December 23

REVIEW: Flight’s top flight test reports, 2016

At Flight International, flight test reports are at the core of our reporting – and 2016 was a year when our test pilots got a crack at a string of innovative aircraft. Here are some highlights:

1. Bombardier CSeries

Mike Gerzanics flies 737s for a living – so when an opportunity came up to fly Bombardier’s single-aisle contender, he didn’t have to be asked twice. And he wasn’t disappointed. But why, he asks, did Bombardier wait so long to build the CSeries?

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Kevin Swinicki Photography

2. Falcon 8X

The late Peter Collins flew fast jets for the RAF and was a member of the Red Arrows display team – and as a Flight test pilot he always enjoyed a ride in a Falcon business jet, which lends some credence to Dassault’s claim that its commercial offerings share much DNA with fighter jets. The 7X was long his clear favourite, so the 8X had a lot to prove. But, in what would be his last sortie for Flight, Collins discovered a new flagship.

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Peter Collins, 8X and Rafale

Dassault Aviation

3. Pilatus PC-12

With 1,400 sold over 25 years, the Swiss-made PC-12 is a familiar sight – and among the most successful turboprop singles ever built. But a new composite propeller, more powerful engine, aerodynamic improvements and a cockpit upgrade warranted a fresh look, so Mike Gerzanics joined Pilatus’s US team in Denver for a trip over the mountains and back.

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PC-12, Colorado

Jon Youngblut/Pilatus

4. Piper M600

For many general aviation enthusiasts, the 1970s was a golden era: a buoyant market and a wide choice of high-performance aircraft. Times may have got tougher, but the machines haven’t stood still. Piper’s PA-46 Malibu piston single became the Meridian turbine and, in 2015, the M500. Eager to find out how far things have moved on, Mike Gerzanics flew the even more powerful M600.

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Jim Barrett/Piper Aircraft

5. Airbus Helicopters H135

Flight International first test-flew the H135 in 1998 – when it was still known as the EC135 and manufactured by Eurocopter – so our rotorcraft expert Peter Gray was curious to see what improvements have been made. One of the biggest has been a new avionics package; with certification imminent, Gray was privileged to fly the latest Helionix-equipped variant at Airbus’s Donauwörth factory in Germany.

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December 21

MEBAA: Embraer sells second Legacy 500 to Cedar Executive

Lebanese operator and Middle East Airlines subsidiary Cedar Executive ordered a second Embraer Legacy 500 at MEBAA yesterday, to feed the growing appetite for business jet travel from companies and individuals within Lebanon.

The Beirut-based company launched services with the Legacy 500 in January to complement its commercial airline offering, and plug a gap in the market for ad hoc VIP travel. “People in the Lebanon like to charter private jets, but there is a shortage of aircraft,” says Cedar Executive chief executive Fouad Fawaz. “MEA has a good reputation in the region and we use the strength of this brand to promote the service.”

Fawaz says the Legacy 500 is a perfect fit for this market with its stand-up-cabin, 3,120nm (5,790km) range – putting it within reach of popular destinations such as Turkey, Egypt and Greece – and low operating costs. “The first thing that people ask us is: ‘how much will it cost to charter?’. Price wise the Legacy 500 is the best in its class.”

The company has a fixed base operation and maintenance facility in Beirut but the Legacy 500 and its passengers are supported at other major airports by MEA’s local handling agents.

The Legacy 500 is scheduled for delivery in the second quarter of 2017 and Fawaz says Cedar may consider purchasing more aircraft if demand is strong enough. “We also have to consider the political and economic climate in the Middle East before we look at purchasing more aircraft,” he says.

Speaking at a photocall yesterday to mark the order signing, Embraer Executive Jets president and chief executive Marco Tulio Pellegrini said: “Cedar Executive has exceeded their customers’ expectations with a

high-end premium service in their very first year of operation. It is a pleasure to be part of this accomplishment by supplying the aircraft that combines the comfort, technology and performance desired for the ultimate travel experience.”

