As the industry emerged from the pandemic two years ago, it became clear that engineering and design teams at the largest business aircraft manufacturers had been far from idle. All three rivals in the large-cabin segment – Bombardier, Dassault Aviation and Gulfstream – revealed new, flagship types over a 12-month period from May 2021.
First out of the blocks was Dassault, which unveiled its largest jet, the 7,500nm (13,900km)-range Falcon 10X around the time of what would have been 2021’s EBACE – had the show not for the second time fallen victim to restrictions on large gatherings. The launch gave the French manufacturer a genuine competitor to the longest-range products from Bombardier and Gulfstream for the first time.
Gulfstream followed in October that year with its longest-distance runner, the 8,000nm-range G800, which, like the 10X, is powered by a variant of Rolls-Royce’s Pearl engine family. The airframer, which has a recent history of keeping its projects under wraps until official launch, rolled out the first test aircraft during a ceremony at its Savannah, Georgia headquarters, and performed a first flight in June 2022.
Last to the party at the first post-Covid-19 EBACE in May last year was Bombardier with the Global 8000, a reworked version of an earlier planned stablemate to its Global 7500. Like the G800, the Global 8000 has, as its name suggests, a range of 8,000nm – and, rather than sit alongside the Global 7500, as per Bombardier’s original stated intention, the newer type will actually eventually replace it.
The three high profile launches somewhat overshadowed programme developments by other manufacturers. Along with the G800, Gulfstream also launched in October 2021 the 4,200nm-range G400. Meanwhile, Daher in 2022 announced the Kodiak 900, while Honda Aircraft also revealed last year that it is working on a conceptual successor to the HA-420 HondaJet called – for the moment at least – the 2600.
As a preview to the 23-25 May EBACE show in Geneva, we review the state of the major newly in service and in-development business jet and turboprop programmes, by manufacturer.
Airbus unveiled the ACJ TwoTwenty – the corporate jet version of the former Bombardier CSeries CS100 – in October 2020, and in February 2023 the first cabin-completed example was delivered to Dubai-based hospitality group Five Hotels and Resorts at the Indianapolis, Indiana facility of Comlux Completion.
The smallest Airbus Corporate Jet uses additional fuel tanks to achieve a range of 5,650nm; around twice that of the passenger A220. Comlux has an arrangement with Airbus to install the interiors in the first 15 aircraft.
Airbus, which aims to sell around 10 examples of the ACJ TwoTwenty each year, believes the type gives it a “game changer” competitor against established large-cabin brands for the first time. Last May, it opened an ACJ TwoTwenty “creative studio” in Toulouse, including a full-scale section of the cabin and virtual reality technology to allow potential customers to configure an interior.
Traditionally, many customers of corporate versions of Airbus’s larger airliners – ACJ320neos, ACJ330s and ACJ350s – operate them as head of state aircraft. However, last July Airbus delivered an ACJ319neo – powered by CFM International Leap-1As – to a new undisclosed European customer. It will be available for charter flights under a management contract with Jet Aviation.
In 2022, Airbus delivered one other ACJ TwoTwenty, along with five ACJ330s, according to General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) data.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Boeing Business Jet – the first BBJ, based on the 737-700, flew for the first time in September 1998. However, the manufacturer has been offering VIP versions of its airliners – including most famously the 707 and 747 “Air Force One” US presidential transports – since the 1960s.
The last few years have been a quiet time for the brand, with just two deliveries – a BBJ Max 8 and a Max 9 – in 2022, according to GAMA figures. Boeing’s latest launch, in 2018, was the BBJ 777X, a version of the still-to-be-certificated flagship twinjet.
At EBACE last year, Boeing announced that it planned to add a BBJ Max 7 demonstrator in 2023. This will be the third and final member of the narrowbody range, as there are no plans to add a VIP version of the Max 10.
After delivering its final Learjet in 2022, the Canadian manufacturer’s production portfolio comprises the Global and Challenger brands. The recently-launched Global 8000 joins a family comprising the Global 7500, which it will replace, and the Global 6500 and 5500.
One of the main differences between the GE Aerospace Passport-powered Global 8000 and Global 7500 and their smaller and slightly shorter-range siblings is that the latter have Rolls-Royce Pearl 15 engines.
Long-time Bombardier customer NetJets signed to become the first Global 8000 fleet operator in November last year when it ordered four – an undisclosed customer will take the first example off the production line. The fractional ownership giant has also agreed to convert orders for eight other Globals to the Global 8000.
