RaytheonAircraft has again delayed certification of the Hawker Horizon super mid-size business jet, this time to the end of 2003. Deliveries are now planned to begin early in 2004. When it was launched in 1996, the Horizon was scheduled for delivery in 2001.

The new schedule is deliberately conservative, says Hawker programme director Dwayne Johnston, as Raytheon does not want to disappoint customers as it did with the entry-level Premier I, deliveries of which began last year after a delay of more than two years. Both the Premier and Horizon share composite-fuselage technology that has been pioneered by Raytheon.

The first Horizon has logged 140h in flight testing and is being prepared for in-flight loads testing. Four of the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW308-powered aircraft will be used in the flight-test programme. The second aircraft is being prepared for a first flight next month, the third is in final assembly and the wing for the fourth has been delivered by risk-sharing partner Fuji Heavy Industries.

"We are 100% committed to the aircraft," says Raytheon Aircraft chief executive Jim Schuster. "We have dramatically improved the management discipline in the development programme, and we are holding track."

The delay in delivery will give Raytheon time to incorporate in the Horizon fuselage production improvements being developed for the Premier. Over the past year, modifications in the automated fibre-placement process have reduced the scrap rate on the most difficult parts to almost zero, and reduced defects in the composite fuselage, says vice-president, manufacturing operations, David Shih.

Raytheon is now implementing lean manufacturing on the Premier assembly line to reduce costs and cycle time. The company plans to deliver 50 aircraft this year, up from 18 in 2001, and will increase the rate to 60 aircraft annually later this year.

Raytheon suspended development of the Hawker 450 light mid-size business jet in March to concentrate on the Horizon. The 450 had suffered extensive delays since its launch in 2000.

Source: Flight International