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Medium-jet pool expands - but only slightly- viewed next to other segments.


Contrary to instincts it might seem- but there’s been little to no slowing in the development of new business jets in the three years since sales started softening and backlogs began shrinking.


Witness- please- the rapid expansion of a segment not yet represented by a certificated member – the micro-jet arena we examined here last month. With no fewer than a half-dozen contenders in various stages of development- this segment sprang to life only four years ago – and today remains nearly two years away from the most-optimistic effort reaching fruition.

Growth also came to the light- large and ultra-long-range segments. So it’s of no real surprise to catch up with the medium-weight segment of business jet aircraft and find that this segment- too- enjoys some slight expansion to accompany manufacturers’ ongoing efforts to evolutionarily improve existing products. If the instincts of some and the quantitatively based predictions of others bear out- those companies advancing new products for any segment should find themselves the beneficiaries of good timing.

The good timing stems from the optimistic proclamations of an apparently strengthening market – or- by a more-conservative view- a slowing in the market’s decline. To be honest- some indications do support the optimism.

For example- within the business aviation community used business jet sales increased in recent months. Manufacturers reported strong market activity at some of this year’s signature events- including at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture 2003 in late July and early August.

Some economic indicators – including productivity- unemployment and wholesale orders – also improved slightly during the summer months. Even airline boardings seemed to be on an upswing. Yet- on the flip side of these welcome points- the economy continues to permanently shed jobs and manufacturing remains stagnant- along with real income growth.

Nonetheless- the business of doing business continues unabated and the need for travel still defies the forecasts of settlers on the digital frontier.

Virtual reality aside- the literal reality remains that businesses need the ability to move key people to critical assignments at important locations – and those locations increasingly lay well away from the 550 or so points on the hub-and-spoke networks of common carriers.

And while delaying an order or delivery may have been a most-prudent decision two and three years ago- it may no longer be as prudent when looking ahead to the next couple of years or the years beyond. So the state of need evolves along with the state-of-the-art in the science of the corporate jets - at the bottom- at the top and in the middle.

Size & weight limits defined
Several different labels seem to be in use: Mid-size; mid-weight; medium-category- etc. Defining what constitutes a mid-size jet grew tougher in recent years as aircraft manufacturers conjured up new labels for some of their new products – super light and super mid-size- for example.

We’ve recognized exceptions in the light-jet class that barely break the 20-000-pound upper limit generally applied to light jets – but positioned to compete with both light jets (in price) and mid-size jets (in cabin size). The so-called super-mids similarly seem positioned to compete more with both mid-size and larger jets.

So for our purposes- we still define the mid-class jets primarily by weight range - from (roughly) 20-000 pounds to about 40-000 pounds. We do have a couple of exceptions to deal with- however- since considering cabin size and price weakens somewhat the clarity of 40-000 pounds as a demarcation point. Those exceptions aside- the general parity in range and cruise speed between mid- and large-cabin means that space- price and operating costs remain the primary marketing points for the mid-class jets.

Bombardier Aerospace:
Learjet 60

The lightest jet firmly established in the mid-weight class once also stood as the smallest in its class – but no more. Today- the Learjet 60 airplanes for sale can boast of its cabin-space superiority over one other model- Gulfstream’s G100.

The Learjet 60- a direct descendant of the original Learjet 23 of 40 years ago- continues to hold appeal for companies needing a fast- comfortable- efficient mount for their business travel. With a true-airspeed cruise exceeding 450 knots on tap- the Learjet 60 delivers speed in classic Learjet fashion. Indeed- with the still-rare ability to cruise at FL510- the Learjet 60 jet for sale also offers operators the potential for direct- one-leg flights across the 2-400 nautical miles that this- the largest Learjet- is capable of covering at maximum range.

The Learjet 60- with a full payload- can climb directly to FL370 in only 13 minutes and cover 1-700 miles on available fuel. A standard 1-000-mile trip in the Learjet 60 takes barely 2.25 hours – and with maximum fuel the Learjet 60 can manage out- and return-legs of more than 750 miles without refueling. Formidable capabilities indeed for a jet priced at about $13 million.

Challenger 300 Jets for sale
Bombardier’s all-new Challenger 300 enjoyed a fruitful summer- winning in short order its flying papers from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)- from Canada’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and from the European Joint Aviation Authority (JAA).

