If there were two business aviation airports that spring to mind in the UK it would be Biggin Hill (official name London Biggin Hill, Booth 1285) and TAG Farnborough (Booth 4085). The airfields are very different. Farnborough is neat and shiny but dedicated to business aviation and with no flying schools. Biggin Hill, on the other hand, is much closer to London and is a more pleasing setting, surprisingly enough set up on a hill.
Yet Biggin Hill is playing catch-up, with the most Farnborough-like part of it being the impressive Rizon Jet FBO. It also has Signature Flight Support–linking it into a vast global chain–and its own FBO operation, whereas TAG Aviation is the sole FBO at Farnborough. Neither airport is open 24 hours, both being limited by planning permission to daytime plus a bit (and shorter at weekends), which explains why those wanting to land or depart in the early hours of the morning might prefer one of the main London airports (though all are increasingly busy with airliner traffic, including Luton and Stansted). A runway comparison can be seen in the chart below.
One area where Biggin Hill now wins hands-down is quick helicopter transfers to the London Battersea Heliport–only six minutes away–with Castle Air, which is available with no notice. Another area where Robert Walters, London Biggin Hill Airport's business development director, believes the south London airport has gained "first mover advantage" is in its tie-up with Teterboro, New York's main business aviation access point (Booth 1636). The airports signed a formal memorandum of understanding last August and stated that it was to be "...an innovative transatlantic aviation initiative...aimed at supporting and developing business air transportation between the financial and commercial centers of the City of London and New York."
Walters told AIN during a visit in mid-September, "Teterboro came about when our chairman [Andrew Walters] was speaking with them about the Davies Commission [on UK airport capacity] about its relationship with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. There were a lot of similarities." He added that London Mayor Boris Johnson has been supportive of Biggin Hill's development as a business aviation and congestion-reliever airport (similar to Teterboro's role in New York area).
Biggin Hill falls just inside the London Borough of Bromley, arguably another advantage it has over Farnborough as it can just about be considered a proper London airport (though not as close as London City, which is still not allowed to have a heliport).
Walters said that the heli-shuttle traffic is increasing and "we've had a lot of U.S.[customers] give it a go and they've kept on coming back." A chauffeur-driven limo into London can take about an hour, although the train journey from Bromley into London Bridge or Victoria only takes 15 minutes.
Walters is also happy about Signature coming to Biggin Hill, which it did last year when JETS (part of the 328 Jet Group) agreed to run only the MRO side of the facility. "Signature Flight Support put us back in a big network, especially in the U.S. market and the Middle East," remarked Walters.
There are a growing number of other companies resident at Biggin Hill, such as RAS Completions in East Camp. "They have a constant flow of Gulfstreams going through painting, including NetJets Europe ones, and they have Part 23 approval now so are doing interior design as well," said Andy Patsalides, Biggin Hill's new marketing manager.
Walters added that there is "lots more in the pipeline." Even the flight training organization that was mooted and a hotel opposite the Rizon hangar are live plans again, he said. Designs are also well advanced to add a second big hangar, able to take larger aircraft (such as the new Bombardier Global 7000 and 8000).
Movements at London Biggin Hill totaled 41,000 over the past 12 months (as of September) of which 15,000 were business aviation-related. Unlike Farnborough, there are flying schools at Biggin Hill (fitting well with its RAF heritage–see box on this page). Farnborough does have FlightSafety International simulators but no flying schools. "We have the ability to do 125,000 movements a year," said Walters, "and there are no slot restrictions." Farnborough does have a movement cap of 50,000 movements (phased to 2019), but is only halfway to this number, and those are purely business aviation operations.
FAA assistant administrator for NextGen Edward Bolton Jr. addressed the second-day opening session on October 22 at the NBAA Convention in Orlando, Fla., seeking to assure attendees that the U.S. ATC modernization program is on track.
"Five days ago we delivered to Congress, on time, a commitment of work we will do over the next three years to accelerate the delivery of key NextGen initiatives to the flying public," Bolton said. Developed under the NextGen Priorities Joint Implementation Plan (NPJIP), the initiatives include multiple runway operations, performance based navigation, surface and data communications.
Implementation of the NextGen air-traffic-management modernization program is one of the most complicated and vital efforts the agency has undertaken in its history. The program has been beset by delays, and a report from the Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General released in September concluded the problems made if difficult to fully justify FAA investments in the program.
NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen has previously stated that NextGen modernization is a high priority for the organization and its members, "so the association has staff representation on all the major Next-Gen government-industry working groups." That includes membership on the NextGen Advisory Committee, which developed the NPJIP.
Assistant administrator Bolton, who came to the FAA just over a year ago, heads a workforce of more than 900 government employees and controls an annual budget of $1 billion for the implementation process, which has been criticized for sluggish progress. Bolton has a track record of success with high-profile, high-budget programs.
He came to the FAA in September last year, following a long career in the U.S. Air Force where he most recently held the rank of major general. His last assignment was deputy assistant secretary for financial management and comptroller. Previous commands included the 45th Space Wing and the Eastern Range at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., where he administered a budget of $5 billion. Bolton saw more than 20 spacelift, shuttle, test and range missions launch successfully under his watch.
Inside the beltway, he held the office of deputy director for systems integration and engineering and was principal deputy to the chief operating office, establishing policy for space, cyber and information operations. He also served as director of space and cyber operations in Washington, D.C. and oversaw development of a cyber-career field.
On the West Coast, as a level III program manager, Bolton led the satellite and launch systems and the space launch and range systems programs at the Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles.
