““[Bill Gates] has been historically one of my best supporters…One of my favorite e-mails he ever sent me…I proposed this crazy project. And he sent back this two-line response: ‘This has got to be the craziest thing you’ve ever suggested. Please proceed.’” ”
More than a decade after the super-midsize Hawker 4000 was announced, Hawker Beechcraft (née Raytheon Aircraft) is preparing to deliver the first copy of the business jet later this year. The aircraft, which received FAA certification in November 2006, will be the largest Hawker ever built, with a stand-up cabin and one third more cabin space than a Hawker 850XP, the latest incarnation of a 40-year-old design that is currently the company's largest business jet.
In 1996, when the manufacturer unveiled its plans for the Hawker 4000 (initially called the "Horizon"), the twinjet super-midsize market was ripe for the taking. Since then, Bombardier, Cessna and Gulfstream have all fielded models in this segment. The Hawker 4000 is late to the party. Its delay, in part, caused fractional share provider NetJets to cancel its initial order for 50 Hawker 4000s and options for 50 more. NetJets reordered 50 Hawker 4000s in late 2005, however, and Hawker Beechcraft claims that other customers have ordered an additional 24 aircraft.
While the 4000's tortuous development timeline has yielded only a
modest-sized order book, company executives are confident that demand will build as the market becomes familiar "with its price advantage and good value equation," according to Brad Hatt, president and general manager of the Hawker program. The 4000 sells for $19.6 million, can typically seat two pilots and eight to nine passengers and can fly more than 3,300 nautical miles at 495 miles per hour (four passengers) or about 3,040 nautical miles at 541 mph (six passengers).
Like its Premier I stable mate, the 4000 features a wound-carbon-fiber fuselage mated to aluminum wings. Fuji Heavy Industries, a partner in the venture, fabricates the wings in Japan. The composite fuselage is made in Wichita. It saves weight as well as fabrication, assembly and labor time; is five times stronger than aluminum; won't corrode; and yields more cabin space.
While the composite fuselage has many advantages, its rigidity can increase vibration-induced cabin noise. Relying on sound suppression insulation alone would simply add weight back into the aircraft. So Hawker also uses special "isolators" to mitigate noise and dampen vibration. Cabin sidewalls, headliners and furniture are mounted on these devices, which absorb fuselage vibrations before they can be transmitted to the cabin and passengers. Specially designed acoustic cabin panels also suppress noise.
The results have been impressive. Cabin noise, as measured in decibels (lower numbers are quieter), is in the low 70s and the "speech interference value"-a measure of how well speech can be heard-is in the low 60s. By comparison, interior noise in a 2006 Lexus GS430 automobile is 63 decibels at 70 mph.
Initial assembly of the aircraft will take place in Wichita, and exterior paint and interiors will be fitted at Hawker in Little Rock, Ark. Hawker Beechcraft CEO James Schuster said the company selected Little Rock to complete the aircraft because of its experience with the Hawker 800XP and the facility's reputation for quality work.
Doing completions at Little Rock will also provide customers with the ability to highly customize the interiors of their aircraft in terms of fabrics, finishes, materials and plating. "We can build about anything a person wants," said Hatt.
The flat-floor cabin is capacious and comfortable. Passenger seats will be available with full recline, manually adjustable lumbar support and optional leg rests. A typical cabin will be configured in either a double "club four" layout with eight individual executive seats or with six individual seats and a three-place couch or divan. The latter will be standard, as Hawker's research has shown that most of its customers prefer the flexibility of having a divan. The divan will be available with an optional berthing top that slides out, making it wider for sleeping, and under-seat stowage drawers. Each pair of single seats will share a stowable 24-inch sidewall table. In-flight entertainment and lighting controls will be sidewall-mounted at each passenger position, and master controls for the entire cabin will be at the CEO passenger position and on a cabin touchscreen.
There has been little customer interest in high-density commuter style for the 4000, and the company has no plans to offer it.
A forward cabin galley, two forward closets and rear cabin lavatory and walk-in baggage compartment with external access complete the layout. Both the lavatory and baggage compartment are generous for an aircraft in this category. You can actually stand up and move around in the lav, which features a potable water system, gravity-fed flushing toilet with external servicing and a wash basin. A belted lav seat is available as an option.
The 100-cubic-foot baggage compartment can be accessed only when the Hawker is flying below 41,000 feet. Entry is through a hinged door at the rear of the cabin.
The cabin windows are fitted with an electrically charged film for demisting and anti-icing. The window shades are manually controlled.
The 4000 was the first business jet designed around Honeywell's Primus Epic integrated electronic flight and cabin management system. Integrating Epic into the 4000's design required a learning curve and caused some development delays.
Unlike the Hawker 850XP, the Horizon started as a "clean sheet of paper," according to Hatt, who pointed out that "new technology takes longer" to reach the marketplace. However, now the waiting is over and within the next few months the company will get a better sense of how the marketplace accepts the Hawker 4000.