Despite the recession, a significant number of new aircraft programs remain largely on track. OEMs such as Cessna, Dassault Falcon, Embraer, and Gulfstream all appear to be staying close to their development schedules, while Hawker Beechcraft has pushed back the Premier II until 2012 (from 2010). Newcomers Honda and Spectrum appear to have suffered some minor slippage, sending the earliest deliveries of those aircraft into 2011. Boeing delivered its first BBJ 3, based on the 737-900ER, last year, but the interior was not installed until this year. The same can be said for the Embraer Lineage 1000, the Brazilian company’s entry into the large-cabin market. Therefore these two aircraft have been eliminated from this year’s update as they have been completed.
The significant new programs can be divided into two camps: modification of an existing design and more ambitious, true “clean sheet” new aircraft programs. Dassault and Hawker Beechcraft are engaged in the former, while everyone else is pursuing the latter.
Light Jets Cessna Citation CJ4 The $7.995 million (2006 $) CJ4 made its first flight in May 2008. Cessna plans on finishing development, test and certification late this year and beginning aircraft deliveries early next year. Three aircraft are currently in flight test, and the OEM has orders for more than 70 of the aircraft.
While Cessna wanted to introduce a wide variety of new design features and technology on the CJ4, it also wanted to mitigate risk, so it applied items successfully incorporated in several of its other new airplanes. It borrowed the slicker wing geometry from the larger Citation Sovereign and the bigger passenger door from the Citation Mustang. The Williams FJ44-4A engines are derivatives of those already on the CJ3. The more powerful engines and moderately swept wing allow the CJ4 to cruise along at 435 knots and climb directly to 43,000 feet. Range has been increased to 1,840 nm, and full-fuel payload has grown to 1,000 pounds (maximum payload is 2,100 pounds). The avionics are Collins Pro Line 21. Like all CJs, the CJ4 can be flown single pilot.
Up front, the pilots’ seats have two inches more legroom and the instrument panel has a more logical, ergonomic layout. The fuselage was stretched 21 inches, yielding more passenger legroom. Passenger capacity has grown to nine (copilot seat, belted aft lavatory seat and side-facing divan opposite the cabin entry door plus six standard single executive seats). The cabin floor was lowered to provide a wider surface and more ergonomic eye reference points for window placement.
Controls for the Rockwell Collins Venue cabin management and entertainment system are fitted into the automotive-style side ledge. There are switch panels at each seat position and electrical power outlets at seat positions five and six and at both pilots’ seats. The Venue system controls all on-board in-flight entertainment, including iPod connectivity, Blu-Ray player, moving maps and a 100-gig hard-drive storage for personal media. A single XM satellite receiver and two plug-in, arm-mounted 10.6-inch monitors are included in the standard package. Venue also controls all indirect cabin lighting and the ATG electronic window shades. It provides full diagnostic monitoring of every line-replaceable unit in the CMS, allowing for components to be changed in the field and it records a fault history that can be downloaded from the aircraft via a cockpit USB port.
Honda is blaming supplier problems for what could be another one-year delay for the long-awaited HondaJet. A single nonconforming prototype has been flying since 2003. It has amassed 500 hours and validated Honda’s performance claims of a 420-knot top cruise speed (30,000 feet), IFR range of 1,180 nm and a ceiling of 43,000 feet. A conforming prototype is expected to make its first flight early next year; however, it is unlikely that deliveries of the $3.9 million six- to seven-passenger light twinjet could begin much before 2012. Honda is being coy about orders, having said for several years that it has orders for “more than 100” copies of the airplane and that its new 500,000-sq-ft, 83-acre greenfield Greensboro, N.C. plant, when completed, will be able to produce 70 to 100 aircraft per year.
Flight training and customer delivery also are to be incorporated into this facility.
Plans call for the aircraft to be certified under Part 23 for single-pilot operations. Honda has selected all key vendors, including Garmin for the avionics. Although certification testing of the 1,880-pound thrust GE Honda HF120 engine will begin this year and continue into 2010, this has had no affect on the HondaJet program’s schedule. (The Spectrum S.40 program uses the same engines.
The HondaJet uses a composite fuselage mated to metal wings. However, its unique wing-pylon-mounted engine design allows for a wider fuselage and more aft luggage space (57 cu ft and another nine in the nose).
