Hawker 4000

Hawker 4000

An airplane is more than just a collection of parts, an airborne conveyance, or a style statement. Every aircraft tells a story of its time and place, and of the organization that spawned it. Sometimes it is a tale of toil and triumph backed by vision and persistence, a risk that is rewarded with marketplace accolades and happy customers. And then there are times when the whole process is tainted by hype, hobbled by cost-shaving compromises, subject to endless delays, carried forward by hubris, and ultimately, ended due to overwhelmingly poor return on investment. Airplanes so developed are monuments to managerial missteps. Airplanes like this do a depreciation death spiral. Airplanes like this, one imagines, get pushed outside hangars while their owners pray for damaging hailstorms and hurricanes to trigger insurance payouts. The Hawker 4000 is an airplane like this. 

Fractional companies canceled early large orders for the model as development dragged on for 14 years. Meanwhile, parent Raytheon Aircraft foundered and was eventually acquired with loads of leverage by an investment banking consortium. It renamed the company Hawker Beechcraft in 2006, a halcyon time for the corporate jet business that would abruptly end a couple of years later with the worldwide economic crash. By the time the 4000 finally made its way to customers in 2008, competitive products from Bombardier and Gulfstream had substantial head starts and had been flying for years. 

In addition, early-serial-number 4000s were full of expensive bugs, and solutions were often slow in coming. By the time Hawker Beechcraft filed for bankruptcy in 2012, production had come to a halt with just 73 built. Like the ill-fated Beechcraft Starship before it, the 4000 had achieved membership in the billion-dollar burn-through club, with results decidedly short of expectations. The successful bidder for Hawker Beechcraft’s parts and pieces, Textron Aviation, declined to resurrect the 4000’s corpse. Instead, it decided to offer a new, mostly metal version called the Cessna Citation Longitude. The market has responded as expected: for a 2009 Hawker 4000 that sold new for $23 million, you’d be lucky today to get $3.8 million—and a little more than half that figure would be more likely.     

It was an ignominious end for an aircraft that once held much promise. Christened the Horizon when first announced in 1996, the 4000 was an alleged game-changer in the then-nascent super-midsize corporate jet market. Raytheon Aircraft—educated by the spectacular $1 billion egg it had laid with its futuristic, all-composite Beechcraft Starship twin-engine turboprop a decade earlier—had devised a new way to build a mostly composite business jet. The manufacturer used a giant automatic filament-winding machine called Viper to manufacture the fuselage, and then the 4000’s carbon fiber fuselage was mated to the to a pair of aluminum wings. The composite fuselage cut weight, fabrication, assembly, and labor time; is five times stronger than aluminum; is impervious to corrosion; and yields more cabin space. The carbon fiber fuselage enables a low cabin pressure altitude—just 6,000 feet at the aircraft’s maximum cruising altitude. The possibility for rigidity-induced cabin noise is mitigated by special isolators that dampen vibration and yield a cabin quieter than most luxury sedans of the day. 

Related Article

The stand-up, flat-floor cabin features seating for eight or nine passengers in either double- or single-club configuration plus a half club opposite a three-place berthing divan. A forward cabin galley, two forward closets, and a rear cabin lavatory with walk-in baggage compartment with external access complete the layout. The 100-cubic-foot baggage compartment can be accessed when the aircraft is flying below 41,000 feet. Both the lavatory and the baggage compartment are generously sized for an aircraft in this category. You can actually stand up and move around in the lav, which features a potable water system, gravity-fed flushing toilet with external servicing, and a wash basin. A belted lav seat was an available option. Early customers criticized the toilet for having inadequate capacity. 

The 4000 was the first business jet designed around Honeywell’s Primus Epic integrated electronic flight deck and Honeywell's cabin-management system. The display screens and other expensive electrical components, including the heated windshield, were prone to failure due to recurring problems with the aircraft’s power distribution assemblies. There were also landing-gear issues. The aircraft features some fly-by-wire controls, including those for the rudder and spoilerons. However, in a cost-cutting move, Raytheon decided not to equip the 4000 with forward-edge wing slats, and their absence hurts the jet’s runway performance. It’s not a pavement hog on par with a G200, but the 4000 still needs 5,088 feet of runway to take off at its maximum takeoff weight of 37,500 pounds. The maximum range is 3,393 nautical miles—respectable compared with that of most other aircraft of similar class and age. 

Hawker Beechcraft offered a fix for most of the 4000’s deficiencies in 2010. However, parts for these upgrades—and 4000 parts in general—are hard to come by and generally need to be made to order by Textron Aviation. This makes dispatch reliability somewhat problematic, according to Paul St. Lucia, who used to manage a charter fleet of 4000s that once numbered 16—the world’s largest. At one time, St. Lucia says, that fleet was down to three flyable aircraft due to parts issues, and he knows operators who have bought used 4000s for parts. 

The parts problem has made the aircraft’s future uncertain, according to Woody Cottner at Global Aviation Technologies in Wichita, Kansas. Cottner’s firm has been a leading third-party service provider for the 4000s that are still flying, but Cottner says that lately his company has seen fewer of them as values of used ships and interest in them wanes. 

St. Lucia disagrees with Cottner’s assessment, pointing out that other limited-production Hawkers with challenging maintenance and parts issues, such as the Model 1000, remain in service. The problem with the fleet now, St. Lucia maintains, is that many operators who bought 4000s on the cheap, after Hawker Beechcraft cratered and the model’s resale values collapsed, didn’t fully understand the ongoing financial requirements associated with maintaining the aircraft.

Perhaps. Or maybe they’re just waiting for a hurricane. 

Visit the Hawker 4000’s pagein our Aircraft Directory for specifications and performance and economic data.