BUSINESS AVIATION ENGINE UPGRADES
Category: Upgrading Business Aircraft
Author: Dave Higdon
Power Transplants: A cost-efficient way to give new life to older business jets.
Old business jets seldom retire. Do you think that’s an over-generalization? Perhaps you pay too little attention to the myriad paths to revival available for many business-turbine aircraft, both business jet aircraft for sale and turboprop aircraft for sale.
Whether these paths lead to the straightforward upkeep of aircraft and systems, or to something more ambitious, a large number of corporate aircraft for sale each year get renewed life through the upgrade or conversion of airframes, flight decks, cabins and powerplants.
All four offer a degree of financial benefit by injecting new technologies into an aircraft that renew its value and help keep it viable for longer. But of the four, only a powerplant upgrade can fundamentally improve a business aircraft’s overall performance, ownership and operating costs.
Benefits for the wise and savvy
With fuel prices running considerably higher than two years ago – and forecast to stay at today’s levels for the foreseeable future – an upgrade that lowers the basic cost per mile of operations while reducing maintenance and upkeep costs holds tremendous appeal.
For a company looking for a low-cost entry into business aircraft for sale ownership without incurring the obligations of buying new, a re-engined older business jet may make the finances more affordable. Alternatively, a company may be facing a rare but expensive hot-section inspection or overhaul in their existing jet, in which case an engine change may prove less costly up front and in the long haul.
For a company looking for improved performance without trading up, the right upgrade can put that older jet into competitive parity with a newer model. Regardless of the reason, the right engine swap can fulfil a variety of needs at an attractive price.
Longer inspection cycles coupled with lower overhaul and parts costs translate into long-term savings compared to many original-equipment powerplants.
Higher power and lower fuel consumption can save money both through the obvious reduction in fuel consumed, as well as through the more subtle savings derived from quicker climbs and faster cruise speeds, both of which contribute to shorter enroute times – and more fuel saved.
The Path to Powerplant Enlightenment
Regardless of the reason for the need, upgrading engines is one of those decisions demanding some serious study and long-term number-crunching before signing on the dotted line.
Factors to consider range from the obvious; “what will the upgrade deliver, how much will it cost and how long must a jet be kept to justify the investment?”; to the subtle, such as “what will the long-term savings be in maintenance, shortened flight times and reduced maintenance costs?”
Some upgrades may seem steep in costs when examined without the collateral information to weigh in the process. But they seldom cost so much that buying a new jet is an attractive alternative.
Weighing an engine upgrade is also a good time to consider whether you want to indulge in other upgrades or improvements that could be accommodated during the same downtime needed for the engine upgrade. Is this a good time to refurbish the interior? Is it time for a panel makeover? Can one vendor handle multiple aspects of a multi-tiered project, or will the plane need time in several different shops? Here’s where the expertise of an accountant, mechanic and chief pilot can help come up with the data needed to make an informed decision.
If it’s an existing bird you’re thinking of upgrading, don’t forget to include the cost of replacement transportation during the period the target airplane for sale is unavailable. With the offer of reduced maintenance, shorter flight times, lower fuel bills, possibly even insurance savings, though, what’s not to like?
SIERRA INDUSTRIES FJ44 Stallion
Uvalde, Texas-based Sierra Industries FJ44 Stallion makes a 500/501SP into an aircraft competitive or superior to many of today’s current-production light jets at a cost competitive with a new Citation Mustang for sale – about $2.45 million.
For the money, the operator gets a 390-knot cruise, ability to climb to FL430 in 25 minutes, and cover 1,400 nautical miles with a single pilot and four passengers on board. The major contributor to the Stallion’s abilities is the Williams International FJ44-2A engine with 2,300 pounds of thrust and miserly fuel flows compared to the original Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D engine installed in those Citations.
By comparison, the Citations with the original powerplants are some 40 knots slower, burn 25 percent more fuel, and need an additional 55 minutes to step climb to FL410.
Prices start as low as $1.5 million plus the old engines for a simple engine upgrade with the needed gauges changed on an airplane you supply. Another option: buy an upgraded FJ44 Stallion from Sierra; prices – as mentioned above – start at $2.45 million.
FJ44 Eagle II
Blend Sierra’s proven Eagle airframe mods with the FJ44 conversion of the Stallion, however, and you get the FJ44 Eagle II, which adds considerably to the gains from the Eagle conversion alone.
Add another 50 knots to the cruise speed – or nearly 100 knots above the original Citation – and a time to climb to FL410 of under 30 minutes, and you can see the benefits the engines bring to even the enhanced airframe.
Even the range gains - and the Eagle II is capable of covering more than 1,700 nautical miles. You’ll spend about $2.95 million for a pre-converted Eagle II from Sierra, or around $1.7 million for the conversion on your own Citation.
FJ44 Super II
Start with the larger Citation Eagle II business jet for sale, the model 550; swap in a pair of FJ44-3 engines making 3,000 pounds of thrust; and sweep through with other needed changes and you have Sierra’s FJ44 Super II – a more-powerful, faster, longer-legged upgrade from the original. Sierra announced the program at last fall’s convention of the National Business Aviation Association and expects to win FAA approval for the upgrade later this year.
