Nextant Aerospace has gained Federal Aviation Administration approval for a Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 cockpit upgrade for the Beechjet 400A/XP, the first phase of the broader 400Next conversion program that includes new Williams International FJ44-3AP engines, nacelles and cabin upgrades for the legacy twin-jet.

Nextant chief executive Kenneth Ricci says the company has 15 orders for the $3.9 million jet, which will be built in assembly-line fashion at the company's facility in Ohio.

To simplify the certification program, Ricci says Nextant decided to qualify the Pro Line 21 avionics cockpit upgrade with the existing Pratt & Whitney JT15D engines, offering customers a new front end for $390,000.

Ricci says there are five orders for the avionics-only package, although the company ultimately plans to perform 24 conversions this year.

Certification testing for the new airframe and engines will begin in the third quarter of 2010, followed by first customer deliveries in the same quarter, says Ricci. Cabin upgrades including replacing incandescent lighting with LED-based lighting, changing air flow patterns and adding wireless connectivity and broadband access.

The company plans to build two aircraft a month, with an initial production run of 48 aircraft. Plans to acquire the first batch of previously owned aircraft are under way.

Ricci says Nextant plans to offer a tip-to-tail maintenance program and expand its service network from two service centers to six.

Source: Flight Daily News