NBAA Convention News

New Bizjets: Strong economy fuels new-aircraft development

 - November 7, 2006, 8:48 AM

Aerion

Aerion SSBJ–Aerion continues on track with development efforts for its supersonic business jet. High-speed testing on the Aerion supersonic natural-laminar-flow wing was expected to be carried out last month by using a rocket sled to achieve the necessary Mach 1.5 test speed.

The company also continues to make minor refinements to the SSBJ design and expects to announce more consortium partners next year. Certification of the Aerion SSBJ is slated for early next decade, with the 4,000+-nm, Mach 1.6 airplane expected to enter service in 2011.

Airbus

A318 Elite–Airbus last fall introduced the A318 Elite as the “entry level” aircraft in its executive/VIP line. It has said the bizliner will compete with the Gulfstream G450, Bombardier Global 5000 and Dassault Falcon 900EX, though the A318 Elite’s 5,300 cu ft of interior cabin volume is more than twice that of its intended competition.

Built on a truncated A319 platform (the Airbus Corporate Jetliner is based on the A319), the Elite is aimed at the medium-range market for flights up to 4,000 nm, such as from New York to London or from Europe to some Asian and Middle East destinations. The twinjet will be certified for Category IIIb operations and will feature the Thales head-up display with an enhanced-vision system.

Customers will have a choice of two engines–the CFM56-5B9 or the Pratt & Whitney PW6124. According to Airbus, the $45 million Elite will have operating costs of between $2,500 and $3,000 per hour. Airbus and Lufthansa Technik are working to develop “total care packages” for A318 Elite customers.

Boeing Business Jets

BBJ3–Boeing launched the largest Boeing Business Jet in the line last year at the Dubai airshow. Based on the 737-900ER, the $64 million BBJ3 will have a max range, with five auxiliary fuel tanks, of 5,365 nm. Its 1,120-sq-ft cabin area is 35 percent more than that of the BBJ and 11 percent larger than the BBJ2’s.

The next-generation 737-900ER first flew early last month, and certification is expected early next year. BBJ3 versions will be slotted into the production line as orders dictate.

The formal announcement of the BBJ3 at Dubai was no accident–more than a quarter of the worldwide BBJ fleet is based in the Middle East, and the majority of BBJ2s sold are going to Middle Eastern customers.

Bombardier

Challenger 605–From the outside, the Challenger 605 is virtually identical to the Challenger 604, which the newer model is replacing. But on the inside there are major changes–from the avionics upgrade to an aft lavatory redesign.

In the flight deck, the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 4 gives way to a state-of-the-art Pro Line 21 avionics suite with four 10- by 12-inch LCD screens. Another new cockpit feature is a side console touchscreen that can display Jeppesen e-charts and Airshow information, as well as provide a backup for cabin lighting, telecommunication and water systems control and cabin entertainment.

The 605’s cabin offers passengers a much cleaner look, in addition to larger windows with a wider viewing angle. Adding to the cabin environment is LED upwash/downwash lighting and a cabin entertainment system based on Collins’ Airshow 21.

Despite the interior changes, there is little movement in the aircraft’s weight or performance. However, Bombardier expects that the upgrades will improve dispatch reliability, which the company claims is already 99.8 percent.

Learjet 60XR–The Learjet 60XR represents a considerable improvement in avionics over the Learjet 60, with a four-screen Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 system replacing the Pro Line 4 cockpit. The avionics upgrade resulted in a weight saving of about 60 pounds, though changes in the cabin might negate that gain.

The 60XR’s upgraded cabin comes in four basic configurations, from a six-passenger executive layout to an eight-passenger high-density floorplan. Other improvements include LED upwash/downwash cabin lighting and moving the galley from its location across from the cabin door to one that is adjacent to the door. The new cabin design also includes a window in the lav, and the larger vanity cabinet offers storage and a convenient location for audio/video equipment.

