With introduction of Premier II, Hawker Beech boosts range, speed

 - May 28, 2008, 7:11 AM

Hawker Beechcraft launched the Premier II update to the single-pilot Premier I on May 19 on the eve of the EBACE show in Geneva. The Premier II climbs to altitude more quickly, flies farther and carries a greater load than the airplane it replaces.

“It’s been a long time anticipated by a lot of our customers,” said Brad Hatt, president for commercial aircraft. “It addresses the primary shortcoming of the Premier I, and that is range, and at the same time we enhance the performance of the airplane considerably.”

The upgrade of the Premier combines new engines, winglets and an increased max weight to deliver a 300-nm, 20-percent increase in range, a new maximum altitude of 45,000 feet and a 15-knot increase in maximum cruise speed to 465 knots.

The new 3,050-pound-thrust Williams International FJ44-3APs replace the Premier I/IA’s FJ44-2As, which each provide 2,300 pounds of thrust and have a 3,500-hour TBO. The 4,000-hour-TBO FJ44-3APs are fully fadec controlled, an upgrade from the -2A’s hydromechanical controls. The blended winglets are entirely new and designed by Hawker Beechcraft engineers, who also added larger splayed ventral fins to the aft lower fuselage, replacing the single smaller ventral fin on the Premier I. The ventral fins add lateral stability at low speeds.

The performance improvements are achieved without adding any fuel capacity to the Premier airframe, which retains the composite fuselage and empennage and metal wings. The Premier II maximum takeoff weight has been increased to 13,800 pounds, up from the Premier I’s 12,500 pounds. This required certification under commuter category regulations, but the Premier II remains a single-pilot airplane.

At the new 45,000-foot maximum altitude, cabin altitude is still 8,000 feet. The pressurization differential on the Premier II is boosted to 9.0 psi, up from 8.4 on the Premier I. The Premier II can maintain a sea-level cabin altitude to 24,000 feet, up from 21,400 feet on the Premier I.

The range increase is a function of the more powerful engines’ ability to propel the Premier II directly to 45,000 feet, where the new engines are more efficient. The Premier II can fly four passengers with full fuel for 1,500 nm (NBAA IFR, 100-nm alternate), 350 nm farther than the Premier I with the same payload. Taking off from a 3,500-foot runway, the Premier II can fly 355 nm farther at maximum cruise speed.

Of the 1,300-pound increase in the Premier II’s maximum takeoff weight, 770 pounds are from modifications, giving the new airplane 530 pounds more payload than its predecessor. Maximum landing weight and zero fuel weight increase
by 1,000 pounds, to 12,600 and 11,000 pounds, respectively. Basic empty weight for the Premier II is 9,120 pounds, maximum payload 1,680 pounds and useful load 4,580 pounds.

More than 230 Premier I/IAs have been delivered thus far. Hawker Beechcraft will continue to produce the Premier I/IA after the Premier II receives FAA certification and enters service in the second quarter of 2010. The Premier II is priced at $7.365 million (2010 $) versus $6.25 million (2008 $) for the Premier I. Hawker Beechcraft already has orders for 40 Premier IIs, evenly split between the U.S. and European markets, and options for another 70.

Hawker Beechcraft doesn’t expect the Premier II to cannibalize the Hawker 400XP market, even though the performance of the two airplanes is similar. The Premier II is a Part 23 single-pilot airplane, Hatt said, and the two-pilot 400XP is certified under Part 25. “It’s really still a separate market segment,” he said, with larger corporate flight departments opting for the 400XP and owner-pilots and small corporations choosing the Premier II. “A lot will be move-up customers,” he added.

The Premier II is an example of similar moves that might be expected from Hawker Beechcraft. “We’re constantly looking at the entire product line,” Hatt said, “and continuing derivative product enhancement. That’s what our plan is for the next few years. We’ll also look at market segments that we don’t address and see if we can stretch or compress or come up with another clean-sheet design, but that’s obviously a longer and more expensive task. This is just the second airplane in the Premier family.”