Author Archives: Molly McMillin

Molly McMillin is a senior reporter for the Wichita Eagle covering aviation and aerospace.
She joined the newspaper in 1995 and has covered a variety of beats, including banking, retail, real estate and economic development.
Before joining the Eagle, Molly was a reporter for the Wichita Business Journal and managing editor of The Kansas Business Report, a Topeka, Kan.-based monthly business publication.
She is a graduate of Wichita State University’s Elliott School of Communication.
Molly has traveled to Russia, Italy, France, Scotland and Brazil covering the aviation industry and has won multiple state and national awards, including awards for a four-part series on Boeing’s globalization efforts, called “Shifting Winds: Boeing’s Global Push.”
She is the recipient of the National Business Aviation Association’s 2013 Gold Wing Award for Journalism Excellence.
Molly is a licensed pilot, and learned to fly in her dad’s 1956 Piper Tri-Pacer.
She is married to Mike and has three children, Scott, Ashley and Andy, and two granddaughters.

Boeing, Spirit AeroSystems reach milestone with delivery of 8,000th Boeing 737

Boeing celebrated delivery of the 8,000th 737 single-aisle commercial airliner to come off the production line on Wednesday, which also marks a milestone for Spirit AeroSystems.

Spirit, and Boeing’s Wichita commercial airline division before it, have built the fuselages for all 8,000 planes.

Spirit builds the fuselage, pylons and thrust reversers in Wichita and wing components in Tulsa.

Boeing has more than 3,700 Boeing 737′s on order. That includes 1,934 orders for the 737 MAX, an upgraded version with new engines.

The 8,000th 737 was delivered to United Airlines. Since 1965, United has taken delivery of more than 550 737s.

Boeing has been raising 737 production with continued rising demand.

Since 2010, it’s increased production from 31.5 planes a month to today’s rate of 42 per month. It’s planning production increases to 47 a month in 2017, and has hinted that production could be raised beyond that.

“The 737 program continues to innovate with new features and technology, meeting the needs of our customers now and into the future,” Beverly Wyse, Boeing vice president and general manager of the 737 program, said in a statement. “Boeing has a long and treasured history with United Airlines, and we’re proud they’re taking delivery of this milestone airplane.”


WSU’s Dean Headley to talk about airline quality ratings

Every year, Wichita State University associate professor Dean Headley co-authors the annual Airline Quality Rating report, ranking the nation’s largest airlines.

The report, in its 24th year, measures the performance of U.S. airlines as it relates to customer complaints, denied boardings, mishandled bags and on-time arrivals.

Headley, a native of Kansas, will speak about the ratings and ho the report was developed  at the Wichita Aero Club luncheon on Wednesday.

The latest rating was released Monday.

Headley received his undergraduate degree in business from Emporia State University. He also has a masters’ of public health from the University of Oklahoma, a master’s of business administration from WSU and a Ph.D from Oklahoma State.

He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in marketing research and services marketing at WSU.

The luncheon will be held at 11:45 a.m. at the Doubletree Hilton Wichita Airport.

The cost is $30 for members and $40 for nonmembers.


Wichita Manufacturers Association announces scholarship winners

The Wichita Manufacturers Association awarded 19 scholarships for 2014.

Sixteen companies that are members of the association provided funds for a named scholarship, two scholarships were provided by the association’s scholarship fund, comprised of member donations. And one scholarship is funded by the Wichita Area Technical College.

The winners are Jacob Dold, Bao Pham, Austin Towne, Brianne McNutt, Tanner Harpool, Jose Cisneros, Taylor Price, Arlene Raymundo, Nathan Ruzzin, Michelle Wheeler, Katherine Marceau, Henry Ramirez, Kyle Offutt, Phillip Osu, Talon Wanless, Conner Garoung, Maggie Koops, Colin Phillips and Ryan Wolfe.

They won $1,000 scholarships.

Wichita Manufacturers Association has more than 150 members, made up of managers and owners of manufacturing companies in Wichita and Sedgwick County.

The objective is to promote the general welfare of manufacturers, to educate the public about manufacturing companies and their products, to acquaint members with one another and their products and operations, to attract, advise and assist other manufacturers who may want to locate in the Wichita area, and to support educational opportunities and activities that promote and develop better manufacturing interests, methods and employees.

Cessna Aircraft partners with Liberty University

Cessna Aircraft has partnered with Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., to help students with flight training.

Under the agreement, students will learn to fly at Cessna Pilot Centers and enroll in online classes at Liberty that will qualify toward a degree in aeronautics at the same time.

Liberty also plans to offer classes to high school students who live near Cessna Pilot Centers so that they can take part of their training before they graduate, the company said.


Kirby Ortega inducted into National Flight Instructors Hall of Fame

Kirby Ortega, who retired from Cessna Aircraft last year as chief pilot for its piston engine operations, has been inducted into the Flight Instructor Hall of Fame by the National Association of Flight Instructors.

Ortega was surprised at a banquet Thursday evening in Lakeland, Fla., the site of this week’s Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In and Expo.

He began flying at age 16 through the Cessna Employees Flying Club. His father was an employee. Ortega received his private pilot’s license at age 17.

During  summer break from Wichita State University, Ortega’s father challenged him to earn his instrument, commercial and flight instructor ratings. Ortega took his advice and earned the ratings at the former Ross School of Aviation in Oklahoma, where student housing was a double-wide trailer and 10 guys shared two bathrooms.

Ortega worked as a flight instructor at the Augusta airport during the late 1970s, then joined Cessna in January 1980 as chief flight instructor. He was 23.

