Falcon 5X
Falcon 5X

Game Changers

Many fine business aircraft are under development, but these five promise to raise the bar in their respective categories in terms of comfort, capabilities and technology. 

Large-Cabin, Long Range

Dassault Falcon 5X 

Here comes the widest conventional bizjet cabin in the sky. Dassault revealed its long-anticipated large-cabin twin, the 5X, in late 2013. The company expects it to make its first flight later this year and receive certification in 2017. The $45 million bizjet features a much larger fuselage diameter than its predecessors—8.86 feet. That makes it even wider than the 7X, the company’s current flagship, which has an 8.2-foot-diameter fuselage. The new tube yields 78 inches of headroom and an overall volume of 1,766 cubic feet. It is widely expected to be the template for follow-on models. Cabin configurations available include seating for 12 passengers. 

The 5X has a maximum takeoff weight of 69,600 pounds, a range of 5,200 nautical miles, a top speed of Mach 0.9 and much longer maintenance intervals than previous Falcons. Dassault claims that the aircraft will be 50 percent more fuel efficient and cost 30 percent less to operate than competitive models from other manufacturers.

Power comes from a pair of Snecma Silvercrest engines (11,450 pounds of thrust each). These engines are a derivative of the wildly popular CFM-56 series engines developed for the airline industry and are expected to be durable and reliable. A new wing also makes the 5X more efficient than its progenitors and enables good short-runway performance. 

In addition to being roomy and efficient, the 5X will feature the latest cockpit technology, including computer-driven fly-by-wire flight controls; an upgraded EASy avionics suite based on Honeywell’s Primus Epic platform; and a new combined-vision system that allows pilots to synthetically “see” terrain, obstacles and the runway in the worst weather. The new large cockpit also features expansive windows and reclining crew seats.

Super-Midsize

Cessna Citation Longitude 

The $25.9 million Citation Longitude, which is scheduled to enter service in 2017, boasts transatlantic range. It offers seating for eight passengers, a full-fuel payload of 1,950 pounds, a range of 4,000 nautical miles and a maximum speed of Mach 0.86. 

Like most Citations, the Longitude has excellent short-runway performance: takeoff distance is estimated at 5,400 feet at the aircraft’s maximum weight of 55,000 pounds, but that drops to 4,000 feet on missions of 2,000 nautical miles or less with lighter loads. Service ceiling is 45,000 feet. The Longitude shares the cabin-management system, seats, windows and fuselage cross section of another new Cessna jet, the midsize Citation Latitude, but is nine feet longer. 

The Longitude’s cabin features a large forward galley and aft lavatory with vacuum-flushing toilet. The forward cabin may include a crew lavatory as well as a third crew/flight-attendant seat. Like the Latitude’s, the Longitude’s interior cross-section is six feet tall and six feet five inches wide. The forward club-four configuration of single executive seats is capacious and those seats are full-berthing. There is room for another club-four in the aft cabin or a three-place divan, certified for takeoff and landing, opposite an entertainment center with large monitor. The cabin-management and entertainment system will build on Cessna’s new wireless Clairity technology.

Snecma’s digitally controlled Silvercrest engines (11,000 pounds of thrust each) power the Longitude. Largely because of the Silvercrest’s airline roots, the engines won’t require traditional scheduled maintenance and will need major attention only “on condition.” The Longitude has limited computerized fly-by-wire capabilities for controlling the rudder, spoilers and brakes. 

The aircraft’s new wing delivers good high-speed and short-runway capabilities. Its design features a 30-degree swept wing that incorporates leading-edge slats, winglets, centrifugal ailerons and five speed-brake/spoiler panels per side. The cockpit features Garmin G5000 avionics, which uses the same three-screen “touch control” architecture that Cessna is using on the Latitude and the revised X+ and Sovereign+ models. 

Midsize

Embraer Legacy 450 

Embraer packs a lot of comfort, value and new technology features into its midsize Legacy 450—features you’d normally find only in larger aircraft. The $16.6 million jet made its first flight in December 2013 and is scheduled for certification this year. It has a six-inch cabin stretch and a range increase to 2,500 nautical miles over the original design specifications. The shorter sibling of the Legacy 500 midsize, the 450 has the same fuselage diameter and many of the same systems, including fly-by-wire flight controls, engines and avionics. Power comes from a pair of Honeywell HTF7500Es (6,540 pounds of thrust each) that can propel the aircraft to 43,000 feet in 22 minutes. Maximum cruising speed is Mach 0.83.

