Advertisements

Start-ups persevere

By Kate Sarsfield

Despite the current economic gloom, business aviation start-ups are striving to bring their products to market and avoid becoming yet another failing statistic in this highly volatile and cash intensive industry that has become the resting place of so many failed programmes.

Honda Aircraft plans to start a four-aircraft flight-test and certification programme for its new light jet in the third quarter and says it is in the process of hiring 100 engineers with experience in new aircraft design, development and certification and will grow its head count to 400 this year.

Honda is developing a new $100 million facility at Greensboro’s Piedmont Triad International airport, North Carolina. The first phase of this facility housing the company’s sales, marketing and administration staff, opened a year ago and an 18,600m² (200,000ft²) research and development building was completed in December 2008.

The third and final phase of the project, featuring a production facility, will open in 2010. Honda is preparing for the start of manufacturing later the same year to coincide with the certification and delivery of the first HondaJet. Honda says it aims to eventually ramp up to a production rate of 80-100 aircraft a year, which is needed for it to achieve the production efficiencies employed at Honda’s automotive division.

Spectrum
© Spectrum

The company claims sales of the GE Honda HF120-powered HondaJet have remained robust despite the economic downturn, but will not disclose how many orders it has secured. The HondaJet will be able to cruise at up to 420kt (780km/h) and offers a six-seat cabin with a lavatory. Honda claims the HondaJet has the cabin and performance of a light jet, but at a purchase price and fuel efficiency of a very light jet, says Honda.

Spectrum Aeronautical is aiming at late-2010 certification of its HF120-powered midsize S-40 Freedom – more than a year behind its original schedule due to the 2005 fatal crash of the first prototype. “We are about a year away from flying the first prototype and we are building the production tooling,” says Spectrum president Austin Blue.

He says the company has been prudent with the funding it has raised to date for the S-40 development programme. “We have enough investment to keep us going. Our strength is that we haven’t built up large overheads and infrastructure but have focused on developing the advanced composites [through its Rocky Mountain Composites subsidiary] for our aircraft as well as other industries.”

Blue says Spanish Fork, Utah-based Spectrum has not ruled out forming a joint venture partnership with existing airframers to bring the aircraft to market. “OEMs will bring the infrastructure as we will bring the technology,” he says.

The $6.8 million S-40 is powered by GE Honda HF120 turbofan engines. The Freedom is designed to have a 1.8m (5.9ft) stand-up-cabin and a maximum speed of 440kt, a range of 4,170km (2,250nm) and maximum cruising altitude of 45,000ft. Approval of the $3.95 million, Williams FJ-33-powered S-33 Independence very light jet stablemate is earmarked around 12 months later.

“The orderbook for both aircraft has been open for a couple of years and we are pleased with the numbers we have received, which takes us well beyond the first year of production,” says Blue.


Start-ups persevere

By Kate Sarsfield

Despite the current economic gloom, business aviation start-ups are striving to bring their products to market and avoid becoming yet another failing statistic in this highly volatile and cash intensive industry that has become the resting place of so many failed programmes.

Honda Aircraft plans to start a four-aircraft flight-test and certification programme for its new light jet in the third quarter and says it is in the process of hiring 100 engineers with experience in new aircraft design, development and certification and will grow its head count to 400 this year.

Honda is developing a new $100 million facility at Greensboro’s Piedmont Triad International airport, North Carolina. The first phase of this facility housing the company’s sales, marketing and administration staff, opened a year ago and an 18,600m² (200,000ft²) research and development building was completed in December 2008.

The third and final phase of the project, featuring a production facility, will open in 2010. Honda is preparing for the start of manufacturing later the same year to coincide with the certification and delivery of the first HondaJet. Honda says it aims to eventually ramp up to a production rate of 80-100 aircraft a year, which is needed for it to achieve the production efficiencies employed at Honda’s automotive division.

