New Business Aircraft

 - October 3, 2007, 10:13 AM

As the business aviation industry awakens from its three-year slumber, start-up and established manufacturers hope that their aircraft now in the works, as well as those that recently received certification, will take sales revenue to new heights. While this list of new aircraft includes many derivatives, more than half of the proposed aircraft are actually clean-sheet designs. In fact, Cessna’s Citation Mustang will be the Wichita manufacturer’s first clean-sheet design since it launched the Citation III in 1978.

But the downside is that clean-sheet designs frequently consume more money and time than originally estimated. This is evident in the many delays in schedules at established and would-be manufacturers, and in the funding problems at some start-ups, notably Safire Aircraft.

Very light jets continue to be the buzzword, though a new turboprop class is also emerging. While turboprops seem outdated beside turbofan aircraft, the stringent insurance and training requirements for the latter group might steer many owner-pilots toward the turboprop offerings.

Not included in this report are aircraft programs put on hold or those that have made no measurable progress in the past year. In this special report, AIN presents an overview of the latest business aircraft designs,
including those certified in the last year, in flight-test or in development.

Adam Aircraft
A700–Adam Aircraft apparently was a shade optimistic about its plans for the A500 centerline-thrust piston twin and derivative A700 twinjet. The former was originally slated to receive FAA certification in July last year, and the A700–a stretched, turbofan-powered derivative of the A500 centerline-thrust piston twin–was expected to obtain the U.S. government seal of approval in the fourth quarter. But the A500 just last month started flying test trials with the FAA, and certification is now pegged for mid-December, according to Adam president Joe Walker. Further, the A700 that has been flying since July 27 last year is only a proof-of-concept airplane, meaning that the more than 170 hours logged on the airframe won’t count toward FAA testing. A conforming A700 will fly in the first quarter of next year, Walker said, and the company expects certification sometime next year.

Meanwhile, the Williams FJ33 engine that powers the six- to eight-seat A700–which shares two-thirds commonality with the A500–received FAA approval on September 10. The price of the A700 has meandered north of the $2 million mark, and the twinjet’s order backlog now sits at 100 aircraft–25 from individual owners and 75 from air-taxi startup Pogo. Preliminary performance data include a 340-knot cruise speed, 7,650-pound mtow, 1,100-nm NBAA IFR range and Mach 0.70 Mmo.

Aviation Technology Group
Javelin–Englewood, Colo.-based Aviation Technology Group (ATG) in August selected Albuquerque, N.M., as the manufacturing site for the two-seat twinjet Javelin, which might or might not use Williams FJ33 engines (engine selection is now listed as “to be announced”). This site selection followed the approval by the New Mexico Investment Council of a “significant investment” in ATG earlier this year. Details of the agreement are being finalized. The start-up airplane manufacturer is planning a 100,000-sq-ft facility at Albuquerque Double Eagle II Airport, although operations might begin at a 10,000-sq-ft facility at Albuquerque International Airport.

ATG expects to fly the airplane before the end of this year, with FAA certification following in early 2007. Preliminary specifications of the 5,500-pound-mtow jet include a 530-knot cruise speed, 900-nm NBAA IFR range, an Mmo of Mach 0.975 and a balanced field length of 3,900 feet. ATG claims it holds “letters of intent” for more than 150 copies of the $2.5 million very light jet.

Avocet Aircraft
ProJet–Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) of Tel Aviv and Avocet Aircraft of Westport, Conn., still appear to be partners in the development, certification and production of the proposed very light ProJet, according to Avocet founder and chairman Carey Wolchok. He said “it would not be appropriate at this time” to comment on details of the relationship with Israel Aircraft Industries, though he did claim that the company has signed “definitive agreements” with IAI. Further, Wolchok said advanced negotiations with a third partner, an “established business aviation OEM,” are under way for “product support plus.”

Meanwhile, projected certification of the $2 million ProJet has slipped six months to mid-2007, and an engine selection (Williams FJ33, P&WC PW6XX or Honda HF118) for the twinjet has yet to be made. The company plans to make “major announcements” at this month’s NBAA Convention.

