Companies vie to build RVSM suite for Lear 20s

 - May 6, 2008, 10:35 AM
Just one year ago there were none. Now, four companies have suddenly announced their intention to develop an RVSM STC package for the Learjet 20 series to be available next year. All four companies propose to achieve the approval using the airplane’s original JET autopilot and estimate the price to be around $150,000.

Avcon Industries, the Newton, Kan. company that developed the Learjet 30-series Avcon Delta Fin, is seeking firm orders from operators of 20 Learjet 24/25s, four of which will participate with Avcon’s own aircraft in a group RVSM certification program for the business jets. Avcon expects the RVSM avionics package and functional test flight to cost $149,225 per aircraft, if the original JET autopilot is usable.

An initial deposit of $25,000 is required to secure a firm order. A progress payment of $50,000 would be due when Avcon receives an STC for the installation of Rosemount probes. Another progress payment of $50,000 would be due when each customer aircraft is brought to Avcon for RVSM modification and testing. A final payment of $24,225 would be required when the RVSM STC is received or on completion of RVSM modifications after the STC is received.

Avcon said it will begin rebating launch customers $10,000 per aircraft after 25 aircraft are RVSM approved. After Avcon receives an initial commitment for 20 aircraft (the company said at press time it had commitments for eight), the company will use its Learjet 25D to obtain a multiple-use STC for the installation of Rosemount probes, two RVSM-approved altimeters and air-data computers (probably from IS&S), as well as an autopilot interface module.

When this STC is granted “we will immediately begin RVSM test flights,” company president Larry Franke said. Avcon’s Learjet will be the first aircraft used in obtaining group RVSM approval “and will bear the brunt of FAA flight testing.” While its Learjet is being test flown, Avcon will begin modifying four customer aircraft with the necessary equipment “so we can keep the group approval flight schedule moving with minimum interruption.”

After each aircraft is flown for RVSM group approval, it will be returned to the owners pending issuance of the RVSM STC, said Avcon. The company cautioned that if more than five aircraft are required to obtain group approval, it will seek an additional aircraft or two. “We do not anticipate that more than seven aircraft will be required,” the company said.

While RVSM currently takes priority, Avcon’s Delta Fin project for the Learjet 20 series is on the back burner. (That program suffered a serious setback last year after a flight-test accident destroyed Avcon’s previous Learjet.)

Following the completion of all flight tests, it will take a “few months” for the RVSM data to be analyzed and an STC awarded, Franke explained.

Startup Enters Fray

LSJC, a year-old engineering and certification consulting company based in Wichita and staffed by ex-Bombardier employees, is teaming up with Aeromech, an FAA-certified repair station, to offer a program that it hopes will see an RVSM STC for Learjet 24/25s awarded by next summer. In reference to using the business jet’s original autopilot, LSJC co-founder Woody Cottner told AIN, “We have already come up with a solution.” For competitive reasons, Cottner preferred not to elaborate.

The company is not requiring a minimum number of orders to get started. About half the respondents to a customer survey the company conducted indicated they would get their aircraft RVSM approved if they could do it for less than $150,000. That was good enough for Cottner: “We are committed to the program,” he said. The company is now accepting letters of intent and will require a $10,000 to $15,000 initial deposit when it starts taking firm orders.

Recently, Tulsa, Okla. maintenance and repair facility Bizjet International reported it had completed the first test flight of a modified Learjet 25 and expects to gain a group STC early next year.

A Learjet RVSM group-approval project under way at Spirit Wing was announced earlier this year, but is not a priority program as the Oklahoma City firm focuses on its Williams FJ44-2C engine mod for these airplanes.

Even if only one of the above programs is successful, operators of the more than 500 Learjet 24s and 25s still operating worldwide will have an RVSM option at a relatively reasonable price. While RVSM approval will increase the value and operating flexibility of the Learjet 20 series, the Spirit Wing re-engining mod or a currently available Stage 3 hush kit could further extend the airplanes’ useful life and increase their resale value.