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Making a splash!: NBAA2015

NBAA2015 was a resounding success, with new announcements and products to wow the more than 27,000 business aviation professionals that ascended upon the Nevada desert and the bright lights of Las Vegas Nov. 17-19, 2015. With more than 100 aircraft at the static display, many more in the Las Vegas Convention Centre and a bevy of top educational seminars put on by the NBAA team, it was a very strong show, in spite of some uncertainty and slow down in the marketplace. Here are some highlights that caught my attention at this year’s event.


November 27, 2015
By Matt Nicholls
Weird or what: Bombardier beamed up William Shatner for its WAVE wireless news conference.

1. Textron Aviation swings for the fences
Cessna, a Textron company, made a splash on the first day of NBAA2015 by highlighting a revamped version of its Cessna Longitude and announcing a new aircraft – the Cessna Hemisphere, a future player in the large BizJet category. The Hemisphere will have a ticket price of between US$30-$35 million and run some 4,500 nautical miles. It is expected to enter service by 2019. The revamped Longitude will have a top range of 3,400 nautical miles. Testing for the aircraft will begin next year with deliveries expected in 2017. Of note, Cessna will switch to a Honeywell power-plant for the revamped Longitude, while former supplier Snecma Silvercrest will power the new Hemisphere. “Over the last 20 years customers in this segment have seen little innovation or investment in new products as their business needs and mission requirements have continued to evolve,” noted Scott Ernest, Textron Aviation president and CEO. “The Citation Hemisphere is designed to transform this segment, offering customers the latest technology available and the widest cabin in its class.”

2. Shining Diamonds
It was an impressive show for Diamond Aircraft, as two new aircraft glittered at the indoor static display. Diamond was making its debut at NBAA, and it didn’t disappoint, with several models on hand. There was a definite buzz around the new seven-seat DA62 diesel piston twin (aimed at corporate and charter functions), DA42 and DA40 Tundra piston single, also unveiled at the show. The DA62 was making its North American debut. “We were thrilled to introduce the DA62 at NBAA,” noted Peter Maurer, president and CEO of Diamond Aircraft Industries Inc. (Canada). “The DA62 is ideal on many levels – space, performance, efficiency, luxury, comfort – it’s a great package. High performance single piston pilots needing more seats and utility are ideal prospective customers, as are charter operators and corporate flight departments looking to complement their larger aircraft with a low-cost alternative for shorter trips.” A limited number of DA62s will be available for U.S. delivery commencing in February 2016.

3. Aerion’s supersonic show
Supersonic business jet travel has been discussed for a number of years with a number of BizJet OEMs. This year, there was a breakthrough for Aerion and new partner in the project, Airbus Defence & Space. The companies have been in collaboration for a year on the engineering and development of the supersonic jet, but Airbus Defence & Space is now taking a larger role in project development. The AS2 concept will be drastically redesigned with engine selection expected for the first half of 2016. A new fuselage is also being considered. The program got a large boost on the second day of the show when FlexJet became the first fleet purchaser of the aircraft, ordering 20 planes. The AS2 will have a top speed of Mach 1.5 and will carry eight to 12 passengers over 4,750 NM. It is expected to make its first flight in 2021 and enter service in 2023.

4. Meeting the challenges ahead
While its commercial C Series program remains in a state of scrutiny, the Bombardier Business Aviation unit continues to show positive signs. Bombardier and NetJets, for example, made some noise at this year’s show, when the latter company signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for 20 Challenger 350 aircraft. The deal, worth some US$544 million, is just the latest deal between the two companies, as Bombardier aircraft have formed the backbone of the FlexJet fleet. Bombardier also announced that NetJets’ first Challenger 650 was imminently set to enter into service. The aircraft was on display at the event, which is also Bombardier’s 1,000th Challenger 600 series aircraft to enter into service.

5. HondaJet . . . yes, it is coming
Aviation journalists attending the annual NBAA Honda Aircraft press conferences over the years have been treated to a large dose of “just wait” and “it’s coming,” but at NBAA2015, concrete news was shared by Honda Aircraft Company president and CEO Michimasa Fujino. “We are expecting FAA certification by the end of 2016 and will begin orders then,” he noted, adding that HondaJet has flown missions into 54 airports in 31 states in the continental U.S. as part of F&S testing. The flight test program has exceeded 3,000 total flight hours. Production is also ramping up, with 25 aircraft in production flow at its Greenboro, N.C. manufacturing facility at the Piedmont Triad International Airport.

