Cirrus Aircraft has weathered the recession by embarking on a stringent efficiency improvement program that is helping the company survive in the brutally challenging piston single-engine marketplace. While Cirrus sales are relatively strong, they would have to be substantially higher to provide sufficient excess cash to pay for the expense of bringing the single-engine Vision jet to market, and Cirrus needs millions more dollars to reach FAA certification.
Meanwhile, the Vision jet design has progressed, with about 25 percent of the detail design work accomplished. Cirrus is seeking outside funding to see the jet program through to certification and production for the 430 aircraft in the Vision order backlog and is projecting certification of the Vision jet in 2012 or 2013, depending how quickly the funding comes through. The $1.72 million (2009 $) Vision jet is powered by a Williams International FJ33-5A and will cruise at 300 knots at a maximum altitude of 25,000 feet. Maximum range will be 1,100 nm with 400 pounds of payload. The Vision jet will seat five, with space for two additional seats.
Diamond Aircraft’s D-Jet remains the front-runner in the single-engine jet race, but problems with the company’s diesel-powered airplanes appear to have drawn resources away from the D-Jet program. The D-Jet was originally scheduled for certification last year, but Diamond delayed the program for a year after opting to certify the jet with a Williams International FJ33-5A turbofan, more powerful than the engine originally planned. More recently Diamond pushed the D-Jet certification to the end of next year, which still keeps Diamond at the front of the single-engine jet certification race. The $1.89 million (2009 $) D-Jet seats five and will fly to 25,000 feet with a maximum cruise speed of 315 knots and maximum range of 1,350 nm.
Piper Aircraft PiperJet
Piper Aircraft has taken a different approach to the single-engine jet arena with a much larger jet that will seat six (with an optional seventh seat) and a significantly higher performance target. The PiperJet’s engine is the Williams International FJ44-3AP. While progress on the PiperJet seemed to have slowed during the recession, Piper says its new owner, the Brunei- and Singapore-based investment firm Imprimis, has firmly backed the PiperJet.
Construction of the first conforming PiperJet is under way and first flight is expected next year. Certification and entry into service are planned for mid-2013. Price is $2.199 million (2009 $). Guaranteed performance specifications include 360-knot maximum cruise speed, full-fuel payload of 800 pounds and 1,300-nm maximum range.
Stratos Aircraft is aiming for high performance by using a smaller airframe (with seating for just four people) powered by a large engine, the 3,030-pound-thrust Williams International FJ44-3AP. Performance goals include a 415-knot maximum cruise speed, 1,500 nm range and 41,000-foot maximum altitude, all for a $2 million price tag.
The Stratos program is still at the early stages and needs a significant infusion of funding to reach the prototype construction phase and achieve certification. Interest in the Stratos 714 remains high, according to chief technology officer and vice president of engineering Carsten Sundin, and the company has completed the baseline design, including computational fluid dynamics analysis of airfoils and systems design and structures analysis.
Stratos is funded to continue at its current pace, but needs new financing to build a prototype. Once that funding is in place, the prototype should fly in about 15 months, according to Sundin.
Honda Aircraft HondaJet
Honda Aircraft won’t be able to bring its first conforming prototype HondaJet to NBAA this year as the airplane is expected to make its first flight soon. That airplane was supposed to fly earlier this year, but Honda Aircraft added another delay in the program and now doesn’t expect certification until the second half of next year, with first deliveries in the first quarter of 2012. Price of the HondaJet is now $4.5 million, including Garmin G3000 avionics.
The conforming prototype HondaJet was powered on and completed power-on tests in July. A static-test article equipped with more than 1,800 strain gauges has been assembled at Honda Aircraft’s Greensboro, N.C. R&D facility, and sub-component and control-surface stress testing is complete. Honda Aircraft is manufacturing the metal wings for the conforming prototype itself; these had been contracted to Avcorp of British Columbia. The HondaJet’s fuselage is composite and the engines are mounted in a unique overwing configuration that yields higher aerodynamic efficiency while freeing up fuselage space for passengers and baggage, according to the manufacturer. HondaJets will be produced at a 250,000-sq-ft factory under construction in Greensboro and due for completion early next year.
The HondaJet’s GE Honda Aero Engines HF120 turbofan is slated to achieve certification in the second half of next year, according to company president Bill Dwyer. The first HF120 was used for altitude tank testing and pushed to extremes of internal temperature, pressure, heat, cold, transients and 300 air starts. “We exercised the design to beyond the envelope and technical requirements,” he said. The engine is meeting thrust and specific fuel consumption targets, he added.
