“Time is our most precious commodity, and there are conveniences that wealth brings to essentially get you more time. —retired Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, explaining why he commutes via private jet from his Seattle home to watch games of the Los Angeles Clippers, the basketball team he bought last year for $2 billion. ”
What bizjet manufacturers have in store for you
A look at the newly designed models set to enter service during the next few years.
New-jet programs come in two flavors: completely clean-sheet-of-paper designs and updates of existing models. This article deals strictly with the former. The category is well populated, but mostly with midsize and super-midsize jets—a reflection of continuing softness in the entry-level sector and the rarefication of the large-jet and bizliner field. Bombardier, Cessna and Embraer all have models under development in what can be called the greater middle market, the most attractive category for fractional programs and other fleet customers. The large-jet business is seeing some action, although less of it: new projects are under way at Bombardier and Dassault and the rumor mill is running full tilt regarding Gulfstream programs building on the larger-cabin cross-section introduced by the G650.
The new midsize aircraft all evidence a renewed focus on passenger comfort, with improved seating, larger windows and flat-floor cabins. In addition, all categories are moving toward touchscreen avionics in the cockpit and more fuel-efficient engines, which translate into better range and time-to-climb numbers. Winglet design is being revised with more swooping shapes.
Manufacturers also are changing the way they sell aircraft, with greater focus on simplified maintenance and life-cycle costs and hourly maintenance programs that are wrapped into the purchase price. This should increase reliability across the board and inch dispatch rates up to near 100 percent. Development and certification schedules on select programs continue to fall behind, the victims of financial challenges at some companies; technical difficulties integrating new technologies into airframe, avionics and flight controls; and certification slowdowns attributable to budgetary and other constraints at both the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency.
All that said, nearly all aircraft now under development have one thing in common: a near-perfect balance of versatility, performance, comfort and costs. The big differentiator will be customer service and support.
LIGHT SINGLE ENGINE
Cirrus Vision SF50: Cirrus anticipates late 2015 certification for its long-delayed SF50 single-engine jet. It flew the first conforming prototype in March and will add two more to the flight-test program. The conforming test aircraft differ just a little from the non-conformal, proof-of-concept prototype the company has flown since 2008: they feature a slightly longer nose and higher fuselage loft than the model currently flying. The five-plus-two seating layout is retained but Cirrus has added options such as weather radar, a “relief station” and upgraded leathers. The company already is beginning to gear up for production by adding factory robotics and a fuselage lay-up mold for the all-composite aircraft. Cirrus has received deposits for more than 500 of the jets.
Flaris LAR 01: The Poland-based aviation newcomer unveiled its five-seat, single-engine light jet at the Paris Air Show last summer and a prototype is expected to fly later this year, about six months behind the initial development schedule. The eye-catching Flaris features rear-hinged main cabin doors reminiscent of 1960s Lincoln Continental cars, detachable wings and stabilizers, a fuselage fuel tank, electric deicing and an in-the-nose whole-aircraft ballistic parachute.
LIGHT TWIN ENGINE
HondaJet: Honda’s lengthy path to market appears to be nearing an end with certification of its light twin now expected late this year, following delays in the development and redesign of its GE Honda HF120 engines. Honda claims the aircraft has 15 to 20 percent greater fuel efficiency and higher speed than competing models. The five- to six-passenger jet will be certified for single-pilot operation. The HondaJet mates a carbon-fiber composite fuselage to metal wings, and the positioning of the engines on over-the-wing pylons means larger cabin volume and generous passenger legroom.
A fleet of conformal test aircraft (which look almost identical to the prototype that has been flying since 2003) is racking up hours. More than 1,000 employees are working at Honda’s massive 83-acre Greensboro, North Carolina campus, which has 600,000 square feet under roof and should be able to turn out 70 to 100 aircraft per year when production is fully ramped up. The first two years of production are already sold out.
