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A growing number of general aviation pilots traded in their dedicated handheld aviation GPS units for iPads paired with a variety of apps and accessories – providing even more features than before at a lower cost. The FAA gave its official nod, allowing iPads to be used in lieu of paper charts in commercial airline cockpits, and American Airlines started issuing the devices to its pilots. For the GA crowd, iPad apps like ForeFlight and WingX matured as they combined pre-flight planning features, checklists, charts, approach plates, moving maps, weather and traffic into one device. The release of Garmin Pilot, that company’s app entry, was one of its biggest announcements this year. Accessories brought even more features: Uncertified receivers that once cost thousands of dollars are now several hundred dollars. The units, some using Wifi or Bluetooth, sit atop the glareshield and bring near-realtime weather information and ADS-B-derived traffic data to the iPad’s screen.

It’s no secret that the Great Recession was a serious blow to many general aviation manufacturers. After several years of sluggish sales and thousands of layoffs in the industry, there were signs of recovery in 2012. Piper found specialized contract engineering work to keep some of its workers busy and renegotiated the terms of economic incentives from state and local governments in Florida to avoid having to pay back $10 million in grants. Cessna rolled out upgrades to two of its most popular business jets, announced plans for expanded production in China for new customers there, and unveiled a diesel-powered Skylane, for which fuel is less expensive and easier to find compared to avgas. Through the first 9 months of the year, overall GA deliveries were only slightly higher than the same period in 2012. But a particularly bright spot was deliveries of new turboprop aircraft, up 10 percent compared with a year ago. And buyers are picking up used aircraft at a more brisk pace than before, though the glut of used planes for sale means prices remain relatively low.

The pilots of a Russian An-28 turboprop that crashed last month both had alcohol in their blood, investigators said. But it is unclear whether their apparent intoxication was a factor in the crash, which killed 10 people when the plane went down in a forest about five miles from its destination, a small airport in the far eastern part of the country. Investigators said one pilot had a “low level” of intoxication, while the other had a “medium level,” but did not provide estimated blood alcohol content numbers or other figures. And it’s not clear exactly why the plane went down, or whether mechanical issues or weather could have played a role. But investigators said neither pilot should have been allowed to board the plane and depart with their levels of intoxication. In recent years, several crashes in Russia have been blamed on drunken pilots, including the July 2011 crash of a Russian jet that killed 47 people.

Despite earlier indicators this year that buyers where picking up new business jets in greater numbers, Cessna said this week that its business jet sales in the third quarter of the year, from July through September, was lower than in the same period in 2011. The company delivered just 41 new jets, compared with 47 last summer. That’s also two fewer than the 49 jets the company delivered in the spring quarter of this year. And more customers canceled orders that had been on the books. Despite the disappointing numbers, Cessna’s parent company Textron reported quarterly profits of $151 million, an improvement over the same quarter last year. But even with lower numbers of business jet deliveries, Cessna’s order backlog shrunk, since more orders were cancelled and the company gained fewer new orders. Generally a bigger order backlog is seen as a good thing for aircraft manufacturers. While orders for small and midsize jets have been down since the recession, larger jets made by companies like Bombardier and Gulfstream have been selling well.

Hawker Beechcraft has ended talks with a Chinese joint venture over what would have been a $1.8 billion buyout of the bankrupt American company. Officials blamed a number of complex issues and said that the political climate surrounding China in the U.S. presidential election may have played a role in souring the tone of the talks. Hawker now plans to emerge from bankruptcy as a new company, Beechcraft Corp., which would focus on piston and turboprop aircraft, along with military projects. Most notably, the company said it would likely shut its business jet lines for good; it plans to find a bidder for those parts of its business so that it can repay its creditors. Hawker Beechcraft was struggling under a $2.5 billion debt load after the 2007 buyout of the company by a group of investors. Since entering bankruptcy in May, the company floated several restructuring plans, most of which would have pared back business jet production. But this week’s announcement to end jet production altogether came with few other details, such as who would support the company’s existing fleet of business jets. A bankruptcy court hearing on the plan is scheduled for next month.