Latest News – Business Aviation News Mon, 24 May 2021 16:34:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Latest News – Business Aviation News 32 32 142066361 Robert Sumwalt To Leave NTSB at End of June Mon, 24 May 2021 16:17:30 +0000 Robert Sumwalt, who stepped in as the 14th chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on Aug. 10, 2017, and served as a Board member since August 2006, is stepping down at the end of June, the agency confirmed. Sumwalt was most recently reappointed to the position of chairman in August 2019 and his term on the Board was set to expire at the end of this year.

One of NTSB’s longest-serving members who was appointed and reappointed by both Democrat and Republican administrations, Sumwalt brought with him a deep background and knowledge of commercial and business aviation to the position. He spent 32 years as a pilot for Piedmont Airlines and US Airways and also managed a corporate aviation department of a Fortune 500 energy company. He has amassed more than 14,000 flight hours and, while at US Airways, served on its Flight Operational Quality Assurance monitoring team.

During his time as chairman, Sumwalt brought a focus on business aviation professionalism, particularly in the wake of the Gulfstream IV crash in Bedford, Massachusetts, as well as made a push to elevate Part 135 standards to incorporate elements that have been successful with commercial airlines. This included stressing the need for greater implementation of safety management systems and flight data monitoring.

NTSB called Sumwalt “a fierce advocate” for all modes of transportation. At numerous events, including aviation-focused forums, he would campaign against the use of cellphones, including hands-free, while driving. In the aviation community, he would remind that the drive home from the airport is part of the safety continuum for pilots.

Sumwalt leaves a Board that also has a substantial background in transportation safety, including three other members—Tom Chapman, Michael Graham, and Bruce Landsberg—who have had past experience in business and general aviation safety.

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NATA Goes Green Mon, 24 May 2021 15:57:34 +0000 While it has taken on a leadership role in the aviation industry’s sustainability movement, NATA has been setting an example for its members by making its own operations carbon neutral as of last year. NATA analyzed its organizational-wide carbon footprint, taking into account direct and indirect emissions factors such as purchased utilities, business travel, and employee commuting to determine its environmental impact and purchase verified and certified carbon offsets.

Last year, NATA established an environmental committee to support the industry goal of expanding access to aviation while embracing technological advancements and sound policies. Such measures include the adoption of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), biodiesel, electrification, and solar energy, backed up by the use of offset credits.

“We’ve taken another step toward a cleaner future by taking a look at our own team’s environmental impact,” said NATA president and CEO Tim Obitts, adding that the aviation industry has made great strides on a number of sustainability initiatives. “We are not just talking the talk on sustainability, however. By achieving net-zero carbon emissions in our own operations, we are walking the walk.”

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UAE Clamps Down on ‘Per Seat' Jet Charter Offers Mon, 24 May 2021 15:42:43 +0000 UAE authorities have cracked down on the pooling of charter flight seats after the closure of scheduled access from India led to a spike in numbers of flights to the UAE. The UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) issued a notam yesterday indicating that charter companies attempting to offer seats to third-party passengers on flights to reduce costs would not be permitted to continue service.

“When business aircraft are used to transport passengers from restricted destinations, they shall not be pooled or sold per seat,” it said. “Operators hired for pooling or ‘per seat offer’ may be banned from operating in the UAE. The GCAA is collecting all information required from local authorities to verify flight and passenger information.”

UAE officials also said airline flights from India would remain suspended until June 14, increasing demand placed on private operators to ferry passengers from the subcontinent as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to rage in India. According to local news, a travel operator in Dubai said the only categories of passengers allowed on business jet charter flights arriving from India into the UAE are families, UAE citizens, diplomats, official delegations, golden residency visa holders, and businesspeople.

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PAG's Keystone Acquisition Adds M250 Engine Expertise Mon, 24 May 2021 15:40:38 +0000 Precision Aviation Group (PAG) has gained a new specialization in Rolls-Royce M250 turbine engines through the acquisition of Keystone Turbine Services (KTS) in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, PAG announced today. In addition to being an OEM-approved aftermarket MRO of the M250 series of gas turbine engines, KTS is a Honeywell authorized warranty and repair station for Pratt & Whitney PT6A and PT6T fuel controls, power turbine governors, and related accessories.

M250-series engines were originally developed by the former Allison Engine. To date, 31,000 have been produced, and 16,000 are in service, according to Rolls-Royce, which acquired Allison in 1995. The global fleet has logged more than 250 million flight hours among 170 aircraft types, primarily rotorcraft but also fixed-wing. Helicopter types utilizing the engine include the Bell 206 series and MD Helicopters MD500 series.

