EBACE: Key business aviation programmes under development

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It has been a tough five years for business aviation. The sector has seen a number of programmes and manufacturers go to the wall, particularly in the once-buoyant very light and light jet areas. However, development projects have continued and, with increasing signs of recovery in the industry, several new types are set for service entry before the end of the decade. We review the state of play for the key programmes.

BOEING

Boeing officially launched its line of Boeing Business Jets, based on its 737 Max, in April, following an order from an undisclosed existing BBJ owner.

The sale came 18 years after Boeing and General Electric teamed up to develop the BBJ version of the 737. Unlike the initial BBJ, which was based on the 737-700, the first MAX-based BBJ variant to be ordered is derived from the larger 737-8 and is designed to succeed the current 737-800-based BBJ2. The BBJ Max 8 incorporates the aerodynamic and systems improvements of the standard MAX, as well as the more fuel-efficient CFM Leap-1B engines, providing a range of 6,325nm (11,714km) – a 14% improvement over the standard BBJ’s range.

“The extra [800nm range] will allow our customers to connect to many more city pairs – Hong Kong to London for example, without having to equip the aircraft with extra fuel tanks [as with the current BBJ2],” says Steve Taylor, president of Boeing Business Jets.

Taylor says Boeing is still studying plans for BBJ MAX 7, based on the 737-7, but the business case is not yet clear. The BBJ MAX family will, however, include the larger BBJ MAX 9, based on the 737-9. The aircraft will have a range of 6,255nm.

The initial variant of the MAX is due to enter flight tests in 2016, although the first BBJ version will not be delivered to a completion centre until 2018. The next available slot for a BBJ MAX 8 is 2019.

Meanwhile, the first BBJ 747-8 is scheduled to roll-out of the completion centre later this year. So, too, is the first 787 modified into a BBJ. “We currently have three BBJ 787s in completion,” says Taylor. “We sold another aircraft earlier this year, which isn’t expected to be delivered until late in the decade,” says Taylor.

BOMBARDIER

After bringing its superlight Learjet 75 and light cabin Learjet 70 business jets to market late last year, Bombardier is now focusing on its top-of-the-range Learjet – the all-new midsize 85. The flight test campaign of the primarily composite aircraft was launched on 9 April after a one-year delay, loosely attributed by Bombardier to issues building the composite structure and systems. The Canadian airframer will not commit to a certification and service entry schedule until the flight test programme is well under way.

The Learjet 85 – launched in 2007 – is designed to become the “largest, fastest and furthest Learjet ever”, says Bombardier. Powered by a pair of Pratt & Whitney Canada PW307B engines, the eight-seat aircraft has a cruise speed of 450kt (830km/h) and a range of 2,611nm. The Learjet 85 also features Bombardier’s Vision flightdeck, which includes the Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion integrated avionics system.

The Fusion-based flightdeck will also be a feature on Bombardier all-new top-of-the-range Global 7000 and 8000 business jets, which are currently under development and scheduled for certification in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

The large-cabin and ultra-long-range types were launched in 2010. Both aircraft will be powered by General Electric’s 16,500lb (73kN)-thrust Passport 20 engine and feature an all-new, high-speed transonic wing.

The Global 7000 will have a 74.9m3 (2,640ft3) cabin – 20% bigger cabin than the Global 6000 – which currently sits at the helm of Bombardier business jet family.

The aircraft will have a high-speed cruise of Mach 0.90 and a range of 7,300nm at M0.85. Bombardier has given no indication when Global 7000’s flight test campaign will begin, but it stresses that the aircraft remains on track for certification in 2016.

The Global 8000 will feature 2,236 m3 cabin and a range of 7,900nm at M0.85.

Meanwhile Bombardier’s super-midsize Challenger 350 is racing towards the finishing line with certification and first deliveries earmarked for the second quarter. The 10-seat business jet replaces the industry’s best-selling super-midsize model, the Challenger 300, which entered service a decade ago.

The aircraft is powered by Honeywell HTF7350 turbofans, each producing 7,323lb-thrust. It has a maximum take-off weight of 40,600lb (18,430kg), while maximum range with eight passengers and two crew is 3,200nm at a long-range speed of M0.8. The aircraft also has a maximum speed of M0.82.

