By Benét Wilson
Until October, I was the Online Managing Editor-Business Aviation for Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine. As editor, I had a front-row seat to the wild and wonderful world of business aviation in 2011. Below are my picks for the top 10 stories of the year, in no particular order. Enjoy!!
- The fall – and rise – of the Block Aircraft Registration Request (BARR) program. In February, the National Business Aviation Association warned that there might be a challenge to the program, which allowed business aircraft operators with privacy or security concerns for their operations to request that Aircraft Situation Display to Industry (ASDI) data provided to FAA be blocked from public dissemination. By August, the Department of Transportation had limited participation in BARR to operators with a verifiable security threat. Lawsuits ensued, but the business aviation community was able to get legislation under the multi-agency minibus appropriations bill signed by President Obama in late November that reinstated the program.
- Gulfstream G650 test aircraft crashes; aircraft is certified. A Gulfstream G650 ultra-long-range business jet crashed in April 2 in Roswell, N.M., during flight testing, killing four. The manufacturer temporarily suspended flight testing on the rest of the fleet, but FAA gave the jet provisional type certification in late November. The jet is on schedule to enter service in the second quarter of 2012.
- Honeywell forecasts modest rise in business jet deliveries in 2012. The good news at Honeywell’s annual business aviation forecast event at October’s National Business Aviation Association annual convention was that business jet deliveries would start to rise in 2012 after going into freefall the past three years. The bad news was that deliveries won’t be at the peak levels achieved in early 2008 until after 2017.
- Piper Aircraft suspends its Altaire business jet. All during 2011, Piper touted the progress being made on its single-engine jet and continued to hire workers to support the project. But the industry started hearing rumors in early fall that all was not well with the program, and Piper confirmed it on Oct. 24, blaming a slower-than-expected recovery for the light jet segment of business aviation. The company also laid off 200 workers connected to the suspended program.
- Eclipse Aerospace restarts production. The Albuquerque, N.M.-based manufacturer used this year’s National Business Aviation Association annual convention to announce that it will begin building the EA 550, an improved version of the EA500, starting in 2013. When the manufacture filed for bankruptcy in November 2008, no one had much faith in their effort to stay viable. But the partners of Eclipse bought the company’s remaining assets in August 2009.
- The Lightsquared GPS battle. On the one side, you have Lightsquared, a company that wants to build a high-speed wireless network made up of thousands of broadband-wireless transmitters that business aviation organizations, among others, say will disrupt GPS satellite signals. Lightsquared disagreed, but an independent test commissioned by the company finds that its transmitters would interfere with most GPS receivers.
- Cessna Chairman, President and CEO Jack Pelton forced into retirement. The very popular Pelton was forced into retirement in May after he was unable to stem the manufacturer’s financial bleeding, brought on by the global recession and an unrelenting bashing of business jets in the past three years. Press reports also pointed out that it was difficult for Pelton to adjust to Cessna parent Textron CEO Scott Donnelly’s relentless focus on the bottom line.
- Cirrus Designs sold to China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Company (CAIGA). The Duluth, Minn.-based manufacturer announced it was being acquired by CAIGA in February. There was some movement to keep the company in American hands, but the sale to CAIGA was finalized in July.
- Tornadoes at Sun n Fun. It wasn’t so much fun in Lakeland, Fla., on March 31, 2011, when a tornado swept through Lakelinder Regional Airport, causing damage to around 60 aircraft and postponing the show by one day.
- Experimental Aircraft Association Chairman Tom Poberezny announces his retirement. The big news at July’s EAA AirVenture air show was the retirement of Poberezny at a hastily called press conference. The organization was started by his father in 1958. CEO Rod Hightower took on the chairman title.
|Business aviation aircraft on display at EBACE 2010. Photo by Benét J. Wilson|
Benét Wilson is a freelance aviation journalist and blogger based in Baltimore, Md. She blogs at AviationQueen.com; follow her on Twitter at @AvQueenBenet.