““[Bill Gates] has been historically one of my best supporters…One of my favorite e-mails he ever sent me…I proposed this crazy project. And he sent back this two-line response: ‘This has got to be the craziest thing you’ve ever suggested. Please proceed.’” ”
At a glance: The major aircraft manufacturers
Despite the challenges facing business aircraft manufacturers, their offerings continue to grow, with many models scheduled to come online in the next few years and continuing innovation in design, features and functionality.
Airbus (www.airbus.com) entered the bizliner market in 1997 with the Airbus Corporate Jet (ACJ), an executive version of its A319 airliner. Last year, the company simplified its nomenclature and renamed its three bizliners as the ACJ318, ACJ319 and ACJ320. For VVIP, government and other customers requiring the ultimate in space and long-distance capability, Airbus also offers executive versions of its A330, A340, A350 and A380 widebody jetliners.
BOEING BUSINESS JETS
Boeing Business Jets (www.boeing.com/commercial/bbj) built its reputation with the BBJ, which combines the 737-700 series airframe with the wing, landing gear and center fuselage section of the larger 737-800 series. A stretched version called the BBJ2 boasts 25 percent more cabin capacity, and the even bigger BBJ3 is based on the 737-900ER. Starting in 2018, the BBJ1, BBJ2 and BBJ3 will be transitioning into the Max platform, with 12 percent improved fuel burn offered by the upgrade to the CFM International Leap-1B engine. All Boeing jets, from the 737 to its largest and newest 747-8 and the 787, are available in VIP versions. Boeing delivered its first 747-8 VIP in February.
Bombardier (www.bombardier.com) started out as a snowmobile manufacturer in 1942 and has grown into one of the world’s largest producers of business jets and regional airliners. In the last 15 years, the company has introduced several business jets, including the Learjet 40 and 45, Challenger 300 and 605 and Global 5000 and 6000. The forthcoming Learjet 85 will be the first all-composite business jet. The ultra-long-range Global 7000 and 8000 models will join the fleet in 2016 and 2017, respectively. In May, the company introduced the Learjet 70 and 75.
Cessna (www.cessna.com) built its first airplane in 1927 and has since rolled out more than 190,000. Of the roughly 16,000 business jets in operation worldwide, Cessna has produced a third of them. The company’s nine business jet models range from the Mustang very light jet to the Mach 0.92 Citation X, which will soon spawn the even faster Citation Ten. To serve the growing Asia market, Cessna will produce two models in China–the Sovereign and the new Latitude–and develop an entirely new jet with China’s Avic. Cessna also recently announced the Citation Longitude, a stretched version of the Latitude.
Dassault Industries, EADS and a group of private investors own Dassault Aviation, of which Dassault Falcon Jet (www.dassaultfalcon.com) is its marketing and support subsidiary in the U.S. The company builds airframes at its factory in southwest France. Dassault offers the Falcon 900 and 2000 families of business jets, as well as the Falcon 7X trijet, featuring the latest in fly-by-wire flight-control technology and fighter-jet-style sidesticks in the cockpit. The next Falcon–tentatively called the SMS–will be a twin-engine jet, but no details have been released on that aircraft. The lower-cost Falcon 2000S will be certified this year.
Embraer’s ERJ 135/145 airframe served as the foundation for the company’s first business jet, the Legacy 600, which debuted in 1999. In the past decade, Embraer (www.embraer.com) has laid the foundation for a strong push into the business jet market by developing the Phenom 100 and 300 small-cabin jets, the midsize Legacy 450 and 500, the Lineage 1000 bizliner and the longer-range Legacy 650. The Legacy 450 and 500 feature fly-by-wire flight controls and sidesticks and will be certified in late 2013 and 2014, respectively.
Two jets join the lineup from Gulfstream (www.gulfstream.com) this year, the super-midsize G280, built in Israel by partner IAI; and the ultra-long-range, large-cabin G650. The G280 replaces the G200. The flagship G650 will have a larger and wider cabin and larger windows than the G550, the manufacturer’s previous top model, and will be able to fly 7,000 nautical miles unrefueled. The G650 will have a maximum operating speed of Mach 0.925, making it the world’s fastest civil airplane.
Hawker Beechcraft (www.hawkerbeechcraft.com) combines two of aviation’s most storied names. In 1937, Walter Beech introduced the Model 18, arguably the first cabin-class twin-engine business airplane. In 1964, Beech introduced the twin-turboprop King Air, which remains in production. Raytheon bought Beech in 1980 and added the UK’s Hawker brand to the fold. It sold the company in 2007 to an investment group led by Goldman Sachs. Hawker Beechcraft pioneered the use of composites in business aircraft construction, and the fuselage and part of the empennage in the current Premier 1A and Hawker 4000 business jets are made of composite materials.
PIAGGIO AERO INDUSTRIES
Italian airframe maker Piaggio (www.piaggioaero.com) developed the sleek, pusher-turboprop Piaggio Avanti in response to the energy crisis of the 1970s. The company delivered the first Avanti in 1990 and updated it in 2005 as the Avanti II with the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics system and slightly more powerful Pratt & Whitney Canada engines. Piaggio has confirmed development of a business jet but has revealed few details about the product so far.
PILATUS BUSINESS AIRCRAFT
Nestled in the Swiss Alps, Pilatus (www.pilatus-aircraft.com) is the world’s largest manufacturer of single-engine turboprops. The company’s top-selling model, the PC-12, was certified in 1994 and became an instant hit with buyers, who appreciated its ruggedness, spacious cabin and unmatched performance. Today, more than 1,000 PC-12s are in service. The newest version, the PC-12NG, features a more powerful Pratt & Whitney Canada engine and modern Honeywell Primus Apex avionics. Pilatus engineers are busy designing the Pilatus PC-24, but the company has released no details on this model, which likely will be a twin-engine turboprop.
OTHER BUSINESS AIRCRAFT MANUFACTURERS
Eclipse Aerospace Albuquerque, N.M.
Vero Beach, Fla.
Cedar City, Utah
Cascina Costa di Samarate, Italy