KTS will serve as PAG’s 12th repair station in a network that includes locations in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Singapore, and Brazil. PAG’s subsidiaries have MRO capabilities on more than 32,000 products, including accessories, avionics, dynamic components, engines, fuel accessories, glass panel displays, hydraulics, landing gear, instruments, starter/generators, and wheels/brakes.

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Embraer Sees E-Jets Advancing Air Transport’s Covid Recovery Mon, 24 May 2021 14:39:06 +0000

Embraer expects to emerge from the Covid crisis in a relatively strong competitive position as a fundamental shift in traffic patterns portends increasing interest in smaller narrowbodies such as the E195-E2, according to Embraer Commercial Aviation CEO Arjan Meijer. Following a 2020 campaign that saw Embraer Commercial ship just 44 airplanes due to customer deferrals and two months of inactivity at the start of the year leading to the failed integration with Boeing, the company will likely see improvement on deliveries this year as more markets open with improving epidemiological circumstances. A recent pair of orders covering 17 E175s by Alaska Airlines and its regional partner SkyWest sent what Embraer considers a clear signal of improving market conditions. But even before securing those deals, Embraer added 10 new E-Jet operators resulting mainly from used aircraft transactions since the start of 2020.

Of the three variants, the one that has drawn the most interest from airlines recently—the E195-E2—is also the largest, carrying as many as 146 passengers in a single-class layout. Embraer plans to deliver the first of four next month that were ordered by Switzerland’s Helvetic Airways, which coincidentally will become the first to fly one of its eight E190-E2s in revenue service into London City Airport, where E-Jets already account for 70 percent of all movements. That model gained approval to operate into the short-field, obstacle-limited airport last week.

Meanwhile, the smallest of the E2s—the E175-E2—continues to struggle to find a market outside the scope-clause-limited U.S., prompting Embraer to delay its introduction again by another year, to the second half of 2024. Nevertheless, Embraer is no less committed to that airplane for the medium- and long-term, said Meijer.

“We consider the E175-E2 an integral part of the E2 family,” he insisted. “If there would be a customer today wanting the aircraft, that would have been a different discussion, but with Covid, the whole world is in a little bit of a pause and we said, ‘Let’s focus on the 190 and 195 short-term.’”

In fact, the latest delay of the E175-E2 in no way reflects a desire to defer research and development spending since the onset of Covid and the April 2020 collapse of Embraer’s proposed partnership with Boeing, said Meijer. 

“In the broader sense, Embraer has spent a vast amount of money in the last couple of years developing the E2, developing the KC-390 on the defense side, and developing the executive aviation new types with the Praetor being the last addition,” he explained. “We’re still spending money on the E2 program; we haven’t stopped that. And we’ve also been very vocal to the market that we’re very interested in going after the [turboprop] market.”

Meijer added that Embraer remains “very active” in the design of a turboprop that would seat between 70 and 90 passengers and use a traditional engine configuration. He also stressed that Embraer will proceed with the project only with the help of a strategic partner. 

Hoping for an entry-into-service date of 2027, Embraer will need to move soon toward a launch to meet that relatively near-term target. “We will use this year to develop that aircraft further and we hope to be able to bring that to a more firm position in 2022,” Meijer said.

Still, product definition has progressed to the point where the company expects the airplane to fit between the ATR 72 and De Havilland Dash 8-400 in terms of performance while offering better economics, a lower noise profile, and what Meijer called a superior passenger experience.

In the longer term, Embraer expects the new turboprop to serve as a platform for other technological advances. However, the design, as it stands, does not assume any radical new engine technologies. “All options are on the table, but for now we have worked on the assumption it will be a traditional engine to start with, and from there we’ll move forward and see what’s possible,” explained Meijer.

While the company cannot afford to lose focus on its long-term aspirations, it first must get through 2021 and the likely two or three years of Covid-related market suppression that most analysts expect. “We certainly hope that we’ll be climbing out of the crisis this year,” said Meijer. “This is a year of recovery and then the next couple of years we hope will be even more growth. So, yes, we’re intending to do better than last year. And I think with the appetite that we [see] from the market, both on the E1 and E2 sides, we’re very confident about the segment.”   

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EU To Consider Measures against Belarus over Forced Landing Mon, 24 May 2021 11:42:36 +0000

European Union (EU) leaders meeting Monday plan to consider new legal measures against Belarus after the country’s military and security services on Sunday forced a Ryanair airliner to land in the capital Minsk to arrest exiled political dissident Roman Protasevich. The U.S. and other states have joined in the condemnation of an act that has been characterized as air piracy and in violation of international aviation laws.