And what an upgrade this promises to be. The Super II makes the Citation II business jet for sale more than 30 knots faster, at 404 knots true. The upgraded jet also needs more than 600 feet less runway for takeoff, at 2,826 feet. The added power of the FJ44-3s also nearly halves the time to climb to FL370, at 15 minutes versus 28.
Were all things equal in hourly fuel consumption, the Super II would already offer an operating cost advantage over the original jet. But all things aren’t equal. Thanks to the far lower fuel numbers of the Williams engines, the Super II delivers just over 400 more nautical miles on the same fuel capacity as the original 550, an improvement of slightly more than 30 percent.
The Citation II and its variants stand as among the most-successful of the Citations, with more than 800 delivered. Sierra’s Super II conversion starts at $1.74 million.
More information from www.sijet.com
PREMIER AIRCRAFT: Falcon 50-4 upgrade
Premier Aircraft earlier this year received the STC for its Falcon 50-4 conversion, a $2.3 million enhancement to the original Falcon 50. By converting the Falcon’s three Honeywell TFE 731-3 engines to Dash 4 powerplants the Falcon gains in a longer range (of +560 nautical miles), higher speed, improved climb and reduced fuel and maintenance costs.
There’s a bonus: As engine upgrades often do, the Falcon 50-4 produces a business jet quieter than original. In the case of the 50-4, however, the noise reduction is better than typical, meeting the newest Stage 4 requirements.
Prices are lower for Falcons with engines enrolled in Honeywell’s maintenance program. And Premier can supply loaner engines that keep total downtime to about 14 days.
More information from www.50dash4.com
SPIRIT WING: FJ44 Learjet 25D conversion
One of Learjet’s most-popular early designs, the Learjet 25D business jet for sale with its old GE engines and high noise footprint was in danger of losing its place in the business jet aviation realm – until Spirit Wing Aviation in Oklahoma won its STC for the SpiritLear. Suddenly, the old Learjet has new prospects, thanks to an engine upgrade – to the Williams FJ44-2C – and an airframe and panel makeover that goes far beyond a mere engine swap.
New nacelles mounted 16 inches farther aft and four inches outboard help enhance the aerodynamics in a way that yields a jet as fast as the original but on smaller, more fuel-efficient engines. The SpiritLear also gains in payload – to the tune of about 700 pounds at full fuel – thanks to the removal of a fuselage tank needed with the old engines.
Even with less fuel, the SpiritLear out-flies the original by 70 percent, with a range exceeding 1,800 nautical miles on 22 percent less fuel.
Priced in the low-to-mid $2 million range, depending on the work needed, the resulting SpiritLear is also RVSM compliant and has upgraded pressurization and hydraulic systems that work with the engine and aerodynamic upgrades.
More information from www.spirit-wing.com
BLACKHAWK: F90xp/200xp King Air upgrades
For $595,000, Blackhawk Modifications offers the F90xp, a bolt-on STC’d conversion to a pair of factory new 750shp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-135A engines you have performed at a shop of your choice. The price, which does not include props, is far below the usual market price for those engines, thanks to arrangements and volume Blackhawk does with the engine maker.
Benefits of the F90xp conversion include a cruise speed of more than 275 knots – about 15 faster with virtually the same fuel flows to the original engines. The F90xp conversion also improves climb rate and time to climb, as well as the single-engine airplane for sale ceiling of the F90 and other 90 series King Airs.
The $798,000 engine and STC package for the King Air 200xp delivers similar benefits – lower fuel and maintenance costs, longer inspection and TBO cycles, and a performance gain that matches the performance of a new business turboprop B200 King Air aircraft for sale. In fact, according to Conklin & de Decker, as much as $50,000 can be saved annually in operating costs alone post-upgrade with the KA 200xp.
By incorporating the venerable Pratt & Whitney PT6A-42 engines on the King Air 200 series, Blackhawk provides a solution for those who want to enjoy the performance and operating savings of a B200 without the expense of buying one.
Since introducing its upgrade programs, Blackhawk has built up a portfolio of more than 100 satisfied customers, and – according to the company – word is spreading quickly that upgrades are the preferred alternative to overhaul.
More information from www.blackhawk.aero
SEAGULL AVIATION: Walter Conversions for King Air 90s
According to the company, converting to Walter M601-E11 engines and a pair of Avia props costs about $20,000 less than simply overhauling a pair of PT6-20 engines and Hartzell three-blade props when the old powerplant hardware brings in $170,000 as engine and prop run-outs. Otherwise, the package goes for $615,000 with new Walters and Avias.
Over the next 3,500 hours, the combination of the Walter engines and Avia props will save the operator another $300,000 in fuel and maintenance costs.
And these numbers don’t take into account the performance gains like higher take-off weights, better hot-and-high performance, and lower noise either.
More information from www.seagullaviation.com