NBAA 2006: Rumours fly about secret new designs

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Up to 12 aircraft in pipeline with emphasis on large size

Perhaps a dozen new aircraft are in design at business jet manufacturers, some of which could be launched as early as next year, and the NBAA show floor was alive with rumour and speculation on who is working on what, and with whom.

One trend was clear - manufacturers are looking at larger aircraft. Honeywell, in its 10-year business aviation forecast, projects the strongest growth after 2010 in the super mid-size and large sectors. Rival engine manufacturer Snecma says a "good half-dozen" new aircraft in this range are expected to enter service between 2010 and 2015. Rolls-Royce's 20-year market forecast predicts nearly half of the estimated 24,000 aircraft deliveries will be medium or large.

Dassault says it will begin development of a super mid-size aircraft as soon as the long-range Falcon 7X is certificated next year. "We have made good progress in the definition of the future Falcon, the major choices are made and we are in active negotiations with potential partners," says chairman Charles Edelstenne. The engine will be selected from "three or four" choices within six months.

Gulfstream offered a notional product plan with new or upgraded aircraft entering service between 2009 and 2014 in all of its market segments, from mid-size to large-cabin. Industry sources say the company is working on an upgrade of its super mid-size G200 and a widebody derivative of its ultra-long-range G550, but Gulfstream declines to comment.

Meanwhile Piaggo, for its first business jet, has opted for an aircraft larger than its six/eight-seat P180 Avanti twin-pusher, and will make a decision to launch early next year after finalising supplier and funding arrangements. The Italian manufacturer has been considering two designs: one similar to the Avanti and one larger. The former would have been "easier", says chief executive Jose DiMase, "but that market is too crowded."

Cessna took the wraps off its Large Cabin Concept (LCC) at NBAA, unveiling a mock-up. "We're not officially launching anything, but we are collecting data from the customers," says chairman and president Jack Pelton. The feedback will be used to finalise definition of the product and help decide whether to proceed with development. A decision is expected around October 2007, for entry into service in late 2012.

The nine-seater is currently defined with a 7,400km (4,000nm) range at Mach 0.8 or 7,770km at lower speed. Maximum operating Mach speed would be around 0.86, slower than the Citation X.