Microturbo is exhibiting an auxiliary power unit (APU) and an engine starter here at NBAA 2014 and also is developing two new APUs. Last summer, the Safran group company assumed full responsibility for two programs in which it was a minority partner: the APUs for the Dassault Falcon 5X and the Bombardier Global 7000/8000. Microturbo now wants to play a greater role in business jet APUs, including meeting the needs of future system architectures.
On display here at NBAA2014 (Booth 3259) is the e-APU 60, which started operating on the AgustaWestland AW189 helicopter last July. "Feedback from the field is very good," Microturbo CEO Pierre-Yves Morvan told AIN. A dozen are in service with four helicopter operators.
The e-APU has been designed for so-called "more electric" architectures, where electric power tends to replace hydraulics and pneumatics. The e-APU 60 (delivering 60 kilowatts) is certified in category 1, which means it can be used in flight. "This can be for engine re-start or supplying electric power to some systems if a generator has failed," Morvan explained.
Also showcased here is the ATS 337 engine starter, which equips the Sukhoi Superjet 100 regional jet but is also suitable for large business jets, according to Morvan. An air-turbine starter, it delivers up to 90 kilowatts and weighs 31 pounds. Its manufacturer claims that the e-APU 60 features competitive operating costs and high reliability.
In July, Microturbo and Pratt & Whitney AeroPower announced that Microturbo would take on 100 percent of the APS2800 and APS500[D] APU programs for Bombardier and Dassault, respectively. The program purchase agreement covers design, production and support. The collaboration was initiated in 2011, when Microturbo had a 30-percent share in each program. "Pratt & Whitney did not necessarily want to carry the nonrecurring costs it was seeing ahead," Morvan commented.
The APS500[D] is a derivative of an APU designed for the Embraer ERJ 135/145. "It will be certified with a much higher level of reliability and safety," Morvan said. Moreover, noise has been lowered, both for passenger comfort when they board the aircraft and for airport environment protection. "The APS500 will be used mainly on the ground, while the APS2800 can be used in flight and will be involved in the Global 7000/8000's ETOPS certification program," he continued.
The latter APU was developed from the Embraer E170's APU and "is practically a new APU," Morvan said. It is said to have a very high power-to-weight ratio and can be started at 45,000 feet and work at up to 51,000 feet–high altitudes consistent with business jet operations–despite the thinner air. It has been designed to supply bleed air (pneumatic power), as well as greater electric power than the previous generation of APUs. Deliveries to both Bombardier and Dassault have begun.
Next March Microturbo will inaugurate a new design, production and repair facility in San Diego, Calif. The French firm will have 60 employees there by year-end, as the transition continues from Aeropower's San Diego site.
"We want to invest in the long term and be a skillful APU provider for future business jet programs," Morvan stated. Current APUs are not used in normal flight, even though some have that capability, and this may change. "Aircraft manufacturers are striving to optimize the onboard energy chain and this could lead to new strategies, where APUs could play a more important part," he concluded.
For prospective jet buyers who like the performance capabilities of Cessna's speedy Citation X but don't want to spend $23.5 million for a new one and are worried about deliving into the used market, Textron Aviation has devised an alternative, the Citation X Elite program. The Elite is a former X that was in service with fractional-share operation NetJets, and while these jets have accumulated more than 10,000 flight hours by the time they leave NetJets service, they were maintained by Cessna service centers and are good candidates for a thorough refurbishment and avionics upgrade. NetJets had purchased more than 60 Citation Xs.
The first ex-NetJets Citation X was inducted into the Elite program in 2013 and the second is on display at the Elliott Aviation static display here at NBAA 2014. The Elite upgrade isn't limited to NeJets airplanes, according to Brad Thress, Textron Aviation senior vice president of customer service. "It's available on any serial number legacy Citation X. We do this as an on-demand program, we judge what the demand is going to be and induct them into the program."
The specific work done is extensive and includes completing all maintenance and inspection requirements up through the mandatory 15,000-hour interval, including "Doc 3" corrosion mitigation and prevention work on wing panels. A re-gearing of the aileron's hydraulically boosted controls (incorporated on earlier models after serial number 173) is done to all Elites. Winglets (by Winglet Technology) are an option. New wheels, brakes and tires are installed, as is a new horizontal trim actuator. The airframe is completely stripped and then repainted by King Aerospace.
The interior is completely updated with new Ipeco seats and a Mid-Continent Controls (Booth 1459) cabin-management system, with touchscreen controls in the galley and at the VIP seat and USB ports for each seat. A 10.4-inch monitor is mounted in the forward cabin area on the left side. LED lighting is installed throughout the cabin. A Gogo Business Aviation Axxess system provides air-to-ground broadband Internet access and onboard Wi-Fi.
The pilots get new BFGoodrich seats and a new flight deck, Honeywell's Primus Elite upgrade with LCD panels, FMS 6.1, SiriusXM weather, Jeppesen charts and Laseref IV inertial reference systems replacing the original AHRS.
A further encouragement for buyers is special pricing for maintenance programs for the first five years of ownership. The ProParts and ProTech programs are cut to about half price during the first three years, then the prices gradually step back to normal during the remaining two years.
The Elite work takes about four months, according to Cessna piston-engine program manager John Kasowski, who lead the Elite program. Price for a completed Elite Citation X is $6.5 million.
"It's a fantastic program," said Thress. "Through structural tests we knew these airframes had [plenty] of time [left]. "The Citation X has a really loyal following, and it's a great opportunity to upgrade it with a new warranty and a modern cabin. It's a great value proposition."