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.

Bob Hoover to be honored by NBAA

Famed air show pilot Bob Hoover will be awarded the Meritorious Service to Aviation Award by the National Business Aviation Association at its annual convention in October.

Hoover served as a combat aviator during World War II, a military and civilian test pilot and air show performer.

He’s piloted more than 300 types of aircraft and is best known for his aerial demonstrations in the P-51 Mustang and Shrike Commander.

During World War II, Hoover was shot down and spent 16 months as a prisoner of war before escaping by commandeering a German fighter.

When he returned to the U.S., he evaluated captured enemy aircraft and flight-tested U.S. combat airplanes, including the first jets.

He was an alternate pilot for the supersonic Bell X-1 and flew the chase plane when Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in 1947.

After leaving the Air Force, Hoover worked for North American Aviation and Rockwell International as a test pilot for more than 30 years.

Spirit AeroSystems adds aviation veteran John Plueger to its board

Spirit AeroSystems has a new member on its board of directors.

John Plueger, president and chief operating officer of Air Lease Corp., has been appointed to Spirit’s board, the company said.

Plueger, 60, previously was  CEO, president and chief operating officer of International Finance Corp.

He is a pilot with multiple jet type ratings. Plueger also holds single-engine, multi-engine and intrument instructor ratings.

“John is a prominent leader in the aerospace industry, who brings a wealth of experience to the table,” Spirit board of directors chairman Bob Johnson said in a statement. “We are very pleased to welcome John to the Spirit board and believe it will be particularly valuable for him to share his expertise from the perspective of the airframe customer.”

Plueger will also serve on the audit committee.

He currently serves on the board of directors of Air Lease Corp., the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Pepperdine University’s Board of Regents and The Wings Club Board of Governors.

Aviation Design Challenge for high school students in third year

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association is hosting its third annual Aviation Design Challenge for high school students.

The nationwide competition is to promote science, technology, engineering and math skills.

In 2014, the challenge attracted entries from 79 schools in 33 states plus Washington, DC., the trade group said.

Under the competition, GAMA will provide 100 teachers who enter with a “Fly to Learn” curriculum and five copies of airplane design and simulation software powered by X-Plane for their classrooms.

The lessons can be used to teach the basics of aerospace engineering and design, GAMA said.

Students learn to apply that knowledge to modify and fly their own virtual airplane in a fly-off.

Teachers wanting to learn more about the competition can e-mail their name, school name and school’s city and state to STEMcompetition@gama.aero.

GAMA will release more information about the competition later this year.

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: http://www.kansas.com/2014/06/17/3512808/unions-ask-spirit-to-address-work.html#storylink=cpy

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.