After weeks of speculation, Textron announced in late December that it would buy Beechcraft Corp., for $1.4 billion. Textron is the parent company of Cessna, Bell Helicopter, and Lycoming. “The acquisition of Beechcraft is a tremendous opportunity to extend our general aviation business,” said Textron CEO Scott Donnelly. Textron also will take on the profitable service business for Hawker’s orphaned jet line, creating opportunities to convert those owners, as well as pilots upgrading from the popular King Air turboprops, to Cessna jets.
The FAA said in November it planned to require applicants for airman medicals to be tested for sleep apnea if they have a body-mass index over 40, which the National Institute of Health says is extremely obese. The plan drew wide opposition from pilots and lobbying groups. Opponents said sleep apnea has never been cited as a factor in general-aviation accidents, and the rule should be open to discussion instead of imposed unilaterally. In December, the FAA said it would delay implementation and host a meeting in January to gather input from the pilot and medical communities. The required sleep studies can be time-consuming and inconvenient, costing up to $5,000.
The Small Airplane Revitalization Act became law in November, creating a timeline for the development of new rules that will streamline certification of new aircraft and make it easier to modify and refurbish existing aircraft. The new law directs the FAA to change Part 23 by the end of 2015, with the goal to create “twice the safety at half the cost.” The revisions to Part 23 have been in the works for several years. Manufacturers hope to develop a simpler, consensus-based system that will bring new technology to market much faster.
China has taken steps to make it easier for civilians to become private pilots. Any citizen age 17 with at least a junior-high education now is eligible to apply for training, and they can take the required tests after 40 hours of flying and 40 hours of ground school. They also must pass a physical exam. Under the old regulations, issued in 1996, the standards for private pilots were essentially the same as for commercial pilots. The change is expected to drive an upsurge in demand for general aviation aircraft in China, a market that U.S. manufacturers have long been anxious to tap. The government also has been making it easier for civilian pilots to use the national airspace.
The pilot in the left seat of Asiana Flight 214, which crashed in San Francisco in July, told the NTSB at a December hearing that he didn’t feel comfortable flying a visual approach into San Francisco. Lee Kang Kuk had less than 45 hours in the 777 and hadn’t flown into SFO since 2004. The PAPI lights and localizer were working, but the glideslope was offline on the day of the crash. The 777 was 34 knots slow when its tail hit a seawall before the threshold of Runway 28L. After shedding the tail, the rest of the plane rotated almost 360 degrees before coming to rest in flames beside the runway. Three passengers died and 182 were hurt in the accident. The NTSB investigation is continuing.
Airshow pilot John Klatt unveiled a new jet-boosted biplane in the works for the 2014 season…Aviation heritage groups across the country are planning synchronous flyovers in 2015 for the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II…The USAF Thunderbirds included EAA AirVenture on their show schedule for the first time…The all-electric, semi-autonomous, VTOL Volocopter set records for online crowdfunding in Germany…Cessna started deliveries of the all-new M2, a step up for Mustang owners, with a six-seat cabin…Authorities said one of the pilots of a Mozambique Airlines Embraer E-190 deliberately crashed the plane in Namibia in November, killing all 33 people on board. Breaking news in general aviation can be found at www.avweb.com.