Top 15 Aviation Stories of 2011

2011 has been a notable year for the flying community. Here's a look back at the year's biggest stories.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner
Boeing 787 Dreamliner
15. Boeing 787 Enters Service After years of anticipation and delays, the Boeing 787 entered into service in the fall, carrying its first 240 paying passengers from Hong Kong to Tokyo in late October. Comprised of 50-percent composites, the 'plastic' airliner is a game changer in many ways, providing 20 percent more fuel efficiency than its competitors and 20 percent fewer carbon emissions. Read more.
LightSquared vs. GPS Saga
LightSquared vs. GPS Saga
14. LightSquared vs. GPS Battle As the year comes to a close, the LightSquared vs. GPS fight continues to drag on, with LightSquared predicting it will secure FCC approval in the near future for its plan to offer broadband transmissions on a frequency near the band used by GPS. Recent findings released by the Department of Transportation, however, again suggest that LightSquared's plan does interfere with GPS receivers, leaving open the question of which side will prevail. Read more.
Flight Design C4
Flight Design C4
13. Flight Design Introduces C4 At AERO Friedrichshafen last spring German manufacturer Flight Design announced plans to build on the success of its popular light sport CS two-seater with a four-seat model called the C4. The new carbon-fiber airplane, set for first deliveries in 2013, will have an empty weight of 1,320 pounds, a range of 1,700 nautical miles and a max cruise speed of 160 knots. Read more.
PiperJet Altaire
PiperJet Altaire
12. Piper Suspends PiperJet Altaire After steady promotion of the PiperJet Altaire throughout the first three quarters of the year, Piper did an about-face in late October, signaling the indefinite suspension of the single-engine jet. The company said the move was triggered by unsuitable projections in the foreseeable light jet market that would prevent it from recouping investment costs of the jet. Read more.
Eclipse 550
Eclipse 550
11. Eclipse Relaunches Production Eclipse Aerospace helped solidify the future of the personal jet by announcing the official return of the Eclipse jet at the NBAA Convention in October. With production slated to start in 2013, the new jet, to be called the Eclipse 550, is essentially the same model as the 500, but with upgraded avionics and other improvements. Read more.
Former Cessna CEO Jack Pelton
Former Cessna CEO Jack Pelton
10. Pelton Out at Cessna After more than 10 years with the company, widely popular Cessna chairman and CEO Jack Pelton stepped down suddenly in May after disappointing Q1 earnings. Now at the helm is his replacement, CEO Scott Ernest, who oversaw the unveiling of two new airplanes this fall, the Citation M2 and the Citation Latitude. Read more.
Garmin G650 and 750
Garmin G650 and 750
9. Garmin GTN Avionics Debut Garmin in March unveiled the GTN 650 and GTN 750, touchscreen successors of the company's widely popular GNS 430 and 530 avionics systems. In addition to the new touchscreen interface, the Garmin 650 and 750 provide a variety of upgrades pilots are bound to like, including upgraded radio features and optional remote transponder control and audio control. Read more.
FAA Shutdown
FAA Shutdown
8. FAA’s Summer Shutdown After years of funding uncertainties, nearly 4,000 FAA employees were furloughed for two weeks during the summer when Congress adjourned without passing an FAA reauthorization bill. With the most recent FAA stop-gap funding measure set to expire in January, another political showdown may lie on the horizon. Read more.
Diamond D-Jet
Diamond D-Jet
7. Diamond’s Rollercoaster Ride 2011 has been a bumpy ride for Diamond Aircraft, which temporarily grounded the D-Jet in March after the Canadian government refused to provide a $35 million loan guarantee for the company. But the D-Jet is back in the air and has resumed flight-testing, now under the control of Middle Eastern investors who bought a majority stake in the company last month. Read more.
Former FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt
Former FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt
6. Babbitt Out at FAA FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt stepped down earlier this month after reports of his arrest for alleged drunk driving spread throughout the country. Before his resignation, Babbitt enjoyed a high degree of popularity among those in GA who saw him as a friend to pilots. Babbitt is succeeded by his former deputy administrator Michael Huerta. Read more.
Sun 'n Fun Tornado
Sun 'n Fun Tornado
5. Sun ‘n Fun Tornado More than 60 aircraft were damaged or destroyed when a low level tornado ripped through the fly-in grounds of Sun 'n Fun last spring. While the storm caused few injuries and no fatalities, the economic toll was great, both in terms of company costs and costs to individual aircraft owners. The show recovered, however, in time to draw in thousands of attendees during the storm-free weekend portion of the event. Read more.
Gulfstream G650
Gulfstream G650
Gulfstream G650 Certified The fatal crash of a G650 test flight that killed four Gulfstream employees earlier this year sent shock waves through the bizav community, not only because of the G650s unrivaled and much-anticipated capabilities, but also because of Gulfstream's great reputation for safety. The company bounced back from the crash, however, receiving provisional certification for the recording-breaking bizjet, now the fastest civilian airplane in the world, in November. Read more.
New Owners for Cirrus
New Owners for Cirrus
3. New Owners for Cirrus This past summer Cirrus ownership was officially transferred to the Chinese aviation firm CAIGA, triggering much speculation about the future of the company, not to mention its manufacturing efforts here in the U.S. Cirrus representatives, however, say the deal bodes well for the future of the Cirrus Vision Jet, which has struggled to gain traction due to investment challenges in the past and which will benefit from the expanded funding capacities of the Chinese firm. Read more.
reno_pic_big.jpg
2. P-51 Tragedy at Reno In September the nation's attention turned to Reno when the highly modified P-51 Mustang known as Galloping Ghost crashed into stands of spectators at the National Championship Air Races, killing 11 and injuring more than 70. Months later, the future of Reno and air racing in general remains uncertain in the wake of the tragedy. Read more.
Economic Downturn
Economic Downturn
1. Economic Downturn Despite the occasional glimmers of hope, the economic downturn continues to send ripples felt throughout the world. Perhaps nowhere is that more true than in the aviation industry, which is still battling a battered market and low sales numbers three years after the recession first hit. Read more.