Inside, the Challenger 350 cockpit has a Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 advanced avionics suite, while the cabin boasts Lufthansa Technik’s Nice high-definition cabin management system, contemporary seat design and a new modular galley.

CESSNA

After certificating and shipping the first tranche of Citation M2 and Sovereign+ models at the end of last year, Cessna’s next goal is to validate the upgraded version of the Citation X this quarter. The midsize X+ will become the fastest jet in commercial service with a top speed of M0.925 when it enters service. The nine-passenger twinjet, which features uprated Rolls-Royce AE3007C2 engines and a Garmin G5000 flightdeck, was originally slated for approval in March but the Textron-owned company declines to reveal why the schedule has slipped.

The 12-year old CJ3 is next in line for a makeover. The light cabin CJ3+ will feature a new interior, a redesigned cabin and Garmin G3000 cockpit when it enters service in the third quarter.

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Gulfstream's G450 has had notable success in China

While platforms enhancements are a key focus of Cessna’s product line strategy, new designs will also be fundamental to its business.

The first of the clean-sheet designs to come to market this decade is the Latitude. The first of the superlight business jet has logged more than 70h of flight time since making its maiden flight on 18 February and Cessna says it is on target to enter service in 2015. The twinjet has already achieved its full performance envelope, reaching its maximum speed of 440kt and altitude of 45,000ft. The Latitude shares the wing, aft section and the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW306D engine with the Sovereign+, but it introduces a wider and taller cabin, stretching the width by 28cm (11in) to 1.96m and the height by 10cm to 1.83m.The 2,500nm-range Latitude also falls neatly within the gap created between the 3,000nm Sovereign+ and the 1,722nm Citation XLS+.The nine-seat twinjet also features the Garmin G5000 integrated flightdeck and Clarity cabin management system.

These interior features are also destined for the new super-midsize Longitude, which is scheduled to enter service in 2017.

The Longitude sits at the top of Cessna’s product line. It uses the same fuselage cross-section, windows, passenger seats and aluminium construction as the smaller Latitude, but will be 2.74m (9ft) longer. Powered by a pair of FADEC-controlled, 11,000lb-thrust Snecma Silvercrest engines, the Longitude is projected to have a maximum take-off weight of around 55,000lb, a maximum range of 4,000nm and a maximum cruise speed 490kt.

Cessna has numerous designs on the drawing board, including a new “wide cabin” light jet family and says it has not ruled out re-entering the large-cabin arena – a sector it vacated in 2009, following the cancellation of the Columbus programme – to capture the valuable move-up market.

“Aircraft in this sector generate strong revenues and stability for OEMs, so there is a desire to be there in the long term,” it says.

CIRRUS AIRCRAFT

Cirrus looks set to be first to market with a single-engined personal jet with customer deliveries of the SF50 Vision on track to begin in late 2015.

The Duluth, Minnesota-based developer of the successful SR series of piston singles has already received over 500 orders for the seven-seat aircraft.

The first conforming aircraft, C0, flew for the first time 24 March. It is being used for performance verification and, towards the end of the programme, will undertake in-air parachute testing. Aircraft C1 is scheduled to enter service in the third quarter and will be used for systems, ice and engine testing. A final flying prototype, C2, will join the flight-test programme 45 days later and will undertake reliability evaluations. An earlier configuration technology demonstrator, dubbed V1, has accumulated around 800 flying hours and 1,000 engine runs since it was built in 2008.

The $1.96 million, carbonfibre Vision is equipped with a Garmin G3000 flightdeck and an emergency parachute system. Powered by a Williams International FJ33 turbofan, the aircraft has a range of 1,200nm, a stall speed of 61kt and a cruise speed of 300kt.

DASSAULT

Dassault is on track to fly its all-new Falcon 5X in early 2015. The large cabin long-range twin, unveiled last year, is the French airframer’s largest business aircraft to date with a fuselage diameter of 2.7m and a cabin height of 1.98m. The 5X boasts a new wing – similar in size to its flagship 7X’s – and a new digital flight control system, both developed in-house. The DFCS integrates all moving control surfaces for the first time. This includes a “flaperon” that enables steep approaches at slow speeds.

