Very Light Jets
Of more than 30 new business jet designs now in various stages of development, no fewer than seven are very light jet (VLJ) projects represented here at the
European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition.
Nearly all of these projects are clean-sheet designs, typically absorbing more money and time than variants of existing designs and demonstrating the faith aircraft manufacturers have in this prospective new market.
As with new airliner programs, the VLJ ramp is littered with the corpses of aspiring projects that never reached production–or even first flight.
Ian Goold offers an overview of the VLJ contenders being offered to the European market here in Geneva this week.
Adam Aircraft has said that despite just having flown its first production-conforming A700, it is pushing back the planned certification date for the $2.25 million very light jet to late this year or early next year. “Trying to predict the date of type certification is hard,” said founder and CEO Rick Adam.
The design shares 65-percent commonality with the company’s A500 centerline-thrust piston twin which was certified 12 months ago. Of the 250 FAA certification reports required for A700 approval, 75 duplicate those approved for the A500, 100 are modified A500 reports and 75 are all new documents.
One consequence of this in-trail approach to certification has been that any delays with the A500 automatically inhibited A700 progress. In mid-April, a fourth A700 joined the flight test program and is being used for function and reliability testing. It is to become the first customer aircraft.
Last October, Adam said the next delivery slot was in the second quarter of 2008; at that time, 65 firm orders were for individual customers and a further 276 were destined for fleet operators. An additional $93 million in funding last August was to be used to accelerate A700 certification, provide working capital and increase A500 production. Adam Aircraft sees a market for some 500 to 1,000 VLJs each year.
The six-passenger A700 will offer NBAA IFR range of 1,100 nm and a high-speed cruise of 340 ktas. Projected max takeoff weight is 8,500 pounds and balanced field length is 2,950 feet.
Aviation Technology Group
Aviation Technology Group (ATG) expects to receive FAA certification for its $2.795 million Javelin two-seat business jet and to begin deliveries by late next year. In January, ATG (Booth No. 570) received an order for 40 Javelins from Action Aviation, a new UK-based distributor for the Middle East, Africa, India and west Asia. The two-engine design bears distinctly military characteristics, with tandem two-seat cockpit and outward-canted twin tails that are reminiscent of the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet combat jet.
Because its integral side-by-side engines are not covered by FAR Part 23 rules, the FAA is proposing special type certification conditions. The agency also has proposed separate fire-protection zones for each Williams FJ33 turbofan because critical fuel and control systems are located so close to the engines.
Changes introduced with the help of ATG partner Israel Aircraft Industries during development of the Javelin before design freeze include a larger wing (yielding a reduction in stall speed from 95 knots to 90), the addition of leading-edge slats and trailing-edge Fowler flaps and a change to an aft-hinged canopy mechanism to allow upward opening rather than the less-conventional side-opening arrangement. The resulting performance changes include a 700-pound maximum takeoff weight boost to 6,900 pounds and a 20-knot reduction of cruise speed to 500 knots.
ATG plans to complete five conforming prototypes of the Javelin at monthly intervals beginning at the end of this year, leading to a year-long flight test program.
This year Cessna (Booth No. 7502) plans to deliver 40 examples of its $2.73 million Citation Mustang, which it designed, certified and introduced into production in accord with the timetable it announced in 2002. Formal approval by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for the single-pilot six-seater could be announced here at EBACE’07. In January, Lewis Campbell, president, chairman and CEO of parent company Textron, said Cessna would increase its sales efforts for the Mustang. At the time, he said the earliest available delivery slot for a new order was in the fourth quarter of 2009.
The Mustang received its FAA production certificate last November, less than three months after formal type certification, but without clearance for flight into known icing.
First delivery followed the same month to California’s Mustang Management Group, which has leased it back to Cessna to use as a demonstrator until October. The first retail delivery occurred April 23.
Mustang Management’s flight-training subsidiary, Scott Aircraft, intends to train buyers in the aircraft before they go to FlightSafety International to obtain type ratings. Until they qualify, Scott believes that 60 percent of owner-pilots will need to fly with FSI mentors to be insurable.
The Mustang, which is larger than other VLJs, offers a max cruise speed of 340 ktas and NBAA IFR range of 1,150 nm.