6. Captain Kirk catches a WAVE
There’s beauty, there’s grace and then there’s the amicable William Shatner, who proved he is anything but weird or what in his delightful cameo performance at Bombardier’s press conference highlighting its new WAVE technology. Shatner’s fun take on aviation and technology helped highlight the new WAVE (Wireless Access Virtually Everywhere) product, which was developed in concert with Honeywell and Inmarsat Aviation to enable passengers to stage a videoconference, browse the Internet or stream online shows high above land and water, as seamlessly as they would on the ground. WAVE features a range of service packages and is available on new Global 5000, Global 6000, Global 7000 and Global 8000 aircraft, as well as a retrofit option for Global Express, Global Express XRS, Global 5000 and Global 6000 aircraft. Shatner was beamed onto a Global 5000 for his trip to NBAA2015, a pit stop en route to his California home.

7. Another milestone for Viking
Victoria’s Viking Aircraft is always working to enhance the performance of its products and it didn’t disappoint at NBAA. The successful Canadian OEM introduced a Phase II avionics upgrade for the Series 400 Twin Otter’s Honeywell Primus Apex fully integrated avionics package at the show. The new upgrades are meant to enhance the functionality of the Honeywell avionics system on the Twin Otter, and Transport Canada certification is expected to be imminent. Once this is achieved, Viking will apply to international regulators for validation in each country where the Series 400 Twin Otter is currently in operation.

8. Pilatus powers up
Pilatus Aircraft made its presence felt at NBAA2015 by launching an upgraded version of it PC-12NG and announced the first flight of its second PC-24 test aircraft. The new version of the PC-12NG sports better take off and climb performance, more cabin comfort, greater range and speed, and a quieter cabin. The new NG sports a top speed of 285 kt (530 km/h. “We have had a very strong show, lots of interest in our new products,” said a beaming Stan Kuliavas, vice president, sales and business development at Levaero Aviation. There’s no doubt that the enhanced PC-12NG will keep that interest at a high level in the months and years ahead.

9. All the power to you
Canadian engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney Canada always has a strong presence at NBAA, and this year was no different. Wings sat in an exclusive media roundtable with P&WC executives to get a rundown on the latest engines powering BizJets globally, and the reach amongst all BizJets is impressive (For more, see “Will Pratt’s patience pay off?” page XX). The company’s turbofan PurePower PW800, used to power the Gulfstream G500 and G600 aircraft, was displayed prominently in the P&WC booth and two new products were introduced at the show – the PT6A-140A and the PT6-140AG. These engines add to the 70 versions of the PT6 already in service worldwide on some 125 aircraft. The two new engines will deliver more thrust and fuel compensation, and are being targeted for general aviation uses (PT6A-140A) and agricultural missions (PT6-140AG).

10. World Fuel Services heads north
World Fuel Services has commenced its expansion into the Canadian market with the addition of Million Air Vancouver as the network’s first Ascent branded FBO in Canada. The new location is just a 20-minute drive from Vancouver International Airport to the downtown core. With 280,000 square feet of hangar and office space, it’s a great option for business travellers heading to the Vancouver region. Ron Forbes, general manager of Million Air Vancouver, noted that the new relationship with World Fuel “will give us the best opportunity to continue to grow our business at the Vancouver International Airport.” Among a variety of BizJets, Million Air Vancouver also has the capacity to accommodate A320s, 727s and 737s.

11. Honeywell provides the power
The introduction of Cessna’s new revamped Longitude on the first day of the show certainly jumpstarted a successful show for the Textron team, but it was also good news for Honeywell, as their HTF7700L engines have been selected to power the aircraft as the original Snecma Silvercrest engines were dropped. The new Longitude will have a top range of 3,400 nautical miles, and the new power plant will have plenty of power to handle the task. Honeywell was also chosen by Cessna to supply the Longitude with an auxiliary power unit and an environmental control system.

12. True North Avionics gets new STC
True North Avionics has picked up a supplemental type certificate (STC) for installation of its Optelity Cabin Gateway Pro on the Gulfstream V. The STC was developed and certified by Mississauga’s Mid-Canada Mod Centre. The Cabin Gateway Pro is a 2MCU-size unit weighing about 7.3 pounds. It provides high levels of Ethernet connectivity for a wide variety of mobile devices.

13. Colour your world
Customizing and modifying BizJets to fit the needs of particular clients is an involved process and it’s not just determining the final cabin management system, Wi-Fi, seating, cabinets etc. Colour and proper surfacing plays a huge role in creating the final product, and the team at Sherman-Williams Aerospace introduced a number of products at the show to help streamline the process. Interior aircraft coating JetFlex Elite and interior and exterior composite surfacers were introduced to enhance the company’s extensive coating and paint options. “These are versatile and cost effective options,” noted Julie Voisin, Sherman Williams Aerospace Products. “All help improve efficiency and productivity in aircraft development.”