Cessna Citation Latitude: Announced in 2011, the light midsize Citation Latitude first flew in February this year and is slated to enter service next year. The Latitude is the first Citation with a flat floor (no dropped aisle), and the cabin is 27.5 feet long, 72 inches tall and 77 inches wide. The standard seating arrangement accommodates passengers with a forward, dual-seat, side-facing divan, a club-four grouping of single seats and two more single seats aft of that. The Latitude features Garmin G5000 avionics and the wireless fiber-optic Clairity cabin-management system. The G5000 has three 14-inch LCD primary and multifunction displays and four touchscreen control panels. It offers all the latest safety equipment, including synthetic vision, electronic charts and Garmin’s Safe Taxi airport charts. The Clairity system allows completely wireless control of cabin functions. It is compatible with personal devices.
Like its predecessors, the Latitude has good short-runway capability; it will easily be able to use runways shorter than 4,000 feet under almost any load condition.
Embraer’s Legacy 450: Embraer’s Legacy 450 medium light twinjet made its first flight last December; certification is expected late next year or early 2016. The shorter sibling of the Legacy 500 midsize, the 450 shares many of its systems and characteristics, including engines, avionics, fuselage diameter and fly-by-wire flight controls. The aircraft pressurization system keeps cabin altitude at 6,000 feet at the 450’s maximum cruising altitude of 45,000 feet. The 678-cubic-foot cabin offers seating for seven to nine passengers. Cabin management and IFE are courtesy of Honeywell’s HD Ovation Select system, which allows for control of entertainment, communications, lights, temperature, window shades and more via drink-rail-mounted units, wireless handheld remotes or a galley touchscreen. The system can interface with high-speed satellite communications and a variety of consumer electronics.
The cockpit offers Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics. The four large active-matrix LCDs in the panel connect the pilots with synthetic enhanced vision with an optional head-up display; electronic charts, maps, graphical weather depiction from an intuitive MultiScan weather radar system that sees up to 300 miles out; and an airport surface-management system that minimizes the chances of ground mishaps. Fusion can grow to accommodate future technology add-ons such as voice recognition, surface guidance and automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast, the future of air traffic control. Pilatus
PC-24: Pilatus’s dramatic entry into the jet market last year, the PC-24, combines light-jet operating economics with super-midsize-jet capabilities and comfort and is aimed at more conventional offerings from Cessna and Embraer. Like the company’s iconic PC-12 single-engine turboprop, the PC-24 retains an aft cargo door and the capability to operate from short, unpaved and unimproved fields. The new Williams engines have unique features, including automatic thrust reverse, passive thrust vectoring nozzles, quiet power mode in place of an auxiliary power unit to provide ground power, integral pre-cooler to condition bleed air and reduce drag losses and an anti-ice and noise-suppressing engine inlet.
Up front, the customized avionics suite dubbed Pace—Pilatus Advanced Cockpit Environment—is based on the Honeywell Primus Apex and Epic systems and features all the latest advances. The voluminous passenger cabin provides more overall space than either the Cessna XLS+ or the Embraer Phenom 300 and has a flat floor, which means less headroom in the aisle. The aircraft will come with seven interior alternatives for layouts that include executive, commuter, combi and quick-change configurations as well as options for an externally serviced lavatory, either forward or aft, and galleys. Pilatus expects first flight later this year and certification in 2017.
Bombardier Learjet 85: Bombardier’s new transcontinental, all-composite light super-midsize model made its first flight in April. Thanks to composite construction, the 85 weighs only one third more than the considerably smaller Learjet 60XR and needs just 20 percent more thrust, can fly 495 nautical miles farther on a comparable load of fuel and has a slightly higher top cruise speed.