Ryanair flight FR4978 was en route from Athens to the Lithuanian capital Vilnius with 117 passengers. According to the airline, while crossing Belarusian airspace, air traffic control notified the crew of a potential security threat on board and ordered the Boeing 737 to divert to Minsk.

According to flight data from the Flightradar24 platform, the airliner was close to crossing into Lithuanian airspace and Vilnius appeared to be the closest airport at the time. However, a Belarus air force MiG-29 fighter had been scrambled to force the aircraft to land in Minsk.

On landing, the passengers and crew were forced to disembark and Belarus police arrested Protasevich, a journalist with the Nexta media group, along with his traveling companion, Sofia Sapega. In a statement, Ryanair said that local authorities completed security checks and found “nothing untoward.”

The aircraft was held on the ground for five hours before the crew was permitted to continue the flight to Vilnius. Crew and passengers were detained under armed guard and had their bags searched.

In a Monday morning interview with Irish network Newstalk, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary accused Belarusian authorities of an unprecedented act of “state-sponsored hijacking.” O’Leary said he believes that members of Belarus’ KGB secret service were among the passengers who boarded the flight in Athens, implying that the “security threat” intervention by the country’s air traffic control authorities and air force was a premeditated ruse to arrest Protasevich. “Five or six people left the plane, but only one of them was arrested, which would suggest the others were secret service people,” O’Leary told Newstalk.

In a statement issued around midday on Monday, the Ireland-based low-cost carrier said it “condemns the unlawful actions of Belarusian authorities who diverted Ryanair’s flight FR4978 to Minsk yesterday, which was an act of aviation piracy. This is now being dealt with by EU safety and security agencies, and NATO. Ryanair is fully cooperating with them and we cannot comment further for security reasons.”

The governments of neighboring Lithuania and Latvia have called for Belarus to be closed to all international flights. Lithuanian police have launched a criminal investigation into the incident.

Since both Greece and Lithuania are EU member states, EU leaders would take the lead in coordinating any action against Belarus in a meeting of the European Council today. The Ryanair aircraft was reportedly registered in Poland, which is also an EU member state, and it is not clear whether Belarusian authorities notified their Polish counterparts about the supposed security diversion. The U.S. State Department and the UK Foreign Office have both condemned the actions of Belarus authorities.

In a statement issued on Sunday, an ICAO spokesman said the United Nations-backed aviation organization “is strongly concerned by the apparent forced landing of a Ryanair flight and its passengers, which could be in contravention of the Chicago Convention.”

The International Federation of Airline Pilots Associations also protested the forced landing. “The military intervention for political reasons constitutes a wilful hazard to safety of passengers and crew, and we urge states and the international aviation community to prioritize their prevention,” the group commented.

The European Commission may enlist the European aviation safety agency’s support in dealing with technical aspects of any response to Belarus’s actions. EASA manages both the air safety list of banned airlines, which does not currently include any Belarusian carriers, and the conflict zone alerts list that warns operators to avoid airspace considered to be at risk from security threats.

Belarus is not a member of EASA, the European Civil Aviation Conference, or Eurocontrol. However, it is an ICAO member state and falls under the jurisdiction of the organization’s EUR/NAT regional office based in Paris, which carries responsibility for security issues.

In 2020, 26-year older Protasevich was involved in broadcasting news coverage of mass protests against Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko. He denies charges by the authorities that he organized and incited riots, and last year fled the country to avoid detention. According to news reports, he told fellow Ryanair passengers that he was facing the death penalty, as he was led away by police.

Lukashenko has been head of state in Belarus since 1994. Opposition groups have claimed that he rigged the 2020 election and the EU also rejected the result as legitimate and imposed sanctions on the president and 40 or so Belarusian officials.

The following two articles of the Chicago Convention, which established ICAO, could potentially apply in any action taken against Belarus:

“The contracting States recognize that every State must refrain from resorting to the use of weapons against civil aircraft in flight and that, in case of interception, the lives of persons on board and the safety of aircraft must not be endangered. This provision  shall not be interpreted as modifying in any way the rights and obligations of States set forth in the Charter of the United Nations.”

“Each contracting State agrees not to use civil aviation for any purpose inconsistent with the aims of this Convention.”

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Supersonic Bizjet Developer Aerion Halts Operations Fri, 21 May 2021 23:48:47 +0000

Aerion Corp. today ceased operations, citing a lack of available financing for its plans to bring a family of supersonic aircraft to market. In a statement, the company said it had built an $11.2 billion backlog for the first of that family, the Mach 1.2 AS2 business jet, but “in the current financial environment, it has proven hugely challenging to close on the scheduled and necessary large new capital requirements to finalize the transition of the AS2 into production. Given these conditions, the Aerion Corporation is now taking the appropriate steps in consideration of this ongoing financial environment.”

