patent application published on 30 April.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos first announced plans to deliver packages with small octorotor UAVs in a 2013 interview with 60 Minutes, but the company had kept silent on how the package delivery concept would work.

But newly-published patent application – titled “unmanned air vehicle delivery system” – describes a complete system with a customer interface, route planning, inventory tracking, in-flight navigation and completing delivery.

The concept anticipates that a “remote entity” would control the UAV at the delivery point to select a safe landing site. That information would be stored and used to make future deliveries automatically, the application says.

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Rex Features

As the aircraft navigates to the delivery site, Amazon envisions making adjustments to the route in real-time. Some would be driven through communications with other UAVs in the same area, which would provide updates on weather and ground traffic.

The UAV also would monitor the ground to avoid flying over people and animals, according to the Amazon concept. The flying delivery vehicles may have to pass over roads with moving ground vehicles, but Amazon’s plan is to minimise the overflight time by only crossing over roads at a perpendicular angle.

Amazon also discloses an image of an octorotor UAV delivery platform that appears similar to the aircraft design shown in the 60 Minutes interview.

The application says that multiple UAVs of various sizes could be used to deliver packages. As an order arrives at a warehouse, an automated system would decide which platform would be required to lift the payload. It would also determine the route and check whether the UAV has enough power. Amazon also anticipates a network of relay stations where packages could be transferred from vehicles with little power remaining to a fully charged aircraft.

Although the patent application suggests Amazon has a fully defined concept, the US Federal Aviation Administration still bans most operations of UAVs for commercial purposes.

Nothing in the Amazon concept suggests that the air vehicles would remain within the line of sight of the operator, as envisioned now by the FAA’s proposed rules governing the operation of small UAVs in the national airspace.

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May 6

Luxaviation snaps up ExecuJet to become world’s second-largest business jet operator

Luxaviation’s ambition to become the largest business aircraft operator in the world after NetJets has been realised, thanks to its successful acquisition on 30 April of ExecuJet Aviation Group.

The purchase of the Zurich, Switzerland-headquartered business aviation services provider boosts Luxaviation’s fleet from around 100 to over 250 aircraft and expands its global footprint to include Europe, Africa, Asia, Australasia, Latin America and the Middle East.

ExecuJet is Luxaviation’s largest purchase, in terms of both size and value, since it started down the acquisition trail in 2011. Germany’s FairJets was snapped up first and since 2013 the Benelux company has added four more European companies to its portfolio through debt-funded acquisitions: the UK’s London Executive Aviation, France’s Unijet, Belgium’s Abelag and Portugal’s Masterjet.

“ExecuJet has provided Luxaviation with an optimal engine room to consolidate the fragmented charter marketplace in Europe,” says ExecuJet outgoing chief executive and chairman Niall Olver, who has led the 24-year-old company since 1993. He is referring to Europe’s 1,000+ charter operators, the vast majority of which have one-tail fleets. “It has the money, the vision and now the platform to really shake up this market place,” adds Olver, who is remaining with the company in an advisory capacity. Gerrit Basson, ExecuJet’s former president and chief operating officer, will take over the reigns as chief executive.

In common with other Luxaviation Group companies, ExecuJet will retain its identity, management team and operational independence but will benefit from the “valuable synergies within the group”, it says. “These benefits include economies of scale in the purchasing of fuel, insurance, training and other significant cost areas; increased aircraft availability and utilisation within the group, with a broader range of aircraft types; and collaboration with other group companies to enhance best practice in all operational areas.”

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Luxaviation’s co-chief executive, Patrick Hansen (left), with ExecuJet’s outgoing chief executive, Niall Olver

“The acquisition of ExecuJet is the next step in our growth strategy and significantly increases Luxaviation’s global reach,” says Patrick Hansen, co-chief executive of Luxaviation and newly appointed chairman of ExecuJet.

“It’s operations give us a strong presence in some of the world’s fastest-growing business aviation markets, including Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, as well as a significantly larger managed fleet,” he adds.

The Luxaviation fleet now spans the business aircraft spectrum, including types such as the Pilatus PC-12NG single-engined turboprop, the entry-level Cessna Citation Mustang, super-midsize Bombardier Challenger 300, the ultra-long-range Gulfstream 650 and the Boeing Business Jet VIP airliner. The ExecuJet acquision also brings with it a fleet of single and twin-engined helicopters.

