Briefing: February 2018


Textron Reveals New Twin

Textron plans to build an all-new, clean-sheet-design, large-utility twin turboprop, and start deliveries by 2020, the company said in November. The new airplane was developed with launch customer FedEx Express in mind, offering almost twice the interior space of the Caravan 208 plus a large cargo door to support container operations. The Cessna SkyCourier 408 will improve fuel efficiency, reliability and operating costs over the current fleet, according to FedEx Express. It will be powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-65SC turbines, with a cruise speed of up to 200 knots and a 900-NM range. The cockpit will be equipped with Garmin G1000 avionics. The company has signed on for 50 of the $5.5 million turboprops, with options for up to 50 more.

Pilatus PC-24 Certified

When Pilatus opened its order book in 2014 for a small twin-engine jet that can operate from rough runways, it quickly sold out the first production run of 84 airplanes. In December, right on schedule, the company said the PC-24 had received type certification from both the FAA and EASA. First delivery was set for January, to PlaneSense, a fractional operator based on the East Coast. The “super-versatile” jet can take off in about 2800 feet, and cruise at 440 knots for up to 2035 NM. It’s also equipped with a large cargo door. The company says it hopes the PC-24 will create new markets not previously serviced by small, civilian jets.

GA Safety Shows Improvement

The accident rate in general aviation dropped below 1 fatal accident per 100,000 flight hours in 2016, the NTSB reported in November. The GA decrease to the lowest rate in 50 years occurred even as cars, trains, and boats all showed increases, the safety board said. Based on an estimated 21.3 million flight hours, the preliminary fatal accident rate for GA in 2016 is 0.989 accidents per 100,000 flight hours. There have been no fatalities for U.S. airlines since 2009.

Progress For New Technologies

Electric powerplants and autonomous operations continue to drive investment in aviation technologies. Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens said in November they will work together to build a partially electric-powered airliner demonstrator by 2020. The partners plan to modify a BAE 146 regional airliner, replacing one of its four engines with an electric motor. The project is intended to provide initial data toward developing a fully electric-powered passenger aircraft. In December, Aurora Flight Sciences demonstrated a system that can be installed on any rotary-wing aircraft and enable it to fly autonomously. The system can be operated “intuitively” by any Marine in the field, using a hand-held tablet, according to Aurora. Also in December, Erik Lindbergh formed a new company, VerdeGo Aero, to build a hybrid-electric-powered VTOL.

FAA: Drone Collisions Worse Than Birds

Small consumer drones can do more damage to an airplane than a bird strike, the FAA said in November, citing data from a year-long study. Commercial aircraft are designed to withstand bird strikes up to 8 pounds for the fuselage and 4 pounds for the windscreen, but they may be damaged by a drone strike of that weight, the researchers found. Drones are made of hard, stiff materials, while birds are mostly water, the researchers said. The lithium batteries in drones also pose a danger of causing a fire, the study found. The study was based on computer simulations, with additional data from testing of materials and components.


Van’s says 10,000 of its RV kit planes are now flying…Dassault canceled its Falcon 5X project, citing engine delays…Crews started an engine aboard “That’s All Brother,” a C-47 that flew on D-Day, now being restored in Oshkosh…AOPA and NBAA say new tax rules will help aviation…Bell’s V-280 Valor tiltrotor flew for the first time…Santa Monica’s airport closed for a week to shorten the runway…Breaking news in general aviation can be found at


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