Several configurations will be available, including one with eight single executive seats in a double-club layout and one with six single seats and a three-place divan. The single seats are pitched at 30 inches and recline into full-berthing positions. This longer-legged Learjet also features a full galley and an aft cabin lavatory. Like several other contemporary cabins, the one in the 85 incorporates larger passenger cabin windows, 12 by 16 inches each, and more monolithic, streamlined headliners and sidewalls. Bombardier has tapped Lufthansa Technik to provide the cabin-management system; Rockwell Collins for a three-screen Pro Line Fusion avionics system with synthetic vision; and Pratt & Whitney Canada for new PW307B turbofan engines.
Cessna Citation Longitude: The biggest Citation yet is a stretched and longer-legged variant of the Citation Latitude. Scheduled to enter service in 2017, it shares the Latitude’s avionics, cabin-management system, seats, windows and fuselage cross-section, but is nine feet longer and turns to Snecma’s new Silvercrest engines for power. Cessna has selected the Garmin G5000 for the Longitude, employing the same three-screen “touch control” avionics architecture that the company is using on the Latitude. The cabin-management system will build on the Clairity equipment.
The aircraft seats eight passengers in a cabin featuring a large forward galley and an aft lavatory with vacuum-flushing toilet. The forward cabin may include a crew lavatory as well as a third crew/flight-attendant seat. Like the Latitude’s interior cross-section, the Longitude’s is 72 inches tall and 77 inches wide. The forward club-four configuration is capacious and the single executive seats are full-berthing. There is room for another club-four in the aft cabin or a three-place divan, certified for takeoff and landing, opposite an entertainment center with large flat-screen monitor.
The Longitude has limited, computerized fly-by-wire capabilities for controlling the rudder, spoilers and brakes (“brake-by-wire”). Its 30-degree swept wing incorporates leading-edge slats, winglets, centrifugal ailerons and five speed-brake/spoiler panels per side. All this combines to give the aircraft good short-field capabilities under most load conditions.
Embraer Legacy 500: This is the larger companion to the Legacy 450. Entry into service is expected later this year. Compared with the 450, the 500’s fuselage is six feet longer, and range with IFR reserves increases to 2,800 nautical miles with eight passengers. The 500 will carry up to 12 passengers in a cabin that is near super-midsize, measuring 26 feet, 10 inches long; six feet, 10 inches wide; and six feet tall.
Customers can choose between a large, well-appointed forward galley and opposite storage or a single, side-facing seat ideal for a cabin attendant. Or they can have a side-facing, two-place divan opposite a small refreshment center. The wet galley features hot and cold water, four gallons of potable water, crystal storage and an ice drawer, compartments for china and silverware, 110V power outlet and optional video monitor and espresso maker. Passengers will be able to bring more luggage, skis and golf clubs than they could fit in almost any other midsize or super-midsize jet: the 500 offers 150 cubic feet of baggage space—110 in the external compartment and another 40 in the closet that can be accessed through the lavatory.
Dassault Falcon 5X: Dassault launched its long-anticipated large twinjet last year and expects it to enter service in 2017. The 5X features an expanded fuselage diameter of nearly 8.9 feet—the widest ever for a Falcon—plus fly-by-wire controls, new Snecma Silvercrest engines and advanced flight-control surfaces on the wings. It has a range of 5,200 nautical miles with eight passengers. Dassault claims that it is 50 percent more fuel efficient than current, comparable aircraft on a 1,500-nautical-mile mission.
Dassault Falcon 8X: Dassault Aviation has unveiled its Falcon 8X trijet, a significant step up from the popular 7X. A longer cabin offers more layout possibilities, including the option to install a large aft lavatory with a shower and a crew rest area in the front section and still have a comfortable three-lounge cabin in between. The 8X also offers greater range—6,450 nautical miles. From Los Angeles, Beijing is within reach. From New York, the 8X can travel nonstop to Dubai. The first flight is planned for early next year, with deliveries beginning in the second half of 2016. The model will reportedly sell for about 10 percent more than the 7X, which would put the price in the neighborhood of $58 million. Direct operating costs are estimated at $4,075 per hour.
Mark Huber reviews new and used aircraft for BJT. Thierry Dubois contributed reporting to this article.
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