The move comes less than six months after Aerion broke ground on a $300 million, two-million-sq-ft headquarters complex at Florida’s Orlando Melbourne International Airport. It also follows a series of announcements detailing firmed-up supplier relationships for the AS2, ranging from Honeywell to Collins Aerospace and Spirit AeroSystems. These came in addition to engine-maker GE Aviation.

The supersonic developer also has scored major orders and letters of intent from companies, includingFlexjet and NetJets. “Flexjet ordered its AS2’s from Aerion Supersonic in 2015 and the company has been a supporter of the program since then,” said Kenn Ricci, principal at Flexjet parent Directional Aviation. “We were particularly impressed with the recent design changes and innovations generated by [Aerion chairman, president, and CEO] Tom Vice and his current team. While we are disappointed to hear from the company that they are ceasing operations, we understand the vast investment required by such programs to bring them to fruition and the inherent risks involved.”

Aerion planned to freeze the AS2 design later this year and begin production in 2023, with first flight following in the middle of the decade. Meanwhile, in March it teased plans for the larger, near-hypersonic AS3 airliner, as well as collaborations with NASA on those technologies.

Aerion did not elaborate on its future beyond the statement: “The Aerion Corporation has assembled a world-class team of employees and partners, and we are very proud of our collective efforts to realize a shared vision of revolutionizing global mobility with sustainable supersonic flight,” the statement added. “Since our company’s formation, our team has created disruptive new innovations plus leading-edge technologies and intellectual property.”

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AINsight: On the Precipice of Another Talent Shortage Fri, 21 May 2021 16:42:56 +0000 There’s a clear return to flying as vaccinations ramp up and regions reopen. In fact, just this week, a business aviation director told me that all three of his company’s aircraft were in use—along with a NetJets share. Other flight departments have sent executives to India and Europe. Business aviation is back!

The airlines are back, too, and it appears they’re having a difficult time ramping up fast enough—just take a look at availability and prices. To meet anticipated travel demands, there’s much being written about plans to revive hiring and recall furloughed pilots.

But, as it happened, at the start of Covid-19, many airlines retired their senior pilots at least one to two years early. It will be interesting to see if there’s enough of a supply of senior-level pilots—especially when international flying resumes. Thankfully, one of our blessings in business aviation is that we do not have a forced retirement age at 65.

Bizav Needs Better Attraction/Retention Strategy

For several months, I’ve cautioned that the pilot shortage will be back before we know it—with a vengeance! And from what I can see, it’s already started. So how will business aviation win at retaining pilots and attracting the next generation? How will our Part 91 and Part 135 operators become employers of choice?

Following are some recommendations:

Change our mindset—and our minimums. The business aviation industry has long held strict requirements for entry. Most flight departments insist on pilots accruing 3,000 to 5,000 flight hours.

But where will a pilot gain this time? The answer is at the airlines. No longer are lower-time pilots languishing at lower-paying regionals. Instead, they’re matriculating quickly through the system to the mainline carriers. That means they’re bypassing business aviation as a career option.

In my experience, it’s the rare case that a pilot will walk away from his or her seniority at an airline—even early in their career. This is largely due to the long-term promise of compensation and benefits. So if we maintain our standard of recruiting someone with a minimum of 3,000 flight hours, we’ll have to wait for an airline to go bankrupt or furlough their pilots.

Recruit from the military. Business aviation has had incredible success bringing veterans into our industry. But we once again have competition from the airlines, which are far more savvy at recruiting due to their scale.

For example, a 20-year Air Force veteran retiring with 2,800 flight hours is a hot commodity at the airlines. But on paper, this person doesn’t meet business aviation’s standard, as mentioned above. It’s worth noting that it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison due to the way the military logs time.

But if a company’s hiring is based on applications submitted through a website, these amazing candidates will be eliminated by the automated talent management software. And the flight department will likely never be aware that they applied. 

Attract earlier entrants. To build our talent pipeline, business aviation has to rethink how and when we bring new people into the industry. Can we get creative and offer new solutions? Can we recruit aviation talent who are less experienced but passionate and willing to learn?

What if some of our larger organizations hired junior pilots and put them on a “future first officer” or even a true first officer path, developing and mentoring them for long-term employment?

What About Maintenance?

Although we talk a lot about the pilot shortage, there is also a significant and mounting shortage of qualified aviation maintenance professionals. According to results of an Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA) survey, “52.5 percent of surveyed companies reported ‘difficulty finding/retaining technical talent’ as a major threat to their companies going forward.”

