Hawker Beechcraft announced the long-awaited upgrade of the Premier light jet yesterday evening, highlighting improvements in range, time to climb, maximum altitude, payload and top speed. The company will continue producing the Premier IA after the Premier II is certified in the first quarter of 2010 and begins deliveries in the second quarter.
“This is an exciting time for general aviation,” said chairman and CEO Jim Schuster, “and an extra exciting time for Hawker Beechcraft.” Since March 2007, when Raytheon sold Hawker Beechcraft to private equity firms Goldman Sachs and Onex Partners, the company’s backlog has grown to more than $7 billion from less than $3 billion, Schuster said. And international orders now account for more than 60 percent of the total backlog. “That’s an incredible shift for Hawker Beechcraft,” he said. The long-delayed Hawker 4000 has finished all testing and is “in the final report process,” he said. Deliveries of the 4000 should begin later this month or in early June.
Hawker Beechcraft has certified 16 new airplanes in the last five years, said Brad Hatt, president of commercial aircraft, and number 17 is the Premier II. “It’s been a long time anticipated by a lot of our customers,” he said. “It addresses the primary shortcoming of the Premier I, and that is range, and at the same time we enhance the performance of the airplane considerably.” The Premier II is an example of similar moves that might be expected from Hawker Beechcraft. “We’re constantly looking at the entire product line,” Hatt said, “and continuing derivative product enhancement. That’s what our plan is for the next few years. We’re very excited, this is just the second airplane in the Premier family.”
The upgrade of the Premier combines new engines, winglets and an increased gross weight to deliver a 300-nm, 20-percent increase in range, a new maximum altitude of 45,000 feet and a 15-knot increase in maximum cruise speed to 465 knots. The primary driver of the improvements is the switch to 3,050-pound-thrust Williams International FJ44-3APs, which weigh 15 pounds less but deliver 750 more pounds of thrust each compared to the original FJ44-2As. The new engines have a 4,000-hour TBO, 500 hours more than the -2A, and also are fully Fadec controlled, an upgrade from the -2A’s hydromechanical controls. The blended winglets are entirely new as are larger splayed ventral fins on the aft lower fuselage, which add lateral stability at low speeds.
Performance improvements are achieved without adding any fuel capacity to the Premier airframe, which retains the composite fuselage and empennage and metal wings. Maximum takeoff weight grows to 13,800 pounds, up from the Premier IA’s 12,500 pounds, and this requires certification under commuter category regulations, although the Premier II remains a single-pilot airplane.
At the new 45,000-foot maximum altitude–4,000 feet higher than the Premier IA–cabin altitude is still 8,000 feet, and the Premier II can maintain a sea level cabin altitude to 24,000 feet, up from 21,400 feet on the Premier IA. The range increase is a function of the more powerful and efficient engines’ ability to climb the Premier II directly and quickly to 45,000 feet. While the Premier II’s fuel capacity is the same as the Premier I’s, the II can fly four passengers with full fuel for 1,500 nm (Mach 0.72, NBAA IFR, 100-nm alternate), 350 nm farther than the Premier I with the same payload. Taking off from a 3,500-foot runway, the Premier II can fly 355 nm farther at maximum cruise speed.
Of the 1,300-pound increase in the Premier II’s maximum takeoff weight, 770 pounds are from the airframe modifications, leaving 530 pounds of new payload. Maximum landing weight and zero fuel weight both increase by 1,000 pounds, to 12,600 pounds and 11,000 pounds, respectively. Basic empty weight in the Premier II is 9,120 pounds, maximum payload 1,680 pounds and useful load 4,580 pounds.
Modifications to the Premier II include new winglets and ventral fins; core and ply changes and increases in metal gage on the empennage and minor core and ply changes to the fuselage; new engines and a strengthened structural beam to accommodate the increased airframe weight and engine thrust; larger nacelles that are part of an integrated propulsion system supplied by Williams International; carbon brakes replacing steel brakes and modified landing gear metering pin/orifice plate; larger escape hatch, aft fuselage reinforcements for rotor-burst requirements, smoke/fire detectors and fireproof liners in baggage compartments and two-pound bird strike-tested windshield, all for commuter category certification; new outflow valves and software changes to the pressurization system; updated Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics integrated with Fadec and incorporating new performance data; three electromechanical backup instruments replaced with a single L-3 GH-3100 electronic standby instrument system; updated stall-warning computer; updated throttle quadrant; and modified environmental control system for higher pressures and temperatures.
More than 230 Premier I/IAs have been delivered thus far. The Premier II is priced at $7.365 million (2010 $) versus $6.25 million (2008 $) for the Premier IA.
Although he wouldn’t identify which models, Hatt said that this year Hawker Beechcraft will announce two other aircraft upgrade programs. One possible program may be the Hawker 400XP, which could benefit from an upgrade to its CRT-based Rockwell Collins Pro Line 4 avionics.