Several OEMs announce upgrades at NBAA show

 - December 14, 2007, 7:26 AM

While no manufacturers actually launched new aircraft at the NBAA Convention last month, several did commit to major improvements for their existing products. Notably, Cessna, Piaggio and Bombardier announced extensive upgrades–involving newer or more powerful engines, avionics and/or interior makeovers–for their CJ1 and CJ2, Avanti and Learjet 40 business airplanes, respectively.

Citation CJ1+ and CJ2+
Cessna said it is upgrading the Citation CJ1 and CJ2 to “plus” models in a bid to add more value to the entry-level aircraft. To be known as the CJ1+ and CJ2+, the improved twinjets will incorporate many of the refinements built into the recently certified CJ3, including the larger sibling’s more feature-laden version of the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 integrated avionics system, in addition to other improvements.
The $4.095 million CJ1+ and $5.525 million CJ2+ are block point changes starting with S/Ns 525-0600 and 525A-0300, respectively. These prices compare with a similarly equipped CJ1 at $4.144 million and CJ2 at $5.644 million.

The CJ1+ first flew on October 8, and certification is slated for next summer, followed by first deliveries late next year. The CJ2+ is expected to receive FAA approval next fall, with deliveries following in early 2006.

Since Pro Line 21 was designed to evolve over time, the avionics system in the CJ1 and CJ2–both of which were launched at NBAA 1998–didn’t have all of the features found in the CJ3, which was launched two years ago. Cessna is therefore adopting the CJ3’s Pro Line 21 suite in the upgraded smaller siblings.

The latest version of Pro Line 21 includes an integrated file information server; communications, navigation and surveillance systems (CNS) that support data communications; an FMS-3000 flight management system; a digital-quartz sensor AHS-3000 attitude heading reference system; broadcast graphical weather capability; and enhanced map overlays, among other features.

Other standard avionics in the CJ1+ and CJ2+ will include L-3’s Skywatch TCAS I and LandMark 8100 Class B TAWS. Optional flight-deck features include electronic charts and graphical weather service provided by Universal Weather & Aviation.

On the inside, the CJ2+ will look much like the CJ2, though the CJ1+ will get an interior makeover. In the cabin, the CJ1+ will sport LED lighting, updated cabin seats, modern cabinetry styling, more refined cabin overhead and new manual window shades. The CJ1’s front office shares the CJ3’s cockpit overhead and window trim, monorail sun visor and center-post assist handle.

Both of the new variants will have upgraded Williams FJ44 engines, each equipped with a Goodrich FADEC unlike their predecessors. The new 1,941-pound-thrust FJ44-1AP turbofan on the CJ1+, which replaces the -1A engine on the
CJ1, has a new fan and lighter interstage housing, and it borrows the
FJ44-3A’s high-pressure compressor, low- and high-pressure turbines and forced mixer.

On the CJ2+, the Williams FJ44-3A-24 offers better hot-and-high performance and improved efficiency over the original CJ2’s 2,400-pound- thrust FJ44-2C turbofan. The -24 variant is a derated, 2,400-pound-thrust version of the engine recently certified on the CJ3.

Absent on both the CJ1+ and CJ2+ are the thrust attenuators found on their respective predecessors. Other external improvements include wheel fairings on the CJ1+ and beefier brakes on the CJ2+.

The new FJ44-1AP engines increase the performance of the CJ1+. According to Cessna, the new variant will cruise at a slightly higher speed, require 3,200 feet of runway to take off (versus 3,280 feet in the CJ1) and eliminate the need to step climb to the aircraft’s 41,000-foot ceiling, in effect halving the CJ1’s 59-minute time to climb to this altitude.

Weight-wise, both of the upgraded twinjets have a higher mtow and full-fuel payloads than their predecessors. The CJ1+ boasts an mtow of 10,700 pounds and a full-fuel payload of 690 pounds, versus 10,600 pounds and 610 pounds in the CJ1. Mtow of the CJ2+ is 12,500 pounds and full-fuel payload is 800 pounds, compared with 12,375 pounds and 770 pounds in the CJ2.

Learjet Adds XR Rating to Model 40
Bombardier last month introduced the Learjet 40XR, a more powerful derivative of the Model 40 that is scheduled to enter service in 2006. It will have improved hot-and-high and time-to-climb performance and reduced flight time en route. For example, Bombardier said, taking off from Jackson Hole, Wyo., at 28 degrees C, carrying six passengers and full fuel, the Learjet 40XR will be able to fly 936 nm farther than the Learjet 40. The 40XR will also require just 23 minutes to reach FL430 after takeoff from a hot-and-high airfield, according to the Wichita-based manufacturer.

Bombardier accomplished these improvements by powering the Learjet 40XR with the Honeywell TFE731-20-BR, the same turbofan that has been in service on the Learjet 45XR light business jet since June. At $8.2 million, the Learjet 40XR will cost $400,000 more than a comparably equipped Learjet 40, which will remain in production. Learjet 40 operators will be able to upgrade to the XR through engine and airframe Service Bulletins available late next year.

Piaggio Avanti II
After nearly two decades of service, business aviation’s fastest turboprop twin, the Piaggio Aero Avanti, is getting a front-to-back upgrade that includes new Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics, better performance and fresh cabin amenities. First deliveries of the $5.97 million upgraded airplane, dubbed the Avanti II, are scheduled for late next year.

New features in the Avanti II include three 10- by 8-inch LCD flight displays, FMS 3000 flight management system, AJS 3000 attitude heading reference and 4000A GPS. The electronic standby instrument system is the GH-3100 from L-3 Avionics Systems of Grand Rapids, Mich. Optional L-3 equipment on the Avanti II will include Skywatch HP traffic avoidance system and LandMark terrain awareness system.

Also part of the Avanti II program is an upgrade on the current PT6A-66 turboprops. The new -66Bs are expected to add “12 knots or more” to the current long-range cruise speed of 368 knots at altitudes above 35,000 feet, and the Mmo will increase from Mach 0.68 to Mach 0.70. The upgrade will raise engine temperature limits to permit higher rpms and subsequently better climb performance.

The new engines will not be available until 2006, but will be a no-cost retrofit item for any Avanti IIs delivered before the engine availability date. According to COO and v-p of marketing Jim Holcombe, the engine upgrade will also be a retrofit item for older Avantis.

The Avanti II will introduce a higher zero fuel weight of 9,800 pounds (versus 9,500 pounds), and the mtow goes up by 500 pounds to 12,050 pounds. Piaggio also expects to cut empty weight by an as yet unspecified amount. The increase in useful load will translate to one or two more passengers on long-range flights, according to Piaggio.

Standard in the Avanti II will be a number of cabin-amenity upgrades. The most visible will be a new lavatory/vanity upgrade from Piaggio’s interiors provider, Stevens Aviation of Greenville, S.C. The upgrade is approximately four inches wider and 30 pounds lighter and has two more cubic feet of storage space. There is a five-inch expansion of the closet opening, and a split headliner will allow for easy removal, maintenance and retrofit. It is also available as a retrofit item on earlier Avantis.

Inside the cabin, the Avanti II will offer an optional in-flight entertainment system with DVD and CD players, satellite radio and moving-map displays, all part of a Stevens-developed package. Piaggio said it has also adopted a continuous improvement program that will deliver additional upgrades in the 2007 timeframe as retrofit items.

Gordon Gilbert and Kirby J. Harrison contributed to this report.