AIN’s Crystal Ball New Aircraft Programs Are Few and Far Between

 - January 6, 2014, 2:50 AM

The world’s economy, for the most part, is slowly and steadily improving, but that has not yet provided the general aviation industry with a shot in the arm. During the past year only two clean-sheet jet designs were formally unveiled–the Pilatus PC-24 and Dassault Falcon 5X–but these were known to be under way for many years before this year’s public program launches.

See below for link to PDF of AIN’s 2014 “Crystal Ball” Forecast and Airplanes On the Shelf tables.

Some significant jet programs remain in the final stages of development and certification, and these will shape the market in the coming years, but the pipeline for new programs is fairly dry right now. It is not clear whether this is because the market for business aviation turboprops and jets is saturated and under pressure from the plentiful numbers of good used aircraft available or because the state of the economy is discouraging new developments. Another notable trend is the complete lack of new turboprop program announcements. The only developments in the turboprop market are programs that have been under way for a while, and there is no certainty that these will all reach the market.

Most of the business jet programs will see the light of day, although it will mostly be experienced manufacturers that succeed in delivering their products. One new-entrant jet manufacturer that is clearly committed to seeing its new jet enter service is Honda Aircraft. That program has suffered delays introduced by setbacks in engine certification, which may reflect the challenge of pursuing a newly designed jet and engine program at the same time. The HondaJet is set to achieve certification in early 2015, following the jet’s GE Honda Aero HF120 engine receipt of certification at the end of 2013.

There are other new-entrant jet manufacturers, too, if single-engine jet programs are considered. Although it appeared that the D-Jet had earned a reprieve, Diamond Aircraft’s silence about any progress on the program suggests the money it requires is not flowing. Stratos Aircraft, which fielded a single-engine jet design with significantly superior performance, has completed wind-tunnel testing and is now building the first wing skin for load testing.

By contrast, Cirrus Aircraft, with new funding from its Chinese owners, is ramping up work on the Vision SF50 single-engine jet and has hired a number of technicians and engineers for the program. At one point, Diamond appeared to be in first place for the race to field the first single-engine jet, but now Cirrus holds that position. It will be interesting to see if there indeed is a market for a single-engine jet.

A new addition to this year’s list is the Flaris LAR 1 single-engine jet. An all-composite airplane, the LAR 1 is under development by Poland’s Metal-Master, and first flight is imminent. The jet seats up to five people and is projected to fly up to 1,350 nm, cruise at up to 380 knots, stall at 62 knots and reach a ceiling of 46,000 feet. Another new addition is Malaysia’s AeroNimbus program, a twin-engine very light jet that has been under development for about six years.

Single-engine jet manufacturers find themselves competing in price with high-performance single-engine turboprops and also with the new Eclipse 550, which entered service last year. The competition could include new turboprops from Caiga, Epic Aircraft and Kestrel Aircraft, but it’s not clear yet which of these will make it into production. Caiga’s Primus 150, which is similar to the Epic E1000, was supposed to have flown by the end of last year, but Caiga has not released any new information about the program.

First flight of Bombardier’s all-composite Learjet 85 was imminent at press time. With the Learjet 85 Bombardier strives to be the first out of the gate with a composite Part 25 business jet. The company’s commitment to the Learjet 85 is clearly strong and could lead to further exploration of widespread use of structural composites in future programs.

Bombardier’s Learjet 70/75, with a renewed Vision flight deck powered by Garmin’s G5000 touchscreen-controlled avionics, entered service late last year, but this is an update of the Learjet 40/45 models. Two other Bombardier programs, the Global 7000 and 8000, are on track and also received significant new orders last year, which bodes well for this program. Bombardier is updating the Challenger 300 to the 350 configuration this year, but otherwise there are no new developments in the public eye from the Canadian manufacturer. The Challenger 605 continues to sell, and for now there is no replacement for that jet in the cards, although it wouldn’t be surprising to see that Bombardier’s designers are working on some 605 upgrades.

Cessna in the past has kept new programs on time to an impressive degree, but lately most of its programs have slipped somewhat. The light M2 was set for certification by the end of last year, but there was no word as this issue went to press. The M2 is Cessna’s first application of Garmin’s G3000 avionics suite, branded Intrinzic by Cessna. Cessna’s re-designed Sovereign and X, again with Intrinzic cockpits but using Garmin’s G5000 avionics, are also delayed but expected to achieve certification shortly, if not before this issue was published. Finally, both the Latitude and Longitude–new designs for Cessna–are on track and illustrate Cessna’s willingness to tackle new designs that may help it compete with the likes of Embraer and offer step-up products to help keep Citation owners in the Cessna clan.

Embraer’s 450/500 series of fly-by-wire midlight/midsize jets is well on its way, with the 450 model preparing for first flight and the 500 having flown in late 2012 and shooting for certification in the middle of this year, which represents a delay from earlier plans for end-of-2013 certification. No new clean-sheet programs are in the works from Embraer at this time, but it has been a long time since the company’s last new program announcement, so there may be something on designers’ drawing boards.

Gulfstream has been quiet since certifying the G280 and G650 in 2012, but given the strong showing in the large-jet market, there may be plans afoot. Certainly the G650’s wide fuselage offers opportunities for subsequent aircraft to build on that design.

Some other programs appear to be victims of the less-than-robust economy and have made little, if any, progress. These include the all-composite Dornier Seastar amphibian, which, while already certified, hasn’t generated any traction in the current marketplace.

Evektor’s twin-engine EV-55 Outback was undergoing flight-testing last year. This turboprop is the first application of the CMC Electronics SmartDeck avionics suite, and if it makes it into production pilots will be able to experience CMC’s new integrated flight deck.

GippsAero continues to support development of the GA-18 twin turboprop, which is a new version of the former Australian GAF Nomad. Entry-into-service is expected next year. GippsAero’s GA-10 turboprop update of the piston-powered GA-8 is still undergoing certification in Australia.

The Privateer Industries amphibian program suffered the loss of its chief designer, Bill Husa, last year. The company has recommitted to seeing the aircraft fly and hopes to get the program back on track.

Sky Aircraft’s Skylander remains doubtful given the company’s entry into receivership last year, and there doesn’t appear to be any current effort to revive the program.

Daher-Socata acknowledged last year that its new design, tentatively labeled the NTX, is on hold and that no engineering resources are being spent on the project. Likewise, there has been no action on the purported Piaggio Aero P1XX.

Finally, there are the long-dreamed-of supersonic business jets (SSBJs). One has to give credit to Aerion for continuing its research in this segment because if such an aircraft ever comes to fruition, Aerion will be in an excellent position to lead SSBJ development. The Supersonic Aerospace QSST program could also be a contender, as the company has done a substantial amount of research and remains ready to move forward should serious interest develop. HyperMach Aerospace is still promoting its SonicStar and other high-speed aircraft, but this type of aircraft remains an extraordinary technical challenge.

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Comments

PlanBrules's picture

Matt, Polish your crystal ball a bit. I found another amphib about to join the maket. www.vickersaircraft.com

Matt Thurber's picture

The “In The Works” and “Crystal Ball” sections cover turboprop and jet aircraft. While we occasionally cover piston aircraft, especially at shows like Sun ‘n Fun and EAA AirVenture, the primary focus in AIN is aircraft flown for business aviation purposes.

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