The forecasts released last month at the NBAA Convention from turbine-engine manufacturers Honeywell and Rolls-Royce and market research firm Inflight Management Development Centre (IMDC) agree: the business jet market has turned the corner. Honeywell and Rolls-Royce project delivery of between 500 and 550 business jets this year, on par with, or slightly above, last year’s deliveries.
Personal jets, mini-jets, ultra-light jets, very light jets. The category has many names and now many contenders. But no company has yet brought a very light business jet to certification and production. Several programs that have been displayed over the years at past NBAA conventions, such as the Alberta Phoenix FanJet and Century Aerospace Century Jet, are now “on the shelf” and may stay there forever.
Diamond’s second single-engine D-Jet made its first flight on September 14 in London, Ontario. This D-Jet incorporates aerodynamic improvements derived from flight testing of the first D-Jet and is also production-conforming. Three more D-Jets in the final configuration are under construction, and certification flight testing should begin shortly.
Ken Harness has been named COO of Diamond Aircraft’s North American operations. He comes from Eclipse Aviation, where he was vice president of engineering. In his new role he will oversee engineering, flight test, manufacturing and quality for all Diamond aircraft, including the new D-Jet, at the company’s facility in London, Ontario.
A $20,000 deposit will secure a delivery slot for the D-Jet, a proposed five-seat, all-composite single-engine jet that Diamond Aircraft hopes to fly next year, certify in 2006 and sell for $850,000. Engine and avionics suppliers have yet to be announced. The company, with facilities in London, Ontario, and Wiener Neustadt, Austria, currently builds composite single- and twin-engine piston aircraft.
As the business aviation industry awakens from its three-year slumber, start-up and established manufacturers hope that their aircraft now in the works, as well as those that recently received certification, will take sales revenue to new heights. While this list of new aircraft includes many derivatives, more than half of the proposed aircraft are actually clean-sheet designs.
On September 10, Walled Lake, Mich.-based Williams International received FAA type certification of its new 1,568-pound-thrust FJ33-4A. The company will follow this milestone with the introduction of yet another turbofan engine.
The race is on; the first manufacturer to certify, build and deliver a single-engine jet that offers reasonable performance and price might have the market to itself until Piper Aircraft’s PiperJet joins the fray in 2010. Unless Cirrus Design has far more up its sleeve than it has revealed thus far, it appears that Diamond will be first to market with its surprisingly roomy D-Jet.
Point2Point Airways, the Grand Forks, N.D.-based on-demand “airline style” charter company, ceased operations recently and laid off all its employees. The company was formed in 2002 to respond to what it called a lack of connectivity in the Great Plains region. Though the company operated only piston aircraft when it closed its doors, it had many Diamond D-Jets and Eclipse 500s on order.
The regional NBAA forum at West Palm Beach International (PBI), Fla., on March 10 served a slice of business aviation with complex ingredients. Fractional ownership has added occupants to the back of the cabin without always expanding the industry pie.