Flight testing of the HF120 on the GE Honda CJ1 is expected soon or might have already begun by the time this issue is printed. Some of the tests that were planned for the flying testbed were shifted to the altitude chamber, Dwyer said, “because of some program decisions we made.” Flight testing will be done from GE Honda Aero’s facilities in Burlington, N.C., where engines will eventually be assembled. Early engines are being built at GE’s Lynn, Mass. factory.
So far, five HF120s and one core engine have been run and seven engines are under assembly and slated for flight testing and certification. Several of these will be delivered as certified engines. “Every day a lot of people are working around the clock getting the work done,” he said. “This is the fun part of the program.”
Hawker Beechcraft Hawker 450XP
The Hawker 450XP program remains something of a mystery, with Hawker Beechcraft declining to comment on the jet’s current status. The 450XP program was announced at the 2008 NBAA Convention as a long-overdue upgrade of the Hawker 400XP.
The major change is replacement of the original Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D engines with Fadec-controlled PW535Ds. Both are rated at 2,695 pounds thrust, but the PW535D is flat-rated to ISA + 20 degrees C versus ISA + 12 for the JT15D. With the new engines, the 450XP could fly 235 nm farther carrying four passengers from sea level on a 95-degree F day or 630 nm farther from a 5,600-foot-high airport. Climb to FL370 would be four minutes faster, long-range cruise seven knots quicker (421 knots) and mtow 350 pounds higher (allowing 350 pounds additional fuel load with max payload). Price of the 450XP was set at $7.596 million (2010 $), equipped with Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics, and deliveries were to begin this year.
Hawker Beechcraft Premier II
Last August, Hawker Beechcraft announced a delay in the Premier II program. The upgrade to the Premier IA was launched at the 2008 Ebace show, at which time entry into service was scheduled for the second quarter of this year. Now deliveries are not planned until the end of 2012 or early 2013. A Premier IA first flew with 3,050-pound-thrust Williams International FJ44-3AP engines more than a year ago. The new Fadec-controlled engines replace the original hydromechanically controlled 2,300-pound-thrust FJ44-2As. Other changes include larger splayed ventral fins on the aft lower fuselage for added lateral stability at low speeds.
The engine upgrade delivers performance improvements without adding fuel, including 45,000-foot maximum altitude with 8,000-foot cabin (thanks to a higher 9.0-psi pressurization differential); a 350-nm range increase (four passengers with full fuel, NBAA IFR reserves, 100-nm alternate); 530 pounds more payload; and 15-knot increase in maximum cruise speed to 465 knots. The Premier II mtow is 13,800 pounds, up from the Premier IA’s 12,500 pounds and necessitating certification in the commuter category. The Premier II will remain a single-pilot jet. Price of the Premier II is $7.365 million (2010 $).
Embraer Phenom 300
On schedule, Embraer certified and began deliveries of the $8.14 million (2010 $) Phenom 300 last year. The company has orders for about 800 Phenom 100s and 300s, with two-thirds of those expected to be the 100 model and one-third 300s. One Phenom 300 was delivered last year to Executive Flight Services (a subsidiary of Executive AirShare) and through the second quarter of this year another five were delivered.
The Pratt & Whitney Canada PW535-powered Phenom 300’s performance turned out better than projected, with NBAA IFR range growing to 1,971 nm from 1,800 nm (with six occupants) and both takeoff and landing distance shorter and fuel consumption lower than expected.
Piaggio Aero P1XX
Piaggio Aero, with the backing of new shareholders Tata and Mubadala, is actively working on the design of a new jet, tentatively called the P1XX. John Bingham, president and CEO of Piaggio America and chief marketing officer for Piaggio Aero, told AIN that the P1XX is not simply the company’s Avanti with jet engines in place of turboprops but an entirely new design. A launch date for the P1XX program has not been announced. Bingham said in late July that the company is planning further announcements about the P1XX, but he wouldn’t say when these will take place. So far, he has revealed that a dedicated team is working on the P1XX program, and the jet design is well beyond the preliminary concept stage.
Another company with a nascent jet design is Daher-Socata, which recently hired back Stéphane Mayer as CEO. Mayer was chairman and CEO of EADS Socata from 2003 to 2007, and Daher bought the Socata division in 2008. One of Mayer’s jobs as Daher-Socata CEO is to continue development of the eight- to 10-seat NTx jet.
