by LeRoy Cook
Continuing on a recent string of highly successful Business Aviation Conventions and Exhibitions, the National Business Aviation Association’s 2014 show in Orlando, Florida’s Orange County Convention Center was another blockbuster. Over 100 aircraft
were stuffed into static displays on the Showalter Flying Service ramp at Orlando Executive airport and inside the convention center itself. The exhibitor count of 1,100 firms held steady with the pace of the latest record-setting shows, as did the total of 26,000 registered attendees from 95 countries worldwide.
The mood at NBAA 2014 was upbeat and hopeful; all signs point to continued growth in business flying activity, with new products announced to take advantage of this optimism. Gulfstream Aerospace surprised most of the crowd by unveiling planned G500 and G600 models, positioned just above the G450 and G550, incorporating a larger fuselage cross-section that will be slightly smaller than the G650’s. Among the many innovations of the G500/600 are active fly-by-wire sidestick flight controls instead of control yokes, designed to move in unison whether either pilot or the AFCS is flying the aircraft. The new airplanes will be powered by Pratt & Whitney PW800-series engines, the first time Gulfstream has not used Rolls Royce powerplants on its larger products. G500/G600 range at Mach .85 is projected to be 5,000 and 6,200 n .mi., respectively. The already-taxiing G500 is slated to fly in 2015 and the G600 will follow in 2017. A longer-range Gulfstream G650ER was certificated at show time, bringing the G650’s capability up to 7,500 n .mi.
At show time, Dassault was preparing to roll out its 8X long-range business jet, solidifying its lineup of new-technology aircraft, with first flight scheduled for Q1 2015. With a cabin 3.5 feet longer than the 7X, the 8X will offer added range and comfort. Dassault’s twin-engine, wide-cabin 5X continues in ground test, aimed at a first flight in Q2 2015. Meanwhile, perennial supersonic bizjet hopeful Aerion announced a partnership with Airbus to help develop its Mach 1.6 AS2 SSBJ.
Textron/Cessna brought the number-two production example of its large-cabin Citation Latitude to the static display, and Textron also showed the Beechcraft King Airs 350i, 250 and C90Gtx. The C90Gtx now features standard-equipment Raisbeck aft-body strakes and swept-blade Hartzell 96-inch propellers. These have reduced max-gross takeoff distance by 591 feet, to 1,984 feet. The King Air 250 can now be ordered with CenTex Aerospace’s Halo 250 conversion factory installed, permitted it to be operated with a maximum takeoff weight of 13,420 pounds (a type-rating is required), boosting useful load by 870 pounds. BLR Aerospace reportedly worked with Textron/Beechcraft on the increased gross-weight option.
Embraer’s Legacy 500 has secured FAA certification in reciprocal fashion, after Brazil’s ANAC approved the Legacy 500 two months earlier. Also in the lineup at the full-line Embraer static display was the prototype Legacy 450, 3.5 feet shorter than the 500; the 450’s certification is expected in Q3 2015.
Bombardier made the first public showing of its new Learjet 85, bringing the flight test airplane down to Orlando from Wichita in two hours and 23 minutes. Bombardier also announced plans to evolve the Challenger 605 into an upgraded Challenger 650, a move similar to the 305/350 evolution.
HondaJet is closing in on certification of its HA-420 light jet, having just finished a sales tour with the serial #11 production aircraft. At NBAA time, the order total was quoted as “over 100” and production of 50 aircraft is predicted during the first year of deliveries.
In new flight-deck products, Universal Avionics unveiled its new InSight integrated avionics suite at the show, a fully-capable system that brings the company into the ranks of complete Part 25 business jet cockpits. Innovators of the first FMS for business jets, Universal worked to create a flight deck that could use input from many existing boxes, keeping the cost down and saving much re-certification effort for owners. A three-display system is priced at $250,000 and a four-tube setup is $375,000. Display size is 10.4 inches.
At NBAA 2014’s Opening Session, Chris Hart, acting chairman (and presumptive next head) of the National Transportation Safety Board, decried the loss of professionalism seen in some recent high-profile aviation accidents, stemming from over-reliance on automation to keep the flight safe. Following Hart, Enterprise Holdings chairman Andrew Taylor related his car-rental company’s growth with the aid of business airplanes, from $70 million in revenue 35 years ago to $18 billion today.
The Al Ueltschi Humanitarian Award was presented to International Jet Aviation Services and Make-A-Wish Foundation. Denver-based International Jet uses a brightly-painted Learjet 35A, called the “Dream Chaser”, to fulfill travel requests for seriously-ill children selected by Make-A-Wish. This year’s Dream Chaser is the fourth Learjet IJA has temporarily painted in fanciful candy colors, each supporting Make-A-Wish with special flights that began in 1990.
The second-day General Session saw unvarying “pilot’s pilot” favorite R.A. “Bob” Hoover honored with NBAA’s Meritorious Service Award for providing a lifetime of inspiration to his fellow aviators. Accompanied by his friend Sean D. Tucker, the still-sharp nonagenarian reminisced at length about working with Charles Lindbergh and Roscoe Turner; he was slated to receive the Wright Brothers Award in December.
This being an election year, the General Session also featured political power couple Mary Matalin and James Carville, who each gave their opposing views of the Washington, D.C. landscape and the possibilities for change at the looming mid-term election.
For 2015, NBAA’s exposition returns to Las Vegas, Nevada, scheduled for later-in-the-year dates of November 17-19. The world of business aviation will be gathering for the biggest dedicated show and information-sharing event of its kind. We’ll see you there.