The first customer airplane arrived at Bombardier’s completion center in Tucson- Arizona- in early August – and first delivery has been forecast for the fourth quarter. It would surprise no one if Bombardier managed to make delivery of the first completed customer airplane at this month’s convention of the National Business Aviation Association in Orlando- Florida.- which opens October 7 – just a week into the final quarter of the year.

Delivery of the first customer aircraft to the completion center came only five days after the business jet’s maiden flight on July 28. And the first production airplane proved so trouble free that it received its airworthiness certificate from the CAA after flying only five production test flights- one of them a 5.5-hour mission. But this is exactly the sort of success Bombardier sought to sell when launching the Challenger 300 as the Continental four years back.

Best-of-class value was another goal Bombardier set for the Challenger 300 sales – to provide existing light-jet operators with a cost-effective step-up from their current jets- as well as a mid-size alternative for current mid-size aircraft operators operationally constrained by their existing mounts.

Among the advantages boasted for the Challenger 300 jet was exceptional short-field performance for its class. And it appears that Bombardier succeeded. The model’s 4-750-foot take-off distance and an actual landing distance of 2-610 feet translate into exceptional short-field capabilities.

Between launch and landing- the Challenger 300 also delivers in what companies buy jets for – speed and reach. The Challenger 300 offers operators a top speed of 541 mph- or Mach 0.82- and a maximum non-stop range of 3-100 nautical miles carrying eight passengers at its maximum takeoff weight of 38-500 pounds. A service ceiling at FL450 provides the flight crew with tremendous flexibility to opt for altitudes with the best winds or the least weather.

Complementing the Challenger 300’s solid performance numbers is its spacious cabin. Bombardier’s designers created an interior designed around passenger comfort and functionality with a total cabin volume of 860 cubic feet – thanks to a height of 6.1 feet- a maximum width of 7.2 feet- and an internal length of 28.6 feet overall.

Much of the credit for the aircraft’s level of performance belongs to Honeywell’s new AS907 high bypass ratio turbofan powerplants. The AS907’s whopping 6-826 pounds of thrust provides ample power to propel the Challenger 300 aircraft for sale across the U.S. in under five hours at fuel flows better than earlier engine designs could have managed.

Finally- Bombardier also targeted lower upkeep costs in the effort that created the Challenger 300 – and- again- met with success. Bombardier boasts that maintenance programs predicated on condition rather than time help keep the model’s operating costs as low or lower than any current mid-size jet. The price for these capabilities is about $17.5 million.

Cessna Aircraft:
Citation X for sale

Proof positive that speed sells- Cessna Aircraft’s high-velocity Mach 0.92 Citation X remains a strong contender- not only among mid-size operators but among any business jet user for whom speed is the pre-eminent parameter. For whatever doubts linger over the appeal of speed- much of them should be in jeopardy due to the re-emergence of efforts to develop a supersonic business jet.

Until the day comes when a business jet can boast its sound-barrier superiority- the Citation X remains the ultimate expression of the appeal of speed. Not only does the model still hold a cabin load of speed records won since it entered service in early 1997- the top Citation model has shown its staying power by landing a host of repeat buyers.

Last year’s payload upgrade (by 400 pounds) and engine thrust increase (by 5 percent) improved on the Citation X’s overall appeal by allowing the jet to carry seven passengers with full fuel from runways considerably shorter than before.

While the largest Citation- the  X  falls into the middle of the mid-size class with a cabin that measures 23.5 feet long- 5.7 feet high and 5.7 feet wide- and yet- when customers boast about how much less time they have to spend in the cabin- you know it’s just another subtle boast about the Citation X’s speed.

In the real world- that speed superiority translates into the ability to trim an hour off the time it takes competitors to fly comparable cross-continent legs – and the ability to make west-coast-to-east-coast round trips in a day without pushing crew duty time limits.

Indeed- covering such distances presents the X with no problems- thanks to its ability to cover more than 2-500 nautical miles carrying available fuel at its maximum cabin payload- although carrying maximum fuel and about 1-300 pounds of payload- the Citation X can cover 3-500 miles. This combination of long range and high speed make the Citation X an excellent choice for any operator facing frequent cross-continent or transatlantic legs.

The Citation X’s slim frontal area- clean- balanced wing and speed-maximized airframe complement the efforts of two 6-442-pounds thrust AE3007C engines from Rolls-Royce Allison in achieving the marks of speed and range at fuel flows closer to those of larger- slower jets. Thanks to the efficiency of the overall package- the Citation X can also fly at more-sedate speeds on fuel-consumption rates comparable to other- slower jets at their high-speed power settings and fuel flows.

