The FAA has issued a final rule, effective September 3 this year, outlining the upcoming ban on jets that don’t meet Stage 3 noise standards. The rule stems from the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 and prohibits airplanes with a maximum weight of 75,000 pounds or less from operating within the 48 contiguous states in the U.S. after Dec. 31, 2015, unless they meet Stage 3 noise levels. The rule affects 599 airplanes between 25 and 50 years old operated by 457 owners, according to the FAA, and only those that can be modified with hushkits will be able to continue to fly.
In the final rule, the FAA incorrectly stated that hushkits are available only for the Gulfstream II and III.
Plenty of Hushkit Options
Hushkits are still available for GE CF700-powered Falcon 20s and the CF700-powered Sabre 80, and these are available from Kalitta Turbines, which bought the Noise Reduction Engineering (NRE) hushkit business from GE last year. The NRE hushkit for the CF700 sells for $170,000, according to Kalitta, and plenty of kits are available. Sabreliner, which supports the remaining fleet of Sabre jets, is authorized by NRE to install the CF700 hushkit, which consists of modifications to the fan exit guide vane assembly. According to Sabreliner, the hushkit doesn’t affect engine performance and doesn’t add any weight to the jet or change its appearance.
Butler National is near completing a supplemental type certificate (STC) for a Learjet 20-series hushkit, with availability this fall. A price for Butler’s Avcon Noise Suppressor hasn’t been set yet, according to the company. Butler, which with Avcon has developed more than 100 STCs, says four hundred 20-series Learjets are still flying worldwide.
Stage 3 hushkits are currently available for the Gulfstream II/III, from both Hubbard Aviation Technologies ($1 million+) and Quiet Technology Aerospace ($800,000).
According to Quiet Technology’s Ben Brown, there are 189 GIIIs, 37 GIIBs and 130 GIIs still operating worldwide (numbers provided by JetNet). “[Hushkit] sales are definitely picking up and we hope to have a price increase by year-end,” he told AIN.
Hubbard is also seeing growing interest in Gulfstream hushkits, according to president and COO Bernie Weiss. The Rolls-Royce Spey that powers the GII and GIII and the Tay in the GIV are both time-limited to 10 years, he pointed out, and Tays cost more than Speys to overhaul. So the economics of keeping a GII or GIII may make sense, instead of selling the older jet and buying a GIV then having to overhaul its engines anyway. If the extra 500 nm range and lower fuel burn of the GIV aren’t important and an owner is happy with the GIII, then hushkitting may make sense, he explained. Hubbard has ordered more parts for hushkits as demand has grown, and Weiss expects there will be a rush to equip as the deadline nears. “I know prices are going to go up at the end,” he said. “I would like to encourage people to think about this.”
Jets that can’t be modified to meet Stage 3 will have to be operated outside the 48 contiguous U.S., parted out or scrapped, according to the FAA. Values of these airplanes are expected to drop even further after the Dec. 31, 2015 deadline, and while some owners may try to sell these jets outside the U.S., the market is limited. “At least eight countries already ban Stage 2 operations by airplanes of any size,” the FAA noted. “These countries include Australia, Austria, Belgium, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Singapore and Switzerland. The inability to operate the Stage 2 airplanes across all borders will reduce their desirability for ownership.”