Cessna Citation CJ4
Like clockwork, another Cessna Citation model entered service this year, the latest in the line of CitationJets. The CJ4 received FAA certification on March 12 and first delivery was on April 15. With last year’s cancelation of the large-cabin Columbus, for the first time in many years Cessna has no new models on the horizon, unless the company makes a surprise announcement at this month’s NBAA Convention. Scott Donnelly, CEO of Cessna parent Textron, did hint at possible new developments in late July, saying that research and development spending at Cessna and sister company Bell Helicopter will rise as the economy improves, with new models and upgrades to existing aircraft expected as soon as 2012.
The $9 million (2010 $) CJ4 retains the CitationJet line’s single-pilot capability, but adds 300 pounds to the CJ3’s maximum payload, for a payload of 2,100 pounds and full-fuel payload of 1,000 pounds. The CJ4 fuselage is three feet longer than the CJ3’s and features the larger door from the Mustang. A moderately swept wing and more powerful Fadec-controlled 3,400-pound-thrust Williams International FJ44-4A engines help the jet climb directly to 45,000 feet in 28 minutes, cruise at 453 knots and fly for 2,002 nm with two crew and five passengers. Equipment includes Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics and Venue cabin management system.
Spectrum Aeronautical S.40 Freedom
Spectrum’s Freedom is the launch customer for the GE Honda Aero Engines HF120 turbofan, but it appears that the S.40 and the S.33 Independence programs have stalled due to the recession and tough business jet marketplace. The two jets feature a lightweight composite construction process called fibeX that is supposed to allow for an airframe weight half that of a conventional aluminum airframe and therefore deliver spectacular performance. Last year Spectrum completed the first “fuselage manufacturing demonstrator” test article for use in validating the production process. The goal was to fly the S.40 this year and the S.33 a year later.
Specifications of the S.40 include cruise speed 440 knots, IFR range 2,250 nm and seating for seven to nine passengers, all at the low mtow of 9,550 pounds.
More recently, according to Spectrum president Austin Blue, the company has slowed development of the S.40 and S.33 due to resource constraints. “We have had to decelerate the programs considerably, due primarily to our desire to pace the program optimally with the resources available,” he told AIN. “This has meant layoffs for those involved in both programs, though we have maintained a team that is actively working on continuing the development. For a while now that focus has been on the core composites technologies, which look excellent. We have attracted significant interest and customers,” said Blue. “We are confident that our combination of the right composites structural approaches, next-generation automated manufacture and the winning designs we have will be successful. We dearly wish that we were able to accelerate their introduction, but for now we are moving ahead the best we can in a difficult environment.”
Embraer Legacy 450 and 500
Embraer is one of the few manufacturers moving ahead with new aircraft programs, and the “midlight” Legacy 450 and midsize 500 are leapfrogging the competition in the application of modern technology to business jets. Both the 450 and 500, made with the same-diameter flat-floor fuselage and the same wings and empennage and powered by Honeywell HTF7500E engines, feature fly-by-wire envelope-protected flight control systems, the Rockwell Collins Fusion avionics suite and Honeywell’s Ovation Select cabin connection system.
The 12-passenger Legacy 500 will fly first next year and gain certification in 2012, followed by first flight of the Legacy 450 in 2012 and certification in 2013. Besides the six-foot difference in the length of the cabin, the major difference between the two jets is range. The $15.3 million Legacy 450 will fly 2,300 nm with four passengers while the $18.4 million Legacy 500 will fly 3,000 nm with the same number of passengers (with NBAA IFR reserves).
Bombardier Learjet 85
The unique nature of Bombardier’s Learjet 85 is not just that its airframe is made almost entirely of composite materials but that it will be the first composite business jet certified to FAA Part 25 regulations (Boeing’s 787 should be the first composite Part 25 airplane to be certified). The structure for the $17.2 million Learjet 85 will be manufactured by the company’s Queretaro, Mexico, division and the jet will be assembled in Wichita, where Bombardier plans to invest a total of $600 million in the program.
The first manufacturing validation unit for the Learjet 85’s pressure vessel was completed in July and was built on production tooling. Production for the first flight-test jet begins later this year, and first flight of the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW307B-powered Learjet 85 should take place next year,
although Bombardier has not revealed this timeline specifically. Entry into service is planned for 2013.
Learjet 85 avionics are the Rockwell Collins Pro Line
Fusion suite. Besides lower maintenance costs, advantages of the composite airframe include the ability to use larger passenger windows (measuring 12 by 16 inches) and a more spacious interior offering 665 cu ft of passenger space and 130 cu ft for luggage as well as a full galley and aft lavatory. Range target carrying four passengers at the Mach .78 long-range cruise speed is 3,000 nm.