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December 21

Embraer delivers first US-assembled Legacy 450

Embraer has announced the delivery of a Legacy 450 business jet from a US final assembly line for the first time.

The mid-light business jet, which entered service a year ago, had been exclusively assembled in São José dos Campos, Brazil.

But Embraer last June opened an expansion of the Melbourne, Florida, plant that previously assembled only Phenom 100 and 300 business jets.

The first Legacy 500 business jet will begin final assembly on the same line in Melbourne in early 2017, the company adds. The second Florida-built Legacy 450 is scheduled for delivery in the first quarter next year.

In addition to receiving a Pro Line Fusion avionics package from Rockwell Collins and HTF7500 turbofan engines from Honeywell, Embraer builds the fuselage of the Legacy jets in Botucatu, Brazil, and the wings in Évora, Portugal. Final assembly will continue in both São José dos Campos and Melbourne for both aircraft types.

In an attempt to get closer to the world’s largest market for business jets, Embraer launched US manufacturing for business jets in Melbourne with the Phenom series.

The company also assembles the Super Tucano light attack aircraft in Jacksonville, Florida, for prime contractor Sierra Nevada, which in turn supplies them to the US Air Force for export to foreign parnters, such as Afghanistan and Lebanon.

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December 20

Denser configuration for Thailand’s last Superjet business jet

The Royal Thai Air Force will receive its third and final VIP Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft in 2018.

The aircraft, originally ordered in August 2014, will be able to accommodate 73 passengers, including four VIPs, says Superjet International in a statement.

The first two aircraft, which are already in service, accommodate 50 passengers in three zones: a four-seat VIP section, a six-seat “business section”, and a standard seating area.

“It will be equipped with the latest passenger comfort systems, including various types of communication and the inflight entertainment multimedia system,” says Superjet. “Its operating range is more than 4,500km.”

The aircraft and interior will be built at the company’s Komsomolsk-on-Amur factory in Russia.

Superjet says that it has delivered 111 Superjets. Of these, 103 are configured as airliners, while eight are configured as business or special purpose aircraft.

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December 20

Gulfstream G600 takes to the skies

Gulfstream has kicked-off the certification campaign for its new G600 business jet, following first flight of the large-cabin, long-range twin on 17 December. Two more test aircraft have been inducted into the airframer’s flight-test centre in Savannah, Georgia, in preparation for their maiden sorties early next year.

Mark Burns, Gulfstream’s president, describes the event as a “a milestone for us and our customers, who have guided the vision for this aircraft from the beginning. We look forward to delivering this aircraft to them in 2018”.

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The G600 – registration N600G – took off from Savannah-Hilton Head International airport at 13:50 local time for a 2h 53min flight, described by Burns as “flawless.”

“This flight is the perfect way to wrap up 2016 and set the tone for a successful 2017,” he adds.

Gulfstream unveiled the G600 on 14 October 2015 alongside its shorter-range G500, which is currently in flight testing and earmarked for certification and service entry in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Powered by Pratt Whitney Canada PW815GA engines, the G600 can travel 6,200nm (11,500km) at Mach 0.85, or 4,800nm at Mach 0.9. Its maximum operating speed is Mach 0.925 – matching Gulfstream’s flagship, the 7,500nm-range G650ER.

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December 18

Phenom 300 was travelling too fast for Blackbushe landing – UK AAIB

The Embraer Phenom 300 that crashed at Blackbushe airport on 31 July 2015, killing the passengers and crew, was travelling too fast when it came in to land, the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has determined.

In its final report, issued on 8 December, the AAIB concludes that the privately operated light business jet (HX-IBN) and owned by Saudi Arabia’s Salem Aviation – “floated before touching down” significantly beyond the runway threshold and overran the runway end.

It then collided with an earth bank, before becoming airborne again and then landing on several parked cars.The pilot and passengers – members of Saudi Arabia’s Bin Laden family – survived the impact, but died as a result of a fire, which began after the wing separated from the fuselage.

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Investigators found that the aircraft performed a steep descent which was “significantly above the normal profile” as it approached the airport, after manoeuvring out of the path of other aircraft.