Hawker Beechcraft Premier II
The crunch at Hawker Beechcraft has moved this program two full years to the right, with deliveries into service not expected now until the end of the 2012 or early 2013. The $7.116 million Premier II is to feature a redesigned ventral fin, more powerful engines and winglets that are expected to shorten time to climb and increase speed, payload and range. Cruise speed is to increase by 15 knots, to 465 knots, range to jump 20 percent to 1,500 nm, and payload at that range increases by 530 pounds. Hawker Beechcraft recently flew a Premier I with the uprated Williams FJ44-3AP engines. It remains committed to flying a prototype with the winglets before year-end. The first Premier II fuselage came onto the assembly line in August. After the Premier II is certified, production of the Premier I is to cease.
Like the Premier I, the Premier II is to be certified for single-pilot operations. Aside from the engines and the winglets, the company plans no other changes at this time and has yet to make a decision about whether to offer the Premier II engine/winglet upgrades to existing Premier I owners in the future.
Embraer Phenom 300
Development of the $6.85 million six- to nine-passenger, PW535-powered Phenom 300 is progressing toward certification and customer deliveries later this year, with four aircraft currently in the flying test program. The light twinjet has a range of 1,800 nm with six passengers, a maximum operating speed of Mach 0.78 and a ceiling of 45,000 feet. While the 300 has the same fuselage diameter as the smaller Phenom 100 (61 inches on the interior), its cabin is five feet longer and it has three more inches of legroom between the seats compared with the Model 100. The cabin also offers a few more options for galley and lavatory layouts. Customers can choose either a full wardrobe or a sink in the lavatory and the galley can be equipped with a wine rack.
The 18-inch-wide cabin seats in both aircraft have a common appearance but are not interchangeable. In addition to their unusual offset headrests, they feature longitudinal tracking, adjustable recline from eight to 20 degrees, integral three-point seatbelts, breakover backs and inboard armrests. Maximum seat pitch in the 100 is 35 inches, while in the 300 it is 42 inches. Phenom 300 customers have more choices of colors, fabrics and plating than 100 owners, with 14 colors available for the seats alone.
While Embraer would not reveal the order book for the aircraft, it is believed to hover around 300 and the aircraft is sold out through 2013. Fractional provider Flight Options has ordered 100 of these. Embraer executives have repeatedly called this aircraft a “category killer,” with the implied intended prey being the Cessna Citation CJ4.
Spectrum Aeronautical S.40 Freedom
Spectrum Aeronautical appears to have considerable fabrication work to do to achieve its stated goal of a first flight of the GE Honda HF120-powered S.40 Freedom next year. This past June the company revealed it had produced its first “fuselage manufacturing demonstrator” test article for use in validating its production process.
The S.40 uses a proprietary lightweight, co-cured composite process that gives the aircraft a structural weight that is virtually half that of a comparable metal aircraft, which gives it the operating economics of a light jet with medium jet capabilities: cruise speed 440 knots, IFR range 2,250 nm, seating for seven to nine passengers, but an mtow of 9,550 pounds.
Spectrum says its co-curing process significantly reduces the amount of adhesive bonding required and enables the aircraft to be assembled quickly from large, monolithic structures.
Embraer Legacy 450 and 500
Embraer’s formal entry into the midsize market came last year when it announced development of a pair of fly-by-wire aircraft that share the same wings, empennage, cabin cross-section, Honeywell HTF7000 engines and avionics. However, the 500’s fuselage will be approximately six feet longer than that of the shorter-legged 450. Embraer says both aircraft will have a six-foot stand-up cabin with a flat floor, a fully equipped galley and an externally serviced aft lavatory. The 500 is being designed to have a range of 2,800 nm with eight passengers, at Mach 0.80 and NBAA IFR reserves. The 450 is being designed to have a range of 2,300 nm with four passengers at long-range cruise and NBAA IFR reserves. The $18.4 million (2008 $) 500 is expected to enter service in 2012, and the $15.25 million 450 in 2013.
The joint definition phase on the aircraft was completed in April and the critical design review should occur sometime in the fourth quarter. Changes have been made to the cabin design since the company unveiled a preliminary cabin mockup at NBAA 2007. The seat and table designs were changed after feedback from customers, with a new style armrest for the seats and a different folding mechanism for the sidewall tables.
Bombarier Learjet 85
A metal airplane maker’s first foray into an all-composite aircraft structure is always dangerous ground. Nevertheless, Bombardier is confident it can bring its all-composite, $17.2 million Learjet 85 to market by 2012. The OEM is relying on its composites plant in Queretaro, Mexico, to fabricate the structure. Final assembly is to take place in Wichita. The 85 is likely to be the first all-composite business aircraft certified under Part 25.
