At first blush, you’d expect the year 2012 to have been a placeholder, a midrecession period where general aviation companies treaded water while waiting for the economy to recover. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Indeed, 2012 saw a remarkable level of innovation, from the most unassuming sport airplanes to the fastest and most technologically advanced high-subsonic, ultra-long-range model to date. There were significant advances in electronics, from ultra-cool iPad apps to brand-new glass cockpits in $50 million bizjets, along with everything in between.
As always, we at Flying recognize these products and programs not for what they promise but for what they have actually been shown to do, in most cases through certification, a rigorous process that itself separates the wheat from the chaff. We go from there, painstakingly considering literally dozens of potential winners, nearly all of which are ranked highly in their own right.
In the end, however, we’re left with a handful of gold, the best of the best, the 2012 Flying Editors’ Choice Awards. Congratulations, all.
G650 and G280
In a first for Flying, we award not one but two Editors’ Choice Awards to one company in one year for two groundbreaking products.
The** Gulfstream G650** is a seminal airplane, one that takes the concept of bizjet to its ultimate expression. The 19-passenger G650 is big, and at a top speed of Mach .925, it’s the fastest civil jet in the world. With a range of 7,000 nm, it will travel farther than any bizjet, and with a 6,000 nm range at Mach .90, its combination of speed and legs is more impressive than any aircraft, civil or otherwise, that we know of. Certified in September, the G650 was slated to be delivered to the first customer by the end of the year. With hundreds of orders for its $67 million flagship, Gulfstream will keep busy for years to come making the world a much smaller place.
That wasn’t enough for Gulfstream, however, as the company succeeded in certifying a second remarkable airplane in 2012, the super midsize Gulfstream G280. While technically a derivative of the G200, the G280 is as close to a clean sheet airplane as can be for one based on a previous model. The G280 combines an industry-leading glass cockpit, tremendous comfort, enviable speed and a range of 3,600 nm to push the envelope of midsize like we’ve never seen. Like its ultra-long-range stablemate, the G280 earned FAA approval in the fall.
Pro Line Fusion
For years, avionics pioneer Rockwell Collins suffered under the curse of having a remarkably flexible, popular and capable product: its Pro Line 21 suite. It was standard fare on dozens of business aircraft. Such success wasn’t good enough, so the company came out with something even better, Pro Line Fusion, an even more capable, flexible and user-friendly family of avionics. The first such approval was in Bombardier’s Global 6000, the latest in the lineup of Global Express aircraft. From its backbone to its gorgeous displays, Fusion takes a whole new tack on the avionics game, combining scalable architecture with a silky-smooth user experience to give pilots better situational awareness, systems monitoring ability, flight guidance and visibility options than anything that came before. And because of the scalability of Fusion, expect to see it in the coming years on a wide variety of business aircraft.
It might be hard to believe, but when it comes to avionics innovation in light GA, Garmin has led the way for going on 20 years now. The latest from the company — the G2000 integrated avionics suite, launched on the Cessna Corvalis TTx this year — is the best yet. G2000 isn’t an evolutionary development of the now-ubiquitous G1000 platform but a revolutionary new development that makes use of touch pad controllers for easy operation. G2000 takes the menu system of previous Garmin navigators and turns it on its head. Gone are the deep menus, replaced by shallow, intuitive ones. Gone is most of the text, replaced by easy-to-see and easy-to-identify icons. Flight planning is easier. Situational awareness is better. NextGen is part of the package, and cool new features, like voice control and satellite connectivity, are built-in capabilities, with more to come. G2000 is part of a whole family of new-generation Garmin systems that will go from light GA to large-cabin bizjets.
The Appareo Stratus ADS-B weather receiver is short on cost and long on value. When it’s connected to an iPad running ForeFlight Mobile Pro, the Stratus box brings free high-quality weather to the cockpit. Weather products include Nexrad, metars and TAFs, pireps, TFRs and more. Stratus, which has a built-in WAAS GPS in addition to its ADS-B receiver, is completely portable and operates without any wires. It has an eight-hour battery life and, best of all, it works flawlessly. Stratus sells for $799 and is available exclusively from Sporty’s Pilot Shop.
Corporate Angel Network
We continue our new tradition at Flying of awarding an Editors’ Choice Award to an organization, not for a great product but for a program that does good for the aviation community and beyond. This year we recognize Corporate Angel Network, the not-for-profit organization that connects business jet operators with cancer patients in need of a lift to get treatment. Every year CAN coordinates more than 3,000 of these charitable flights, allowing ambulatory patients to get to a treatment center faster and with less physical distress and financial burden than would otherwise be possible. Since its founding more than three decades ago, CAN has coordinated more than 35,000 flights. Flying has been a longtime supporter of CAN. We encourage you to be too. Learn more by visiting CAN’s website, corpangelnetwork.org.