14. Sennheiser bids adieu to aviation
Corporate, commercial and general aviation pilots will have one less headset brand to choose from going forward as audio products manufacturer Sennheiser is pulling out of the aviation business. The company will still make headsets for air traffic controllers, but shifting business priorities in other markets have prompted the decision, noted Dave Dunlap, director of Sennheiser Aviation. The company still plans to honour its service and guarantee obligations. Sennheiser has been an active supporter of a number of key Canadian aviation programs and awards initiatives.

15. Million dollar baby
The annual NBAA show is often as much about showmanship in booth design to “wow” attendees, and for me, this year’s show stopper was Addison, Texas-based private aviation firm the Mente Group. The Mente booth featured a cool $1 million dollars cash in a neat Plexiglass case, of course guarded by a stern security guard with a banner that said, “Ask us how we can save you a million dollars.” At first glance, the Wings team missed the banner – earlly morning in Vegas don’t you know – so when asked how much money was in the case, the security guard stoically replied “one m.” We then inquired how many times that question was asked, and we got “about the same amount of times.” 16. Enhancing safety once step at a time
The excellent Flight Safety Foundation was once again in full force at NBAA2015, and Wings sat down with Peter Stein, a senior pilot and chairman of the FSF’s business aviation advisory committee, and Jon Beatty FSF CEO, to discuss current and future initiatives. Top of mind was the Global Safety Information Project, which was set up two years ago to develop an international process for data collection, sharing and analysis on an international scale. Also top of mind, was the association’s Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing project, which the group hopes will encourage business aviation operators to share important safety data. Some 15 operators are on board with the program to date. “We have been working very hard on re-focusing and re-energizing our board to take an aggressive stance on safety,” Beatty said. “We have had a very good rotation of members, and we pride ourselves on being diverse, independent and international.” Added Stein: “We need to continue to encourage operators to share data, to be fully transparent with that data. It just helps eliminate the mystery in the overall safety envelope. If you have the ability, start doing it – and then share it.”

17. If you build it, they will come . . . and your firm will expand to the U.S.
For a Canadian aerospace company that has, in some ways, flown under the radar, it appears those days are rapidly coming to and end – which of course is a very nice problem to have. Montreal-based MSB Design, part of the Sogeclair Group, announced at the show that it is expanding south of the border to capitalize on the steady U.S. BizAv market. MSB, which has seen business grow exponentially over the past couple of years, opened its first office in the U.S. in Savannah, Ga. on Jan. 1. MSB has three distinct product lines: producing tailor-made china, crystal, and flatware inserts; developing and installing customized cabinets; and developing and installing hi-low tables. Customers include leading OEMs Bombardier and Gulfstream. The company’s hi-lo tables are a fixture on the new Gulfstream G500 and G600 models, which it introduced at the show. “Our clients tell us that a combination of finish, reliability, appearance and operation, in addition to size, noise and weight reduction are all key considerations in table selection,” said Shannon Gil, MSB’s business development director. “We have listened to them and hopefully created a product they value.”

18. Just try to break this glass!
Any product that doesn’t break or isn’t seriously maimed when hit by a speeding bowling ball dropped from a height of three metres is seriously cool. If that product manages to break that bowling ball in pieces, well . . . that’s off the charts cool. According to Aviation Glass & Technology CEO John Reitveldt that’s precisely how his product reacts when belted by a bowling ball. “The configuration of the glass is very strong, and yet it is very pliable and easy to work with,” he said. Currently being used by a number of top OEMs for both commercial and business aviation applications, the company introduced two new products at the show: its eco-efficient AeroGlass Panel Mirror and AeroGlass Lighting Mirror. Both are easy to install and add a touch of class to any BizJet interior.

19. Not exactly under the weather
Having a strong sense of developing weather patterns is paramount for all pilots and Universal Weather and Aviation and partner Satcom Direct have launched a new trip management tool for an iPad app or online that keeps pilots from venturing into trouble. The new tool is applicable for any business aircraft. The uvGO tool enables users to plan, build and manage their entire trip themselves, either by downloading the app or using it on the website. The tool is available to operators using Universal trip support services and/or carrying a UVair fuelling card. Universal also announced a partnership with Satcom Direct that enables the latter to provide a datalink service for business owners.

20. Not so drunk on a plane
He’s the epitome of what the NBAA calls the small- to medium-sized business aviation user who utilizes aircraft to take his business to new heights. And for aviation enthusiast and country music star Dierks Bentley, there really isn’t anything more exciting than climbing into his single-engine piston aircraft after a gig so he can rush home to his young family and surprise them with some time at home or a hearty breakfast before jetting off to a new event. Said Bentley: “It really is a time machine for someone like me. It’s helping us play the best music we have played in the past 12 years.” Bentley said his bandmates, once afraid to step into the cockpit with him, are thrilled to do so now – they fight over who will ride in the sky or get stuck on the road in the bus.