Last month Cessna announced that Garmin, supplier of the Mustang’s G1000 avionics, repaired a software glitch that wouldn’t allow users to alter an arrival after one was already selected. FSI also announced that it is about to release its Garmin 1000 avionics-training program for the Mustang as part of its new Web-based learning-management course.
Cirrus Design has unveiled few details of its proposed single-engine personal jet. The aircraft is aimed at a perceived market for an all-composite light jet that would be easy to transition to from a Cirrus SR20 or SR22 piston single.
Last October Cirrus president Alan Klapmeier acknowledged that the company is working on a personal jet. “We will not be announcing designs anytime soon. We feel that there is no advantage in showing what we’re doing until we’re further down the road. We have not flown a prototype yet. We still have a long way to go.”
The 1,900-pound-thrust Williams FJ33-19-powered Cirrus, which traces its origins to a 1998 idea and is seen as a likely competitor to the Diamond D-Jet, will have
an emergency ballistic recovery parachute, retractable undercarriage and cabin pressurization.
Despite its public silence, Cirrus is accepting $100,000 nonrefundable deposits. Performance is understood to include a cruise speed of more than 300 ktas, a 1,000-plus-nm range and 25,000-foot service ceiling.
U.S. air-taxi operator DayJet has begun pilot training with its first three Eclipse Aviation 500s (Booth No. 202). Five had been delivered to customers by March 31, six months after type certification.
Performance of the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW610F-powered Eclipse 500 at 5,995 pounds maximum takeoff weight includes an ISA takeoff distance (over a 50-foot obstacle) of 2,342 feet and a four-occupant NBAA IFR range of at least 1,130 nm.
The aircraft climbs to 41,000 feet in less than 33 minutes. At a weight of 5,500 pounds in ISA conditions, the aircraft can achieve a true airspeed of 368 knots at 35,000 feet and 327-knot TAS at 41,000 feet. Eclipse said all performance figures remain to be optimized.
The company now has partnerships with avionics suppliers Innovative Solutions & Support, Chelton Flight Systems, Garmin International, Honeywell and PS Engineering to produce Avio NG, an avionics/flight-management/radio system scheduled for delivery in the middle of this year. Eclipse plans to retrofit earlier-build aircraft by year-end. After having dropped engine supplier Williams International in 2002, Eclipse this year abandoned avionics supplier Avidyne and parted ways with pilot-training contractor United Airlines.
Delivery rates have fallen behind schedule as Eclipse had to wait for FAA production certification needed to accelerate assembly (received on April 26), and it has promised compensation for delays, attributed to manufacturing and internal processes, staffing, parts shortages and quality problems.
Over the next 10 years, Embraer predicts a requirement for 2,500 to 3,000 VLJs in air taxi roles. The Brazilian manufacturer’s entry in this emerging market segment is the $2.85 million Phenom 100, powered by the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW617F. Earlier this year, the company began final assembly of prototypes in anticipation of a planned mid-year first flight, previously expected in the first quarter.
Embraer foresees engine certification in the fourth quarter of this year, with aircraft approval and service entry following in the middle of next year. Firm orders for the twinjet Phenom 100 and the larger Phenom 300 were 350 at the beginning of this year.
Their combined production rate is expected to be 120 to 150 per year by 2009. CAE will form a global joint venture with Embraer to provide pilot and ground crew training on the Phenom 100 and 300 at its SimuFlite facility in Dallas next year.
The Phenom 100 main structure is aluminum alloy, with secondary surfaces made from composites. The eight-seat aircraft has a range of 1,160 nm with four occupants.
Spectrum Aeronautical (Booth No. 140) continues development of the carbon-fiber S-33 Independence following the fatal crash of the proof-of-concept prototype last July. The accident was attributed to crossed aileron controls following modification to stiffen its main landing gear legs.
After its first flight on Jan. 6, 2006, the aircraft logged 50 flight hours in 47 flights, during which it was flown to 324 knots and 25,000 feet. Drag was said to be “within 4 percent” of design goals, with center-of- gravity limits within the predicted range.
Spectrum expects to fly a conformal test vehicle by the fourth quarter. Planned certification and initial deliveries have slipped at least until 2009, with a first-year production rate of 12 aircraft. The $3.65 million (2005$) S-33 will seat eight passengers and two pilots, have a 1,560-nm unrefueled range and 415-knot max cruise speed.