Loading please wait....

If you are a registered, please log in. If not, please click here to register.


Turn on any one of the luxury flying pseudo-documentary programs floating around the media sphere these days- and you may get the impression that bizliners deserve the most. The extremes – those atypical aspects of aviation so easily spotlighted – too often prove irresistible to the folks behind the camera.

Dave Higdon   |   1st April 2010
Back to articles
Dave Higdon Dave Higdon

Dave Higdon writes about aviation from his base in Wichita Kansas. During three decades in...
Read More

Going Long
Ultra-long Range meets Large-Cabin aviating efficiency.

Turn on any one of the luxury flying pseudo-documentary programs floating around the media sphere these days- and you may get the impression that bizliners deserve the most. The extremes – those atypical aspects of aviation so easily spotlighted – too often prove irresistible to the folks behind the camera.

In a psycho-sympathetic world that converts what we see into what we crave people too often seem to crave that which they can almost never attain. And that goes for parts of aviation most of humanity will never touch. In aviation- only a tiny sub-percentage of humanity can fly; an even smaller percentage will ever fly an airliner- pilot a combat aircraft- or own a business-built airliner. Thus the image of business aviation sometimes ends up somewhat distorted.

The image seems to reflect a belief in the cult of celebrity in a way much akin to that old mainstay of celebrity television- “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” By focusing on the biggest of the big- and the most-expensive of the very expensive- they define an element of life as more pervasive than the actualities of the world. That’s a diametrically opposed perspective to the realities of business flying we know to exist.

As devotees- fans and proponents of business aviation know- such opulence for the sake of opulence is not a prerequisite for a business justified corporate aircraft. The aircraft serves as a transportation tool and like tools used to work on airplanes- the tool needs to fit the work.

Size does matter – but so do runway and ramp limitations- weights- wingspans- length- to name a few of the most-relevant. And let’s not forget costs and benefits. These must balance somehow. Insiders and users alike typically know the biggest of the big and the most-expensive of the very expensive often fail to fit the bill operationally.

Those same knowledgeable people also know well that alternatives exist to those ultra-long-range bizliners – alternatives capable of matching them mile-for-mile in the time-to-travel equation- even if they don’t offer the floor space of a family home or the opulence of a penthouse suite. Those alternatives are the large-cabin- ultra-long-range jets we profile and examine this month. For the operator in need of a fine balance between speed- size and reach- smaller jet segments often fall short while the step up represents a boost in floor space without a real improvement in other utility parameters.

Pound-for-pound- knot-for-knot- the only things they lack are things you can do better without – or- at least- do with less.

When weighing the mission needs of an operator- trips typical and atypical usually come into consideration of an airplane. How well can it handle a typical mission- in time- in airport used- in Direct Operating Cost (DOC)?

Consultants typically advise investing in the aircraft that meets a percentage of the user’s needs – sometimes expressed as the “Ninety Percentile Rule”- or “Eighty Percentile” in some cases. Then- the advisor will often urge the prospect to buy for the typical- and lease- charter or borrow for the atypical.

It’s a little like owning and daily driving a diesel pick-up truck that gets 10 mpg when you only really need its capabilities once or twice a year. In between those days- a minivan or compact covers your needs just fine- while costing you significantly less in the interim. The smaller vehicle may even lend itself to trips you might otherwise pass due to size or costs if a larger machine is your “daily driver.” Translated to business aircraft- buying for floor space alone when that space may never be actually needed means living with the fuel required for every trip – not merely the longest trips.

In our group- all capable of flying at least 4-000 nautical miles in a leg- DOCs tend to run much lower. Runway flexibility in terms of runway loads improves as well- although Balanced Field Length may not necessarily differ enough to make a difference. If flown at trip-appropriate weights- these purpose-built business jets may be able to access shorter runways. Overall- these jets are sized to support a broad range of missions from the nominal to the abnormally long. And when you’re flying a machine with the legs of these- tinkering fuel on most missions becomes an easy decision- adding to the operator’s flexibility.

