Manufacturers look to new business jets by 2012

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With backlogs stretching out beyond two years, and orders outpacing deliveries, the next wave of new products from business aircraft manufacturers looks unlikely to reach operators before 2012.

Despite the buoyant market - or because of it - the 2007 National Business Aviation Association show was devoid of new aircraft launches. But there are signs a significant number of new or improved models are in various stages of planning.

Honeywell forecasts the growth in business jet deliveries will peak in 2009-10, dipping to a plateau in 2011-12 before climbing again as new models enter service. "New products will stimulate demand after 2012," says Rob Wilson, president, business and general aviation.

The only major manufacturer to have shown its hand is Dassault, which has launched development of a super mid-size jet that will enter service in 2013, says Jean Rosanvallon, Falcon Jet president. But details are sparse, except the aircraft will be fly-by-wire, and powered by two new 10,000lb thrust- (45kN) class Rolls-Royce RB282s.

Bombardier business aircraft president Pierre Côté says developing a new Learjet line is the company's "first priority" in new aircraft development, but gives no details. "We are studying what is the right move for us," he says. Meanwhile, a new integrated flightdeck for its Global business-jet family will enter service in 2011.

Gulfstream president Joe Lombardo says the company will "stay consistent" with its tradition of adding a new product every seven years. The G550 was launched in 2000, and parent General Dynamics has said the company's new manufacturing facility in Savannah, Georgia will build prototypes of a new aircraft when it opens in 2008.

Cessna is working towards a decision in the first quarter of 2008 on whether to launch a large-cabin business jet, which would enter service by 2013. "We are working very hard to close on a business case that will allow product launch," says chief executive Jack Pelton. More windtunnel tests are planned before the end of the year.

Similarly Embraer is building the business case for new medium-light and mid-size jets. If launched in 2008 they would enter service beginning in 2013, says chief executive Fred Curado. "Through the second half of 2007 and into 2008 we will be talking to suppliers and partners for the structures and systems, engines and avionics, to better understand the cost base of the aircraft," he says. Efforts to build viability for the programme include taking letters of interest from customers prepared to put down a refundable deposit of $70,000 (MLJ) or $90,000 (MSJ) to secure a delivery position.

Hawker Beechcraft used NBAA "to take the pulse of customers" on which product to announce next, says commercial aircraft president Brad Hatt. The company is focused on derivatives of existing aircraft and plans launches in 2008 in both its Beechcraft and Hawker lines. "We plan some type of upgrade to every product from the Bonanza to the Hawker 4000" over the next five to 10 years, he says