Nextant selects Rockwell Collins Venue cabin system for 400Next

 - February 22, 2010, 8:19 AM

Nextant Aerospace has selected the Rockwell Collins Venue cabin management system for the interior of the Beechjet 400Next as part of a retrofit package that brings high-definition video screens, Blu-ray disc players, iPod docking stations and more to the passenger compartment of the original Beech 400A/XP.

The agreement announced in late January between Nextant and Rockwell Collins initially includes 30 Venue systems. It marks the first aftermarket sale for Venue, according to Rockwell Collins. The Beechjet 400Next package involves a major retrofit of the Beechjet 400, including a new Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 cockpit and, coming soon, Williams International FJ44-3AP engines, which will improve efficiency and are fully compatible with Stage 4 noise rules.

Venue for the Nextant Beechjet includes dual-channel Iridium satellite phones, Internet connection, cabin Wi-Fi, high-definition Blu-ray video and LED lighting throughout. The baseline BeechJet 400A retrofit includes two 10.6-inch arm-mounted HD displays; media center device with integrated Blu-ray disc player and HD Airshow 3-D moving map; two Apple iPod docking stations; and seven passenger-programmable switch panels. Nextant delivered the first Beechjet 400Next upgraded with the Venue cabin equipment last month.

Nextant Aerospace certified the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 flight deck in the Beechjet 400A/XP last fall. The $390,000 cockpit retrofit consists of two large LCD primary flight displays and one large LCD multifunction display. An additional second MFD can be installed for about $50,000. According to Nextant CEO Kenn Ricci, the company has received orders for installation of the Pro Line 21 upgrade in five aircraft. Installation of the cockpit equipment takes three to four weeks.

Nextant, based in Richmond Heights, Ohio, is also working on certification to install Williams FJ44-3AP engines in the Beechjet 400 to replace the airplane’s original Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D engines. According to Nextant, the engine retrofit will increase range by more than 50 percent, to more than 2,000 nm, reduce operating cost per mile by 30 percent and provide a 35-percent improvement in fuel efficiency.

Rather than offering a traditional conversion program, Nextant’s goal is to acquire and completely remanufacture the Beechjets on its own. A fully refurbished Beechjet 400Next will include the Pro Line 21 flight deck, the new engines, aerodynamic improvements, air-conditioning and the Venue cabin equipment.

“We’re taking the OEM model,” Ricci said. “We will offer a warranty, pilot training and factory support, and will accept conversions, but only when they fit in with the production process.”

The company plans to remanufacture a minimum of 48 of the 400-series Beechjets still flying. Two have been acquired thus far and the company entered negotiations to buy another five. The remanufactured aircraft are priced at $3.9 million, Nextant said, and orders for more than 15 aircraft have been received thus far. “It will outperform a Beechjet 400XP at half the price,” Ricci claimed.

Deliveries of fully reconfigured airplanes are expected to begin in the first quarter of next year.