Between mid-June and mid-September, Hawker Beechcraft delivered three super-midsize Model 4000 twinjets, and more are on the way. Last month the company had more than 30 airplanes in the production pipeline, and throughout the last three years fleet orders for the $20.8 million composite-fuselage/metal wing airplane have accelerated as full certification neared.
Deliveries of the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW308A-powered flagship Hawker are occurring at the rate of one every six weeks. On June 18, Hawker Beechcraft made its first customer delivery of a Model 4000, Serial Number RC-7, to Gary and Donna Hall of Joplin, Mo. Hall had previously owned two Beechjet 400As and a Hawker 800XP. (Hall owns tobacco wholesaler Sunflower Supply.) In August, Hawker Beechcraft delivered the second 4000 to hotel chain entrepreneur Jack DeBoer, another long-time customer and active pilot. The third delivery took place in mid-September.
Originally branded the “Hawker Horizon,” the Model 4000 was first announced at NBAA in 1996, with customer deliveries originally scheduled for early 2001. But a string of shifting corporate priorities, technical glitches and a company ownership change forced the 4000’s development schedule to slow. The 4000 also was the first business jet designed around Honeywell’s Primus Epic integrated electronic flight and cabin management system. Integrating Primus Epic into the 4000’s design facilitated a learning curve and caused some further development delays. In fact, the 4000’s certification took so long that FAA fuel tank and hydraulic design standards changed while the airplane was in development, further delaying full FAA certification until June 12 of this year.
Nevertheless, in recent years, the 4000 has landed large fleet orders that now comprise approximately 95 of the 130 aircraft backlog, with orders from NetJets and NetJets Europe accounting for 82 of that total. India’s BJets, a fractional and block charter company, ordered 10 Hawker 4000s in May. Last year NetJets Europe ordered 32 airplanes in a deal valued at more than $700 million. In 2005, NetJets ordered 50 of the aircraft in a $1 billion transaction that includes a maintenance agreement. Those deliveries are scheduled between now and 2013, guaranteeing a steady production flow for at least the next five years.
While the 4000’s tortuous development may have hurt the order book somewhat, company executives say they are confident that number will build as the market becomes familiar “with its price advantage and good value equation,” according to one senior Hawker Beechcraft executive. The 4000 is priced at $20.8 million, can typically seat eight to nine passengers, has a range of 3,280 nm (with six passengers at 0.78 Mach) and a top speed of 484 knots.
Initial assembly occurs in Wichita and exterior paint and interiors are applied and fitted at Hawker Beechcraft’s completion facility in Little Rock, Ark. Customers can customize the interiors of their aircraft in terms of fabrics, finishes, materials and plating. “We can build about anything a person wants,” said the company spokesman, who claims that Hawker 4000 customers will have cabin choices on par with a top-of-the-line Gulfstream. Hawker Beechcraft plans to stress this kind of cabin flexibility and comfort as a key selling point for the 4000.
The basic cabin layout is configured with a forward galley and two closets, followed by individual executive seating for eight, and an aft lavatory through which the baggage compartment can be accessed in flight below 41,000 feet. A three-place side-facing divan is also available with an optional slide-out berthing top. Each pair of single seats shares a stowable 24-inch sidewall table. There are also a sidewall-mounted in-flight entertainment and lighting controls at each passenger position as well as master controls for the entire cabin at the CEO passenger position and on a cabin touchscreen. The cabin windows are fitted with an electrically charged film for demisting and anti-icing. The window shades are manually controlled.
While the 4000’s wound carbon fiber fuselage has many advantages such as light weight and freedom from corrosion, its rigidity–metal bends thus diffusing vibration–can also increase vibration-induced cabin noise. Relying on sound suppression insulation alone would simply add weight back into the aircraft. So Hawker Beechcraft also uses special “isolators” to mitigate noise and dampen vibration. Cabin sidewalls, headliners and furniture are mounted on these devices, which absorb fuselage vibrations before they are transmitted into the cabin.
Specially-designed acoustic cabin panels also suppress noise. The results have been impressive. Cabin noise, as measured in decibels (lower numbers are quieter), is in the low 70s and the “speech interference value”–a measurement of how well human speech can he heard—is in the low 60s, comparable to a luxury car interior at 70 mph.
These features reflect a thoughtful design but it remains to be seen how many additional orders the 4000 will garner as Embraer, Gulfstream and others prepare to introduce significant block changes to their current airplanes, heralding a new generation of super-midsize business jets. For now, senior company officials confidently exude that the 4000, despite its lengthy gestation, remains competitive.
During the 4000’s first customer delivery on June 18, Hawker Beechcraft CEO Jim Schuster called the airplane, “the world’s most advanced business jet.”