But the price for the Citation X’s level of performance remains competitive with other jets in its class- at about $17 million – a tab that puts it firmly in the middle of the pack.

Citation Sovereign
Last year we dealt with the Sovereign jet in the developmental-aircraft segment of this report. The current state of the program prompted us to move the Sovereign up to the main body of this article – it’s that close to receiving its FAA approval. Here’s where things stood as of the first week of September 2003:

As of this writing- Cessna had only a week before it completed the first production Sovereign built on the new line devoted to that model. Roll off came on August 27 and the plane headed off to the next step in its completion process.

A month earlier- the three Citation Sovereign prototypes – including two other production-parts-built test beds – surpassed 1-500 hours in the flight-test program. And one of the production prototypes spent part of its summer enduring cold-soak testing at the U.S. Air Force’s environmental test chamber at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. Sovereign’s systems all functioned normally during tests at temperatures down to minus 40 Fahrenheit.

With Cessna understandably confident of certification in the fourth quarter- it’s easy to imagine the Sovereign getting its paperwork at the NBAA convention early this month. Certification of the Sovereign would give Cessna a jet product line of seven- with two more – the Citation CJ3 for sale and the Mustang micro-jet – in the wings- so to speak.

As the numbers stand- the Sovereign- while not the top of the line (see Citation X- above)- will be Cessna’s largest Citation with a cabin more than 28.1 feet long- 5.7 feet tall and 5.5 feet wide. If the height and width dimensions sound familiar- refer back to the Citation X. Similar to Cessna’s straight-wing Citation Excel- the Sovereign shares in the Citation X’s fuselage cross section- but on a swept wing distinctive to the Sovereign. That fuselage- combined with the Sovereign’s speed- provides plenty of volume for a variety of cabin configurations.

For a jet of its class- the Sovereign is highly capable- with long-range capabilities exceeding 2-800 nautical miles at speeds near to 460 knots. The combination makes for honest transcontinental ability. Much of the economy can be credited to the Sovereign’s two 5-686-pounds thrust PW306C powerplants from Pratt & Whitney Canada.

Of equal appeal to many operators is the Sovereign’s runway flexibility. The combination of efficient power and clean aerodynamics help the Sovereign operate from runways as short as 4-000 feet.

The $13.5 million tab for a well-equipped Sovereign is in line with its other traits and capabilities – highly competitive. If Cessna receives FAA approval in the fourth quarter- as expected- look for the first customer delivery to come shortly after the first of the year.

Dassault:
Falcon 50EX jet 

Long a leader in business aviation- Dassault remains one of only two companies in the field to focus exclusively on the upper-end jet markets for mid- and large-cabin jets. And one of the mainstay’s main-line products remains the proven 50 series Falcon- currently incarnated as the Falcon 50EX . And the 50EX incarnation of today’s Falcon line remains a distinctly different business jet- one with no-compromise international-travel credentials- courtesy of its three-engine powerplant configuration.

Flights exceeding 3-000 nautical are easy with eight in the cabin and a two-pilot crew on the flight deck; the Collins ProLine EFIS standard-equipment panel lends itself to trans-oceanic travel – as do the three 3-700-pound-thrust TFE731-40 fan jets from Honeywell clustered on the tail end of the fuselage.

Beyond its travel capabilities and over-water redundancy- the 50EX also boasts of an expansive cabin 28 feet long- 5.9 feet tall and 6.1 feet wide. Seating configurations easily accommodate from 9 to 19- with payload and range combinations ideal for 6-8 person trips with plenty of luggage and lots of range.

As a package- the 50EX delivers plenty of comfort- reliability- redundancy and sophistication in a package few jets can match for the missions. The entry price; just over $20 million.

Falcon 2000 Jet
For around 2.5 million dollars more- Dassault offers the Falcon 2000 jet for sale that can also handle seating for 8 to 19 – but even more comfortably. Credit for the added comfort and space of the 2000 stems from a cabin design that is larger in every direction- length- width- height. The 2000’s 31.2-foot-long cabin stretches about 3 feet longer than the cabin of the 50EX. The Falcon 2000 also measures 4 inches taller and a 19 inches wider – a whopping 7.7 feet in width.

