The US National Business Aircraft Association annual convention and exhibition comes to Las Vegas, Nevada, for the first time on 26-28 September.
NEWS AT THIS year's National Business Aircraft Association (NBAA) convention will come from an unusual source. Raytheon Aircraft is not accustomed to stealing the NBAA headlines, but undoubtedly will when it unveils its new light business jet in cabin-mock-up form.
The last time the company launched an all-new design was at the 1983 NBAA, back in the days when it was still Beech Aircraft, when the unconventional Starship was unveiled. The Starship was a technical marvel, but a market failure. The new light jet is said by Raytheon to be "revolutionary".
A "teaser" campaign running up to the launch at Las Vegas proclaims that the secrecy-shrouded aircraft is "fast, spacious and affordable", and declares that it "...outperforms the other jets in its class". Principal among those is Cessna's in-service CitationJet, the smallest in the successful Citation business-jet series.
Information obtained by Flight International, and not confirmed or denied by Raytheon, is that the aircraft will have a bigger cabin than that of the CitationJet, with a swept wing and more-powerful Williams Rolls-Royce FJ44 turbofans, but will be priced to undercut the Cessna design. Other features, again unconfirmed, are a filament-wound composite fuselage and Rockwell-Collins flat-panel displays.
Raytheon's move comes as corporate-aircraft sales are showing signs of recovery. Other manufacturers, which sought to stimulate demand during the recession by launching new products, are reaping their rewards with uncharacteristically high order-backlogs. The launch also comes just a year after the merger of Beech and Raytheon Corporate Jets.
Most manufacturers report an increase in sales since the beginning of 1995, and many have increased planned production rates at least once this year. The recovery is beginning to filter through to deliveries, with the US General Aviation Manufacturers Association's shipment figures showing an 8% increase in deliveries of turbine-powered aircraft for the first six months of 1995 - 15% for the second quarter.
One-year-old Raytheon Aircraft has benefited more than most from the recovery, delivering 14 Hawker business jets, compared with nine in the first six months of 1994, and six Starships - more than in the last two years combined. It is the entrepreneurial market served by the Starship that the company is targeting with its new light jet.
Raytheon will not have the headlines to itself at NBAA. Two roll-outs, are scheduled on the eve of the show, the Learjet 45 on 14 September and the Gulfstream V on 22 September. Neither aircraft will be at the show. Learjet is hoping to fly its Model 45 for the first time, just before the show opens on 26 September, while the GV is scheduled to be flown in November.
Bombardier will bring to NBAA the improved, 7,400km (4,000nm)-range, Challenger 604, for which Canadian certification is expected on 15 September, and Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) is expected to announce that it has won US certification for the Mach 0.82 Astra SPX. Raytheon will display the upgraded Hawker 800XP mid-sized business jet, which was certificated in the UK and USA earlier this year.
Dassault will display the improved, 8,300km (4,500nm)-range, Falcon 900EX, first flown in June, and two Falcon 2000s, both demonstrators. The "medium-large" 2000 received US certification in February and North American deliveries begin on the second quarter of 1996. Falcon 900EX deliveries are scheduled to begin in the third quarter of 1996.
Cessna, which launched seven new or improved Citations in the five years between the 1989 and 1994 NBAAs, does not have any announcements planned for this year, as certification of the Mach 0.92 Citation X is not now expected until November, with deliveries beginning in April 1996. The Citation Bravo, a replacement for the Citation II light business jet, will be displayed. Flight-testing began in April and deliveries are to begin in June 1996.
Bombardier will announce that it is to guarantee key performance parameters for the Global Express long-range business jet, including a range of 11,700km at a M0.85 cruise. Competitor Gulfstream is guaranteeing a GV range of 12,000km at M0.80. The first flight of the Global Express is due in September 1996.
IAI may reveal which company is to replace Yakovlev as producer of the fuselage and tail of the Galaxy wide body business jet. The Russian manufacturer was dropped from the project in mid-1995 when its financial difficulties threatened to delay the programme. IAI has not revised its published schedule, which calls for a first flight in the first quarter of 1996 and first deliveries in the second half of 1997.
