“Time is our most precious commodity, and there are conveniences that wealth brings to essentially get you more time. —retired Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, explaining why he commutes via private jet from his Seattle home to watch games of the Los Angeles Clippers, the basketball team he bought last year for $2 billion. ”
What jet makers have in store
The people who build airplanes believe better times are coming. So do many analysts, who predict that aircraft sales will gain momentum by the middle of next year. When that happens, manufacturers will be ready because they have continued to fund research and development of new airplanes.
Bombardier reports it has more than 60 orders for its 10-passenger midsize Learjet 85, which will be its first all-composite business airplane. The company anticipates certification and first customer deliveries in 2013. The Learjet 85 will fly at 470 knots and, with a range of 3,000 nautical miles, will be a true coast-to-coast airplane. Its $18.25 million list price places it neatly between the $13.86 million Learjet 60XR and Bombardier's $24.275 million Challenger 300.
Cessna's Citation CJ4, which the FAA certified in March, is the largest member of the popular CJ family. The Wichita-based manufacturer is ramping up production of the $9 million, five-passenger jet, for which deliveries began in April. Cessna lists the cruise speed at 389 knots and the range at 2,000 nautical miles.
The bad news from Cessna was the decision last July to cancel its large-cabin Citation Columbus, for which it had some 70 letters of intent from prospective buyers. CEO Jack Pelton has said that with sufficient demand the company might revive plans for the $27 million, eight-passenger twinjet, which was to have had a cruise speed of 480 knots and a range of 4,000 nautical miles. For now, Cessna continues to devote about 6 percent of revenues to research and development, "focusing on an existing market."
At Dassault Aviation, work continues on a super-midsize aircraft dubbed the SMS but few details have been released. Last year, company CEO Charles Edelstenne announced that discussion had been reopened on design choices for the aircraft. According to a Falcon Jet spokesman, the France-based manufacturer is now finalizing technology choices, including selection of key partners for the project.
Meanwhile, development of the Falcon 900LX super-midsize follow-on to the Falcon 900EX is proceeding. The large-cabin trijet will have winglets that the company expects will reduce drag by 7 percent; range, meanwhile, will jump from 4,500 to 4,800 nautical miles and maximum cruise speed will be 560 knots. Certification had been anticipated early this year but has been pushed back to the second half of the year.
Brazil's Embraer has three projects in the works. The first is the large-cabin Legacy 650, an upgrade of its Legacy 600. The $25.9 million Legacy 650 will carry 13 passengers in standard configuration and have a range of 3,800 nautical miles, approximately 500 nautical miles more than the Legacy 600. Embraer expects certification in the latter half of this year.
Further down the road are the Legacy 450 and Legacy 500 midsize business jets. Both will have fly-by-wire flight controls and feature flat-floor, stand-up cabins with room for nine passengers. The $15.25 million Legacy 450 will have a range of 2,200 nautical miles and a maximum cruise speed of Mach 0.78. The $18.4 million Legacy 500 will carry eight passengers 2,800 nautical miles at a maximum cruise speed of Mach 0.80.
Gulfstream, meanwhile, has two of the more advanced programs in its G250 and G650. The midsize G250, a derivative of the G200, made its first flight last December. A new transonic wing has given the aircraft a maximum cruise speed of Mach 0.85 and a range of 3,400 nautical miles, allowing flights between New York and London. Gulfstream expects certification and entry into service next year for the G250, which is being built by Israel Aerospace Industries.
But the jewel in the crown is the all-new G650, the largest of the large-cabin civil aircraft, which first flew in November 2009. Twin Rolls-Royce BR725 engines will propel the G650 to a maximum speed of Mach 0.925, making it the world's fastest civil aircraft. It will have a range of 7,000 nautical miles. The oval passenger windows are 16-percent larger than those on the G550. Gulfstream expects certification of the G650 next year and entry into service in 2012 and anticipates that the model will cost $64.5 million (2013 dollars).
European and U.S. aviation authorities certified Hawker Beechcraft's $6.7 million King Air 350i twin turboprop in January. The manufacturer bills it as the quietest King Air ever built, with cabin sound levels at 78 dBA "equal to or better than competitive business jets." The upgrade is focused primarily on the cabin, with a Rockwell Collins Venue cabin-management system and high-definition video. Other features include electrochromic window dimming, LED lighting and optional seat warmers. A 350iER version pushes the range from 1,714 to 2,200 nautical miles.
The $7.065 million Premier II is Hawker Beechcraft's follow-on to the Premier 1A. The upgrade comes with a maximum cruise speed of 473 knots. The aircraft first flew on March 13 and the manufacturer expects entry into service in late 2012 or early 2013. The company adjusted its timing, said a spokeswoman, to coordinate with the expected market recovery and demand renewal.
As for the small-cabin Hawker 450XP, announced in October 2008, the program is in question. There have been rumors that it has been canceled but Hawker Beechcraft has responded by saying only that "there will be another version." A follow on to the 400XP, the 450XP had a projected range of 1,605 nautical miles and cruise speed of approximately 450 knots. The company had tentatively priced it at $7.7 million and originally expected certification in the second quarter of this year.
Honda Aircraft now anticipates that the first conforming model of its much-anticipated HondaJet will fly this November and that deliveries will begin in the third quarter of 2012, a year later than originally planned. Priced at $3.9 million, the light jet has room for six passengers and one pilot. The manufacturer expects it to have a maximum cruise speed of 420 knots and a visual-flight-rules range of 1,400 nautical miles. Its over-the-wing engine nacelles represent a departure from typical twin-engine-aft design. The light jet is being developed and will be built at Honda Aircraft's new Greenville, N.C. plant. A proof-of-concept airplane has accumulated nearly 1,000 flight test hours.
Spectrum Aeronautical's S.40 Freedom is priced at $6.795 million. The only version now flying is a "fuselage manufacturing demonstrator" prototype. Unique to the nine-passenger, one-pilot twinjet is a co-cured composite structure that saves manufacturing time as well as weight. Spectrum says the Freedom will cruise at 440 knots and fly 2,250 nautical miles. The Carlsbad, Calif. company said it expects a prototype first flight in late 2010 or early 2011, and FAA certification in late 2011 or early 2012.