Cessna

CJ2+–Unveiled at the 2004 NBAA show, the CJ2+ improves upon the CJ2. The $5.745 million twinjet comes with the newer version of the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 integrated avionics system, in addition to other improvements. The CJ2+ received FAA certification last fall, and deliveries began earlier this year.

Its upgraded Williams-Rolls FJ44-3A-24 turbofans offer better hot-and-high performance and improved efficiency over the original CJ2’s 2,400-pound-thrust FJ44-2C turbofans. The -24 variant is a derated, 2,400-pound-thrust version of the engine found on the CJ3. Other improvements include beefier brakes on the CJ2+.

Citation Encore+–The Encore+, the latest edition of Cessna’s venerable Citation V, was announced at last year’s NBAA Convention. According to the Wichita-based manufacturer, the derivative includes improvements based on customer input to make the aircraft more efficient and reliable.

A pair of FADEC-equipped Pratt & Whitney Canada PW535Bs power the Encore+, which has been in flight-test since March 22. While the engines don’t offer any additional thrust over the Encore’s PW535As, the FADEC powerplants are gentler on the engine’s internal components, especially the igniter, thereby increasing aircraft reliability.

The most dramatic change on the $8.086 million Encore+ is the change from its predecessor’s Honeywell Primus 1000 avionics to the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 system. Topping off the improvements is a 200-pound weight increase to allow more payload and some interior upgrades. FAA approval of the Encore+ is expected by the end of this year.

Dassault

Falcon 7X–The Falcon 7X flight test program is progressing on schedule, with four of the trijets logging nearly 1,000 flight hours to date. Certification flights with the EASA have begun and will be completed by year-end, to be followed by final certification and first deliveries early next year. As a further mark of progress, Falcon 7X S/N 04 joined the test fleet in late July.

Dassault’s engineers have validated several Falcon 7X improvements announced last year–such as increased mtow, engine thrust, fuel capacity and winglets–that increase range to 5,950 nm from 5,700 nm. The French manufacturer also increased the trijet’s mtow by 10 percent, to 69,000 pounds, and the payload capacity with full fuel has been increased to 2,988 pounds. Additionally, the basic operating weight has been increased to 34,469 pounds.

Earlier this year, Dassault expanded the 7X’s flight envelope fully to Mach 0.93 and FL510. Dassault said the tests validated aircraft performance through the entire c.g. envelope and 69,000-pound mtow. Additionally, the airplane’s flight-control handling has been tested in normal, alternate and direct fly-by-wire using the system’s flight-control laws.

More than 40 Falcon 7Xs are in various stages of production at Dassault’s Merignac production facility. Dassault said it has firm orders for more than 80 copies of the $39.2 million trijet.

Falcon 900DX–This $31.95 million trijet, launched in May 2004 at the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition and certified last November, supersedes the Falcon 900C.

According to Dassault, the 900DX can fly more than 4,100 nm (200 nm more than the -C) with the larger cabin of the 4,500-nm 900EX. This range enables the 900DX to fly nonstop between such city pairs as Geneva and Detroit, New York and Athens or Chicago and Rome.

Like the 7X, the 900DX sports the Honeywell/Dassault EASy flight deck. Other features of the 900DX include a more efficient version of the Honeywell TFE731-60 engine, lightened structures and several system modifications. In addition, the new -DX will have better short-field performance than the 900EX.

Falcon 2000DX–The 2000DX, which will replace the 2000, is essentially a shorter-range version of the 3,800-nm 2000EX. The $25.55 million Falcon 2000DX, with its 3,250-nm range (250 nm more than the Falcon 2000), is targeted at customers who operate shorter-range trips but want the comfort and performance of a large-cabin airplane.

Among its capabilities, the 2000DX will be able to climb directly to 41,000 feet in 17 minutes. It will also feature an EASy cockpit. First flight is planned for the second half of next year, with certification and first deliveries expected by 2008.