Until the design is final, Avocet is taking “pre-orders” for the 7,160-pound-mtow jet, requiring a $5,000 fully refundable deposit. Once the design is finalized, customers will have 30 days to make a $50,000 deposit to hold the order. As announced at the NBAA Convention last October, charter operator Jet Partners of Cleveland has placed a pre-order for 100 ProJets for its UltraJet private jet membership company. Football legend Joe Montana, who owns an IAI Westwind II, has ordered one ProJet (S/N 16, his number while quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers) and agreed to serve on Avocet’s customer advisory board.

Bell/Agusta Aerospace
BA609–On March 7 last year the prototype Bell/Agusta BA609, the world’s first civil tiltrotor, took flight at Bell’s Flight Research Center in Arlington, Texas. The prototype logged about 14 hours airborne–all in helicopter mode– before undergoing an extensive inspection. Following a successful teardown evaluation, the prototype will resume flight testing before year-end at both Bell Helicopter’s Arlington, Texas facility and program partner Agusta’s Cascina Costa test site outside Milan, Italy. Present plans call for joint FAA/EASA certification of the six- to nine-passenger tiltrotor in late 2007, with deliveries slated to begin in early 2008.

Late last year, Agusta raised its share in the BA609 program from 45 percent to 50 percent, and the Italian partner is now taking on a significantly increased proportion of the work, primarily the flight-test segment. Three, instead of two, of the four prototypes will conduct test flights in Italy. Prototype number two was shipped last summer to Cameri Air Force Base, west of Milan, and recently underwent safety-of-flight-related proof load test, as well as proof loads of flight control surfaces, including the elevators, flaperons and rotor controls.

The airplane-mode software development is continuing, as is that of the flight-control system, pressurization system and environmental control system. Aircraft three and four are still being built in Texas, and they will be sent to Italy later this year.
As a result of last year’s flight tests, the companies are reconfiguring the brake-pedal geometry to ease operation, modifying the main landing-gear shock strut to allow softer landings, reducing the size of the glareshield to improve visibility and, to add protection in the event of a birdstrike, eliminating two small overhead windows in the cockpit.

Bombardier Aerospace
Global 5000–This truncated, shorter-range version of the ultra-long-legged Global Express gained FAA certification on March 12, almost one year to the day after its first flight. Since the Global 5000 shares 90-percent commonality with its larger sibling, only two aircraft were needed for certification efforts.

Bombardier says the $33.5 million Global 5000 can carry three crewmembers and eight passengers 4,800 nm nonstop at Mach 0.85 and fly lower payload missions at Mach 0.89. Deliveries of completed aircraft will begin in the fourth quarter.

Global Express XRS–Unveiled at last year’s NBAA Convention, the upgraded version of the Global Express is scheduled to obtain Transport Canada supplemental type certification by year-end, at which time the $45.5 million XRS will replace the Global Express on the production line.

Few changes are visible from the outside, except for the addition of two cabin windows, bringing the total to 27. On the inside, however, the differences between the XRS and the Global Express are considerable, starting with a cabin pressurized to 4,500 feet at FL450 and 5,700 feet at FL510, a 25-percent improvement over the Global Express cabin. Further, the cabin will be configured with a center section designed as an office workspace, and the crew-rest area has been moved to the right side of the aircraft, forward of the main galley section. The cabin will offer more overhead storage in the galley area, and the aft storage area is 15 cu ft larger than the storage area in the Global Express.

Much of the avionics equipment that was optional on the Global Express is standard on the XRS, including a second GPS, datalink and the Bombardier enhanced vision system.

A new belly/wing fairing tank allows the XRS to carry an additional 1,427 pounds of fuel, adding 140 or 150 nm to the range at the Mach 0.85 typical cruise speed. Bombardier is guaranteeing 6,150 nm at Mach 0.85.

Cessna Aircraft
Citation CJ3–FAA certification for Cessna’s newest addition to its CitationJet line was pending at press time. The twinjet made its maiden jaunt from Wichita Mid-Continent Airport on April 17 last year, and the first production CJ3 (S/N 001) flew just four months later.

Designed for single-pilot operation, the $6.065 million CJ3 will have a maximum cruise speed of 417 knots and an NBAA IFR range of 1,774 nm with two crewmembers and six passengers. The CJ3 can climb directly to its 45,000-foot ceiling, even at its 13,870-pound mtow.

