Europe suits Premier IA, Hawker 850XP just fine

EBACE Convention News » 2006
November 28, 2006, 9:03 AM

While the Premier IA and Hawker 850XP business twinjets are targeted at very different buyers, Raytheon (Booth No. 1044) is here to explain why each airplane features traits sure to appeal to European buyers.

The composite-fuselage Premier IA light jet has ideal range for operations in this part of the world, with the ability to reach just about any airport in Europe nonstop from Geneva with a full load of fuel, two pilots and three passengers. The Hawker 850XP can operate much farther afield on a single fillup, making its value proposition–in the eyes of Raytheon salespeople–one of ample space and passenger comfort in a more efficient package than, say, a Gulfstream G550 or Bombardier Global Express. Oh, you might own one of those, too, but you’d opt to take the Hawker on trips inside Europe–and in a pinch you could fly it to North America with a fuel stop in a place like Gander, Newfoundland.  

Priced at $6.1 million, the Premier IA benefits from a design concept Raytheon refers to as “cabin first,” meaning that the engineers started with a passenger compartment roughly the size of a midsize jet’s and wrapped a light jet around the rest of this generous cross section. The result is an airplane that some say looks like a pregnant porpoise, a reference to the Premier I’s bulbous midsection and belly, which tapers toward a long, pointed nose, not unlike the shape of the intelligent sea mammal.

Say what you like about the Premier IA’s looks, nobody would accuse the Williams FJ44-2A-powered twinjet of being slow. The composite-fuselage design yields a top speed of 451 ktas, some 44 knots faster than its nearest competitor, Raytheon claims. The Premier IA owes its speed advantage to its steeply swept wing and an extremely clean fuselage devoid of rivets. The airplane is such a hot performer that it is able to effortlessly climb to FL410 without step climbing, as confirmed on a flight over the Swiss Alps on Sunday afternoon with Raytheon demonstration pilot Rebecca Johnson.

An interesting side note on the airplane’s aesthetics, Raytheon improved the Premier I’s ramp presence by employing a couple of decidedly low-tech devices. First, new Premiers rolling out of the completions center feature dark colors on the belly and lower fuselage and upward sweeping lines higher on the fuselage. The result is the illusion of an airplane with a more traditional fuselage midsection.

The Premier’s look is also balanced by the addition of an optional fourth window–but instead of a traditional glass porthole, this pane is nothing more than a black stick-on piece of rubber cut in the familiar shape of a window. Yes, it’s a trick, but the overall improvement is undeniable. To have a look firsthand, visit Raytheon’s aircraft display on the static line.     

Long-range and high-speed cruise are nearly identical in the Premier IA, with the difference between the two being a mere 75 nm with full fuel and five people on board. The airplane typically cruises at Mach 0.78, providing a max NBAA IFR range of 1,460 nm with full fuel, one pilot and three passengers, according to Raytheon. The Premier I is meant to fly at high-speed cruise all the time, Johnson said, adding that a realistic range at the higher speed is about 1,250 nm, translating to about three hours aloft depending on the wind.

The most notable feature of the cockpit is the Premier I’s Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics. Designed with single-pilot operations in mind, the system is intuitive and user friendly, with systems grouped together and work flows arranged in a logical order. The same cockpit has been brought to the King Air turboprop and is standard in the Hawker 850XP, ensuring that pilots moving up from one Raytheon product to the next can transition quickly.

The best feature of the cockpit is the IFIS cockpit file server, which provides electronic checklists, charts and datalink weather on the displays. The 850XP here features dual IFIS servers, allowing for transition to a paperless cockpit.

While the Premier I is a much hotter performer than the King Air series–from which many pilots will be transitioning–the jet has docile handling characteristics and overall is a pleasure to fly. As an example of the airplane’s pilot friendliness, the Premier I’s throttle is designed to go full forward on takeoff and then back one detent in cruise, where it remains until it’s time to descend. The Premier IA is not equipped with autothrottle, nor is the 850XP.

The one criticism of the Premier design has been a rash of runway-overrun incidents, usually attributed to the pilot carrying too much speed on approach. Raytheon has eliminated an automatic lift-dump feature in the original airplane in favor of a manual lift-dump system that the pilot selects after touchdown. Landing familiarization training has also been added to the training curriculum in the form of a free, half-day course in a Raytheon-owned airplane. Since it first started offering the training about two years ago, landing overruns have been markedly reduced, Johnson said. “It’s something that we really believe in,” she said. “We had to do something to educate people on how to fly the airplane. It’s a 22-degree swept wing and it is fast, that’s no secret. It has to be flown with precision.”

The Hawker 850XP requires precision in flight as well–and two pilots–but the Pro Line 21 avionics simplify many of the calculation tasks that are a chore in older Hawkers. The $14.1 million 850XP features winglets that yield better climb performance and an extra 100 nm of range over the 800XP. The 850XP’s cabin has been redesigned to provide more space in the lavatory and baggage compartment and a left-side divan. Bulkhead displays are bigger in the 850XP and the cabin entertainment system features a handy touchscreen remote control.

Landings in the airplane, as demonstrated by Raytheon sales demo pilot John Bair on a flight here also on Sunday, are often made without the assistance of thrust reversers or brakes, thanks to a lift-dump design that lowers the flaps to an incredible 75 degrees, dropping the aviation equivalent of a barn door into the flow of air below the wing. The result is immediately felt and highly effective.

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