Embraer

Phenom 300–Announced in May last year, Embraer’s light jet–slated to fly in the first half of 2008 and enter service in mid-2009–will compete directly with the Cessna CJ3 and Encore+, Raytheon Premier I and Hawker 400XP, and Learjet 40. The nine-seat, swept-wing light jet will be powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW535Es flat-rated at 3,200 pounds of thrust.

Carrying six people, the $6.65 million airplane will have an 1,800-nm NBAA IFR range at Mach 0.78. The light jet will have a high-speed cruise of 450 knots, 45,000-foot ceiling and 3,700-foot balanced field length. Embraer’s light jet will share the same cabin width and height as the Phenom 100, its VLJ sibling, though the overall cabin will be smaller than the Premier I’s and the same size as the Learjet 40’s.

Lineage 1000–Embraer this spring expanded its line of business jets with the introduction of the Lineage 1000 derived from its fly-by-wire E190 airliner. The $40.95 million large-cabin business aircraft is expected to enter service in mid-2008.

The 4,200-nm Lineage 1000–which Embraer dubs an “ultra-large” business jet–will seat 13 to 19 passengers in a cabin that can be split into five zones. Cabin options include a full-size bed and a stand-up shower.

With an mtow of 121,252 pounds, the Lineage will be slightly heavier than the Embraer E190–closer, in fact, to the weight of the 118-seat E195 airliner. The Lineage’s 615-cu-ft baggage compartment will be positioned above the floor level to make space for additional fuel tanks below.

Demand for the Lineage 1000 is expected to come from a customer base that includes wealthy individuals, government officials, scheduled/branded executive charter operators and corporate shuttle operations. The Lineage 1000 will be powered by two 18,500-pound-thrust GE CF34-10E7 engines and feature a five-screen Honeywell Primus Epic integrated avionics suite. It will have a maximum operating speed of Mach 0.82 and a ceiling of 41,000 feet.

Grob Aerospace

G180 SPn Utility Jet–Tussenhausen, Germany-based Grob unveiled its very first jet at the Paris Air Show last year. The $7.1 million, 10-seat jet is the company’s first foray into turbofan-powered aircraft. The light jet, which is powered by a pair of 2,800-pound-thrust Williams FJ44-3A turbofans, flew just one month after the airplane was publicly announced.

Grob says its all-composite twinjet “combines the performance and passenger comfort of a light business jet with the operational versatility of a turboprop.” The 13,889-pound-mtow SPn will have a range of 1,800 nm with six passengers and a maximum payload of 2,491 pounds. Its normal cruise speed will be 375 knots, rising to a max cruise of 407 knots.

The aircraft’s flight deck will include a Honeywell Apex integrated avionics suite complete with two 15-inch LCD primary flight displays, two 10-inch multifunction displays and EGPWS.

EASA certification–under Part 23 commuter rules–is expected in the first quarter of next year, with FAA certification and first deliveries slated for next summer.

Gulfstream

G150–Gulfstream unveiled this $15.5 million derivative of the G100 (formerly the Astra SPX) at the 2002 NBAA Convention to replace its light jet sibling. The Gulfstream twinjet was certified in November last year, though the first completed G150 didn’t enter service until this past August.

Surprisingly, the G150 has longer legs and lower weight than the company had originally projected. In addition, the aircraft’s required balanced field length has been reduced by 830 feet from the initial estimate. When the G150 was rolled out in Tel Aviv on January 18 last year, the maximum range with four passengers and two crew was pegged at 2,700 nm at Mach 0.75. Drag-reduction efforts by builder Israel Aircraft Industries stretched that range to 2,950 nm.

Gulfstream won’t reveal its backlog for the twinjet, though fractional operator NetJets has placed a firm order for 50 G150s and has options on 50 more.