Cessna has logged orders for more than 100 of the light twinjets. Deliveries will immediately follow certification.

Citation Mustang–The $2.395 million, six-seat Citation Mustang, Cessna’s most anticipated business jet, is starting to take shape. Wichita-based Cessna is busy building the Mustang prototype’s tooling, and more than 80 percent of the very light jet’s 5,000 detail parts are now complete.

Last month, the manufacturer began assembly of the Mustang at its Pawnee facility in Wichita, with the goal of rolling out the prototype in the spring and flying it by July. Three aircraft and two ground-test articles will participate in the flight-test program. Major aircraft assemblies will be built at Cessna’s Wichita; Independence, Kan.; and Columbus, Ga. facilities, with the last contributing the wing assembly and empennage. Final assembly will take place in Independence.

In an unusual twist, Cessna has been flight testing the Mustang’s Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) PW615F engine aboard a CitationJet testbed since April 27. Cessna has logged more than 100 flight hours on the 1,350-pound-thrust engine, and P&WC is concurrently flight and bench testing several PW615F turbofans. Meanwhile, Garmin recently delivered a G1000 avionics hot bench to Cessna, and the autopilot test article is already in operation.

FAA, EASA and Brazilian certification of the 340-knot Mustang is expected in 2006. Cessna reports firm orders for 229 of the very light jets, with the backlog extending to at least 2009.

Citation Sovereign–Six months after receiving provisional certification on Christmas Eve, the super-midsize Citation Sovereign gained full type certification. At last year’s NBAA Convention, Cessna announced several performance improvements for the $14.193 million Sovereign, including a 220-nm increase in VFR range to 3,040 nm (NBAA IFR range is 2,518 nm with two crew and eight passengers) and a slight increase in Mmo to Mach 0.80.

Deliveries of the 30,000-pound-mtow Sovereign are expected to start before year-end. Cessna said it has firm orders for more than 100 of the P&WC PW306C-powered business jets.

Citation XLS–Announced at last year’s NBAA show, the $10.045 million Citation XLS is a faster and longer legged derivative of the popular Citation Excel. The XLS obtained FAA approval in March, and first deliveries are to begin this year.

The Excel successor features as standard many items that were options before, including a nine-place interior with a six-place center-club seating configuration, a two-place belted couch and an aft left-hand belted seat. Other new standard equipment includes an auxiliary power unit, UNS-1ESP, TCAS and EGPWS. The cockpit is also equipped with Honeywell’s emergency descent mode system. In the case of crew incapacitation during a loss of pressurization, the system automatically commands a 90-degree turn to the left and descent to 15,000 feet.

The XLS, powered by a pair of P&WC PW545B engines with 4.5 percent more takeoff thrust, is expected to have a max cruise speed of 431 knots and an NBAA IFR range of 1,863 nm. The mtow has increased from the Excel’s 20,000 pounds to 20,200 pounds, the useful load from 7,510 pounds to 7,700 pounds, payload with max fuel from 720 pounds to 920 pounds, and time to climb to 45,000 feet has been reduced from 73 minutes to 25 minutes.

Dassault Aviation
Falcon 7X–The first Dassault Falcon 7X trijet is now at an advanced stage of assembly. In July, the first fuselage, complete with vertical fin and tailplanes, arrived at the final assembly facility at Bordeaux Mérignac from the company’s factory in Biarritz. Pratt & Whitney Canada shipped the first set of three PW307 engines in mid-June, and wing mating was pending at press time.

“The assembly of the first 7X is taking place even more smoothly than we hoped, although we already expected our new integrated digital process to make things easier right from the first aircraft,” a Dassault spokesman said. Increased precision in parts manufacturing has resulted in fewer adjustments. Moreover, the parts were made with lighter tooling. Last, but not least, all risk-sharing partners delivered their subassemblies on time.

Dassault plans to fly the 7X in the first quarter of next year, followed by certification and first deliveries in 2006. Dassault says it has orders in hand for 40 copies of its $37.15 million, 5,700-nm flagship.