Bombardier’s newest type, which is capable of carrying 19 passengers, is due to enter service in 2025, and is a different aircraft to the one the airframer envisaged when it launched the type alongside the then-Global 7000 in 2010. Although its range – 7,900nm – was just short of its successor’s 8,000nm, the cabin was to have been 2.6m (8.5ft) shorter, marking a trade-off in capacity to deliver more range.
However, with the latest Global 8000, Bombardier is promising 8,000nm of range without compromising the size of the 33.8m-long Global 7000.
Although Bombardier had never formally cancelled the original Global 8000 programme, the fact that the Global 7000 had entered service in December 2018 without any sign of a Global 8000 prototype, and was selling strongly, led many to believe the manufacturer had quietly shelved its plans for the latter.
Under a service bulletin, Global 7500 owners will be able to convert their jets to the Global 8000 variant as Bombardier phases out production of the former model.
Bombardier has also been updating its smaller Challenger line, replacing the Challenger 350 with the Challenger 3500, which entered service in 2022. It has modernised the cabin with features normally found on Globals, reduced the cabin pressure altitude by 2,000ft, and has equipped the cockpit with an auto-throttle.
A logical next step for Bombardier might be a revamp of the 4,000nm-range Challenger 650, which has its origins in the 1970s-designed Challenger 600, and was last updated in 2015. Following the Challenger 3500 convention of adding a zero might be tricky though, as a Challenger 6500 might be confused with the Global 6500.
Earlier this year, Bombardier said it plans to deliver more than 138 aircraft in 2023, versus the 120 Globals and Challengers it shipped last year.
The first flight of the Cirrus SF50 in 2008, as the only single-engined very light jet on the market, vaulted the Duluth, Minnesota-based general aviation manufacturer into business aviation.
Although the type’s core market remains owner-flyers, Cirrus does advertise the SF50 as suitable for Part 135 charter operations of up to 1,000nm. It delivered 90 examples of the Williams International FJ33-powered jet last year.
After launching a G2 version in 2019 – with operating ceiling raised from 28,000ft to 31,000ft and the addition of an auto-throttle – Cirrus announced a further upgrade in 2021, with the G2+, which offers enhanced hot and high operating performance.
While Cirrus has announced no development plans for new aircraft models, it last year began work on a new design centre at its Duluth International Airport base, from which it is planning to work on engineering projects.
French manufacturer Daher’s big move in 2022 – a few weeks after EBACE – was its reveal of the Kodiak 900, a slightly larger sibling for the rugged 10-seat Kodiak 100, and already in production.
The US-built, Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-140A-powered turboprop offers a range of 1,130nm, slightly less than the 100, but with a cruise speed of 210kt (389km/h) it is 36kt faster. The 900’s 11.4m fuselage is 1.1m longer than its stablemate’s.
While Daher markets the Kodiak range as a versatile, “backcountry” utility aircraft that can also operate on water when fitted with floats, its six-seat TBM range – once produced by Socata, a division of the Airbus group – is the fastest single-engined turboprop. Almost 1,100 have been delivered over more than 30 years.
Last year, Daher introduced the fifth TBM iteration since the arrival of the latest generation TBM 900 in 2014: the PT6E-66XT-powered 960, and delivered the first example just ahead of EBACE 2022.
At time of writing, Dassault was still refusing to be more specific about the in-service date of the latest Falcon 6X twinjet beyond “mid-year”, stating that certification was in the hands of the European Union Safety Agency.
The French manufacturer has completed a flight test campaign for the 5,500nm-range type, with three examples having made more than 400 sorties. The first customer aircraft was in March having its cabin completion carried out at the firm’s Little Rock site in Arkansas.
Dassault launched the large-cabin jet as a replacement for its 5X, which flew in 2017 but was axed because its Safran Silvercrest engine failed to meet performance targets. The manufacturer unveiled the slightly bigger 6X later that year, this time powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PW812D turbofans. It took to the air in March 2021.
Dassault is pitching for a late 2025 in-service date for its other in-development programme, the 7,500nm-range 10X, which entered its “production phase” in the third quarter of 2022. However, the company is also refusing to reveal a flight schedule, although it admits that it has a date in mind.
The 10X competes head-on with the Bombardier Global 7500/8000 and Gulfstream’s G700 and G800, allowing a Dassault jet for the first time to connect the US West Coast with much of Asia. Although its range is slightly less than that of its two rivals, it offers the roomiest cabin in the segment at 2.77m wide and 2.03m high.
As it does for its other products, Dassault makes a major play of the technology crossover between its fly-by-wire Rafale fighter and the 10X.