Next Steps

My advice is “don’t let up.” Now is the time to examine your talent strategy, and in a two-part process. First, focus on pilot and maintenance retention. Many aviation professionals have remained at their employers in the last year. They’re well taken care of and have been compensated, despite not flying. And they should be, as compensation has gone up, according to data released by The Bureau of Labor Statistics.

To retain your team members, I encourage you to keep them engaged and to constantly sell the benefits of business aviation. Ask yourself, “How long will their loyalty last when the airlines are recruiting again?”

In addition to retention, it’s time to look at what your needs will be a year or two from now. Perhaps you should make the case for “opportunity hiring”—for example, hiring a top candidate in advance of an open position. The data shows that it will likely be harder and more expensive to hire in 18 months when your senior captain retires. So there is a financial benefit to cultivating a great hire earlier than later.

Maybe this is the time to justify that first officer and bring her or him up through your own training protocols? It’s a hard case to make but one that can prove valuable in the future. 

Sheryl Barden, CAM, is the president and CEO of Aviation Personnel International, the longest-running recruiting and HR consulting firm exclusively serving the needs of business aviation. A thought leader on all things related to business aviation professionals, Barden serves on NBAA’s board of directors and is chair of the NBAA advisory council.

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Aviation Industry Cheers New SAF Tax Credit Plan Fri, 21 May 2021 15:28:31 +0000

A broad-based consortium of aviation companies and organizations yesterday applauded the introduction of the Sustainable Skies Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. Among those lauding the legislation were airlines, fuel manufacturers and providers, airframers, engine makers, and aviation alphabet organizations such as NBAA, GAMA, NATA, AOPA, and A4A.

Sponsored by Reps. Brad Schneider (D-Illinois), Dan Kildee (D-Michigan), and Julia Brownley (D-California), the Sustainable Skies Act would establish a $1.50 per gallon “blender’s tax credit” for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) that achieves at least a 50 percent reduction in lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions compared with conventional fossil-based jet fuel. In addition, the fuels would receive another one-cent-per-gallon credit for each percentage point in reduction above 50 percent. A 100 percent reduction would therefore receive a $2-per-gallon credit. Under the measure, the tax credits would be in effect until 2030.

“The Sustainable Skies Act will help spur the private-sector investments needed to boost the production, distribution, and uptake of SAF,” explained GAMA president and CEO Pete Bunce. “A blender’s tax credit will also assist in making SAF a cost-competitive alternative to conventional jet fuel.”

NATA president and CEO Tim Obitts told AIN that the maximum $2-per-gallon credit, combined with the approximately $1.50-per-gallon credit for SAF provided under the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), could bring the price of the renewable aviation fuel near or on par with the cost of traditional jet-A in some areas of the state.

In February, Brownley reintroduced legislation known as the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Act, but she has since pivoted to place her support behind this measure instead.

“Sustainable aviation fuel is the aviation industry’s best opportunity to cut its carbon emissions for the foreseeable future,” she said. “I am pleased to join Rep. Schneider and Rep. Kildee in introducing the Sustainable Skies Act because federal investment in this nascent industry is critically important if the aviation sector is going to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. The broad coalition of environmentalists, airlines, sustainable fuel producers, and labor in support of this bill demonstrates how SAF can be both a win for the environment and a win for our economy.”

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Reduced Flight Ops Affecting Pilot Proficiency Fri, 21 May 2021 14:45:42 +0000 Reduced flight time resulting from Covid-19 is degrading professional pilots’ performance, according to Paul Ransbury, CEO of training provider Aviation Performance Solutions. Ransbury made the observation Thursday in an online presentation, “Manual Flight Operations—Proficiency Fallout due to Covid-19,” at Bombardier’s Safety Standdown.

“It’s really unprecedented for a large body of pilots to go this amount of time without flying or having an alternative way of staying current,” he said, citing operations declines ranging from 60 percent initially to today’s 40 to 48 percent. Meanwhile, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University research into pilot reports from the FAA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System filed during this period found “items identified most readily with a proficiency-currency issue increased by 1,000 percent—a tenfold increase” in the aftermath of operations reductions, Ransbury said. He identified manual flight control skills as those most affected.

Pilots with little experience “are the most vulnerable” to loss of this proficiency, while those with “a substantial amount of experience can get back up to a very high level of proficiency in a relatively short period of time,” Ransbury said. Mitigation strategies include improving awareness of the aircraft state, following the guidelines from ICAO’s 2014 Upset Prevention and Recovery Training manual, and “dedicated practice.”

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