Indeed- the 2000 lacks nothing in the way of speed and range performance either- delivering 479 knots for up to 3-000 nautical miles flying on two Honeywell CFE 738-1-1B engines of 5-900 pounds of thrust each. Like we said – all this comes at a cost of about $22.5 million.

Falcon 2000EX
By going upscale a tad more- the 2000EX- a longer-legged- higher-performance variant of the 2000 was certificated in March this year. The 2000EX sports new 7-000-pound thrust Pratt & Whitney Canada PW308C engines for higher output and lower fuel consumption- while also enjoying about one-third more fuel capacity than the Falcon 2000.

Of course- the folks at Dassault employed the latest upgrades Collins offers in the ProLine 4 EFIS panel that’s standard on both 2000 series airplanes- while also employing on the 2000EX Dassault’s own advanced EASy cockpit system developed originally for the large-class 900EX.

The debut installation of Pratt & Whitney Canada’s P&WC PW308C engine- developed specifically for this model- helps make the 2000EX a stronger contender in the super-mid class. The numbers seem to be there- with a cruise speed of 0.80 Mach- or about 450 knots- and a maximum range of 3-800 nautical miles.

The tab for this roomy- speedy business tool weighs in at about $24 million.

Gulfstream Aerospace:
Gulfstream G200 (formerly Galaxy)

A year ago we spoke of the expanded five-jet product line to result from Gulfstream’s acquisition of the Galaxy/IAI product line. In the time since- Gulfstream expanded the product line by two new jets- one of them a variant of the G100/Astra SPX purchased in that acquisition.

Introduced as the first model from a new company- the Galaxy in reality represented the latest model from a venerable manufacturer – marketed and supported by a new company. As a credit to its creators- the new Galaxy was finding its market through its reputation as a fast- roomy- fuel-efficient and- best of all- high-value jet priced at about $20 million.

The acquisition by Gulfstream and the new name did nothing to detract from the G200’s strengths – strengths such as its competitive speed (a fast Mach 0.85) and attractive efficiency (from a pair of P&WC PW306A engines- each with 6-040 pounds of thrust).

The renamed Gulfstream G200 business jet remains among the tallest and widest jets in its class with a cabin that measures 6.3 feet high and 7.2 feet wide. At its 24.5-foot internal length- the G200 cabin offers enough space for seating configurations ranging from 8 to 18 seats.

Among its most-attractive traits is the G200’s ability to fly more than 3-600 miles with four passengers- a crew of two and luggage for the six.

Gulfstream G100 (Astra SPX)
Still one of the mid-size band’s best values- the G100 today goes for a bit under $12 million- while continuing to deliver the goods. The range is a comfortable continent-crossing distance of 2-800 nautical miles. And its 466 knots of speed still make those distances efficiently short.

These numbers result from the combination of the 4-250 pounds of thrust of two Honeywell TFE731 powerplants with the G100’s slim lines. Those lines cut drag- while still delivering a generous cabin measuring in excess of 17 feet long- 5.6 feet high and 4.8 feet wide – a total of 367 cubic feet- space enough to handle 7 to 9 passengers- comfortably.

Among the older- more familiar models in this class- the G100 seems poised to retain the international customer base developed over its years with another name.

Raytheon Aircraft:
Hawker 800XP

At just under $13 million- the Hawker 800XP jet represents one of the most-resilient products in this class- thanks to a history dating back more than a decade.

After acquiring the Hawker line a decade ago- Raytheon improved on the original Hawker 800 jet by providing better cabin configurations- power and fuel systems- and updating the flight deck to make today’s Hawker 800XP. In today’s form- the 800XP offers cabin configurations for anything from 8 to 15 passengers in a cabin that measures more than 21 feet long- 6 feet wide and 5.7 feet high.

While Raytheon Aircraft’s engineers eked out more interior space- that space-saving effort left unchanged the external dimensions of this jet- preserving the 800’s already strong performance numbers in the 800XP aircraft for sale.

At a cruise speed approaching 450 knots- the 800XP covers a 1-000-nautical-mile trip in a mere 2.5 hours- thanks in part to the power and efficiency of the two 4-660-pound-thrust Honeywell TFE731-5BR powerplants. At its maximum take-off weight of 28-000 pounds- the 800XP can operate from runways as short as 5-088 feet and fly as far as 3-400 nautical miles carrying 4 passengers.

DEVELOPMENTAL MODELS
Although there could be some surprises at this month’s NBAA convention- here are the latest models confirmed to be working their way through the developmental process.