From a standing start – a reworked passenger jet in the early 2000s – Embraer has become a top-five player in business aviation, and has been the market leader in light jets with its Phenom 300 for more than a decade, delivering more than 700 examples since 2009.
Embraer has been relatively quiet on the programme front since the launch in 2018 of the midsize Praetor 500 and its super-midsize stablemate the Praetor 600 – replacements for the short-lived Legacy 450 and Legacy 500.
The Brazilian company was for a period preoccupied with the planned merger of its commercial aircraft business with Boeing; a relationship that ended at the start of the pandemic. It has also been focusing on the urban air mobility market with its Eve spin-off.
Embraer also offers the entry-level Phenom 100EV, although its airliner-derived Legacy 650 and Lineage 1000 are now out of production.
In January 2023, it received a US and European supplemental type certificate for a medevac version of the Phenom 300, the 300MED.
The Savannah, Georgia-based manufacturer rode out much of the turbulence of Covid-19 unscathed, investing in its maintenance estate and continuing the frenetic new product development it has become known for.
At time of writing, Gulfstream was within only weeks of achieving certification for its 7,500nm-range G700, which it announced at the NBAA convention in 2019. The Rolls-Royce Pearl-powered jet is a 3m stretch of the G650, which has older-generation R-R engines, but it shares fly-by-wire cockpit technology with the smaller G500/600, including active control sidesticks.
Gulfstream’s other big play in the long-range market, the G800, has a slightly smaller cabin than the G700, but offers around 500nm additional range. After revealing the aircraft, along with the G400, in October 2021, the airframer flew the type in June last year, and plans to deliver the G800 from next year.
The 4,200nm-range, 12-passenger G400 fills a gap in the airframer’s large-cabin range. Although the longer-range variants grab most attention, Gulfstream believes the G400 addresses a segment where there is little competition. Bombardier’s Challenger 650 would be its closest rival.
Gulfstream has given no indication of a target date to fly the G400, but says it aims to deliver the first example in 2025. In September last year, Transport Canada granted a type certificate to the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW812GA that will power the type.
Last October, the company said it was expanding its Savannah aircraft and wing manufacturing facilities with a dedicated G400 production hall to “meet customer demand” for the latest type.
Towards the end of last year, Honda Aircraft – another relative newcomer to the industry – received US certification for the HondaJet Elite II, the latest variant of the light jet it first delivered in 2015. The company announced the iteration at the NBAA show in October.
Hideto Yamasaki, chief executive of the US-based airframer, has suggested that the Elite II might be the final update of the original HA-420 before the company replaces it with its larger HondaJet 2600 concept, which it announced in 2021, but has revealed few details about.
The Elite II has upgraded avionics and mechanical and electrical systems. Most importantly, allowable weight is almost 100kg (220lb) higher, giving the variant more fuel capacity and range – it can now fly 1,547nm with four on board: 110nm further than its Elite S predecessor.
Pilatus made a successful move into jets a decade ago, supplementing its top-selling PC-12 single-engined turboprop with the PC-24 light jet.
The aircraft has performed strongly for the Swiss manufacturer since, and last year it delivered 40 PC-24s and 80 PC-12 NGXs; the latest variant of its original business aviation product.
This year will mark the 200th PC-24 delivery and the 2,000th shipment of the PC-12, the company says.
Textron Aviation has three brands in its portfolio – the Citation range of business jets, Cessna turboprops and piston aircraft, and the Beechcraft range that includes the King Air family and the still-to-be-certificated Denali.
Since starting deliveries of the 3,500nm-range Longitude in 2019, Textron has not announced any major development on its Citation range, although Gen2 versions of the XLS and M2 were certificated and delivered in 2022.
The 4,500nm-range Hemisphere programme – an aircraft that would have been the largest Citation – was suspended in 2018 over issues with the Safran Silvercrest engine. It was the second Citation jet programme in a decade to be cancelled, following the failure of the Columbus in 2009.
Instead, Textron has been focusing on smaller aircraft, but has not had it all its own way in that part of the market either.
The first Cessna SkyCourier – a 19-seat twin-turboprop positioned at the cargo, utility and air transport markets rather than corporate aviation – was delivered to launch customer FedEx last year.
The Beechcraft Denali, a single-turboprop rival to the Pilatus PC-12, has had a more troubled certification campaign. Powered by the GE Aerospace Catalyst – the first new turboprop engine for decades – the 1,600nm-range Denali flew for the first time in November 2021, but initial deliveries are not now expected until the second half of next year.