Should the day come when you need the jet to leap large distances in a single bound- it costs nothing extra to make the trip – and will save time and money by skipping refueling stops in the vast majority of cases. With these ideas as background- come along on a tour of these large-cabin purpose-built business jets with bizliner-like range capabilities.

Evolved- refined and improving with age- Bombardier’s Challenger 600-series line-up serves up all the latest benefits of modern technology in a flavor reminiscent of a fine wine - aged to perfection - some three decades after its first flight.

Bombardier has managed the metamorphosis of the Challenger without disturbing or damaging the underlying traits that made this Bill Lear design a game changer when originally introduced. Today’s Challenger 605 boasts both a highly refined supercritical wing that brought it instant success in the large-cabin niche- significant refinements since- plus powerplants boasting the latest in engine management- airflow and fuel-efficiency benefits. Together- they combine to deliver a combination of payload capability- range and speed that remains timeless in its appeal.

The two General Electric CF34-3B high-bypass turbofan powerplants generate more than 8-700 pounds of flat-rated thrust each- but generate a sound footprint that is the smallest and lowest among Challenger jets. They are also the only on-condition maintenance powerplants available in this segment. The four-screen Pro Line 21 from Rockwell Collins sports screens measuring a whopping 10 inches by 12 inches each. Dual FMS and autopilots work with a single auto-throttle system to give the 605 unparalleled low-weather utility. These systems work together to give the 605 the blend of speed- range and capacity that remains as appealing today as it was when first revealed as the LearStar 600 back in 1976.

The Challenger brought stand-up cabin space to modern business jets thanks to its 6.17-foot height and 8.17-foot width at centerline.

The latest Challenger clears the long-range bar as well as the large-cabin mark- with a still-air capability beyond 4-000 nautical miles. Flying shorter legs- the 605 delivers runway performance that makes possible round trips with a normal complement of passengers- and without the need to refuel (enhancing its flexibility) with a 5-840-foot requirement.

Thirty years after winning its wings and entering service- today’s Bombardier Challenger 605 continues to deliver class-leading capabilities at a value level few other models can match.

Two peas from the same pod: This old line commonly reflects a strong similarity between any two objects. Indeed- that comparison carries some weight with regards to these two Bombardier aircraft- the Global 5000 and its slightly larger hangar-mate- the Global Express XRS.

Both share the heritage of the original Global Express- one of two models from Bombardier and Gulfstream that launched the era of ultra-long-range large-cabin jets about 17 years ago- and while at the forefront of range- speed and technological sophistication- neither of these aircraft carry the ramp “footprint” of bizliners. Nonetheless- neither of these top performers can be accurately labeled as “small” aircraft.

First- they each boast cabins that spread to 8.2 feet wide and stand 6.3 feet tall. Second- the XRS’ near-100-foot overall length encompasses a main cabin 48 feet long; the 5000- shorter by about three feet overall- offers a 42- foot long main cabin. And third- these powerful players’ operating weights reflect their globe-hopping capabilities with the larger XRS edging over the 98-000 pound mark and the 5000 coming in about 6-000 pounds lighter.

The different operating weights reflect the differences in fuel capacity more than their physical differences – differences reflected in their still-air range numbers. The Global 5000 lives up to its name with a maximum-leg capability of more than 5-000 nautical miles. The XRS beats that number by more than 20 percent- at nearly 6-200 nautical miles – long enough to put within reach about 25 percent of the great circle mileage of Earth at the Equator.

The fuel efficiency of the two Rolls-Royce Deutschland BR710A2-20 turbofans and their sophisticated fuel-control systems help give these two Global jets their legs; the 14-750 pounds of thrust each powerplant generates helps Global aircraft achieve their Mach 0.85 maximum cruise speed.