Honeywell is providing the 5X with a new generation EASy all-digital cockpit, which will feature head-up display technology provided by Elbit Systems. The M0.8 aircraft is powered by Snecma's Silvercrest engine, marking the first time a Falcon has been launched with an all-new powerplant, or one produced by a French manufacturer. The 5X boasts a maximum take-off weight of 69,600lb, a maximum landing weight to maximum take-off weight ratio of 95% and a range with eight passengers of 5,200nm.

The $45 million 5X is earmarked for certification before the end of 2016, leading to first deliveries in 2017. Three development aircraft will be built and the first will be retained for future development work.

The 5X will launch a new family of jets and could ultimately be grown to provide Dassault with a competitor for new ultra-long-range jets from the Bombardier and Gulfstream stables.

The $50 million 7X remains Dassault’s longest-range Falcon for the time being, although the company is expected to launch a larger and extended-range version of the tri-jet at the EBACE convention later this month.

EMBRAER

Embraer is hoping to bring its long-awaited Legacy 500 to market in the third quarter. The M0.83 midsize business jet will be joined a year later by its superlight (or what Embraer dubs a mid-light) stablemate, the M0.82 Legacy 450. The Legacy 500/450 programmes were launched in 2008. The 500 began its flight test campaign in November 2012 and the 450 followed thirteen months later.

The clean sheet designs feature fly-by-wire flight controls – a first for a commercial aircraft of its size – Honeywell HTF7500E turbofan engines and Rockwell Collins ProLine Fusion avionics. Both designs also feature a 2m cabin height and extensive baggage area. “We have raised the benchmark with both of these products, by introducing features that you would typically find in ultra long-range aircraft,” says Embraer Executive Jets chief executive Marco Túlio Pellegrini.

Pellegrini says the Legacy 500 is the Executive Jets’ division’s main focus. “We are on track for entry into service in the third quarter. Our ambition is to bring the 450 – which is after all, the same platform – to market about a year later. Smooth service entry of both models is our priority,” adds Pellegrini.

Orders for both aircraft are “progressing well”, Pellegrini continues. “We look forward to delivering the aircraft and bringing some cash into the company.”

He says Embaer has not ruled out introducing a challenger to the ultra-long-range designs from Bombardier, Dassault and Gulfstream, but stresses a new aircraft is unlikely to be launched any time soon.

EPIC AIRCRAFT

Epic Aircraft is intensifying its efforts to bring its E1000 single-engined turboprop to market within 20 months. The $2.75 million, high-performance type is a certificated, factory-built version of the Epic LT kit plane, which is no longer offered by the Bend, Oregon facility.

Epic is now building the conforming parts for the first E1000 flying prototype, which is scheduled to make its maiden sortie in the middle of the year. The Garmin G950-equipped, Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-67A-powered aircraft has a maximum cruise speed of 325kt, a range of 1,600nm (2,970km) and a ceiling of 34,000ft.

EVEKTOR

Czech general aviation aircraft manufacturer Evektor is developing the EV-55 Outback twin-engined turboprop. The first prototype made its maiden flight in June 2011 and Evektor is hoping to fly the first production conforming version, equipped with a CMC Smartdeck avionics suite, in the fourth quarter.

Development of the high-wing aircraft is being funded by Evektor and the Czech government, but the Kunovice-based company says it needs to secure further investment from other sources to bring the nine-seat aircraft to market in 2016. Evektor says the sluggish business and general aviation market, coupled with a poor economic climate, has hampered its attempts to secure private investment. The lack of funding has slowed development of the aircraft, which was originally slated for certification in 2013.

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The first prototype EV-55 Outback made its maiden flight in June 2011

The Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-21-powered EV-55 is Evektor’s first foray into the business and utility aircraft market. The company made its name in ultralights and light sport aircraft and has sold more than 1,000 of them worldwide.

GULFSTREAM

Since its super-midsize G280 and ultra-long-range G650 entered service at the end of 2012, Gulfstream has not announced any new aircraft programmes. However, the Savannah, Georgia-based airframer is believed to be working on a number of designs and product enhancements, one or more of which could be announced soon.