Gulfstream aircraft for sale : G150 jet
The G150 jet for sale starts with the G100 fuselage and wing- but with a fuselage expanded slightly in height and even more in width to get a cabin-volume increase of more than 25 percent. Throw in a fuel-capacity enhancement- a small improvement in engine power from the Honeywell TFE 731-40R engines to 4-400 pounds of thrust- a requisite increase in operating weights- and you get the G150- with longer legs and more cabin-payload flexibility than its hangar sibling.

Gulfstream’s partner on the program- Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI)- added splices to the cabin that widen the fuselage by a foot and increase its height by 2 inches. The result: A whopping 465 cubic feet of space in the cabin- improving considerably on the G100 on which it is based – and allowing Gulfstream to fill a size void between the G100 and the larger G200.

The G150 delivers a top speed of Mach 0.85 and at its normal cruise speed of Mach 0.80 (459 knots true)- the jet can cover 2-700 nautical miles carrying a crew of two- four passenger and NBAA IFR fuel reserves while cruising as high as FL450.

When launched last year- Gulfstream quickly netted double-digit orders for the G150. But the economic (and sales) malaise prompted the company to delay the program by about a year- putting certification of this $13.5 million contender out in early 2006. First flight is now expected in May 2005.

Raytheon Aircraft for sale:
Hawker Horizon

This should be the year for the tardy Hawker Horizon- now running more than two years behind its original timetable.

The test beds are actively flying toward certification; the iron birds have been worked to beyond expectations. The development staff at Raytheon’s Wichita factory have been actively 'flying' Honeywell’s new Primus Epic panel in a dedicated avionics-system test bird – another sort of 'iron bird' that works the actual hardware and software employed by this fully integrated avionics and aircraft management system.

Now the final arrival of Raytheon’s cutting-edge Hawker Horizon appears certain- perhaps another special event to watch for at NBAA in Orlando.

Once certificated- customers will finally be able to enjoy the many strengths of the first so-called super mid-size jet launched. The Horizon boasts of intercontinental performance and high speed without compromises in payload – thanks to its innovative composite-fuselage- metal-wing construction.

The Horizon is the second Raytheon jet to sport this unique airframe approach. The composite fuselage requires none of the internal structure needed in metal fuselage structures- which helps give the Horizon a cylindrical cabin 25 feet long and both 6 feet high and wide. The composite fuselage also contributes greatly to the Horizon’s relatively light operating empty weight- in turn helping improve payload and fuel performance.

Thanks to its 3-515 nautical-mile maximum range (at a maximum speed of Mach 0.84)- the Horizon can easily cross oceans and continents. The range and speed come courtesy of the power and efficiency of the two 6-825-pounds-thrust P&WC PW308A engines.

First flight of the Horizon occurred late in 2000; the aforementioned program delays now make certification possible anytime from now through early 2004.

Fairchild-Dornier
Envoy3

Thanks to the March purchase of Fairchild Dornier’s Envoy 3 line by Texas-based AvCraft Aviation- the future appears much brighter for this promising variation of the Do328JET airliner. And many a business operator will welcome the many attractive attributes of this large-cabin jet in mid-size clothing – offered in two different flavors.

Both variations share the same basic airframe- evolved out of the 328 propjet. For example- both versions of the Envoy3 provide a main cabin that measures 34 feet long- 6.2 feet high and a 7.2 feet wide. Both also sport the basic speed (387 knots true at high-speed cruise) and runway capabilities – a short 4-535 feet for takeoff – thanks to the 6-050 pounds of thrust power from each of the two P&WC PW306B engines.

One variation- however- priced at about $14.5 million- offers a cabin configurable for a corporate shuttle seating 18 to 32 – with fuel capacity for a maximum range of about 1-300 miles. Another- more conventional executive cabin configuration offers seating for a range from 8 to 12 passengers.

Priced at around $15 million- this version of the Envoy provides a top speed of 400 knots and a maximum range of about 2-000 nautical miles.

And that wraps up our 2003 examination of mid-size business jets. Later this year- we’ll update you on the latest in large-category jets.

Read more about: Falcon 2000 | Challenger 300 | Medium Jets | Gulfstream G150 | Gulfstream G200 | Citation X | Learjet 60 | Cessna Citation Sovereign | Dassault Falcon 2000 | Cessna Citation X | Hawker 850XP | Cessna Citation CJ3 | Gulfstream G100 | Falcon 50 EX | Hawker Horizon

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