Dassault Falcon SMS
Dassault has not revealed any details of its so-called SMS jet. While it was originally supposed to be powered by the 10,000-pound-thrust class Rolls-Royce RB282, those plans have been dropped and no new information has been released. The SMS is expected to use the same fly-by-wire system as the Falcon 7X. The use of the 10,000-pound-thrust engines may signal Dassault’s plans to enter the high-speed long-range market, but we’ll have to wait and see if and when the company decides to make a formal announcement.
The super-midsize G250 test program had logged more than 300 hours and 96 flights as of late August, according to Gulfstream. The third and final G250 made its first flight on June 28 from Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, Israel. This airframe is being used for function-and-reliability testing.
Gulfstream is working with Rockwell Collins to adapt the avionics manufacturer’s Pro Line Fusion system for the G250’s PlaneView250 avionics suite. The G250 is powered by 7,445-pound-thrust Honeywell HTF7250G turbofans and will fly 3,400 nm at Mach .80 with four passengers (NBAA IFR reserves). Total cabin volume is 935 cu ft and baggage capacity 154 cu ft (interior and exterior), and the G250 offers a full galley and aft lavatory with wardrobe closet, two large windows and a vacuum toilet. At maximum cruise altitude of 45,000 feet, cabin altitude is 7,000 feet.
Dassault Falcon 900LX
Dassault Falcon’s newest model, the 900LX, received FAA and EASA certification in July. Equipped with Aviation Partners blended winglets, the 900LX can fly 4,750 nm, nearly 300 nm farther than its predecessor. Dassault engineers flew 215 hours in two 900LXs since flight testing began a year ago. The avionics suite is Dassault Falcon’s EASy system, based on Honeywell’s Primus Epic system with synthetic vision, runway awareness system, XM weather and electronic approach and en route charts.
Embraer Legacy 650
Embraer’s Legacy 650 should be certified and enter service shortly. The first public appearance of the new 650 was at the Labace show in Brazil in
August. An upgrade of the Legacy 600, the 650 features a reinforced landing gear and a new wing design with an additional 381-gallon fuel tank in the wing box, boosting range 500 miles, to 3,900 nm with four passengers. Also new are Rolls-Royce AE3007A2 engines, with 210 more pounds of thrust than the Legacy 600’s AE3007A1Es.
Gulfstream’s large-cabin G650 (S/N 6001) reached Mach .995 during flutter testing on August 12 and the four airplanes in flight test had logged more than 575 hours and 170 flights by late August. Gulfstream may have a G650 at the NBAA Convention static display, but that will depend on flight-test program scheduling, according to a spokesman.
The fifth and final G650 had completed initial phase manufacturing by the end of August and began engine testing. In preparation for certification next year and entry into service in early 2012, Gulfstream will fly the five flight-test G650s for a total of 1,800 hours. S/N 6002 has completed temperature testing at the McKinley Climatic Lab at Eglin AFB in Florida and is now involved in performance testing. S/N 6003 is being used for testing of the G650’s PlaneView II avionics as well as in-flight load measurement and ice protection system testing. S/N 6004, equipped with a full interior, is the function and reliability test article.
PlaneView II is Gulfstream’s implementation of Honeywell’s Epic avionics suite and includes as standard equipment synthetic vision, enhanced vision and a head-up display. The G650 is Gulfstream’s first aircraft with fly-by-wire flight controls, which include envelope protection. Cockpit controls are a conventional yoke, and the system is backed up with hydraulic- and electric-powered backup actuators and a backup flight control computer in case of a complete flight control computer failure.
The 16,100-pound-thrust Rolls-Royce BR725-powered G650 will also be
Gulfstream’s longest-range jet, capable of flying 7,000 nm at Mach .85 with eight passengers and four crew (NBAA IFR reserves). High-speed cruise is Mach .90. List price of the G650 is $64.5 million (completed).
The last great unfilled market niche may yet be filled by Aerion, the Reno, Nev. company that has everything in place to launch a contender in the supersonic business jet (SSBJ) category. Aerion’s proposed $80 million SSBJ taps into currently available technology to deliver a Mach 1.6 jet that would seat eight passengers. No radical engine technology is needed, just two tried-and-true Pratt & Whitney JT8D-219s. Aerion has $250,000 deposits for more than 50 airplanes and is still seeking a major aerospace partner to help bring the SSBJ to market. Further developments of the Aerion jet are awaiting a solid economic recovery, and once the program is formally launched, Aerion SSBJs could be zipping across the Atlantic in four or five years.