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May 4

AERO: One Aviation targets European certification for EA550

One Aviation – the new parent company of recently merged Eclipse Aerospace and Kestrel Aircraft – says securing European certification for the EA550 is a “priority” for the company, as it seeks to drum up sales of the very light jet globally.

“Europe is a really important market for the EA550. It has so much potential in this region,” says Alan Klapmeier, chief executive of One Aviation, which was launched on the first day of the Aero 2015 show.

The EA550’s predecessor – the EA500 – is already certificated in Europe, and around 20 of the six-seat twin-engined type are currently in service across the continent.

The latest iteration of the VLJ features a dual Avio integrated flight management system, synthetic vision, enhanced vision, auto-throttles and anti-skid brakes.

“There aren’t many differences between the two models, so hopefully it won’t take too long,” adds Klapmeier, who is also chief executive of Kestrel Aircraft, developer of the single-engined KA350. The turboprop is now in the detailed design phase, and One Aviation is hoping to fund the programme through sales of the EA550.

“Last year Eclipse delivered 12 aircraft. Under One Aviation’s direction we will step up the sales and marketing effort and take the EA550 to potential owners. We need to get them excited about the product, and then we can sell it in much greater numbers,” Klapmeier says.

The EA550 and KA350 are the first two of a planned series of aircraft in the One Aviation family. The new venture aims to offer a range of aircraft models, including new designs, out of service types – which could be acquired and upgraded – and in-service types that could be added to the line-up through other company mergers. “Our goal is to open up GA to a much wider audience,” Klapmeier says. “Many believe this industry is just for the privileged few, but we plan to remove that mental block. In 10 year’s time we will be selling aircraft to people for whom today it is only a dream.”

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May 4

AERO: Quest Kodiak makes European show debut as certification looms

Quest Aircraft’s Kodiak single-engined turboprop made its European show debut at Aero, as the airframer seeks to drum up sales of the 10-seat utility aircraft ahead of planned certification within the next six to 12 months.

“The Kodiak is already proving popular with European customers,” says Quest, which recently appointed Germany’s Rheinland Air Service as its exclusive dealership for the region. “Although the aircraft hasn’t received certification in Europe yet, we have already delivered five aircraft in to the region – the first in 2010,” it adds.

Quest has delivered nearly 140 Pratt Whitney Canada PT6A-34-powered Kodiaks since the first aircraft entered service in 2007, and Europe is expected to account for a sizeable share of its future annual order tally. “The expectation is that it will become one of our largest regions,” says the Sandpoint, Idaho-based airframer. “There is a particular interest in our float-equipped Kodiak from commercial operators in the Adriatic and the Aegean.”

The €1.9 million ($2 million) Kodiak is already certificated in 18 countries, and several other validations are imminent.

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May 2

PICTURE: Pilatus PC-24 begins taxi runs

Pilatus has begun taxi runs of its PC-24, and says the light business jet remains on target to make its first flight in May.

The seven-seat twin was pictured on 29 April on the runway the airframer’s Stans, Switzerland headquarters.

Launched in 2012, the PC-24 is the first business jet programme for Pilatus – builder of the PC-series of propeller-driven civil aircraft and military trainers.

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Stephan Widmer

It is dubbed a “super versatile jet” by the manufacturer due to its proposed short-runway performance and its ability to land on rough landing strips. Certification and service entry are scheduled for 2017.

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May 2

Rise in pay-to-fly pilot numbers raises ECA concerns

Despite years of protest from the pilot community, pay-to-fly schemes are becoming more common, according to the European Cockpit Association. The term refers to a practice whereby inexperienced but licensed pilots who want to gain experience to become more employable pay to act as crew on commercial or business aviation flights.

ECA President Dirk Polloczek explains: “Airlines are constantly reinventing models to get cheaper labour, like hiring self-employed or fake-self-employed pilots, pilots on temporary work agency contracts, or on zero-hours contracts.”

But, he adds, “P2F takes such unacceptable practices to a wholly different level: the employment of young pilots is no longer an investment by the airline in its staff but a simple revenue generator. It is a blunt abuse and exploitation of young, low-hours pilots who are desperate to find a job.”

The issue is becoming more common in the USA where, following a commuter airline accident some years ago, Congress ruled that pilots must have 1,500h of airborne experience before flying for US commercial carriers.

