Briefing: May 2022



In an announcement that surprised many industry watchers, Textron revealed it was buying Pipistrel Aircraft, a Slovenian company that has been at the forefront of light aircraft innovation, most recently in the electric and hybrid airplane sector. In the announcement, Textron CEO Scott Donnelly said the acquisition will result in the creation of separate business unit known as Textron eAviation. “Pipistrel puts Textron in a uniquely strong position to develop technologies for the sustainable aviation market and develop a variety of new aircraft to meet a wide range of customer missions,” said Donnelly. “Today’s announcement supports Textron’s long-term strategy to offer a family of sustainable aircraft for urban air mobility, general aviation, cargo, and special mission roles.” Founder Ivo Boscarol will stay on as a shareholder and chairman emeritus.


The FAA approved implementation of an enhanced GPS installation at San Francisco International Airport that officials there hope will allow more efficient and less intrusive approaches. The Ground-Based Augmentation System reduces the normal GPS position error, up to 150 feet, down to inches, allowing higher precision. Ground-based receivers crunch GPS signals and relay them to the avionics on the aircraft to massage the data they are displaying and refine the position. The system has been used in a test by United Airlines and the FAA has decided it’s ready for regular use. At first, GBAS will be used in tandem with existing ILS approaches but SFO hopes to be able to design new GBAS approaches within a few years.


Alaska Airlines became the latest to create its own training unit to meet the escalating pilot shortage. Alaska and its in-house regional Horizon have teamed with Hillsboro Aero Academy in Oregon to create the Ascend Pilot Academy. Students will have access to low-interest loans for their training, a $25,000 stipend and a conditional offer for a job with Horizon from which they can graduate to the main line. “Our goal is to create a program that enables students to complete an intensive training and time-building program, with a clear and established path toward flying for Horizon as a first officer,” said Horizon Air President Joe Sprague.


Cessna has certified its first new turboprop twin in decades and the first SkyCourier will enter service with FedEx this year. The aircraft looks like a slightly boxier Twin Otter with simple rugged construction that includes wing struts. The aircraft was designed in consultation with the launch customer and will hold three standard air cargo containers. FedEx has ordered 50 SkyCouriers. From concept to certification took a little less than four years. “Our clean-sheet design brings to this segment what customers said they need: the ability to load, fly, unload and repeat with low operating costs and maximum cabin flexibility and efficiency,” said Textron CEO Ron Draper. The aircraft can also be configured as a 19-seat commuter.


Major eVTOL hopefuls are racking up pre-orders from well-established traditional aviation companies in what has turned into a race to get urban mobility off the ground. NetJets has announced it will buy 150 Lilium aircraft and operate them as Part 135 charter aircraft in addition to acting as a sales agent for Lilium. NetJets will also partner with the manufacturer to create an urban mobility network in south Florida. On the heels of the NetJets announcement, Miami-based GlobalX Charter announced a deal to take 200 Embraer Eve eVTOLs. It, too, plans to fly them throughout south Florida, including the Keys, Naples, and Palm Beach.


Garmin autopilots approved for Twin Comanches, STOL 206s … The FAA has temporarily exempted balloons from ADS-B requirements over Albuquerque … The FAA’s drone committee has offered its final BVLOS recommendations … FAA adds graphic depictions of problem approaches at 11 airports … Continental Aerospace Technologies named Karen Hong president and CEO … See for breaking news in general aviation.


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