According to a statement by Raytheon Aircraft chairman and CEO Jim Schuster last month, certification of the super-midsize Hawker Horizon is still expected for late this year, but “our main focus is not so much the certification milestone, but to assure that we introduce a reliable, producible aircraft that meets or exceeds all of our customer expectations. We are on track for our 2004 deliveries, which is the key goal for the program.” However, according to Raytheon Company’s annual 10-K report with the Security Exchange Commission, which was filed in March, certification may extend to the “first half of 2004.”
When it introduced the Horizon at the 1996 NBAA Convention, the company estimated first flight in the fourth quarter of 1999 and certification in the first quarter of 2001. Actual first flight took place in August 2001. To be fair, a good number of other business aircraft designs in development about that time have also failed to meet their proposed certification milestones–or have even been mothballed–including the AASI Jetcruzer 500, Bell Boeing (now Agusta) 609, Century Jet, CMC Leopard (now Leopard 6), three Contender Aircraft models, Israviation ST-50, Sino Swearingen SJ30-2, Soloy Pathfinder 21, Star*Kraft 700 and VisionAire Vantage. So the fact that the Horizon is still alive at all is no small accomplishment.
Recent Horizon accomplishments include a 7.6-hour flight in April (said to be the longest test flight in Beechcraft and Hawker history) by aircraft RC-3 to validate performance predictions, evaluate extended system operation and check navigation, communication and autopilot equipment. A few days later the three flight-test airplanes flew seven sorties in one day, clocking a total of 11.2 hours. Total sorties and flight time as of last month stood at 314 flights and 440 hours. Testing has shown better-than-expected climb performance from sea level to 37,000 feet by two minutes (13 versus 15 minutes) and a 162-foot shorter takeoff field length at mtow and ISA conditions, 5,088 feet versus the guaranteed 5,250 feet.
Raytheon Aircraft reports holding orders and options for more than 130 Horizons, but in its 10-K report Raytheon Co. noted that a $900 million order for the model was expected to be “restructured or canceled” because of “developmental and certification delays,” as well as current market conditions. That customer is NetJets, which in June 1999 placed a firm order for 50 Horizons, with options for 50 more, for a total value of $2 billion.
Meanwhile, Raytheon Aircraft has put the super-midsize Hawker 450 on the backburner because the current economy has made it “cost prohibitive.” But officials say it could be revived when the economy improves.