Spectrum puts midsize S-40 on developmental fast track

 - September 20, 2007, 8:44 AM

The decision by Spectrum Aeronautical to flip-flop the development schedule for its airplanes by certifying the all-carbon-fiber midsize S-40 Freedom before the S-33 Independence light jet could be judged as a shrewd move in years hence. After all, the market is already flush with diminutive light and very light bizjet offerings from a compendium of start-up and established manufacturers. Conventional wisdom, however, says there is probably room for new competitors in the midsize segment.

The decision to develop the $6.2 million S-40 first was based on “where we think the greatest product differentiation is,” Spectrum president Austin Blue told NBAA Convention News. “It is the right thing for us to do.” Blue said the S-40 is on track for 2009 certification and that FAA papers for the S-33 would follow “shortly thereafter.”

He maintained that orders and interest for both aircraft have been “brisk” but declined to provide specific sales figures. “We’re very pleased with how both programs are going. I can’t give you any numbers, but they are both going well,” he said.

Blue denied that the company had recruited any risk-sharing partners and declined to announce the selection of new vendors beyond those previously disclosed–Honda for the engines on the S-40, Williams International for engines on the S-33, and Avidyne for the avionics on the S-33. “We don’t have any big changes to announce in that regard,” he said.

Blue also explained that the schedule change was due in part to the redesign of the S-33 after the crash of the prototype aircraft last year and the decision to upgrade the S-33 engine to the more powerful 1,750-pound-thrust Williams International FJ33-4A-19 powerplant.

Spectrum’s disclosure that it was changing its development schedule came within days of Honda’s announcement that it would start engine production in North Carolina and the naming of Spectrum as its only independent customer for the HF-120 turbofan, which will also power the twin-engine HondaJet.

Blue said development was proceeding apace on both Spectrum aircraft and that the company was getting down to the “pick-and-shovel work.”

For Spectrum, that includes doubling the size of the company workforce to 140, completing construction of its 85,000-sq-ft engineering and production facility in Spanish Fork, Utah, and setting up a sales and administrative office at the Palomar-McClellan Airport in Carlsbad, Calif. Earlier this year the manufacturer announced a partnership with Palomar-based Jet Source to market shared-ownership, owner-pilot clubs and travel cards for both models.

As it has with the S-33, Spectrum continues to work with Infusion Design on the S-40 interior. Infusion’s Benn Isaacman said the S-33 and S-40 will share common cabin design philosophies, seat structures and other elements. Key to creating a spacious cabin atmosphere in both airplanes, according to Isaacman, is keeping as much of ventilation and other structures off the cabin ceiling as possible.

The S-40 cabin will also feature new hardware, including a combination LED reading light/air gasper and electronic window shades that use suspended charged particles between the window panes to alter the amount of incoming light. Isaacman said the electronic shades not only save weight and control the flow of light into the cabin, but also help regulate cabin temperature.