The pilot attempted to deploy the Phenom’s speedbrakes, but they remained retracted as the flaps were deployed. As the aircraft flew over the start of runway 25, it was travelling at a speed of 151kt (280km/h) – 43kt above the target threshold speed, says the report.

“The excessive speed contributed to a touchdown 710m [2,330ft] beyond the threshold, with only 438m of paved surfaced remaining,” says the report. “From touchdown at 134kt, it was no longer possible for the aircraft to stop within the remaining runway length.”

No technical defects were found on the 2010-built Phenom and no substances were found in the pilot’s body that would have inhibited his performance. The weather at Blackbushe was also fine at the time of the incident, with light and variable winds and visibility in excess of 5.3nm (10km), says the report.

The pilot held a Saudi Arabian air transport pilot’s licence and had flown into Blackbushe several times before. The AAIB says the pilot may have been aware of the twinjet’s high speed but believed the landing could be achieved, or he may not have appreciated how fast he was flying, perhaps because he was “fixated on landing”.

In addition, investigators suggest that the pilot’s “mental capacity could have become saturated” after being exposed to 66 audio warnings, instructions and messages during the 3min and 32s before reaching the start of the runway.

As a result of the crash, Salem’s Phenom 300s are now crewed by two pilots.

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December 18

US approves long-awaited rewrite of Part 23 regulations

US airworthiness regulations for new aircraft under 19 seats will transition by next August to a new set of rules that give manufacturers more flexibility in showing compliance for emerging technology that improves safety or performance, Federal Aviation Administrator Michael Huerta announces on 16 December.

The transition begins after the White House approved on 9 December the first comprehensive rewrite of the Part 23 regulations for business and general aviation since 1957, the year that section of the Federal Aviation Regulations became effective.

The new rules set up a new framework for approving new technologies as airworthy. Instead a set of highly prescriptive regulations, the rewrite recasts the Part 23 rules as a set of performance standards, leaving it up to industry to prove to the FAA how their technologies comply.

The rewrite is intended to make it possible in introduce technology in new aircraft that didn’t exist when the Part 23 regulations were adopted. Before the rewrite takes effect, the FAA managed new technology by exemption, which requires a lengthy process to establish a “special condition”. As the rewrite takes effect, manufacturers have the option of showing how a new technology meets the same airworthy criteria.

Manufacturers don’t expect the rewritten regulations to lead to new aircraft design proposals overnight. Simon Caldecott, chief executive of Piper Aircraft and chairman of the General Aircraft Manufacturers Association, believes it will take at least a year after regulations take effect next August to see new technology at the airframe level.

In the meantime, the transition to the rewritten Part 23 is expected to unleash a flood of new avionics technologies. A quirk of existing regulations make it easier to retrofit new electronics on older aircraft than to certificate the same technology on a new aircraft. The industry has received approvals to install such safety-enhancing hardware as envelope protection systems, autopilots and angle of attack indicators in older aircraft. Those same systems are now expected to become available in aircraft delivered from the production line, leveraging the same compliance procedures developed for the retrofit projects.

The Aircraft Electronics Association calls the rewrite approval “a significant breakthrough and looks forward to the expansion of these philosophies into rotorcraft as well as transport category aircraft, where appropriate”.

Speaking to journalists on 16 December, FAA administrator Huerta says the Part 23 rewrite will serve as a template for expanding the standards-based regulatory philosophy into other parts of aviation.

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December 16

​Australia’s first CL-604 SAR jet becomes operational

Australia’s first Bombardier Challenger CL-604 search and rescue (SAR) aircraft has officially entered service.

“This capability is vital in Australia’s search and rescue response arrangements, in a vast area of about one tenth of the earth’s surface,” says Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) acting chief Gary Prosser.

“These new aircraft will use new technology and equipment to ensure there is a rapid response capability to rescue people in distress at sea or on land.”

The CL-604 SAR capability will provided by Cobham SAR Services, which won a A$640 million ($471 million) contract in 2014 to provide the aircraft and crew for the mission. The contract will from 2016 to 2018.

