“"Many years ago, our company founder, Al Conklin, sold a new twin-engine business aircraft to a very successful entrepreneur. He had established a bit of a rapport with the individual and, after the sale, asked him straight out, 'How can you justify the cost of this airplane?' His reply? 'What is the cost of a divorce?'"–David Wyndham, president, Conklin & de Decker”
A peek at the bizjet pipeline
Industry insiders and analysts believe the business and private jet industry will witness a resurgence in 2011 as a global economic recovery continues. Of course, if you toss into the mix more political unrest in the Middle East, the rising price of oil and European Union member nation bailouts, things could get a bit dicey.
Nevertheless, throughout two years wandering in the economic wilderness, aircraft manufacturers have continued to pour carefully measured but considerable monies into research and development. And as corporate profits rise and buyers begin to emerge from hibernation, those R&D investments are taking the form of new airplanes and derivatives of proven models.
More than two dozen jets and turboprops are in development. Some are scheduled for certification this year, others over the next half-decade. A few remain little more than ideas that are being pursued at considerable expense.
Here's a look at some of the more talked-about projects.
Bombardier's next-generation Learjet 85remains on target for entry into service in 2013. While it physically resembles those of previous generations, the Learjet 85 is a clean-sheet design and will be larger and faster, with a projected range of 3,000 nautical miles. Priced at $18.5 million, it fits neatly between the $13.86 million Learjet 60XR and Bombardier's $24.275 million Challenger 300.
But the big news from Bombardier is a plan to add two members to its ultra-long-range Global family–the Global 7000 and Global 8000–both of which it unveiled in October 2010. The larger Global 7000 will sport a four-zone cabin. It will have a range of 7,300 nautical miles at Mach 0.85 and a high-speed cruise of Mach 0.90. The manufacturer expects it to enter service in 2016. The Global 8000 will have a three-zone cabin and a range of 7,900 nautical miles at Mach 0.85. Bombardier said the 8000 is scheduled to enter service in 2017.
Both airplanes have an initial price tag of $65 million and will be capable of nonstop flights between such city pairs as Washington, D.C., and Beijing. Both will also feature 80-percent larger windows, crew rest areas and a large baggage compartment accessible in flight.
The 7000 and 8000 will enter service with new engines, new wings and "a platform that will take us well into the century," claimed Bob Horner, a Bombardier senior vice president of sales.
Cessna Aviation's CJ4 was certified in March 2010 and now the Wichita, Kans.-based manufacturer is focusing its attention on the Citation Ten, a derivative of the Citation X. Cessna has declined to announce a high-speed cruise figure, saying only that the new model will be faster than the Gulfstream 650, which is rated at Mach 0.925.
Cessna is also developing a proprietary cabin-management system for the Ten that will feature a built-in Internet browser, digital audio and video and interactive touch-screen controllers at each seat. The aircraft, initially priced at $21.495 million, is expected to make its first flight in late 2011 and enter service in 2013.
At the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) in May, Dassault launched the Falcon 2000S, the latest in the line, which is priced for a tough economic market at slightly under $25 million–approximately $7 million less than the current Falcon 2000DX. The cabin size remains the same, though full customization is no longer an option. But thanks to wing and engine improvements, takeoff and landing performance remains the same or better.
The Falcon 900LX was certified by both U.S. and European aviation authorities in July last year. Work continues on a new aircraft, tentatively named the SMS (super mid-size). Few details were available at press time, except that it is likely to replace the out-of-production Falcon 50EX.
At Embraer, the Brazilian manufacturer's Legacy 650 follow-on to the Legacy 600 was certified last August. Next on the program menu are the Legacy 450 and 500. Both airplanes will have fly-by-wire flight controls and flat-floor, stand-up cabins. The $15.25 million, eight-passenger "mid-light light" Legacy 450 will have a range of 2,300 nautical miles and the nine-passenger mid-size Legacy 500 will have a range of 3,000 nautical miles. Both will have a high-speed cruise of Mach 0.82.
Gulfstream Aerospace has two hot properties in the final stages of certification, but will say no more regarding a schedule than that it expects type approval of both this year.
The G250, a mid-size derivative of the G200, has a new transonic wing that gives it a maximum cruise speed of Mach 0.85 and a range of 2,400 nautical miles. The $24 million aircraft is being built by Israel Aerospace Industries in Tel Aviv.
But it is the G650 that has captured most of the attention. It is the largest business jet to date from the Savannah, Ga.-based company. Gulfstream claims the $64.5 million model–which can fly at Mach 0.925–will be the world's fastest civil aircraft. Its range will exceed 7,000 nautical miles.
Although the manufacturer focused on making the jet bigger and faster than its predecessors, the company also paid attention to the cabin. Its distinctive oval windows are 16 percent larger than those on the G550 and a Gulfstream application will permit passengers to manage all cabin functions through an iPod Touch.
The Premier II upgrade of the Premier IA has been rebranded the Hawker 200 (with still more enhancements). Priced at $7.5 million, it offers a maximum cruise speed of 473 knots at 29,000 feet and a range of 1,500 nautical miles. The company expects the aircraft to enter service in the fourth quarter of 2012.
The manufacturer's popular Beech King Air line continues to grow and one of the latest in this group is the King Air 250, a $5.99 million twin turboprop that entered service this spring. Equipped with winglets, the 250 has a maximum cruise speed of 310 knots, a range of 1,610 nautical miles and operating costs of only $3.06 a mile.
Another new offering is the King Air 200GTR, an upgrade of the King Air 200GT. Among the improvements is an increase in maximum gross takeoff weight. The upgrade–which allows the aircraft to use 1,100 airports that are unavailable to the 200GT–costs $350,000 and requires four weeks of down time.
Hawker Beechcraft announced the Hawker 400XPR in May as a direct challenge to Nextant's upgrade program for the 400XP. The order book is open on the twinjet, which will have a range of 1,900 nautical miles. It will also be more fuel-efficient. The upgrade costs $2.64 million, including engines, avionics and winglets.
At EBACE Hawker Beechcraft vice president of strategic aftermarket integration Brian Howell said the 400XPR will not necessarily take the place of the 400XP on the production line. "Right now," he explained, "we are trying to figure out where the light-jet segment is, whether we go with the 400 or 450 or where we go."
The Hawker 450XP, a follow-on to the Hawker 400XP, is in limbo.
The HondaJet, with its distinctive over-the-wing engine nacelles, is moving toward an in-service date in the third quarter of 2012. The company's first production-conforming model flew in late December 2010, powered by the GE Honda Aero HF120 production engine. A second and third aircraft are now engaged in the test certification program. The twinjet costs $3.9 million and can carry six passengers and one or two pilots. Honda Aircraft Company expects it to have a maximum cruise speed of 420 knots and visual-flight-rules range of 1,400 nautical miles.
In October 2010, Piper Aircraft's prototype PiperJet morphed into the PiperJet Altaire, which it described as "the next step" in the evolution of its single-engine very-light-jet program. The Altaire sells for $2.6 million. Piper expects it to reach a maximum cruise speed of 360 knots at 35,000 feet. It can carry five passengers plus the pilot. The company anticipates certification in late 2013 and entry into service in early 2014.
The S.40 Freedom program from Spectrum Aeronautical has fallen behind schedule. The nine-passenger, one-pilot composite-structure aircraft is scheduled for a prototype first flight in early 2012 and the Carlsbad, Calif.-based manufacturer expects it to enter service in 2014. Spectrum claims the $6.795 million twinjet will cruise at 440 knots and have a range of 2,250 nautical miles.
Kirby Harrison welcomes comments and suggestions at: email@example.com.