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By Lisa Gordon and Ben Forrest
The Florida sun shone on bizav’s largest event, the 2016 National Business Aviation Association’s Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (NBAA-BACE), which wrapped up on Nov. 3.
The show attracted about 27,000 attendees who visited with 1,100 exhibitors at the Orange County Convention Center and at the Orlando Executive Airport, where 114 cutting-edge aircraft were on display. The sixth-largest trade show in the U.S., NBAA-BACE fills more than one million square feet of exhibit space and is attended by business aviation manufacturers, owners and customers from more than 90 countries.
Held from Nov 1 to 3, the show also included a media day on Halloween, where OEMs described the treats they have in store for customers as the industry heads into 2017. While major announcements were notably lacking this year, manufacturers filled the gap with comprehensive program updates.
In a static display press event, Textron Aviation announced key suppliers for its new US$35-million Citation Hemisphere. The Safran Silvercrest engine will power the new large-cabin business jet, which is expected to log its first flight in 2019. The Hemisphere cockpit will feature Honeywell’s Primus Epic integrated avionics package, with full fly-by-wire flight controls that will incorporate components from Thales.
With a projected range of 4,500 nautical miles, the 19-passenger Hemisphere boasts unique design features such as skylights in the galley and aft lavatory.
“We spent the past several months listening to our customers who operate aircraft in this space today,” said Kriya Shortt, Textron Aviation’s vice-president of sales and marketing. “Customers want and need a clean design that meets their needs, with more comfort and next gen capabilities. The Hemisphere offers flexibility with its 102-inch diameter cabin, 6’2″-high cabin, 20 oversized windows and best-in-class seat width.”
Textron president and CEO, Scott Ernest, also reported the company is moving to vertically integrate its production line to improve efficiencies and speed up the entry into service of new products such as the Hemisphere.
Bombardier announced at the show that it is implementing a rapid expansion of its service centre network. The Montreal-based OEM will be hiring close to 200 skilled technicians and project managers and will add two more mobile service trucks to its network, bringing the total to 17 vehicles covering the U.S. and Europe.
In addition to the expansion of key existing service centres such as Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Bombardier is building new facilities at London’s Biggin Hill Airport and in Tianjin, China.
Other priorities include the introduction of Ka satellite broadband technology to all Global aircraft, both new and retrofit, and the roll-out of a customer web portal that will provide full customer service through a multi-device interface.
Although Bombardier lacked a major announcement during NBAA-BACE 2016, the manufacturer managed to follow up on Nov. 4 with the successful first flight of its Global 7000 large business jet, which launched from Bombardier’s Toronto facility and flew for two hours and 27 minutes.
Pilatus stole the show at the static display on Nov. 2, when the second prototype of its PC-24 jet took a day off from flight testing to make its NBAA debut.
The OEM reported that PC-24 testing is now at the halfway point, with performance exceeding expectations. U.S. and European certification is expected in the third quarter of 2017.
As of Oct. 30, Pilatus’ two PC-24 prototypes had completed 600 flights and logged a total of 1,032 hours of flight time. The third PC-24 test aircraft, P03, is now in systems integration and is expected to take flight in the first quarter of 2017.
Meanwhile, Pilatus is on track to deliver 90 single-engine turboprop PC-12 NGs this year, with sales trending upwards in 2016. However, the manufacturer plans to scale back production in 2017 to avoid saturating the market and to protect the value of pre-owned aircraft. Pilatus will deliver the 1,500th PC-12 in mid-2017.
Gulfstream unveiled the first G500 outfitted production aircraft at NBAA-BACE 2016. The jet, scheduled for certification in 2017, boasts three living areas and seats up to 19 passengers who will stay connected via satellite communications and high-speed Ka broadband service.
The Savannah, Ga.-based OEM reported a positive year, noting it had delivered 88 aircraft by the end of September 2016, with the G650 and G650ER leading orders.
The flight test programs for both the G500 and G600 are ahead of the original schedule, said Mark Burns, president of Gulfstream Aerospace.
“We arrived here in Orlando with a very compelling story. The support provided by [parent company] General Dynamics has enabled us to significantly invest in people, products and services, including the all-new G500 and G600,” he said. “These provide incredible range and speed; the labs we’ve invested in and the research we’ve done have made these the safest and most efficient in the industry. This research and development has presented the opportunity for us to have a very predictable flight test program.”
So far, Gulfstream has five G500 test aircraft flying, with a total of 1,750 hours in the air. Company test pilot Scott Evans reported that the transition to touchscreens in the G500 has allowed the company to design interfaces with a pilot in mind.
“We’re gone from 17 minutes to under 10 minutes to power up and depart,” he said during a press event. “And the sidestick interface transition is so easy. It is going to be a very easy effort to make our existing and new customers excited about this.”
Embraer Executive Jets unveiled a new version of its Legacy 650 large business jet, the Legacy 650E.
It features automation and technology updates and now carries a 10-year or 10,000 flight hour warranty. The 650E’s entry into service is scheduled for 2017 at a list price of US$25.9 million.
“As a testament to our confidence in the Legacy 650’s heritage of robustness and near-perfect dispatch reliability, this new aircraft carries the longest warranty available in the business jet industry,” said Marco Tulio Pellegrini, the company’s CEO.
“Whether for commercial or private operations, there is no large-cabin aircraft that is more economical, durable and comfortable. This is a truly well-rounded value proposition.”
Daher announced it expects to produce more than 50 of its TBM 900 and TBM 930 aircraft this year, roughly in line with last year’s total.
Last year the company delivered 55 aircraft, said Nicolas Chabbert, senior vice-president of the Daher airplane business unit.
Chabbert also promoted the company’s Fly and Charter TBM (FACT) program as a way of increasing the use of TBM aircraft that fly less than 200 hours a year.
“This is a cheap aircraft to fly,” said Chabbert. He pegged the potential cost of tickets on a four-passenger mission at between $100 and $300 per passenger.
Dassault Aviation also announced its new Falcon 8X ultra-long range trijet has earned two additional certifications since entering service less than a month ago. The new type approvals are from Brazil and the United Arab Emirates and come on the heels of certification by the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in June.
Certification in India and other countries is expected soon.
Dassault also unveiled a modernized Falcon 900LX large-cabin trijet. The fully redesigned cabin offers substantially reduced noise levels and new cabin and cockpit features.
“The new Falcon LX further modernizes what has become the most legendary family of business jets ever produced,” said Eric Trappier, chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation. “We’re bringing to market a proven and tested platform with an advanced contemporary interior and cutting edge cabin and cockpit enhancements.”
On the heels of a successful show in Orlando, NBAA said there will be even more to look forward to at next year’s BACE in Las Vegas, Nev., Oct. 10-12, 2017.