Falcon 900DX–Dassault Aviation launched its new $31.95 million Falcon 900DX trijet at the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition in May. Replacing the Falcon 900C, the DX fits between the 2000EX twin and 900EX trijet.

The 900DX will be able to fly more than 4,100 nm (200 nm more than the C) with the larger cabin of the 4,500-nm 900EX. This range enables the 900DX to fly nonstop between such city pairs as Geneva and Detroit, New York and Athens or Chicago and Rome.

On the flight deck, the 900DX will sport the Honeywell/Dassault EASy flight deck as standard. Other changes include a more efficient version of the Honeywell TFE731-60 engine, some lightened structures and several system modifications. In addition, the new DX has better short-field performance than the 900EX.

First flight is penciled in for next summer, with certification expected in December next year. Deliveries of the 46,700-pound-mtow airplane are due to begin before the end of next year.

Diamond Aircraft
D-Jet–Diamond Aircraft, which manufactures composite single- and twin-engine piston aircraft, announced early last year that it will enter the very light jet market by building a single-engine jet with 1,320-nm range. Diamond expects to sell the five-place, all-composite D-Jet for less than $1 million (up from earlier projections of $850,000). Preliminary specifications include an mtow of 4,750 pounds and cruise speed of 315 knots at the 25,000-foot ceiling, at which cabin altitude will be 8,000 feet.

The Williams FJ33-powered jet single is expected to be able to operate from 2,000-foot runways and reach its max cruising altitude in eight minutes (an average rate of climb of 3,125 fpm). Development work is to be split between Diamond’s two locations in London, Ontario, and Wiener Neustadt, Austria. Diamond has yet to choose an avionics manufacturer, and the Garmin G1000 and Avidyne FlightMax Entegra systems are known to be in the running.

First flight has slid about one year to next October, with first customer deliveries now slated to begin in early 2007. Diamond says it holds orders for 123 D-Jets, each backed by a $20,000 deposit.

Eclipse Aviation
Eclipse 500
–Eclipse aims to fly the first P&WC PW610-powered Eclipse 500 by December 31 this year and earn FAA type certification in the first quarter of 2006, followed immediately by first deliveries. EASA approval is to follow in the fourth quarter of 2006.

Seven test airframes are now in production, including three certification flight-test aircraft (N502EA, N503EA and N504EA), two beta test aircraft, one static test airframe and one fatigue test airframe. Most notably, Eclipse decided to change the order in which some of its test aircraft are built and flown. In fact, flight testing will start with aircraft N503EA, instead of N502EA, and the start of friction stir welding of the static test airframe (scheduled for June 17 this year) was deferred in favor of starting the fifth flight-test aircraft (N506EA) on June 5.

On the engine front, Pratt & Whitney Canada continues to make progress with the PW610F, which is on track for certification in early 2006. As of early last month, the PW610F has logged more than 160 hours. The engine is scheduled to fly on P&WC’s flying testbed, a Boeing 720, this month.

The $1.175 million airplane is expected to fly at 375 knots at 41,000 feet and will have a range of about 1,280 nm. Eclipse says it holds orders for more than 1,400 of the very light jets.

Epic Aircraft
Epic LT
–Holding to a schedule announced last year, Epic Aircraft of Las Vegas flew its prototype Epic LT for the first time on July 17 from Redmond Airport, Ore., not far from the company’s research and development facility in Bend, where the airplane was assembled. Dave Morss was the test pilot. The airplane had about 25 hours on the airframe when it made its first long cross-country flight, to EAA AirVenture in late July. At Oshkosh last year, Epic announced it would show the composite, turboprop single at this year’s event.

Epic CEO and co-owner Rick Schrameck said normal-category certification of the $1.9 million, six-seat Epic is still planned for the first quarter of 2006. Before then, however, the P&WC PT6A-powered single is being offered as a kit-built airplane, with about 16 sold at a price of $1.2 million. “Customers may build their 51 percent of the aircraft only in our facility, and we’ll watch the process very closely,” Schrameck said. “This will help us learn and improve our production process for the certified airplane.” He expects the second Epic to be flying by the end of January.

The company claims it has orders for 21 of the $1.9 million turboprop singles.