The Legacy 450’s 678-cubic-foot cabin offers seating for seven to nine passengers. Cabin management and in-flight entertainment are courtesy of Honeywell’s HD Ovation Select system, which allows for control of audio, video, communications, lights, temperature, window shades and more via drink-rail-mounted units, wireless handheld remotes or a galley touchscreen. The system can interface with high-speed satellite communications and a variety of consumer electronics. The pressurization system keeps cabin altitude at 6,000 feet at the 450’s maximum cruising altitude of 45,000 feet. 

The cockpit offers Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics. The four large active-matrix LCDs in the panel connect the pilots with synthetic enhanced vision with an optional head-up display; electronic charts, maps, graphical weather depiction from an intuitive MultiScan weather radar system that sees up to 300 miles out; and an airport surface-management system that minimizes the chance of ground mishaps. Fusion can grow to accommodate add-ons such as voice recognition, surface guidance and new air-traffic-control technology, including automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B).

Light

Pilatus PC-24 

Want a jet that can land on rough, unpaved and short fields and has an interior that can be quickly reconfigured to haul passengers, cargo or a combination of the two with an oversized cargo door and room for toys like dirt bikes and snowmobiles? Pilatus has the airplane for you. 

Like the airframer’s legendary PC-12 turboprop, the $8.9-million, six- to nine-passenger PC-24 twinjet features an oversized rear cargo door. On the PC-24, it measures 4.1 feet wide and 4.25 feet tall. The voluminous passenger cabin provides more overall space than either the Cessna Citation XLS+ or the Embraer Phenom 300 and it has a flat floor, which means less head room in the aisle. Pilatus will offer a choice of seven layouts, including executive, commuter, combi and quick-change configurations, as well as options for an externally serviced forward or aft lavatory and galleys. 

The PC-24 combines light-jet operating economics with super-midsize-jet capabilities and comfort and is designed to compete with more conventional offerings from other manufacturers. Range with four passengers is 1,950 nautical miles. At maximum takeoff weight of 17,650 pounds, the PC-24 can fly out of fields as short as 2,690 feet and have a payload of 2,500 pounds. 

Powered by a pair of Williams International FJ44-4A engines, rated at 3,435 pounds of thrust each, the PC-24 will climb to 45,000 feet in less than 30 minutes and achieve a high-speed cruise of 425 knots at 30,000 feet. The engines have a variety of advanced features including thrust-vectoring nozzles to provide more lift at lower speeds, a quiet power mode in place of an auxiliary power unit to provide ground power, and inlets that offer ice protection and quiet engine noise. The PC-24 will be certified for single-pilot operations. In the cockpit, the customized avionics suite, dubbed Pace (Pilatus Advanced Cockpit Environment), is based on the Honeywell Primus Apex system and features the latest advances. 

The first PC-24 test aircraft rolled out of the hangar on August 1, 2014, and two years of production quickly sold out. Pilatus has temporarily stopped accepting new orders. Certification is expected in 2017.

Tiltrotor

AgustaWestland AW609

A tiltrotor takes off and lands like a helicopter, but can achieve forward speeds comparable to those of a business turboprop like a Pilatus PC-12 or Beechcraft King Air. The U.S. Marines and Air Force have been flying a tiltrotor, the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey, for years. The engines are connected to “proprotors” and mounted at the ends of the short wing. The entire assembly—engines and proprotors—swivels up and down to provide lift and forward speed. Depending on the angle of the swivel, the aircraft flies like an airplane, a helicopter or a hybrid of the two. 

Now this utility will be made available to the civilian market. Italian helicopter maker AgustaWestland aims to certify the world’s first commercial tiltrotor in 2017 and to begin customer deliveries in 2018. It’s called the AW609. 

AW is promoting four configurations for the aircraft, including a standard two-pilot, nine-passenger commuter layout; a six- and seven passenger executive cabin; a two-litter medevac interior; a search-and-rescue design; and a patrol/surveillance variant. A new and wider clamshell cabin door has been designed for production models, part of an overall fuselage optimization made since 2011 when AW bought out former partner Bell Helicopter’s share of the program. 

Aircraft performance includes a maximum forward speed of 275 knots, a ceiling of 25,000 feet, and a useful load of 2,500 pounds. The AW609 can take off like a conventional helicopter or make a short rolling takeoff like an airplane. Making a rolling takeoff is expected to enable the aircraft to carry more payload and increase its maximum takeoff weight to 18,000 pounds from the current 16,800. The extra weight could be used to boost fuel capacity and range, now estimated at 750 nautical miles (without reserves) or 1,100 nautical miles with an auxiliary fuel tank.

Much speculation remains about pricing but sources close to the program think it will be between $20 million and $24 million—about what you’d pay for a conventional super-midsize helicopter. AgustaWestland says it will announce a firm price before year’s end. Production AW609s initially will be assembled at and supported from the company’s U.S. plant in Philadelphia.

Mark Huber is a private pilot with experience in more than 50 aircraft types.

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