Some customers are electing to wait for upgrades to improve range, field length and noise before taking delivery

Raytheon Aircraft has slowed deliveries of its new Premier I light business jet to incorporate upgrades that tackle range and field length shortfalls, as well as cabin noise. The company still plans to deliver 40 aircraft this year, up from 25 last year, and to increase production to 60 aircraft next year.

The Wichita, Kansas-based company is working on reduced vertical separation minima (RVSM) group certification for the Premier I, scheduled for mid-December. This requires relocation of the pitot probes further aft on the nose to improve air data accuracy. This change and the other upgrades will be introduced progressively on the production line, and retrofit kits will be made available at no cost to existing operators.

Range has been increased 55km (30nm) by reducing unusable fuel by 30kg (67lb). The fuel pick-up has been relocated and fuel probe installation improved. Validation testing is expected to be completed later this month and the upgrade is being introduced on the production line beginning with aircraft 75, now in wing assembly.

Raytheon hopes to gain a 30-90m (100-300ft) reduction in take-off field length by completing 1g stall certification on the Premier. Originally the 1g stall was calculated rather than demonstrated to save time in an already protracted certification programme.

The company hopes 1g stall certification using Part 25 transport-category rules (the Premier is a Part 23 aircraft) will result in a reduction in reference speeds and therefore take-off field length, which is 1,156m compared with the promised 915m.

The company plans to conduct around 25 development test flights in September to validate its 1g stall assumptions. Certification testing will follow, with approval hoped for late this year or early next. Raytheon would then publish an updated flight manual with reduced reference speeds. The company is aiming for a take-off field length of around 1,070m, while efforts continue to achieve the originally specified 915m.

Testing of a noise reduction upgrade is complete and has exceeded the objectives, Raytheon says, providing a 3-5dBA reduction in average cabin noise. The package only weighs around 14kg, and includes hydraulic pulse dampeners, tuned mass absorbers on the engine mounts, increased engine/pylon skin gap, a new engine fan shroud, and interior treatment. The upgrade will be introduced with 2003 deliveries.

With overseas customers accounting for around half of Premier orders, Raytheon plans to certificate the aircraft in 22 countries. The Premier is already certificated in Bermuda, Germany, Mexico, South Africa and Switzerland, while aircraft have also been delivered to Brazil, the Dominican Republic and the UK.

Certification is pending or planned this year in Brazil, Ireland, Israel, Italy and the Netherlands. An Asia-Pacific sales tour will begin in mid-September and end at China's Zuhai show in early October, and will take in nine countries, including Australia and India. Raytheon already has customers in China, Hong Kong and Japan.

Source: Flight International