Bombardier claims the 85 will have 19-percent more cabin volume than its closest competitor. Indeed, for a midsize, the 85’s cabin is already capacious: 24 feet, nine inches long; 6 feet, one inch wide; and six feet tall, yielding 665 cu ft of passenger space and 130 cu ft of luggage stowage, including three large cabin closets with a combined 30 cu ft of storage. Several different configurations will be available, including eight single executive seats in a double-club layout or single seats and a three-place divan. The single seats are pitched at 30 inches and recline into full-berthing positions. (A maximum of four can be berthed at any one time.) The divan and the berthing seats reflect the 85’s 3,000-nm transcontinental/ transatlantic design range. This longer-legged Learjet also features a full galley and an aft cabin lavatory. Like several other contemporary cabin designs, the 85 will feature larger passenger cabin windows, 12 by 16 inches each, and more monolithic, streamlined headliners and sidewalls.
Dassault Falcon 5X
Details remain sketchy on the aircraft program formerly known as SMS. The aircraft is expected to be comparable in size to a Challenger 300, incorporate fly-by-wire controls and, until June, was to have been powered by a pair of 10,000-pound-thrust Rolls-Royce RB282 engines. At that time the company made it clear that all design choices aircraft had been reopened, including the engine, and that the design phase had been extended to the end of this year. First flight is not expected until 2014.
Three years ago Gulfstream began working on a successor aircraft to its super-midsize G200. The $24 million (2008 $) G250 was unveiled in October 2008. First flight is scheduled for later this year and certification in 2011. The G250 retains the G200’s positives and discards the rest. As expected, the engines, wings and avionics are all new and are predicted to enhance the aircraft’s performance.
The new engines are Honeywell HTF7250G high-efficiency turbofans, rated at 7,445 pounds of thrust each. They will power the G250 up to 41,000 feet in 20 minutes and reduce cabin noise. The redesigned transonic wing considerably shortens the G250’s required takeoff distance under full load. The aircraft will now be able to comfortably use 5,000-foot-long runways. Up front, the G250 will be guided by a PlaneView cockpit built around the Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion system outfitted with synthetic and enhanced vision. The electrical system also promises to be more robust on the G250, incorporating large aircraft features that include independent generators on each engine and a quieter auxiliary power unit.
The fuselage is unchanged from the G200, but optimizing it and moving all the fuel into the wings created more usable cabin space as well as in-flight access to the 120-cu-ft baggage compartment. Overall cabin length is now 25 feet, 10 inches from the forward edge of the lavatory to the aft edge of the galley. More cabin room translates into noticeably larger lavatory space as well. The lavatory on the G250 will be a full 48 inches wide compared with the 26 inches on the G200. The G250 lav will have a wardrobe closet, two large cabin windows, a sink with raised ledge and a vacuum toilet system, a unique feature in a super-midsize jet.
Dassault Falcon 900LX
More than 400 Falcon 900 trijets have entered service since 1986 and next year Dassault Falcon Jet will begin deliveries of the latest iteration in this series, the $41 million (2008 $) Falcon 900LX, featuring improved range and modernized avionics. The Honeywell Primus Epic-based EASy Phase II system will offer not only synthetic vision but also a runway awareness system, XM weather, and digital datalink, electronic approach and en route charts.
The 900LX will have an extra 300 nm of range–a boost to 4,800 nm–compared with its predecessor, the 900EX, courtesy of performance improvements derived from a pair of Aviation Partners composite blended winglets.
Gulfstream announced the $64.5 million widebody G650 in March 2008. First flight should occur before the end of this year and customer deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2012. The new airplane will offer the longest range, fastest speed and largest cabin in the Gulfstream fleet. It will have a range of 7,000 nm at Mach 0.85, 5,000 nm at Mach 0.90 Mach and a maximum operating speed of Mach 0.925–making it the fastest civil aircraft flying.
Power will come from a pair of new 16,100-pound-thrust Rolls-Royce BR725 engines controlled by Goodrich fadecs. The engines are more efficient, have lower exhaust emissions and are 33 percent quieter than their predecessor, the BR710. Noise level is 17 decibels below Stage 4 standards.
Gulfstream has dramatically enlarged the dimensions of key interior components. The cabin entry door is almost 75 inches high (as opposed to 59.25 inches on the G550). The baggage area provides 195 cu ft of space and is accessible in flight at all altitudes through the aft lavatory. The external baggage door has been enlarged by 8 percent compared with the G550 and lowered four inches to provide for easier loading. The G650 will have both forward and aft lavatories equipped with IWG-A6 ultraviolet water treatment and purification systems. The wider floor allows for larger seats, wider aisles and three-across seating options in conference and dining groupings. The G650’s 16 cabin windows each measure 28 inches by 20.5 inches and will be the industry’s largest, 16 percent larger than on the G550. o