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.

Flying Magazine: Top 100 Warbirds

Flying Magazine publishes its picks of the world’s top 100 Warbirds of all time.

The publication calls the aircraft on the list “the best, most influential, fastest, most powerful, most effective and most revered fighting airplanes.”

Each plane is described with photos and its place in the line-up.

You may not agree with all of the picks.

But you’ll learn a lot.

Number 100 is the Northrop P-61 Black Widow.




Boeing finalizes order from Emirates for 150 777X jetliners

Boeing and Emirates Airline have finalized an order for 150 777Xs, valued at $56 billion at list prices, Boeing announced Wednesday.

The order was first announced as a commitment at the Dubai Airshow last year.  Emirates is the largest 777 operator in the world.

The order is for 115 777-9Xs and 35 777-8Xs. It also includes purchase rights for another 50 planes, which if exercised could increase the order’s value to about $75 billion at list prices.

Spirit AeroSystems builds the 777′s forward fuselage in Wichita.

The 777X is an upgraded version of the 777.

The first 777X delivery is expected in 2020.

Boeing has 300 orders and commitments for the model from six customers.


Boeing delivers first 787-9 Dreamliner to Air New Zealand

Boeing delivered its first 787-9 Dreamliner Wednesday to launch customer Air New Zealand, the company said.

The milestone was marked by a celebration in Everett, Wash., attended by about 1,000 employees, airline executives and guests.

Spirit AeroSystems builds the plane’s composite nose section in Wichita.

The delivery of the 787-9 is the first of 10 planes on order from Air New Zealand and are part of the airline’s fleet modernization effort.

The 787-9 is a derivative of Boeing’s 787-8. The version is stretched by 20 feet and will carry up to 40 more passengers an additional 450 nautical miles, Boeing said.

Boeing has orders for 409 787-9s from 26 customers. That accounts for 40 percent of all 787 orders, it said.

So far, all is quiet at Spirit AeroSystems

Despite lots of rumors and anxiety, it appears all is quiet at Spirit AeroSystems, the day rumored to be a day of a big announcement.

“We don’t comment about rumors, and have no announcements to make at this time,” Ken Evans, Spirit spokesman, said this morning.

In June, Todd Tiahrt, who is running for the 4th Congressional District seat, said sources told him that Spirit appears to be exploring the sale of its metal fabrication work to an outside company.

Tiahrt has been getting calls from concerned employees, he said, including some who told him they had attended meetings about the issue.

Last month, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace asked Spirit to respond to a list of rumors that have been circulating about the possible sale of detail parts fabrication and non-Boeing-related assembly work and about rumors that Boeing was taking back some of its work at the site.

Spirit has steadfastly said it doesn’t comment on rumors.

At the same time, Spirit has its Oklahoma facilities up for sale.

The company has received a lot of interest in those facilities.

So any announcement could involve the Tulsa site, SPEEA Midwest director Bob Brewer has said.

Brewer said Wednesday morning that the union hasn’t heard a thing about any announcements today.

“We’re just talking business here today,” Brewer said. “If something happens, something happens.”

He’s staying tuned.

“It may not be today,” Brewer said. “It could be tomorrow. It could be next week. We don’t know.”


Read more here:

KC law firm launches unmanned aircraft systems practice

It’s a sign of the times.

Husch Blackwell, a Kansas City, Mo., law firm, has added an Unmanned Aircraft Systems area to its practice.

The firm will help commercial business users and manufacturers navigate the requirements for UAS and unmanned aerial vehicle use, it said.

It can assist clients in legal, privacy and regulatory issues, the firm said in a statement.

The team includes former fighter pilots, component and software developers and data analysts.

A growing number of businesses and government agencies are interested in the use of drones in a broad array of industries, such as energy, agriculture, film and real estate, it said.

“The technical applications of the UAS/UAV industry continue to outpace impending rulemaking regarding certification and operations requirements,” David Agee, who helps lead the UAS group for the firm, said in a statement. “Because of this uncertain environment, operators need trusted counsel to navigate the complicated legal terrain.”

Technology used in drones is rapidly evolving.

Commercial use allows for collection of data, mapping and surveillance of often remote and disparate environments at reduced operating costs when compared to other methods, it said.

Other applications include traffic monitoring, package delivery, atmospheric research, disaster relief and environmental compliance.


General aviation groups fight back against USA Today story

A new USA Today series takes aim at general aviation safety, saying that while federal investigators tend to cite pilot error in crashes, deaths and injuries were caused by defective parts and dangerous designs.

The report, called Unfit for Flight, said that 45,000 people have been killed in the past five decades in private planes and helicopters, nearly nine times the number that have died in airline crashes.

“Wide-ranging defects have persisted for years as manufacturers covered up problems, lied to federal regulators and failed to remedy known malfunctions, USA TODAY found,” the series said. “Judges and juries  have spent weeks hearing cases that took years to prepare and unearthed evidence that NTSB (the National Transportation Safety Board)  investigations never discovered.”

It didn’t take long for advocacy groups to fire back., saying that USA Today misrepresents general aviation accidents and misleads the public.

The article uses “sweeping generalizations, cherry-picked statistics, unbalanced comparisons, and unattributed figures to claim that private aviation is an inherently dangerous activity,” the Experimental Aircraft Association said.