Spectrum
© Spectrum

The company claims sales of the GE Honda HF120-powered HondaJet have remained robust despite the economic downturn, but will not disclose how many orders it has secured. The HondaJet will be able to cruise at up to 420kt (780km/h) and offers a six-seat cabin with a lavatory. Honda claims the HondaJet has the cabin and performance of a light jet, but at a purchase price and fuel efficiency of a very light jet, says Honda.

Spectrum Aeronautical is aiming at late-2010 certification of its HF120-powered midsize S-40 Freedom – more than a year behind its original schedule due to the 2005 fatal crash of the first prototype. “We are about a year away from flying the first prototype and we are building the production tooling,” says Spectrum president Austin Blue.

He says the company has been prudent with the funding it has raised to date for the S-40 development programme. “We have enough investment to keep us going. Our strength is that we haven’t built up large overheads and infrastructure but have focused on developing the advanced composites [through its Rocky Mountain Composites subsidiary] for our aircraft as well as other industries.”

Blue says Spanish Fork, Utah-based Spectrum has not ruled out forming a joint venture partnership with existing airframers to bring the aircraft to market. “OEMs will bring the infrastructure as we will bring the technology,” he says.

The $6.8 million S-40 is powered by GE Honda HF120 turbofan engines. The Freedom is designed to have a 1.8m (5.9ft) stand-up-cabin and a maximum speed of 440kt, a range of 4,170km (2,250nm) and maximum cruising altitude of 45,000ft. Approval of the $3.95 million, Williams FJ-33-powered S-33 Independence very light jet stablemate is earmarked around 12 months later.

“The orderbook for both aircraft has been open for a couple of years and we are pleased with the numbers we have received, which takes us well beyond the first year of production,” says Blue.


EADS, Lockheed Martin team up for Army helicopter

EADS North America (NA) today announced signing Lockheed Martin as the weapons systems integrator for a newly-revealed Armed Scout 645 helicopter, a new contender for a major US Army contract.

The Armed Scout 645 would integrate a weapons and targeting system on the Eurocopter EC145 airframe already sold to the army as the UH-72 Lakota light utility helicopter (LUH).

The army’s two-decade-old search to replace the Bell Helicopter OH-58D Kiowa Warrior was re-opened last year. The army terminated a contract with Bell to supply 522 ARH-72 Arapahos after development costs tripled.

©EADS North America

The cancellation has already prompted Boeing to offer the single-engine AH-6S Phoenix or a new version of AH-64 Apache gunship for the army’s armed scout requirement.

The EADS NA/Lockheed team unveiled the twin-engine Armed Scout 645 at the Army Aviation Association of America’s 2009 annual convention in Nashville, Tennessee.

In November, the army released a “sources sought” notice for a scout helicopter that could operate at 1,828m (6,000ft) at 35ºC (95ºF) with a full weapons load-out and enough fuel to meet a 3hr-flight requirement, including a 15min fuel reserve.

“We’re confident that our team has a low-risk technical path to meet or exceed the performance requirements the army outlined in the sources sought document,” said David R. Oliver Jr., EADS NA’s chief operating officer, in a statement.

However, the army has put the acquisition on hold at least 18 months to conduct an analysis of alternatives, said Col Keith Robinson, programme manager for armed scout helicopters, addressing the International Military Helicopter Conference in London on 27 April.

The study will consider a broad range of options, including a mix of manned and unmanned aircraft.

Although based on the same airframe as the UH-72, the EADS/Lockheed Armed Scout 645 would still be a significant departure. Unlike the FAA-certified UH-72, the scout version will be required to comply with heightened army combat standards such as crash survivability and ballistic protection.

Lockheed’s role in the partnership is led by the Orlando-based Missiles and Fire Control unit, which is also a supplier for the army’s Longbow Apache fire control system and modernized target acquisition designation sight/pilot night vision sensor (Arrowhead) (MTADS/PNVS) system.