To help the flight crew manage the aircraft regardless of its stage length or destination- Bombardier tapped Rockwell Collins to supply its new Pro Line Fusion avionics suite- which sports four LCD display screens measuring more than 15 inches diagonally.

More information from www.aero.bombardier.com

FALCON 900DX- 900EX- 900LX Combine a spacious cabin- drag-cheating aerodynamics and the fuel-efficiency benefits of using three powerplants instead of two larger ones- and you’ve ventured into the realm of French planemaker Dassault and its groundbreaking Falcon line of business jets.

The three 900-series models now in the Falcon line-up comfortably deliver the legs operators need and demand- with the added redundancy of that third engine. Dassault tapped Honeywell for its strong-performing TFE731 family of turbofan engines. The -60 model produces 5-000 pounds of thrust and is flat-rated to ISA +17°C. As expected- the mature TFE731-60 has proven to operate with excellent reliability and fuel efficiency.

The 900LX and EX both bring a 21-000- pound fuel capacity- while the 900DX comes in at 18-830 pounds- and boasts a still-air range of 4-100 miles; the 900EX offering a longer 4-500 nautical- and the 900LX a substantial 4-800 nautical miles.

All three Falcon 900-series models sport the EASy integrated flight deck created for Dassault in concert with avionics supplier Honeywell- and offering four bright- sharp LCD displays to fill out the panel. None of these Falcons surrender runway performance with their long-range abilities - all three can use runways in the 5-200-foot category- or shorter with only a relatively small reduction in load.

From the first Falcon 50 onward- Dassault’s triumphs with triples continued to expand- multiplying the choices of a long-range- no-holds-barred redundancy – while- at the same time- retaining its status as the sole provider of three-engine business jets.

Dassault’s development of the all-new Falcon 7X raised the bar in business aviation on both the range- powerplant and space levels with a model literally without parallel among corporate aircraft. The planemaker again tapped Honeywell to provide a tailor-designed version of the EASy flight deck. Sporting four 14.1-inch AMLCD displays; the integrated panel lacks for nothing needed by today’s globe-circling flight crew.

Matching the sophistication of the flight deck is the first-in-business-aircraft fly-by-wire sophistication of the 7X’s flight-control hardware. And the two side-mounted stick controllers provide both positive attitude control and positive feedback to the pilots to help them feel as much as they see attitude changes.

Dassault turned to Pratt & Whitney Canada to power the Falcon 7X- opting for a trio of the new PW307A high-bypass powerplants each generating more than 6-400 pounds of thrust – flat rated to ISE+17°C to improve hot-and-high performance and high-altitude climb capability.

As something of a long-term bonus for 7X operators- the PW307A came with a 7-200- hour overhaul cycle time – more than double the typical period and equal to about 14 years of typical business aircraft use. Offering a maximum range just short of 6-000 nautical miles the Falcon delivers this distance at Mach 0.80 cruise speed and carrying eight passengers.

Fueled and loaded to its maximum- the power- light weight and positive control traits of the 7X allow it to operate at a Balanced Field Length right at 5-500 feet. At its maximum take-off weight of 67-811 pounds- the 7X won’t tax the runway weight capacity on most runways long enough to operate from. And the airplane’s power and light weight also help this Falcon shine in high-elevation airport operations as well as on hot days.

More information from www.dassaultfalcon.com

Gulfstream’s current large-cabin lineup includes four existing models – three of which clear our 4-000-mile long-range bar – and a fifth in development that raises the bar yet again in purpose-built long-range largecabin jets. They all share the company’s cutting- edge PlaneView integrated flight deck with Synthetic Vision System and Enhanced Vision System as available options.

Of the four- only the G350 - an outgrowth of the company’s effort to cover a broad range of sizes and price points - falls short of our range bar at 3-800 nautical. And it’s still a large jet – though the smallest of the company’s large-cabin offerings. Let’s look at the others.

