Most new jet programs are moving right along, although some are taxiing to the certification line faster than others. When the elusive global economic recovery arrives, there will be no shortage of new business jets to greet it. However, the flight path to new frontiers of speed, efficiency and convenience has not been an uninterrupted ascent. Along the way changes in corporate ownership, international risk-sharing, and technical and supply challenges have proved formidable, albeit temporary, impediments to progress for several of these programs and the talented, tenacious people behind them. Against this backdrop, the bankruptcy of Hawker Beechcraft serves as a stark warning for the rest of the industry: Delaying innovation and/or poor execution of it will eventually put your enterprise in the hands of creditors and a judge.
Several OEMs have multiple programs under way, fueled by market and technical urgency perhaps unseen since the days of the Great Space Race of the 1960s. Gulfstream earned full certification for two new airplanes last month. Embraer is bringing two new midsize aircraft to market with fly-by-wire controls. Cessna has four new jet programs in the works. Bombardier has five, six if you assume it will make a corporate version of its CSeries airliner. Dassault continues to keep quiet about its new SMS twinjet even while reportedly cutting metal for it, but odds are it will be every bit the game changer the original Falcon 2000 was in 1994. And there are undoubtedly more programs under wraps. The days of milking the same airframe for 60 years–and calling it new production–appear dead. That’s good for the industry and better for customers.