At Cessna, he eventually was promoted to flight training supervisor and then chief pilot for piston engine operations.

He has logged roughly 24,000 flight hours.

Consultant: Growth in smaller jets in China may take time

Many experts have predicted that smaller business jets will play a large role in China’s business aviation market.

But that may be a long time coming if at all, said Brian Foley, an aviation consultant with Brian Foley Associates.

China’s preference for larger, heavier and longer-range business jets will remain in place for the foreseeable future, similar to what happened in the Middle East, Foley said.

Currently, 198 business jets operate in Mainland China, including 63 percent heavy jets, 25 percent medium jets and 12 percent light jets, Foley said.

The figures seem lopsided, compared to the worldwide average of 26 percent heavy jets, 34 percent medium jets and 40 percent light jets, he said.

China’s fleet closely mirrors the Middle East’s mix of the fleet.

“There are important reasons for this — including culture, politics, geography, trade and infrastructure — whose effects will be long-lasting,” Foley said.

Like the Middle East, China is faced with long internal distances and a heavy international travel need, which require larger aircraft.

Because of this, China’s medium and light fleet shouldn’t be expected to “catch up” to its larger fleet.

“More likely, the present mix will remain relatively constant even as the total fleet size increases,” Foley said.

That could impact Wichita, where planemakers build small and medium-size business jets.


Boeing launches the BBJ MAX

Boeing launched the Boeing Business Jet, or BBJ, MAX family of airplanes after receiving the first order from a customer.

It’s not disclosing the name of the customer.

The order is for the BBJ MAX 8, based on a 737 MAX 8, an updated 737 commercial jet with new engines, winglets and other improvements.

It’s a business jet with a range of 6,325 nautical miles.

“We are honored that an existing BBJ customer has become the first to select the BBJ MAX,” Capt. Steve Taylor, president, Boeing Business Jets, said in a statement. “The BBJ MAX provides more room, longer range and emits fewer emissions than its nearest competition, making it an ideal choice for today’s BBJ customers.”

The new BBJ family also will include the BBJ MAX 9, based on the 737 MAX 9, and is expected to offer a 6,255 nautical mile range. Plans for a BBJ MAX 7 are being studied.

Development of the 737 MAX is on schedule, the company said. First flight is expected in 2016 with deliveries to commercial airline customers starting in 2017.

Boeing has taken orders for more than 1,900 737 MAX jets from 37 customers.



AOPA publishes guide for starting a flying club

There are more than 600 flying clubs in the country, and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association wants that number to grow.

To that end, AOPA has published a new guide, “AOPA’s Guide to Starting a Flying Club,” to steer members through the critical steps of forming a club.

Flying clubs have a positive impact on the general aviation community, the organization says.

More than half of all active pilots are past or current members of a flying club.

“Virtually all of them consider club membership as a positive experience,” AOPA’s survey showed. “AOPA’s efforts around flying clubs are aimed at building a stronger community in which more people earn pilot certificates, pilots are more active and the flying lifetime of pilots is extended.”

The guide offers advice on how to choose the right airplane for insurance considerations and provides a collection of sample documents, forms and other resources, such as sample operating rules and aircraft lease agreements.

“This guide was created to provide a useful roadmap to pilots starting a club,” Woody Cahall, leader of AOPA’s flying club initiative, said in a statement. “It addresses the biggest roadblocks to starting new flying clubs and it provides common sense advice that pilots will be able to apply when launching clubs all over the country.”

AOPA also offers a flying club insurance program, aircraft financing, a monthly newsletter for clubs to share information, flying club webinars and a flying club network Facebook page.


Former Spirit AeroSystems CEO won’t run for re-election to the board

Former Spirit AeroSystems CEO Jeff Turner won’t run for re-election to Spirit’s board of directors when the board holds the company’s annual meeting in April, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

He will serve out the remainder of his current term, which ends during the annual meeting. Turner will continue to consult for the company under his consulting agreement, however.

Turner retired as CEO of Spirit a year ago but had stayed on as a member of the company’s board of directors.

In 2005, Turner led the sale of Boeing’s commercial aviation division to Onex Corp., which became Spirit AeroSystems.

“It was through Jeff Turner’s vision and leadership that Spirit was created,” Spirit said in an emailed statement. “The Company thanks him for his leadership and service to Spirit.”


“Flight through Fire” chronicles Bombardier test pilot’s final days, devotion to aviation

Bombardier experimental test pilot Eric Fiore lived 36 days after being pulled from a burning Challenger 604, which crashed during takeoff in Wichita in 2000.

Test pilot Bryan Irelan, 36, and flight test engineer David Riggs, 48, died in the crash at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport.

Fiore’s wife, Carol Fiore, has now completed a book, “Flight Through Fire,” an “unforgettable love story centered on a deep devotion to aviation,” according to a release.

Eric Fiore was a former Air Force fighter pilot and instructor who joined Bombardier in 1999 after stints with Cessna Aircraft and Fairchild Aircraft.

The  book is the story of Eric’s final days, as he lost the battle with his burns in the Via Christi Regional Burn Center.

It’s also a big step in a promise Carol Fiore made to her husband: To tell people about a little boy who wanted to fly “high and fast in the sky,” Fiore said in a trip to Wichita in 2010.

The book describes the “aftermath of the accident, the response of a billion dollar company and an entire Kansas town, the intense pressure placed on a hospital, the tragic realities of severe facial burns, the evolution of an eating disorder in her teenage daughter, and the raw emotional pain of her nonreligious family,” the release said.

It’s a story of what it takes to be a test pilot and what it costs to love one.

The book has been published by Flying Kea Press and is available through