–The single-engine, four- to five-passenger Sport-Jet in April became the latest program to join the very light jet market. The aircraft is under development by Excel-Jet of Monument, Colo., whose president is Bob Bornhofen, the designer of the Maverick Leader kit-built jet. Bornhofen, who is not associated with Maverick Jets of Melbourne, Fla., said he hopes to have the first preproduction prototype of the P&WC PW615-powered Sport-Jet in the air by the end of the year.

Certification of the Sport-Jet is planned for the third quarter next year, with a selling price of “less than $1 million.” The Sport-Jet is being designed to fly four passengers 1,000 nm and cruise at 340 knots at 25,000 feet, according to Bornhofen. Included as standard equipment will be an emergency landing system composed of a multi-stage parachute capable of supporting the aircraft with all seats occupied.

Extra Aircraft
–Lancaster, Pa.-headquartered Extra Aircraft received EASA certification for its all-composite EA-500 turboprop single on July 19. When Extra emerged from insolvency under new ownership last September, it estimated German LBA certification by April. But late last year EASA officially took over as the European agency that certifies aircraft, engines, parts and components, causing a delay as Extra had to resubmit paperwork to a new certification agency and deal with an unfamiliar cast of characters.

Production of the Rolls-Royce 250-B17F/2-powered composite airplane is to begin at the company’s facility in Hunxe, Germany, as soon as pending FAA approval is received. The first production aircraft is expected to be finished in December, and two will be delivered by year-end.

The 4,696-pound mtow airplane costs $1.545 million, but this price will increase slightly with the introduction of the Honeywell Apex avionics suite in early 2006. This glass-cockpit configuration will replace the current Honeywell EFIS 40 displays and Garmin GNS 430/530 navcoms.

–Grob, the aerospace division of Germany’s Grob-Werke (which builds milled parts for the automobile industry), has extended its estimated certification date of the G140TP turboprop single to the first quarter of next year from late fall this year. Static testing of the fuselage has begun and testing of the wing will follow. The sole G140TP test aircraft, powered by a 450-shp Rolls-Royce 250-B17F turboprop, has accumulated more than 200 hours of flight testing since its first flight in December 2002.

A derivative of the aerobatic two-seat G120 piston single, the four-seat G140TP maintains the G120’s aerobatic capabilities. Without exception, all of Grob’s aircraft are all-composite designs. The G140TP is Grob’s first entry into the civil turboprop market, leading the way for the larger, seven-seat G160 Ranger (see below).

The original requirement for the $1.2 million G140TP was as a four-seat navigation trainer for the military, to complement G120s already or soon to be delivered in training roles for the air forces of the United Arab Emirates, Germany, Israel and Canada. However, about half of G140TP buyers are expected to be private owners interested in “a fully aerobatic, four-seat business airplane.”

G160 Ranger–The G160 Ranger, German manufacturer Grob-Werke’s second turboprop model, made its first flight on March 29. Two aircraft will be used in the G160 flight-test program, with the second expected to fly before the end of this year. JAA certification and the first customer delivery are expected in the second quarter of next year, followed by FAA certification in the third quarter.

The seven-seat G160 turboprop single is an expansion of the four-seat G140TP, which first flew in December 2002 and is expected to be certified early next year.

Powered by a single, 850-shp P&WC PT6A-42A turboprop, the G160 is designed to reach a maximum cruise speed of 270 knots and achieve a maximum range of 2,200 nm and a fully loaded range of 1,800 nm. Targeted maximum useful load is 1,584 pounds. The G160’s fuselage is made of carbon-fiber composites.

The $2.56 million, pressurized G160 is targeted at the corporate market. Cockpit avionics currently include the Honeywell EFS 40 electronic flight instrument system, also in use on the G120 piston single and G140TP, but Grob-Werke plans to make the Honeywell Apex available in the G160 in 2006.

Grob-Werke showed the G160 Ranger for the first time publicly at ILA 2004 in Berlin. The company requires a deposit of about $24,000 to secure a delivery position, but has not yet announced the number of airplanes for which it holds orders.

Gulfstream Aerospace
–Gulfstream unveiled this derivative of the G100 (formerly the Astra SPX) at the 2002 NBAA Convention. At that time, the business jet was slated to fly this November, with certification in April next year and deliveries following in September. However, Gulfstream re-evaluated the project last year and decided to delay it by about 12 months. The current schedule calls for first flight next May, FAA certification in January 2006 and customer deliveries in August 2006.