“There is a lot of stuff going on at Gulfstream,” the airframer says. “With the exception of the G280 and the G650 – which are our freshest programmes – we are looking at the rest of the product line. However, we only announce new products when they are at an advanced stage of development.”

One of these projects is code-named P42 and is believed to be a successor to the large-cabin G450. Although the project’s existence was leaked accidentally by a Gulfstream supplier in 2010, the airframer has been in no hurry to unveil it since sales of its top-end business jets have been largely
unscathed by the economic crisis. The G450 has had notable success in China, for example. Any new programmes could also cannibalise its existing market.

HONDA AIRCRAFT

Honda Aircraft is planning to certificate and deliver the HA-420 HondaJet in the first quarter of 2015. Joint venture partners GE Aviation and HondaJet clinched Part 33 certification for the 2,095lb-thrust HF120 engine late last year, following an intensive programme that involved 13 engines and 14,000 cycles on 9000h of testing.

Around the same time Honda received Type Inspection Authorisation for the HondaJet. TIA is the final step before FAA pilots can fly the HondaJet as part of the certification process and indicates that the jet meets type design requirements.

The light-cabin, Garmin G3000-equipped business jet has a maximum cruise speed of 420kt and a range with four passengers of 1,180nm.

NEXTANT AEROSPACE

Having secured market approval for its first remanufactured aircraft – the 400XTi light business jet – Nextant has turned its attention to a second aircraft from the Hawker Beechcraft stable. Its revamped King Air G90XT is scheduled to make its first flight in the second quarter, leading to service entry early next year.

The G90XT is the first of several King Air upgrade programmes planned by Nextant and its programme partner GE Aviation. The first model replaces the C90’s Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 turboprop engines with GE H80s – a modernised version of the Walter M601. Other upgrades include the addition of a Garmin G1000 flightdeck, a new interior and a refresh of all life-limited components.

PILATUS

Pilatus launched its superlight PC-24 a year ago – marking its first foray into the business jet manufacturing arena. The Swiss airframer, which produces the venerable PC-12 NG turboprop single, has self-styled the PC-24 “a super versatile jet” to differentiate the eight-seater from other aircraft in its
class. The PC-24 “combines the versatility of a turboprop with the cabin size of a medium light jet, and the performance of a light jet”, says Pilatus. “It simply doesn’t fit into any of the existing business jet categories. That’s why we had to create a new one.”

The $9 million twinjet has a projected take-off distance of 820m (2,690ft) and a landing distance of 2,525ft, enabling it to operate from unpaved runways and grass strips. “This gives the aircraft access to more than 21,000 airports worldwide –10% more than competing jets,” Pilatus says. The Williams FJ44-4A-powered PC-24 will have range with six passengers of 1,800nm and a cruise speed of 425kt. It will also include Pilatus’s advanced cockpit environment, developed in partnership with Honeywell, and feature a synthetic vision system, auto throttle, TCAS II, and graphical flight planning, as well as a large cargo door and a pressurised in-flight baggage compartment.

The first of three flying prototypes is being built at Pilatus’ Stans headquarters and roll-out is scheduled on 1 August to mark the Swiss National Day, says the airframer. First flight is planned for early 2015, leading to certification and service entry of the $9 million aircraft in 2017.

Pilatus plans to announce its PC-24 launch customers at EBACE this month.

SYBERJET

Syberjet is planning to fly the upgraded version of the SJ-30 later this year, equipped with its Honeywell Primus Apex-based flightdeck, called Sybervision.

The latest version of the high-speed, light business jet will also feature a new interior. These enhancements should lighten the aircraft by approximately 200lb, says SyberJet, whose parent company MSC purchased the assets of the former SJ30 owner, Emivest Aerospace in April for $3.5 million.

MSC is also the parent company of Metalcraft, which is manufacturing and assembling the majority of the SJ30’s airframe.

The Williams FJ44-2A-powered SJ30 has a ceiling of 49,000ft, a high-speed cruise speed of M0.83, a range of 2,500nm and maintains a sea-level cabin pressure to 41,000ft.