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General Atomics Aeronautical Systems' Altair passes FAA recertification process for experimental airworthiness. Aircraft Also Successfully Completes First UA Compliance Audit

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), a leading manufacturer of unmanned aircraft (UA) and high-resolution surveillance and radar imaging systems, today announced that its Altair high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) passed the recertification process for the UA airworthiness certificate, experimental category, issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

"Last August Altair received the nation's first airworthiness certificate for an unmanned aircraft system, and a year later it remains the only operating UAS that still carries that distinction," said Thomas J. Cassidy, Jr., president, Aircraft Systems Group, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. "Altair's recertification is a testament to the ability of our aircraft to meet the FAA's standards and brings us closer to the ultimate goal of enabling routine UA operations in the National Airspace System for emerging commercial and civil applications and military and homeland security missions."

Access to the National Airspace System (NAS) has historically been granted to a UA manufacturer through an FAA-granted Certificate of Authorization (COA). Changes made last fall limit COA issuance to government agencies and specify that the agency must operate a particular UA for a particular purpose in a particular area. In contrast, an airworthiness certificate specifies operating instructions to the aircraft and applies them only to one aircraft, or tail number, for training UA crews in the unrestricted areas where manufacturer airports typically reside. Under Altair's airworthiness certificate, the aircraft can continue to be used for crew training, experimental flight testing and marketing demonstrations at GA-ASI's Gray Butte and El Mirage air fields in Palmdale and Adelanto, CA.

As part of the recertification process, the FAA conducted the first compliance audit for a UA on the Altair aircraft, which is similar to the testing performed on commercial airliners. Altair passed the audit in compliance with all operations, maintenance and training requirements.

Altair, a high-altitude version of Predator B, was designed specifically for scientific and commercial research missions that require high-altitude endurance, reliability and increased payload capacity. Built in partnership with NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center for its Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology (ERAST) program, the aircraft has logged nearly 400 flight hours since it began service in 2003 and is currently operational with NASA and NOAA. Featuring an 86-foot wingspan and 3,000-pound fuel capacity, Altair can fly above 52,000 feet and remain airborne for over 30 hours. The aircraft is configured with a fault-tolerant dual-architecture flight control system, triple-redundant avionics and a Honeywell turbo-prop engine for high reliability.

Press release issued by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems on September 22, 2006


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