The first jet is based in Cairns, while the next two will be in Perth and Melbourne. The fourth aircraft, which will serve in an ancillary mode, will also be based in Melbourne.

Cobham made several modifications to the aircraft, allowing them to carry emergency stores such as survival equipment and satellite phones that can be delivered to people in distress. Other features include infra-red cameras for searching at night, and other sensors.

The CL-604 is powered by two General Electric CF34 turbofans.

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December 16

​Dassault sees better Southeast Asia business jet market

Dassault has observed improving market conditions in Southeast Asia’s business jet market, although Northeast Asia remains in the doldrums.

The company’s Asia-Pacific sales head, Jean-Michel Jacob, said that 2016 was a tough year for the industry in the region. He believes 2017 looks better owing to rebounding oil prices and the conclusion of the this year’s tumultuous US presidential election.

“Most problems are behind us, such as the US election,” he says. “Also the oil price is higher and seems to have stabilised. People are again considering investing in a business jet or replacing their old aircraft. There comes a moment where have you to replace and old jet anyway. Those who have postponed a replacement now feel safer.”

Higher energy prices, he says, are a particular boon for companies in resource dependent economies such as Southeast Asia.

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Greg Waldron

This has helped Southeast Asia become of equal importance to Northeast Asia. Jacob estimates that previously Southeast Asia accounted for 30% of the company’s activity in Asia-Pacific, against 70% in Northeast Asia. Now, the two regions are equally matched. After years of booming sales, China’s business jet market has been anaemic since 2014, amid an austerity drive and greater economic uncertainty.

Jacob was speaking at a media roundtable in the Hawker Pacific hangar at Kuala Lumpur’s Subang airport. The engagement coincided with a visit of the company’s new Falcon 8X business jet to the region. The aircraft, which first came to Asia-Pacific in April 2016, will visit several countries, including Indonesia and China.

The company says it has 12 business jets in Malaysia, out of a total fleet of 46 in the country.

Jacob is bullish on the type in Asia-Pacific, and reckons that 10 can be sold in the region annually.

“Most buyers want extended range, and the 8X satisfies 95% of requirements worldwide,” he says. “We have very strong expectations for this product. We believe that we will sell a lot, and very specifically in Asia.”

Dassault advertises the Falcon 8X as being able to fly non-stop on routes such as Kuala Lumpur-London, Beijing-New York, and Hong Kong-London. “These are typical flights that our customers require. We are very optimistic, and see a strong future for the Falcon 8X.”

Still, falling private jet valuations, which make pre-owned aircraft very attractive, have affected Dassault.

“Customers are clever, and they take advantage of this mainly to buy pre-owned falcon and other aircraft, because the market worldwide is not perfect, and they take advantage of it,” says Jacob. “They know how to select the right aircraft.”

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December 14


VVIP operator Royal Jet is showcasing on the MEBAA static one of its recently delivered Boeing Business Jets. The show regular is the largest operator of the VIP airliner with a fleet of eight aircraft.

The narrowbody on display is the second of a pair of BBJs that were handed over to the Abu Dhabi-based charter company in October and November respectively. They will eventually replace two of Royal Jet’s earlier examples, which are for sale.

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The aircraft – registration A6-RJU (above) and A6-RJV – were completed by Germany’s Lufthansa Technik and feature 34 seats – eight VIP, eight business class, 18 standard – and a bedroom, situated at the front of the cabin.

“The latest BBJ is like nothing else in the region,” says Royal Jet’s new chief executive Rob DiCastri. “It is fresh in its design and represents an exciting change for us,” he adds. “Through a careful growth strategy that focuses on our clients, we are introducing products which give them exactly what they want and I am pleased to say that these two new amazing aircraft have already been very positively received.”

Both BBJs are equipped with the latest telecommunication and entertainment technology, says Royal Jet, including a KA-band wifi internet system to provide large bandwidth enabling services such as Netflix, IP-based live TV and fast upload speeds.

For all the coverage from MEBAA visit our dedicated landing page

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