A longer-range variant of the G350 – or is it the other way around? – the G450 offers more than 500 additional nautical miles carrying eight people for a maximum leg exceeding 4-300 nautical miles. The large cabin - an evolved variant of Gulfstream’s stand-out GIV - measures more than 40 feet in length- while standing 6 ft. 2 in. tall and 7 ft. 4 in. wide.

With all other things being equal – airframe- engines and avionics – you might expect the higher weight and longer range to impose some sort of trade-off. And you’d be correct: In the case of the G450- the sacrifice for an approximately 13 percent increase in range- contributing to a 9-percent penalty in runway performance. That penalty still keeps the G450 a 5-500-foot runway performer - with even better performance at lighter take-off weights.

Credit for much of this performance belongs to the Rolls-Royce Tay Mk. 611-8C powerplants employed on the G450.

G500 & G550
Topping out Gulfstream’s current in-production model line-up- these two models continue the legacy of the Gulfstream GV- the second airplane of the early 1990s that launched this category of ultra-long-range- large-cabin business jets.

Today this duo represent the pinnacle of Gulfstream’s jets – and they stand well into the ultra-long-range segment- overall. They grew out of the same philosophy that spawned the G350/G450 duo – a philosophy of two jets sharing all but fuel capacity and the limited differences created by their individual fuel loads. Both share cabin cross sections- but stretch to more than 50 feet in length- and both the G500 and G550 fly on the power of the Rolls-Royce BR700-710C4-11 powerplant with matching output levels of 15-385 pounds of thrust.

Of course- both also share in their PlaneView flight decks and all accoutrements and options. But with a full load of fuel at its maximum take-off weight of 91-000 pounds- the G550 offers a maximum still-air range of more than- 6-700 nautical miles - among the best ever.

At a more-modest take-off weight limit of 85-100 pounds- however- the G500 still makes the ultra-long-range cut with the ability to cover 5-800 nautical miles non-stop. These distances should remain among the best of any business jet – well- at least until the certification of the next Gulfstream.

With two test airplanes flying in Gulfstream’s developmental program- the up-and-coming G650 stands to raise the bar yet again - and again to a height rarely viewed in business aviation.

Gulfstream has designed the G650 to represent a step-forward on par with the legendary GV of the early 1990s. The planemaker has designed the G650 to stand out in cabin size for purpose-built business jets- boasting 2-100 square feet of floor space in a main cabin unparalleled in its dimensions (nearly 47 feet long- a towering 6.5 ft tall- and an expansive 8.6 ft in width).

Despite its considerable size- however- the G650 is far from a drag monster. Gulfstream employed advanced aerodynamics in the G650’s airframe design to allow the maximum performance to shine through from the two new Rolls-Royce BR725A1-12 powerplants. The blend of these new 16-100-lbst engines with the drag-evading airframe design and an aggressive weight-loss program should yield a jet with the ability to cruise non-stop a full 5-000 nautical miles – at a scorching Mach 0.90- the best of any large- ultra-large- longrange or ultra-long-range jet.

Perhaps you’d need to fly 7-000 nautical or more. Again this is your airplane: Just ease back on the throttles- and at Mach 0.85 the G650 will take you the distance – and still top its class.

On the flight deck- Gulfstream opted to aim for a new level of sophistication with an advanced fly-by-wire system- a redesigned PlaneView integrated flight deck built of the latest Honeywell advances in synthetic vision- and working with the latest advances in heads-up display capabilities from Rockwell Collins. Certification is anticipated in 2011.

More information from www.gulfstream.com

Inevitably the inventory of large-cabin- long range performers should continue to improve- evolve and grow: New-generation engines already running in test cells; new airframe technologies coming through the R&D labs; and avionics that further bridge the gap between humans and machines already run in electronics labs.

The ultra-long-range niche of business aviation will always be fertile ground for these advances because the business needs of a global market will continue to draw the players together.

Related Articles

linkedin Print

Other Articles