At the 2002 NBAA Convention, fractional operator NetJets announced a firm order for 50 G150s and options for 50 more. The price is now $13.5 million, up from $11.5 million.

G350–Gulfstream Aerospace confirmed it was making a major adjustment to its business jet product line with the announcement at the Asian Aerospace show in February that it will build the $27.5 million G350, an aircraft designed to fill the niche left by the phasing out of the G300 and G400.

The flight deck features are remarkably similar to those in the long-range G450, including the PlaneView cockpit integrated avionics suite originally developed for the ultra-long-range G550. Available as options on the G350 are the visual guidance system head-up display by Honeywell, along with the Gulfstream/Kollsman enhanced vision system (EVS).

Thanks to a reduction in the amount of electronics storage space aft of the cockpit bulkhead, the G350 cabin is more than 40 feet long and can accommodate up to 16 passengers in three distinct seating areas. The typical cabin layout will have the galley and lavatory located in the rear of the airplane, but there are five optional floor plans, two with aft galley configurations and three with forward galley configurations. There is also an option for a forward lavatory and refreshment area for the flight crew.

Gulfstream expects FAA certification of the 3,800-nm G350 in the fourth quarter of this year and customer deliveries to begin in the third quarter of next year.

G450–Gulfstream’s $33.5 million G450, an upgraded G400 with G550 avionics, crossed the certification finish line on August 12. Customer deliveries of completed aircraft are slated to begin next spring. Gulfstream announced the new model, which like the G400 is a derivative of the GIV-SP, at last year’s NBAA Convention in Orlando, Fla. The model first flew on April 30 last year.

The Rolls-Royce Tay 611-8C-powered airplane boasts a 4,350-nm range, 476-knot high-speed cruise and a 73,900-pound mtow. The G450 can maintain a 6,000-foot cabin altitude at its 45,000-foot ceiling. This summer, the FAA approved a common pilot type rating for the G350, G450, G500, G550 and GV.

–Over the past few years Honda has been quietly developing a six- to eight-place very light twinjet. But it was a bit difficult to keep quiet its first flight on December 3 last year from Greensboro Airport, N.C. Since then, the Japanese industrial giant has again remained tight lipped about the progress of the test trials, though it recently presented a white paper at an aerospace engineering conference.

While Honda claims it has “no business plan” to manufacture the business jet, in February the company formed a partnership with GE to certify, produce and market the homegrown 1,670-pound-thrust HF118 turbofan that powers the HondaJet. In mid-July Honda officially formed an aerospace division.

What makes the HondaJet particularly unusual is not its creator but its over-the-wing engine configuration. With no carry-through structure needed in the aft fuselage for its engine pylons, this configuration allows a full-width cabin farther aft, maximizing interior dimensions. The fuselage is made of composite material, while the wings and empennage are aluminum.

Preliminary specifications include a 9,200-pound mtow, 420-knot cruise speed, 44,000-foot ceiling and an NBAA IFR range of 1,100 nm. Since Honda has not announced any production plans, no estimated price has been published.

Ibis Aerospace
Ae270 Spirit
–Certification by the Czech civil aviation authorities of the Ae270 turboprop single has slipped once again, from the second quarter to late this year. Expected to join ship number five in the flight-test program soon is aircraft number seven. Ship five, the first production-conforming Ae270, has been flying since February last year. Ship six, which Ibis displayed at last year’s NBAA Convention with a “green” interior, has an interior installed by Southstar Aircraft Interiors in Uvalde, Texas. That aircraft returned to Prague to be reconfigured to the latest production standards.

Under development since 1989 and announced by Aero Vodochody of the Czech Republic as the L-270 in 1990, the Ae270 was originally envisioned as a medium-range utility airplane in two versions: a Czech variant powered by a Walter M601E turboprop and a Western variant powered by a P&WC PT6A-42. First flight of the Czech version was planned for 1993, but development was slowed due to lack of funds. In 1997 Aero Vodochody and AIDC of China created Ibis Aerospace as a 50-50 joint venture to develop, manufacture and market the Ae270.