Miami, Florida-based EagleJet International, as one example, has capitalised on the situation by offering low-hour pilots the opportunity to gain 1,000h flying Airbus A320s for an “Asian airline” or others, and charging the pilot for the privilege, with no guarantee of any pay for the work or of a job with the airline at the end of the contract. Now EagleJet is offering European pilots this opportunity for €87,500 ($97,400).

The ECA is worried that the idea is gaining ground with operators in Europe. Secretary general Philip von Schöppenthau says: “P2F provides a perverse incentive for a pilot to fly at any cost. Few will admit it, but when you have paid up to €50,000 to fly this plane, you will think twice before deciding not to fly today because you feel sick or fatigued.”

Aviation authorities say there is no regulation that forbids this, because pilot pay is not within their remit.Polloczek warns low-hour pilots not to take this route, and praises airlines such as EasyJet who have cadetship schemes to enable pilots who might normally be unable to raise the loans to pay for their training to enter the profession.

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April 30

Piaggio Avanti Evo enters service

Piaggio Aerospace has delivered the first Avanti Evo, four months after receiving certification for the third iteration of its P180 twin-pusher and less than a year after launching the type.

The aircraft was handed over on 20 April to an unnamed Greek customer that plans to deploy the seven-seat type for charter operations.

Piaggio chief executive Carlo Logli hailed the handover as a “significiant milestone” for the Italian airframer –a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi’s state investment arm Mubadala – adding that a further fiveaircraft will be delivered this year “to customers in the US, Asia and Europe”.

The $7.4 million Evo is an upgrade of the 10-year-old Avanti II, featuring a revamped and quieter interior, enhanced safety features and increased performance – thanks to new winglets, redesigned engine nacelles, a reshaped front wing and five-bladed composite scimitar propellers.

The Evo also has new landing gear. Built by Italy’s Magnaghi, the system has a 10,000-cycle/15-year overhaul interval, compared with the Avanti II’s Dowty landing gear, which has a 6,000-cycle/12 year overhaul interval.

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April 30

Gama Aviation plans new facility at Aberdeen airport

Business aviation services provider Gama Aviation is planning to build an operations and maintenance facility at Aberdeen International airport, as part of a strategic investment in its thriving Scotland-based business.

The Farnborough-headquartered company has been active in Scotland for more than two decades, from where it has been supporting its business jet customers and the country’s health provider, out of two bases in Glasgow and one in Aberdeen.

According Marwan Khalek, founder and chief executive of 33-year-old Gama, the new 1,700m2 (18,300ft2) facility “represents a logical yet important step in further strengthening our presence in Scotland to serve Aberdeen and the east coast”.

If permission is granted, the base should open in 2016.

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April 28

NetJets Europe prepares to accept first Challenger 350

NetJets Europe is poised to take delivery of its first Bombardier Challenger 350.

The super-midsize business jet – registration CS-CHA – was pictured in Glasgow on 25 April during its ferry flight from Bombardier’s Montreal completion facility to the fractional ownership company’s headquarters in Lisbon, Portugal.

The aircraft will make its public debut with NetJets at the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition in Geneva, Switzerland on 19-21 May.

Another four of the twin-engined type are bound for NetJets Europe this year. The company’s 2015 aircraft delivery schedule also includes six Embraer Phenom 300s and two Bombardier Global 6000s.

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Iain Mackenzie

NetJets’ parent company placed an order for up to 75 Challenger 350s in 2012,as part of a $7.3 billion order for up to 275 Challenger-series aircraft.

The Berkshire Hathaway-owned firm also has multi-billion dollar orders for Phenom 300s – its entry-level product – and the Global 5000/6000, which sit at the top of its product offering. The new aircraft are part of a “top-to-tail” overhaul of NetJets’ 500-plus aircraft fleet, and should all be incorporated into the operator’s global inventory over the next 10 years.NetJets’ older types are gradually being phased out.

Meanwhile, NetJets’ US operation took delivery of its tenth Challenger 350 on 26 April, bringing its total fleet of Signature Series business jets to 68 – including 40 Phenom 300s and 18 Global 5000/6000s.

NetJets is also launch customer for the Challenger 650 – a revamped Challenger 605 featuring an avionics, propulsion and interior upgrade – and is gearing up to take the first of the large-cabin business jets in the fourth quarter.

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