Hawker Horizon earns provisional FAA approval

 - January 30, 2007, 3:35 AM

While the Raytheon Hawker Horizon was one of the first to blaze the super-midsize business jet trail when it was launched at the 1996 NBAA Convention in Orlando, Fla., it became the last of the new breed to be certified. The airplane gained provisional FAA approval just two days before Christmas, almost four years after the originally expected spring 2001 approval.

Hawker president Bratt Hatt said remaining certification items for the new Horizon twinjet include flight into known icing conditions, thrust reversers and systems integration (described as “Honeywell software issues” for the Primus Epic integrated flight deck). Raytheon expects to complete these items by the second quarter, though full certification won’t be granted until the end of June, when Horizon RC-4 finishes its function and reliability testing.

When the Horizon first flew in August 2001 (some two years later than planned), Raytheon Aircraft told AIN that customers held firm orders for about 150 of the 3,100-nm super-midsize jets, 100 of which were for fractional provider NetJets. But the backlog dwindled as customers became impatient with the Horizon program’s recurring delays, and in March 2003 NetJets finally canceled its bulk order, leaving the backlog at “more than 30 aircraft,” where it has remained since.

Hatt said Raytheon is taking a go-slow approach to ensure a smooth introduction into service for the $18.45 million business jet. He said this measured pace stems mainly from lessons the manufacturer learned during introduction of the Premier I, namely, “You don’t want to be building aircraft until you receive full certification, since it’s both costly and time-consuming to modify built aircraft.” Another factor in the equation is that the Horizon is a brand-new airplane, and Raytheon wants to ensure excellent operational reliability and quality, not to mention that it takes time to actually ramp up aircraft production.

As such, the company will deliver only three Horizons this year, six next year and then increase to about 25 aircraft per year thereafter. In fact, the first of the super-midsize jets–RC-5, a leaseback demonstrator– was accepted by Wichita businessman Jack DeBoer on December 23.

According to Hatt, this demonstrator is now being outfitted with an interior, which is expected to be done by early next month. Following this, the Horizon will go on a U.S. tour before crossing the pond to attend EBACE in May. After EBACE, Hatt said, the demonstrator will likely tour the Old World before participating in the Paris Air Show in June.