Top Raytheon Aircraft officials declined to comment directly on a recent Wall Street Journal article claiming the company has “suffered more setbacks than it has let on publicly, including rising costs, production problems and canceled orders” for its new Premier I.
Aircraft maintenance does not exactly move forward technologically at the speed of light. Instead, it appears the industry is in a constant state of making things incrementally better. A small innovation here, some modification to an existing procedure there, a reemphasis on the importance of service, and the result is that operators get better, faster, more cost-effective maintenance.
The Chinese proverb “may you live in interesting times” certainly seems appropriate for manufacturers and would-be manufacturers of new business airplanes. Interesting times indeed: with the weaker than expected economic recovery, and the specter of a possible double-dip recession, even some established, well financed business aircraft manufacturers are stretching out timelines for their respective new products.
As Raytheon Aircraft ramps up significantly the delivery rate of the Premier I–the company aims to ship 40 units this year, more than twice as many aircraft in the second half than the 13 in the first half–it has disclosed several major improvements scheduled for incorporation on new aircraft over the next year and to be available for retrofit on all airplanes previously delivered (31 to date).
The aircraft modification business represents American enterprise at its best–dozens of small companies each turning out a variety of unique products aimed at what traditionally appears to be a narrow segment of the worldwide marketplace. Modification specialists are inventors–critical thinkers and dreamers who often see solutions to problems the rest of us assumed were unfixable.
Considering the circumstances, NBAA, its membership and participants in the association’s 2001 convention in New Orleans were generally satisfied, despite the reduced numbers of attendees and exhibitors. This year, despite a struggling U.S. economy, show organizers for the Orlando event expect a show equal in scale to what had originally been anticipated in New Orleans.
Raytheon Aircraft is working on an in-house sound-reduction package that aims to lower the noise levels by about 5 db in the Premier I cabin. The interior package will start being installed on the production line in the fall and be retrofittable at no charge to customers, the company said.
The Hawker 750 is now entering service, following FAA certification in February, and thus drops off the In The Works list. The 750 is Hawker Beechcraft’s second recent derivative of the Hawker series; the first was the 900XP, certified last August. The 750 adds a 32-cu-ft heated external baggage compartment by removing the fuselage fuel tank, but still offers NBAA IFR range of 2,116 nm with the standard eight-passenger Hawker cabin.
The FAA issued a special airworthiness bulletin on October 7 alerting operators of the Raytheon Beech Premier I that the agency has determined that the jet’s flap actuators are “nonconforming” parts, fabricated from material that might be subject to “brittle failures at cold temperatures.”
London Biggin Hill Airport-based charter firm PlaneChartering, owner of the loss-making Club328 brand, disbanded its Fairchild Dornier 328Jet and Hawker Beechcraft Premier Is and laid off 14 of its pilots last month. Meanwhile, PlaneChartering group CEO Paul Crowther is taking over from Club328’s CEO, Elaine Young, who left the company. PlaneChartering acquired Southampton, UK-based Club328 from Corporate Jet Services in October.