Rollout and first flight of Ae270 ship one, powered by a PT6A-42, took place in December 1999 and July 2000, respectively. At that time certification was expected in July 2001. In October 2000, Ibis announced the introduction of a high-performance version of the model, dubbed the Ae270HP, to be powered by a PT6-66A turboprop. At that time the company planned to offer three versions of the aircraft: the Ae270W (with the Walter engine); Ae270P (with the PT6-42); and Ae270HP (with the PT6-66A and pressurized).

But market demand later convinced Ibis to focus on the high-performance, PT6-66A-powered version, which the company now calls the Ae270 Propjet. Aircraft with executive interiors are branded the Ae270 Spirit. Of those aircraft in the order book, all will have executive interiors (two crew plus five cabin seats), except for two or three aircraft that are planned for commuter service (one pilot plus nine passengers, including one in the copilot seat).

The additional features of the executive version increased the airplane’s empty weight. To avoid reducing useful load, Ibis plans to announce shortly an increase in mtow from 8,360 pounds to 8,800 pounds. Maximum cruise speed will drop from slightly more than 270 knots to the previously published 270 knots. Takeoff and landing distances will increase by about 125 feet over previously published specifications, the company said.

Ibis expects to deliver 15 aircraft next year, 25 in 2006 and 35 in 2007. All deliveries are to Ibis distributors, with about seven aircraft already designated for end users, so a buyer could still get delivery of an aircraft next year. Base price for an Ae270 commuter is $2.195 million. A typically equipped executive Ae270 Spirit with weather radar, air conditioning and executive interior lists for just under $2.5 million.

National Aerospace Laboratories
–The first civil transport to be developed in India might be a 14-passenger twin-turboprop pusher designed for the business, regional and corporate shuttle markets, as well as for civil and military utility roles. The Saras, named after the Indian crane, is being developed by India’s National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL). Work on the aircraft started in 1991. A prototype made its first and second flights on May 29 and June 7, respectively, and entered flight testing on August 22.

Two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-66 turboprops turning five-blade pusher propellers are mounted on the aft fuselage. Preliminary performance specifications include an mtow of 13,450 pounds, cruise speed of 297 knots, max range of 800 nm, 14-passenger range of 215 nm, max endurance of six hours and a Part 25 takeoff distance of 1,968 feet.

Major risk-sharing financial partners in the Saras project include India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. NAL plans to obtain FAR Part 25 certification and begin deliveries in mid-2007 at the earliest.

Raytheon Aircraft
Hawker Horizon
–“We can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel for the Hawker Horizon,” according to Hawker president Brad Hatt. At press time, the four test Horizons had logged more than 1,400 hours. Hawker Horizon RC-4, the first to be outfitted with an interior, was expected to start 200 hours of function and reliability testing by the end of last month. This testing, along with natural icing tests, is expected to be completed before December, with certification and deliveries of two aircraft (S/N 004 and 005) planned by year-end.

Without doubt, the Horizon program is a long time coming–the aircraft was announced in 1996 and was originally expected to receive FAA certification in spring 2001. Hatt admitted this schedule was “too optimistic” given that Raytheon Aircraft had three new aircraft programs–the Premier I, Hawker Horizon and T-6A Texan II, with the first two being clean-sheet designs–on its plate. He said that the three programs taxed the resources at the company, and the company subsequently made mistakes. Further, Hatt said the Wichita manufacturer decided not to rush the Horizon program, so it could take its time to get the airplane right the first time.

Raytheon says it holds orders for more than 30 copies of the $18.4 million airplane, and Hatt noted there is considerable interest in the Horizon by several fractional firms. Preliminary performance specifications for the 37,500-pound-mtow, P&WC PW308A-powered twinjet include a 470-knot high-cruise speed, 3,366-nm NBAA IFR range (two crew and six passengers) and a 5,088-foot balanced field length.

