Nextant Aerospace launched the 400XTi (the i stands for innovation), the latest evolution of the remanufactured light business jet, last month at EBACE. Compared with the 400XT, the new version introduces a number of improvements, including an all-new cabin that offers more space and reduced noise.
Since it gained certification in late 2011, the Nextant 400XT has proved popular as operators have come to realize that a factory-fresh light business jet with the latest features and its operating economics is available for less than $5 million, approximately 50 percent of the cost of comparable new-build types. “The price point of the light jet had just got way out of whack with where it should be,” commented Jay Heublein, v-p of global sales and marketing.
Hit hard by the economic downturn, Europe is an important market for the remanufactured jet: “We see our jet as built for Europe,” said Sean McGeough, Nextant’s president. “Between 2008 and 2012, some 410 entry-level aircraft were delivered to Europe, a rise of 14 percent compared with the previous four years.”
Nextant’s 400XT is a reworked Beechjet/Hawker 400A/XP with new Williams FJ44-3AP engines replacing the original Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D-5s, aerodynamic improvements to the nacelles and pylons and other enhancements. The jets are zero-lifed during a 6,000-man-hour renewal/overhaul process and carry a two-year warranty (three for the engines), which can be extended to five years as an option.
To reinforce the improvements made by the 400XT and to extend its popularity, Nextant has now introduced the XTi enhancements, and all new aircraft will be finished to this standard. During initial work with the 400XT the company’s engineers realized that there were numerous voids within the original cabin space. Consequently, they designed an all-new composite interior shell for the 400XTi to make better use of the internal volume. The result is a cabin that adds three inches of width at shoulder level, and 2.5 inches more height.
Working with a third party, Nextant has also devised a noise insulation package. The passive solution reduces the noise levels at FL410 by 9 dB to around 65 to 66 dB. Aircraft in this class typically exhibit ambient noise levels of approximately 81 to 83 dB, says Nextant.
There have been improvements on the flight deck, too, with the removal of the last elements of instrumentation from the original aircraft and a transition to a dark cockpit concept with a Mid-Continent SAM digital standby display between the main screens. The Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 flight deck is fitted alongside new LED warning displays from Luma Technologies. The original three lead-acid instrument standby batteries have been exchanged for two Mid-Continent True Blue Power MD835 lithium-ion units, resulting in weight savings of 16 pounds and an extension of the routine inspection cycle to two years from 90 days.
From the outside the most obvious change is the installation of Nextant-designed “shark fin” winglets that further enhance performance. The 400XTi is shortly to gain an option for a Safe Flight autothrottle, which can also be retrofitted to earlier aircraft. The system will not only reduce pilot workload and provide AOA minimum speed protection, but could also net a 3- to 7-percent fuel saving on an average flight.
To support the growing Nextant fleet the company is establishing a global support network, including partnerships with Jet Aviation and NAC. Jet Aviation’s Geneva facility has been appointed as an authorized Nextant service center. Nextant says new service centers will open in the Middle East, Australia, China and India in the near future. Beechcraft, as OEM and holder of the type certificate, has stated that it will not support the 400XT/XTi, but Nextant asserts it is fully able to support the aircraft through its own network. The company has partnered with Aerospace Products International to provide a global parts distribution service.
To date Nextant has delivered twenty eight 400XTs to customers in six countries, and the order backlog is currently valued at $175 million. The company announced at EBACE that Aviators India is acquiring three 400XTis to be used as air ambulances alongside helicopters. Not only does this represent the first sale to India, where Aviators will also become the local sales agent, but also the first use of the 400XTi in a special-mission application.
Nextant views the 400XTi as just the start of a series of aircraft as it hopes to move into the medium and heavy categories. The company is currently studying three aircraft types to be the platform for its next product. Speaking at EBACE, McGeough did not rule in or out the possibility of another Hawker jet, but he did confirm that the Hawker 4000 and Premier (for which the type certificates are for sale) had been looked at and rejected previously.
In the meantime, market research consultant Argus has been engaged to conduct customer surveys to drive the selection of which platform Nextant will choose for its next product. The company expects to make that announcement at the NBAA Convention in October.