Briefing: February 2019


Virgin Galactic Reaches Space

On December 13, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two, VSS Unity, made its first trip to space, reaching an altitude of 51.4 miles, just above the 50-mile boundary defined by NASA. “Today, for the first time in history, a crewed spaceship, built to carry private passengers, reached Space,” said Virgin Galactic CEO Richard Branson. “We will now push on with the remaining portion of our flight-test program.” The commercial space sector “has great potential,” said FAA acting administrator Dan Elwell after the flight. “The FAA is committed to helping ensure commercial space transportation grows safely.” VSS Unity was lifted to 43,000 feet by the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft, and carried a crew of two pilots, and four NASA experiments.

Six Honored By National Aviation Hall of Fame

The National Aviation Hall of Fame has announced it will enshrine six aviators in a ceremony this September in Denver, Colorado. The NAHF Class of 2019 includes Americans who made enduring contributions to both the advancement of flight and the exploration of space. The new inductees are, Colonel Guion “Guy” S. Bluford, USAF (Ret), who served as a fighter pilot in Vietnam, and later flew on the Space Shuttle four times; Brigadier General Charles M. Duke, Jr., USAF (Ret), who was the 10th person to walk on the Moon, with Apollo 16; and Martha and John King, who have been CFIs for 40 years, and according to NAHF, “have instructed more than half the pilots now flying in the U.S.” The Hall of Fame also will induct Colonel Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, USMC, fighter ace and leader of the famous “Black Sheep Squadron” of World War II; and Katherine Stinson, founder of the Stinson School of Flying in 1915.

Flight Design Expands In China

Flight Design partner AeroJones Aviation Technology has announced it will build a new manufacturing plant at Dalu General Airport in Zhenjiang, China. The company says the move will provide much-needed direct access to runways for testing and demo flights. AeroJones, which currently operates out of a factory in Xiamen, manufactures CTLS light sport aircraft for the Asia-Pacific region. The Flight Design CTLS produced by AeroJones is a two-seat, composite model powered by a 100-HP Rotax 912ULS engine. It has a maximum speed of 130 knots, 970-nm range and comes equipped with a whole-aircraft parachute.

Piaggio Enters Receivership

Piaggio Aerospace, which is wholly owned by Mubadala, based in Abu Dhabi, said in November the company “is no longer financially sustainable” and has entered “extraordinary administration,” a type of insolvency procedure for restructuring debt. In a statement, the company cited “continued uncertainty and current market conditions” and said “the key fundamental assumptions of the restructuring plan approved in 2017 have not materialized.” Mubadala had planned to invest up to $342 million in the company over five years. As recently as the Farnborough airshow, in July, the company was upbeat. “We started a new transformational path, which is already boosting production line and orders,” Renato Vaghi, CEO of Piaggio Aerospace, said at the show.

Boeing’s New Bizjet Flies Nonstop To Anywhere

Boeing introduced its newest business jet, the 777X, at a business-aviation show in Dubai, in December. The jet can fly between any two points on Earth nonstop, the company said. The jet comes in two models — the BBJ 777-8 can fly up to 11,645 NM, and its cabin covers 3,256 square feet; the BBJ 777-9 provides an even larger cabin, measuring 3,689 square feet, but comes with a slightly shorter range of 11,000 NM. Boeing also showed three concepts for how to use all that space, from the design firms Greenpoint Technologies, Jet Aviation, and Unique Aircraft Design. The renderings include cabin-wide master bedrooms, expansive spaces for relaxing and entertaining, office areas, and dining rooms served by full galleys.


Bill Cutter, who led the Cutter Aviation FBO chain for many years, died in December at 86…Pilatus delivered the first PC-24 configured for medevac missions…Breaking news in general aviation can be found


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