Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC

Raytheon Aircraft has increased planned production of its new Premier I and Hawker Horizon business jets to meet demand, but faces challenges meeting the programmes' schedules.

Production of the entry-level Premier I will be increased by 25% to 60 a year, while production of the super mid-size Hawker Horizon will be boosted by 50% to 36 a year. Raytheon is installing two additional fibre-placement machines at its Wichita, Kansas, plant to produce composite fuselages for the two aircraft at the higher rates now planned.

The company has orders for "over 200" Premier Is, including 49 for fractional ownership subsidiary Raytheon Travel Air, but delays have jeopardised plans to certificate the $4.56 million aircraft by year-end. Flight testing is accelerating, with two aircraft having accumulated over 400h and a third expected to fly "soon", says Premier I business unit director Duncan Koerbel. "The odds are against us finishing this year, but we will by early next year," he says.

Delays have also hit the Horizon programme, with the first flight now pushed back from December to early next year. Certification of the $15.8 million aircraft, originally scheduled for the second quarter of 2001, has also slipped. "We're a bit late, but we've launched an effort to recover," says Horizon business unit director Tom Reichenberger. Raytheon has orders and options for "over 150" Horizons, including 100 for Executive Jet's NetJets fractional ownership programme and 27 for Travel Air.

Koerbel says development testing of the Premier I is almost complete, and performance "is within guarantees". Marginally lower speed and range than predicted has been traced to drag caused by slightly open gear doors. This has been cured and Koerbel says the aircraft is expected to meet its 460kt (850km/h) speed and 2,780km (1,500nm) range targets. Payload is expected to exceed the guaranteed 356kg (800lb), allowing the Premier I to carry full fuel and five passengers.

The larger Horizon is "a bit overweight", but performance is on track, says Reichenberger, adding: "We will make our numbers." Fuselage sections for the first aircraft have been fibre-placed and joining is expected in October/November, when the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW308A engines are due to arrive. Risk-sharing partner Fuji has delivered the wing and mating is planned for late November.

Raytheon has resumed discussions with the European Joint Aviation Authorities on approval of the Premier I and Horizon, and hopes to have the certification requirements for both aircraft established by early next year.

Source: Flight International