Safire Aircraft
Safire Jet
–If a funding deal of more than $100 million from new investors doesn’t come through soon, development of the very light Safire Jet most likely won’t resume, at least under the current company. If a new funding deal does goes through, Safire Aircraft CEO Camilo Salomon said he would sit on the board of directors and would remain CEO of the company; however, the company would replace chairman Miguel de Miranda Correa. New stockholders would occupy four seats on the board, and someone currently employed by Safire would hold another seat. Only a handful of the 70 employees remain at the company, sans pay, since it was shut down on June 9. Salomon has denied persistent speculation that the company, which is some $13 million in the red, will file for bankruptcy protection.

Before it closed its doors, Safire was developing the Safire Jet, an all-aluminum twinjet that is designed to fly at 380 knots and offer an NBAA IFR range of 1,150 nm. Earlier this year, Safire expected to fly the Williams FJ33-4-powered very light jet last month, with certification pegged for mid-2006. Its most recent estimation for first flight is now next May, with certification following in December 2007. These dates depend on a swift turnaround in the company’s finances.

Safire planned to assemble the $1.495 million very light jet from subcontracted components at its headquarters at Opa Locka Airport near Miami. However, last month Safire was evicted from the building for failing to pay rent.

Safire’s earlier claims about its order book contrast starkly with the current total. Two years ago the company reported firm orders for more than 700 aircraft; last year the number was more than 600; this year it’s down to 31 aircraft. Preliminary specifications include an mtow of 6,250 pounds, 41,000-foot ceiling and 380-knot cruise speed.

Sino Swearingen
–After more than 60 hours of high-speed flight testing at Mojave, Calif., in August, the Sino Swearingen SJ30-2 completed this important phase of testing. The tests covered 331 data points at three altitudes–18,000 feet, 28,000 feet and 41,000 feet. During dive testing from 45,000 feet to 41,000 feet, the airplane (S/N 004) reached a maximum airspeed of Mach 0.90, which was required to confirm the SJ30-2’s Mmo of Mach 0.83). The tests were done with normal and aft c.g. configurations and with the yaw damper turned on and off.

A company official said FAA Part 23 certification of the Williams FJ44-2A-powered light jet, which has been delayed several times in the past, is still planned for the third quarter of next year. Two FAA-conforming SJ30-2 airplanes are in flight testing, often seven days a week, said the spokesman. S/N 003, the systems test aircraft, is used for pressurization, electrical, hydraulic and bleed air testing. S/N 004 is the aerodynamics and performance test aircraft. The company is seeking single-pilot certification.

Preliminary performance figures for the $5.495 million twinjet include a 3,518-foot balanced field length, 485-knot high-speed cruise and 2,500-nm NBAA IFR range with one pilot and three passengers. The company declined to discuss its order book.

Meanwhile, the NTSB has not yet released the final report of the April 26, 2003, fatal accident of the first SJ30-2 pre-production prototype (S/N 002) that killed company chief test pilot Carroll Beeler. S/N 002 crashed after entering an uncommanded right roll during flutter testing at Mach 0.884.

–Accommodating the requests of potential customers, Vulcanair of Italy decided in January to make a number of design changes to the fuselage of its 11-passenger VF600W Mission turboprop single. These changes, which are now being incorporated into the second prototype, include adding a pilot door on the right side (at the request of floatplane operators who want cockpit access on both sides), adding a door for passengers on the right side opposite the cargo door and increasing the size of said cargo door. As a result, planned EASA certification of the VF600W has moved from the second quarter of this year to March of next year. Remo De Feo, president of the company’s Manassas, Va.-based U.S. distributor, expects the airplane will obtain “concurrent” FAA approval within a month or two of EASA certification, depending on how long it takes the FAA to approve the paperwork.

The number-one prototype, which first flew on Dec. 6, 2002, accumulated about 88 flight hours before the company grounded it in June because the airplane had accomplished all it could in its present configuration, and so engineers could begin modifying the fuselage. Meanwhile, Vulcanair is building two new conforming fuselages, one for prototype number two and the second for static testing on the ground. First flight of the number-two aircraft is expected this month.

The price of the 777-shp Walter M601F-11-powered Vulcanair remains at $1.2 million. De Feo said the company has received much interest in the airplane, but does not plan to accept orders until February. Vulcanair derived the Mission from its SF600A Canguro, a Stelio Frati design powered by two Rolls-Royce 250 turboprops. The VF600W is targeted at the corporate, commercial transport, law enforcement and homeland security markets.