'Epic' Deals Aplenty In Atlanta
by ANN Special Correspondent Dave Higdon
The 60th Annual National Business Aviation Association
Convention officially kicked off Tuesday morning, with a series of
early morning events before the 10:00 am ribbon cutting that opened
the exhibit floor to the record-setting 28,000 delegates who
pre-registered for the show.
And while the news of the day continued the same evolutionary
theme as Monday's pre-opening marathon of press briefings, some of
the news stood out more because of the strong sales represented or
the strong potential of the news.
But nothing happened until NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen
paired with GAMA president Pete Bunce to brief the assembled
aviation press on the welcome progress and remaining perils of the
fight to steer the reauthorization toward an airline-desired user
fee system. As Bolen and Bunce noted, the general aviation
community seems to be winning much of the debate before Congress,
as evidenced by last week's vote in the House to approve H.R. 2881
-- a bill the community strongly supports. Even on the Senate side,
a bill to finance the FAA advanced sans user fees but with an
endorsement of a slight increase in excise taxes.
"But we're not out of
the woods yet," Bolen stressed. "We've still got a ways to go and
the airlines aren't relenting in their attempt to shift $1.9
billion in costs onto the shoulders of the general aviation
"We've still got a ways to go." According to various reports,
the airline community and its trade group, the Air Transport
Association, have so far spent more than $12 million on their
"disinformation campaign" and they're prepared to spend whatever it
With "No User Fees" buttons adorning the majority of those
attending, Bolen and Bunce received nothing but support for their
remarks and their positions.
The same could not be said for the remarks from Mary Peters,
secretary of transportation, when she participated in the
convention's official opening ceremonies. She voiced concern that
the recently passed House bill still relied on excise taxes and
lacked a "cost-based" funding mechanism for the FAA -- a euphemism
for "user fees" in the view of many in the crowd. Peters reiterated
the acknowledged need for ATC modernization -- somewhat like
preaching to the converted.
As Bolen noted to a reporter, nothing about modernization
depends on user fees as long as an adequate funding stream exists,
as H.R. 2881 provides.
Once past the business of the addressing the press and several
hundred people in the opening general session, the business of NBAA
took off in earnest with more announcements of goods, services and
Among the marks noted in addition to the record-setting advance
registrations are: a record 1,100-plus exhibitors; a record for
booth spaces sold; and a diverse collection of 105 aircraft filling
the static display at Fulton County Airport in northwest
India's Pioneering Entrepreneur Taking $200 Million Stake In
It becomes official Wednesday morning. Epic Aircraft stands to
get a major boost in its aspirations to become one of the top two
jet makers in the world, thanks to an entrepreneur from India who
seems to possess the Midas touch. Aero-News has confirmed that at
an 11:00 am briefing scheduled for Room B207 Wednesday, Dr. Vijay
Mallya and Epic founder Rick Schramek plan to jointly announced
Mallya's $200 million investment in the fledgling planemaker, an
infusion that will make him a 50 percent partner in Epic.
Furthering Epic's cause will be a parallel announcement that
European airline maker Airbus plans to become a strategic
consultant to Epic in the service of pursuing type certificates for
the Elite and Victory VLJs.
"Epic wants to become the number one or number two business jet
maker in the world," a source told Aero-News. This investment by
Dr. Mallya and the consulting partnership with Airbus will help the
company progress toward that goal, according to the source, who
insisted on anonymity.
Airbus, according to Epic sources, is interested in furthering
the Elite and Victory projects in part to help its European airline
customers conduct their ab initio airline training programs that
were once largely conducted in the United States.
Epic debut its two composite VLJs at the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh
2007 fly-in earlier this year and Mallya was a surprise guest at
the debut. The Elite single and Victory twin jet offer seating for
four, as well as solid jet performance and excellent runway
Socata Goes G For The TBM850 -- As In G1000
European planemaker EADS Socata Tuesday announced the
inauguration of tests to certificate its hot TBM-850 with Garmin
International's cutting-edge G1000 integrated electronic panel.
The adaptation of the G1000 in the single-engine propjet
continues the evolution of the model that started in the early
1990s and is another result of customer input, noted Nicolas
Chabbert, Socata's vice president of sales for North America. Tests
of the system are already underway and certification is expected
"sometime in 2008," the company said at its briefing.
Socata selected a three-screen version of the G1000 that employs
dual 10-inch PFDs, one each for pilot and co-pilot, plus a
center-mounted 15-inch multifunction display.
According to Chabbert, customer survey results pointed toward
two areas of improvements: more speed, which Socata produced with
the 320-knot TBM850; and more sophistication in the panel -- a
desire answered by the Garmin G1000.
XOJet Continues Buying Spree With Bombardier
On Monday, it was Cessna which received a large jet order
courtesy of XOJet, the provider of on-demand jet travel to the
world's high-net-worth individuals. Tuesday, Bombardier was the
beneficiary of XOJet's largesse thanks to a record-setting order
for 80 Challenger 300 transcontinental mid-cabin jets, adding to
$600 million order XOJet announced Monday for 30 Citation Xs.
Bombardier put the whole-up value of the Challenger 300 deal --
which consists of 20 orders, 60 options -- at $1.9 billion. "We
intend to exercise every one of those options," said XOJet's Paul
Touw. Deliveries of the Challenger 300s to XOJet should start in
the fourth quarter of Fiscal 2008.
"We're operating our current fleet at a high rate of utilization
with very little deadheading, and we liked the fact that Bombardier
approaches its business jet manufacturing with its airline
background in mind.
According to Touw, XOJet operates its aircraft on average more
than 1,200 hours annually, with only 3 percent of its flight on
deadhead. By comparison, Touw said, jets operated by leading
fractional companies fly about 1,000 hours annually, with about 30
percent of those hours as deadhead flights.
Out of the $114 billion spent annually on travel in the U.S.,
Touw noted, about 30 percent is spent flying corporate and business
aircraft. As travel expands - and as more people look for
alternatives to airline travel - the value of business aviation
should only increase, boding well for XOJet's future.
Sino Swearingen Sells To New Investors
Struggling jet maker Sino Swearingen Tuesday announced the sale
of a controlling interest to a joint venture dubbed Action Aviation
Investors in a transaction that the new owners believe could
provide a fresh start for the SJ30-2. AAI is made up of Action
Aviation, Sino Swearingen's largest distributor, and ACQ
At the same time as the sale was revealed, Action Aviation
announced it had taken the delivery of the second SJ30-2 at the
The SJ30-2 held considerable promise as a light jet thanks to a
combination of high speed, big payload and long range. But problems
with capital, tooling and production held the program back.
Certificated in October 2005, the first SJ30-2 wasn't delivered
until February 2007.
The Taiwan investors who've back the company to date will still
have representation on the board of directors once the transaction
closes -- which Action Aviation hopes will come before the end of
And this was just opening day. As you can gather from the Epic
story above, Wednesday should bring more action to NBAA in