While Raytheon's major news will be the unveiling of its new light jet, the company may decide to address its plans to upgrade or replace the Hawker 1000. The company has been canvassing operator input on potential improvements to the aircraft, for which demand has increased as the market has recovered.
Cessna, similarly, has been seeking advice on how to upgrade the mid-sized Citation VII, having essentially replaced the lower-priced VI in the Citation line-up with the Excel wide body derivative of the Ultra light business jet. The first flight of the Excel is due in March 1996, leading to first deliveries in December 1997.
Swearingen Aircraft is to detail plans to produce the SJ30 light business jet under the Taiwan-backed Sino-Swearingen joint venture. The company is expected to name the companies, which will build major sections of the SJ30 for final assembly in the USA.
More new aircraft may yet be in the pipeline as manufacturers seek to capitalise on new-technology engines and avionics. AlliedSignal Engines now has applications for all of its new series of improved, digitally controlled, TFE731 turbofans: the -20, powering the Learjet 45; the -40, powering the Astra SPX and the upgraded Falcon 50EX, which Dassault will fly in the first quarter of 1996; and the -60, powering the Falcon 900EX.
Pratt & Whitney Canada's new PW500 turbofan family has been launched on Cessna's Bravo (PW530) and Excel (PW545), while the PW300 turbofan family powers the heavier Hawker 1000 and Learjet 60 (PW305) and will power the Galaxy (PW306). With the launch of an up-rated version to power Raytheon's light jet, Williams will have three applications for the FJ44 turbofan, including the CitationJet and SJ30.
BMW Rolls-Royce's BR710 turbofan will power each of the ultra-long-range contenders and will have its first flight on the GV in November, blazing a trail for the Global Express, to be flown in September 1996.
Allison Engines is discussing potential applications for its AE3007 turbofan, which powers the Citation X, while the AlliedSignal/General Electric joint-venture CFE has been in discussions with manufacturers interested in using the CFE738, which powers the Falcon 2000.
Collins and Honeywell continue to divide the business-aircraft market between them. Raytheon's light jet will be the first application for Collins' large flat-panel displays, part of an integrated-avionics suite developed from the Pro Line 4 system used in the Astra SPX, Challenger 604 and Falcon 2000, and selected for the Falcon 50EX and Galaxy.
Honeywell's Primus 1000 system is fitted in the Bravo and, soon, the Learjet 45, and has been selected for the Excel, while the more-capable Primus 2000 system is flying in the Citation X and Falcon 900EX, and will be developed further for the Global Express. The GV is equipped with a developed version of the Honeywell SPZ-8000 system used in the GIV-SP.
Arnav Systems is providing a low-cost integrated avionics suite for the Israviation ST-50 single-turboprop business aircraft. This includes flat-panel displays. Deliveries of the all-composite, pusher-propeller ST-50 are planned to begin in 1996.
Corporate-aircraft fractional ownership is seen by manufacturers, as a promising source of "incremental" sales, beyond those into traditional markets. Executive Jet International (EJI) remains the pre-eminent force in fractional ownership, and the US Company has begun inducting Citation Ultras and Gulfstream IV-SPs into its NetJets programme. EJI plans to operate 16 Ultras and five GIVs, as well as 17 Hawker 1000s, by the end of 1995. The company has plans to expand into Europe, but has yet to announce its intentions.
Bombardier and AMR Combs report strong interest in their manufacturer-backed Business JetSolutions joint venture, which offers options ranging from charter management to shared ownership. The FlexJet fractional-ownership programme is operational using a core fleet of Bombardier-owned Learjet 31As, 60s and Challenger 601-3Rs, and the joint venture is expected to announce its first aircraft part-share sales at NBAA.
NetJets and FlexJet are examples of a trend towards offering corporate-aircraft operators "transportation solutions", rather than simply trying to sell them aircraft. Increased aircraft use through charter management and reduced capital outlay through fractional ownership are likely to become increasingly popular options.
Source: Flight International