“Unfortunately, the article’s title ‘Unfit for Flight’ perhaps would have been more accurate as ‘Unfit for Print,’” Jack Pelton, EAA chairman said in a statement. “The fear-pandering article gives the impression of an unchecked world of flight operations. In fact, general aviation’s airworthiness directive system administered by the FAA, which adds safety requirements to new and previously produced aircraft and powerplants, has the force of law and holds aviation to higher standards than any other mode of transportation in the country.”

General aviation fatalities have dropped 40 percent since the early 1990s, the EAA said, a fact that the series failed to mention.

It also did not mention efforts in the advancements in safety, it said.

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association have also taken issue with the accounts.

Dave Dewhirst, a local pilot said, among other things, that the series never noted that the NTSB’s findings are not admissable in court. That’s so it can be an unbiased third party.

He also took issue with the continuous reference of “amateur pilots” with the impression that all general aviation aircraft are flown by private pilots.

“I hold a commercial pilot’s license, but I do not have a commercial driver’s license,” he said in an email. “I guess I am an amateur car driver.”




Analyst: Cessna used jet data improves; business jet demand on upswing

A favorable trend in Cessna‘s used business jet inventory supports the view that demand for low and mid-size business jets is on the upswing, an aviation analyst said Wednesday.

That bolsters the potential for recovery at Cessna Aircraft, wrote the analyst, Cai von Rumohr with Cowen and Co., in a note to investers.

The number of used business jets on the market is a key indicator for the sale of new business jets.

The total number of used Cessna business jets available for sale was about flat in June when compared to May numbers, von Rumohr wrote.

But the number of used Cessna jets still in production that are up for sale — a far more relevant indicator of new jet demand – dropped from 6 percent of the total fleet in May to 5.3 percent in June, von Rumohr wrote.

That’s the lowest level since February 2008. It’s also well below the peak hit in April 2009 when 11.9 percent of the fleet was up for sale.

The decline was led by falloffs of used CJ4, Sovereigns and the Citation X up for sale, von Rumohr wrote.

Galaxy Technologies, Kansas Aviation win state’s top business honors

Galaxy Technologies in Winfield was honored with the Governor’s Award of Excellence and Kansas Aviation of Independence received the Governor’s Exporter of the Year Award at a banquet on Tuesday.

The awards are the state’s top business honors.

They were awarded as part of Business Appreciation Month, the Kansas Department of Commerce’s annual tribute to Kansas businesses for their contributions to the state.

Galaxy Technologies, founded in 1985 as Galaxy Tool,  is a specialized blow molding manufacturing company in Winfield. It employs 210 people.

Kansas Aviation of Independence specializes in the repair and overhaul of engine accessories on business fixed wing and rotor aircraft. It installs parts on more than 12,000 aircraft engines a year. It employs 81 people.

Finalists for the Governor’s Award of Excellence include Benefit Management in Great Bend, Grandstand Glassware & Apparel in Lawrence, Geary Community Hospital in Junction City and LifeTeam in Newton.

Finalists for the Governor’s Exporter of the Year Award were Balco Inc., in Wichita, GT Manufacturing in Clay Center, Mid-Continent Instruments and Avionics in Wichita and Swift Bullet Co. in Quinter.



Citation Special Olympics Airlift transports athletes to games

Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

More than 250 Textron Aviation volunteers, elected officials and dignataries in Wichita turned out Saturday to send off 17 Kansas Special Olympic athletes and their coaches to the week-long USA Games in New Jersey.

The athletes took part in the Citation Special Olympics Airlift, in which Citation owners and operators donate their airplanes, pilots and fuel to transport the athletes and coaches to the games.

For the first time in its 27-year history, the Airlift included Beechcraft owners along with Cessna Citation owners.

In all, more than 100 owners and operators from around the country transported roughly 700 athletes and their coaches to the competition.

The planes will return to Trenton-Mercer Airport in New Jersey on  June 21 to take the athletes home after the event.

The Airlift, the seventh of its kind, is sponsored and managed by Cessna Aircraft, now a division of Textron Aviation.

The Citation Special Olympics Airlift is the culmination of two years of planning by Cessna and the Federal Aviation Administration, Trenton-Mercer Airport, partnering aviation companies around the country and volunteers from Trenton businesses and the Special Olympics organization, according to Textron Aviation.

Since it began in 1987, the event has transported nearly 10,000 athletes and coaches to the Games from around the U.S.


Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner earns government certifications

Boeing‘s 787-9 Dreamliner has been certified for commercial service by the Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency.

Boeing is in the final stages of preparing for the first 787-9 delivery to its launch customer Air New Zealand.

The 787-9 is a stretched version of the 787-8 now in service. Its fuselage is 20 feet longer over the 787-8 and will fly more passengers and more cargo farther distances, the company said.

Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita builds the plane’s nose section.

Boeing has taken 413 orders for the 787-9 from 26 customers. That accounts for 40 percent of all 787 orders, the company said.

“Certification is the culmination of years of hard work and a rigorous flight-test program that started with the 787-9′s first flight in September,” Ray Conner, Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and CEO, said in a statement. “With this validation that the airplane is ready for commercial operations, Boeing along with our airline and leasing customers now look forward to introducing the newest member of the Dreamliner family to passengers around the world.”

The FAA has also granted Boeing an Amended Production Certificate, which validates that Boeing’s production system can produce 787-9s that conform to the design.

The certifications follow a comprehensive test program using five airplanes accumulating more than 1,500 hours of flight testing, plus ground and laboratory testing.