Raytheon

Hawker 4000–On May 31, Raytheon Aircraft reached the FAA’s five-year time limit for certification of the Hawker 4000 (née Horizon) under Part 25 amendments that existed at the time of the type certification application. In anticipation of not receiving type certification before the deadline, Raytheon applied for an extension on May 11, and the FAA granted an extension of seven months, to December 31.

After busting the five-year limit, the company faced the possibility of having to comply with all Part 25 amendments adopted between the May 31, 2001 certification application date and the application date for the deadline extension. Although Raytheon Aircraft has dodged that bullet, the extension does not relieve the company of ensuring that the Hawker 4000 complies with Part 25 amendments adopted between May 31, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2001, a period that introduced stricter fuel-tank and hydraulic regulations.

Raytheon Aircraft said the super-midsize Hawker 4000 completed function and reliability testing on May 26, though the manufacturer is still working with the FAA “to finalize the required documentation that will allow the FAA to issue the type certification.” The agency granted provisional certification for the Hawker 4000 on Dec. 23, 2004. Raytheon currently says certification will be achieved by year-end.

Performance specifications for the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW308A-powered twinjet include a 470-knot high cruise speed, 3,341-nm NBAA IFR range (two crew and six passengers) and a 4,509-foot balanced field length (at its 37,500-pound mtow and ISA sea level conditions).

Raytheon holds firm orders for 74 Hawker 4000s, 50 of which are going to fractional provider NetJets. Raytheon plans to begin delivering Hawker 4000s this year.

Sino Swearingen

SJ30–While the SJ30-2 light jet received FAA certification in late October last year, the production certificate has still eluded San Antonio-based Sino Swearingen. According to v-p of sales and marketing Bob Kromer, the first customer SJ30–S/N 006–is being painted and having an interior installed so it can be delivered to launch customer Doug Jaffe (the “J” in the SJ30 moniker).

Sino Swearingen still hopes to secure the production certificate by year-end, which would allow it to mass produce the aircraft. “We have a production plan in place and intend to expand our manufacturing facilities in San Antonio,” he added.

Sino Swearingen says it has firm orders for 302 SJ30s from customers and distributors, for a backlog worth some $1.8 billion. A fully optioned SJ30 now costs $6.195 million.

Sukhoi

S-21 SSBJ–Italian manufacturer Alenia and Russian manufacturer Sukhoi recently signed a cooperative agreement for aviation research, which includes development of the S-21 SSBJ. Sukhoi has been working on a supersonic business jet project for many years. At the end of the 1980s the company was involved with Gulfstream and Rolls-Royce on a supersonic project codenamed S-21, which was shelved for lack of market enthusiasm.

Both Alenia and Sukhoi are also involved in the high-speed aircraft project in which Dassault Aviation also plays a key role. The main objective of this project is to establish the technical feasibility of “an environmentally compliant supersonic small-size transport aircraft,” taking into account the need to reduce the sonic boom to a level that would allow the aircraft to fly over land at supersonic speeds.

Three teams are studying three different configurations to compare methods and results. The aircraft configurations are a “low noise” concept (under Dassault leadership); a “high range” concept (under Alenia leadership); and a “low boom” concept (under Sukhoi leadership).

Supersonic Aerospace International

Quiet Supersonic Transport (QSST)–Supersonic Aerospace International of Las Vegas continues to work with Lockheed Martin on the Quiet Small Supersonic Transport (QSST), the 4,000-nm, 12-passenger, Mach 1.8, no-boom supersonic business jet announced at the 2004 NBAA Convention.

Company president Michael Paulson said the project is now in Phase 2, which mainly involves refining and optimizing the SSBJ’s design. According to Paulson, SAI is no longer considering building a 60-percent-scale demonstrator to prove the QSST’s design in Phase 2.

Paulson said his company will choose one of three competing engine designs from General Electric, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce for the supersonic twinjet when Phase 2 concludes by year-end. First flight of the $80 million QSST is set for mid-2011, with U.S. FAR Part 25 certification planned for 2013.