General Dynamics's aerospace division, which includes Gulfstream Aerospace and Jet Aviation, saw first-quarter revenues climb 19.5 percent year-over-year, to $2.125 billion, while profits soared 30.3 percent, to $404 million, from the same period last year.
Aerospace backlog ended the quarter at $14.946 billion, down from $15.622 billion at the end of last year, meaning the book-to-bill ratio was less than 1:1. "Given that the Gulfstream G650 has a four-year backlog, it's hard to achieve a 1:1 book-to-build ratio," General Dynamics chairman and CEO Phebe Novakovic said yesterday during a quarterly investor conference call. She noted that 60 percent of the order intake during the quarter was for the G450 and G550.
Gulfstream delivered 39 completed aircraft during the first quarter, including 33 large-cabin and six midsize jets; this is a 34.5-percent increase from a year ago, when the company shipped 29 completed jets (25 large-cabin and four midsize). Novakovic said demand for new Gulfstreams "remains strong" and noted that pricing is "holding up nicely."
J.P. Morgan aerospace analyst Joseph Nadol III sees some risk "as Gulfstream should soon announce a major product transition from the G450/550 to a new family derived from the G650." Backlog for the G450 and G550 is a "key watch item" as the company nears the new-product announcements, "likely in the second half," he said, adding that he believes deliveries of the new models will begin in 2016.
Fresh on the heels of news earlier this month that it had purchased the three UK locations of RSS Jet Centre, Landmark Aviation made an even bigger splash with an announcement yesterday that it has agreed to purchase Colorado-based Ross Aviation. Ross, whose 20 FBOs operated under their own individual names, quietly rose to become the fifth-largest chain of aviation service providers in the U.S. since its launch a decade ago. The chain added five facilities over the past year alone.
The transaction includes the Ross-owned FBOs in Denver, Santa Fe and Miami, as well as the six Bradley Pacific locations in Hawaii. The acquisition will increase Landmark's roster to 60 domestic locations and 76 overall.
"It fits well in our network, and it gives us added strength in the West, which we really needed," Landmark president and CEO Dan Bucaro told AIN. "When you look at the acquisition on a map, it certainly improves where we are at and the relevance of our network to our customers."
Terms of the transaction were not disclosed and the deal is expected to close in the second half of the year, pending approval of authorities.
After a five-year legal debate, Austrian aviation services provider International Jet Management (IJM) has prevailed against German authorities in a "precedent-setting ruling" by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
At issue was a German protectionist regulation that forced foreign operators of flights inbound from a non-EU country to apply for permission three days in advance, as well as provide proof that no Germany-based competitor would make that flight. Without such evidence, which often could not be gathered in the time allotted, the authorities would impose fines against the operator if the flight were conducted.
In 2009 IJM launched a protest against the penalties, and in 2011 the High Regional Court of Braunschweig referred the case to the ECJ, the highest court in the European Union in matters of EU law, for a preliminary ruling. Last month, the court ruled that EU law supersedes the German regulations requiring authorization for an established business in another member state to provide services in Germany; therefore, the fines imposed on IJM and others were not justified under its interpretation of EU treaty article 18, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of nationality.
The EASA has certified the redesigned vertical bevel gear shaft for the Airbus Helicopters EC225, which has suffered in-flight failures and a nine-month grounding in 2012 and 2013. Manufacturing of the redesigned gear shaft is under way for production aircraft and for retrofits, and installations for both applications are slated to begin in the second half of this year.
Airbus Helicopters says that the new design eliminates all three factors that, combined, caused two unexpected vertical shaft failures (see poster). It provides corrosion resistance, compensates for residual stress and eliminates stress hot spots. To protect against corrosion, a smoother shape inside the shaft will prevent "mud" retention areas. Reinforcement in the welding area compensates for residual stress. Improved internal geometry removes hot spots such as small-radius angles that concentrate stress.
Airbus Helicopters chief technology officer Jean-Brice Dumont described the module-level exchange procedure as "not very complicated" for the operator's maintenance technicians and promised that Airbus Helicopters' production capacity will not impede the process of retrofitting the fleet. Downtime will be six days.