RAYTHEON AIRCRAFT has given the first indication that it is preparing to launch its Premier II business jet at the September 1997 National Business Aircraft Association Show in Dallas.

Roy Norris, president of Raytheon Aircraft, declines to divulge any details of the new aircraft, beyond saying that it is in the concept-design stage. He also will not comment on a launch date, beyond saying that he does not want to miss NBAA 97.

The aircraft will be an evolutionary growth version of the six-seat Premier I entry-level business jet now being developed by Raytheon and due be delivered to the first customer in 1998.

The Premier II is expected to be aimed at the market sector occupied at the bottom end by aircraft such as the company's six- to nine-seat Beechjet 400A, and at the top end by the wide body Citation Excel and Learjet 45.

Norris says that he will "-let the market decide" whether the Premier II and Beechjet 400A will continue in production together, but he expects to find a market niche for the older aircraft, mainly in special missions, where it already has wide acceptance - the US Air Force, for example, uses it as its T-1A Jayhawk trainer.

The Premier I has sales figures in the "high double digits", and is sold out for the first three years of production. Norris says that interest in the aircraft is sufficiently high to investigate increasing early production rates.

A more immediate goal for Raytheon is the launch of a new member of the Hawker family at the NBAA convention in Orlando, Florida, in November.

The aircraft will be larger, faster, and have a longer range than aircraft in the current Hawker 800 and 1000 family. Norris admits that the only thing it has in common with the aircraft he acquired from British Aerospace's Corporate Jets three years ago is the name.

Like the Premier I and II, the new Hawker will use Raytheon's new fibre-placement system for production of the fuselage - a process, which radically cuts costs and manufacturing time. Raytheon has invested $150 million in design and manufacturing processes over the past three years, and the fibre-placement system is a critical part of the spending.

Norris dismisses suggestions that Raytheon has any interest in the light single market beyond the Beech Bonanza A36, saying: "We don't agree with the 2,000-aircraft- per-year market some have predicted." Cessna recently restarted production of light singles after a break of nine years.

Norris admits that Raytheon has been studying the 30- to 35-seat regional-jet market, completing its range of investigations into civil-jet transport. "A decision on whether to go ahead or not could come in two months' or two years' time, possibly in a partnership, whatever is appropriate."

He is adamant, however, that the company will not get involved in the sort of bloodbath in which the 30-seat turboprop manufacturers have indulged in recent years.

Africa's first fractional-aircraft-ownership programme, Jet.Time, has selected four British Aerospace Hawker 800XPs and four Beech King Air B200s. The first deliveries to the National Airways-owned company in Johannesburg, South Africa, are due later this year with the remaining aircraft scheduled for delivery in early 1997. Jet.Time expects to acquire further aircraft and open more bases in Cape Town, Durban, Harare and Nairobi in the near future.

Source: Flight International