Major North American carriers cut flights to Mexico

By Leithen Francis

Major North American carriers have outlined plans to cut flights to Mexico in response to the swine flu outbreak.

United Airways says in a statement that for the period 5 May to 3 June it is cancelling 11 routes to Mexico, reducing frequency on three others but keeping its Los Angeles-Cancun and Los Angeles-Los Cabos services unchanged.

US Airways says from 10 May to 1 July it is reducing its capacity to Mexico by 38% which means 12 cites in Mexico will experience a reduction in flights. It will also operate smaller aircraft to Mexico, it adds.

The carrier says it hopes that on 2 July it will resume its normal schedule to Mexico but adds it will have to evaluate the situation over the coming weeks before deciding.

Continental Airlines has announced it will be cutting capacity to Mexico by 40% and Air Canada has announced it has suspended services to Cancun, Cozumel and Puerto Vallarta until 1 June.

But Air Canada plans to continue serving Mexico City, says the airline.

This move by major North American airlines comes after Canadian and European leisure carriers suspended services to Mexico a few days ago.


Air Fiji shutters operations

By Leithen Francis

Fijian carrier Air Fiji has stopped operating aircraft because it is in financial difficulty.

News reports in Fiji quote the carrier’s chairman, Wu Shengyue, as saying Air Fiji stopped operating because it needs “to avoid the risk of violation of laws for carrying business for an insolvent company.”

The news reports say Wu made the remarks in a letter to shareholders.

Air Fiji officials were unable to be reached when ATI called today because the airline’s main telephone lines have been disconnected.

The airline also says on its website it is no longer taking bookings.

Air Fiji’s owners are the Government of Tuvalu, a small island nation near Fiji, and China National Aero-Technology Import & Export (CATIC), a Chinese Government body responsible for marketing and selling Chinese-built aircraft overseas.

Some reports in Fiji say a delegation from Tuvalu is in Fiji today to look at whether to revive the airline.

Air Fiji is a domestic carrier that operates Embraer EMB-110 and Harbin Y-12 aircraft. Air Fiji is also a major shareholder in Tongan carrier Airlines Tonga.


Honda Aircraft Delays HondaJet Deliveries

Kerry Lynch

Honda Aircraft Company is pushing back the delivery of its $3.9 million HondaJet by a year, citing delays in the supply chain, the company announced last week. Honda Aircraft now plans to fly the aircraft in January 2010 and receive certification and begin delivery by late 2011. First customer delivery was originally anticipated in late 2010.

Global aerospace business challenges have slowed the delivery of key components for conforming aircraft production, the company said. “We have been working very closely with our suppliers over the past year in an effort to minimize the effect of the ongoing worldwide economic instability on HondaJet development,” said Michimasa Fujino, Honda Aircraft Company president and chief executive. “Unfortunately, we now have no choice but to revise our schedule.”

Despite the delays, Honda has continued its flight-test program with a proof-of-concept HondaJet. The proof-of-concept has accumulated more than 425 flight-test hours, reached speeds of 420 knots and flown to a maximum altitude of 43,000 feet.

Meanwhile, Honda Aircraft is continuing to expand its Greensboro, N.C. facilities, where the HondaJet will be built. The company recently completed a 170,000-square-foot research and development facility, which will house production of the first conforming HondaJets. The facility also will serve as a customer delivery center.

The Greensboro complex also includes a headquarters building that houses engineering, sales, support, marketing and administrative functions.

Honda Aircraft also will break ground this summer on a HondaJet production facility. The addition of the facility will increase HondaJet’s total space in Greensboro to 500,000 square feet. The center also will include flight training facilities.

“We are moving forward confidently with the HondaJet program with the full backing and strength of our parent, Honda Motor Company,” Fujino said. Honda Aircraft, which launched its sales effort for the plane in October 2006, has orders for more than 100 of the aircraft.

HondaJet artist’s concept: Honda Aircraft