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Since the economy's dramatic down-shift of 2008 the world of Business Aviation has annually seemed just short of a turnaround. Forecasts for General Aviation have closely paralleled the realities of the years following the recession.

AvBuyer   |   1st January 2014
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Recession-era R&D Yields Ongoing Model Advances

Since the economy's dramatic down-shift of 2008 the world of Business Aviation has annually seemed just short of a turnaround. Forecasts for General Aviation have closely paralleled the realities of the years following the recession.

For the business-turbine community, the aircraft and component manufacturing sectors downsized production and employment levels to match the constrained demand of those years, and little has changed for the sectors still struggling against the revised limits of today's economy.

These limits hit pretty much every sector of Business Aviation. But you'd be hard pressed to see matching signs of depressed activity in the R&D hangars; on the engineers' computers; and in the minds of those who constantly prowl the market in search of that ‘next big thing’ that will hook potential buyers solidly enough to reel in their dollar.

Deliveries have slowly edged back to more than 50 percent of the pre-recession peak – albeit sluggishly – but those results seem telling given the latest prognostications predicting significant sales numbers in the next 20 years (with any sign of activity approaching the record levels of the pre-recession peaks not anticipated until we're well into the next decade). Some analysts caution that such resurgence is unlikely to occur at all.

Nevertheless, the OEMs have remained engaged in offering the latest-and-greatest in Business Aviation. While more than one program suffered outright cancellation, these ambitions have largely kept airframers' R&D pipelines alive and functioning, with new models of business-turbine aircraft working their way toward service entry.

Several if these new and evolved models begin to hit the ramps this year. With a little luck, advancing economic growth and an aging existing fleet to encourage their purchase, these future products could be arriving at the most opportune time in nearly a decade – one outside the traditional dominant markets. Consider the following anticipated 2014 newbies as the current in an ongoing jet stream of a product-development process without end.

Challenger 350
In 2013 Bombardier announced a follow-on to the successful Challenger 300 in the form of the Challenger 350 – an update in more than name and accouterments…

The CL350 sports a new wing design, boasting greater span and canted winglets, and improved engines in the form of Honeywell's new HTF7350 engines (each making a healthy 7,323 pounds of thrust). Greater fuel capacity results bringing the range to 3,200 nautical, and a higher 40,600-pound maximum take-off weight.

Up front the flight deck features an upgraded Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 integrated avionics package, while back in the main cabin, new windows enlarged by 20 percent have been repositioned for maximum light – and to complete the package, the interior has been redesigned. Bombardier expects initial deliveries of the $25.8 million super-midsize jet to begin by May.

Learjet 75 & Learjet 70
While the Learjet 75 received FAA certification in mid-November 2013, replacing the Learjet 45XR, its slightly smaller sibling, the Learjet 70 is due soon as the replacement for the 40XR.

The updated Learjets provide seats for as many as seven passengers in the smaller 70, or nine in the 75. Both feature Wi-Fi capability, state-of-the-art entertainment systems, integral galleys, closet space, and a Learjet-like 465 knots at cruise.

Up front, the new Bombardier Vision avionics package – based on Garmin's touch-controlled G5000 system – presents one of aviation's most intuitive crew interfaces at less weight, while the jets will see 10 percent more thrust thanks to Honeywell's new TFE731-40BRs, that will help shorten takeoff and increase range with the help of the new canted winglets. Furthermore, Learjet expects gains of up to nine percent in field performance under hot and high conditions, and up to four percent more fuel efficiency over two airplanes models that were already known for their fuel efficiency – each with a range just above, or below 2,000 nautical miles.

Learjet 85
The Learjet 85 all-composite design stands to become the largest yet to wear a Learjet badge. Unfortunately, mirroring all prior composite-design attempts of the past 30 years, progress on the Learjet 85 has suffered from fabrication issues. Plans to fly the Learjet 85 before the end of 2013 officially ended on New Year's Eve when Bombardier announced another delay, pushing the first flight into the first quarter of this year.

The Learjet 85 will weigh barely a third more than the much-smaller Learjet 60, but with only an extra 20 percent thrust it will fly about 500 miles further on the same fuel – albeit at a cruise speed. All the while, it will offer improved specific fuel consumption.

Bombardier has tapped Lufthansa Technik to provide the cabin management system; Rockwell Collins for a three-screen Pro Line Fusion avionics system with advanced capabilities including synthetic vision; and Pratt & Whitney Canada for new PW307B engines (6,100 pounds of thrust each). High-speed cruise is Mach 0.82 and the aircraft’s service ceiling will be 49,000 feet.

Inside the Learjet 85 offers lay-down seats – a nod to its transcontinental 3,000-nautical range - with four passengers and crew. Similarly, this longest-legged Learjet also sports a full galley as well as a lavatory in the aft cabin. The company maintains it will complete certification this year. And whether a once-hinted-at Learjet 80 remains in the offing remains a question unanswered.

Citation Sovereign+
One new model and one revised model emerged from Cessna in December, their papers in order and deliveries initiated – in the light-segment the Citation M2 and the midsize Sovereign+ business jets. Let’s begin with the Sovereign+

Cessna added the “+” to the well-established Sovereign name to differentiate the updated version from its predecessor. With the Plus comes a Sovereign with increased range, an updated Garmin G5000 touch-control avionics package, enhanced performance and efficiency.

The new cockpit is designed around the Cessna Intrinzic Flight Deck which is itself based on the Garmin G5000 system. This offers an integrated, workload-reducing auto throttle system. For the passengers, new amenities include Cessna Clarity - the company's integrated Cabin Management System with user-friendly touch-screen controllers, plus all-new, larger and more comfortable seats.

Citation M2
The Citation M2, meanwhile, balanced out Cessna's 2013-closing certification action, bringing into service the long-awaited replacement for the CJ1+. The target market reflects Cessna's 1960s commitment to producing an entry-level jet for operators of cabin-class piston twins and turboprops to move into a jet designed around single-pilot operations.

Cessna launched the M2 at NBAA in Las Vegas back in September 2011 anticipating a maximum cruise speed of 400 knots and maximum range of 1,300 nautical miles. Runway performance enhances the M2s flexibility, with the capability to fly from runways as short as 3,250 feet – and the FJ44 engines can power the M2's climb directly to FL410 feet in as little as 24 minutes.

Cessna also gave the M2 cockpit its proprietary Intrinzic flight deck, in this case based on Garmin's G3000 avionics package with touch-screen interactivity. Deliveries were underway before Christmas.

New Citation X
The first production unit of the updated Citation X rolled out of its Wichita factory back in April 2013. By fall, the FAA had blessed the aircraft’s engineers with word that the prototypes had successfully completed all the flight and speed test required – and the agency's test crew confirm the Citation X is, once again, the world's fastest civilian aircraft with its new top speed of Mach 0.935.

But there's far more than a new high-speed bar in to the New Citation X. Cessna's designers lengthened the fuselage; designed a more-spacious interior – thanks to clever work on the liners; and gave the speedy jet a sophisticated cabin-control package over which passengers can work on-line, surf the Internet, stream videos and control various systems through a touch-sensitive interface. Expect first deliveries early in 2014.

Legacy 500 and 450
Embraer’s unveiled its move into the medium-jet market almost six years ago, when in 2008 the company announced the parallel development of two fly-by-wire designs that share practically everything – from wings and empennage, to fuselage cross-section, to powerplants, avionics and more. Take a bow, Legacy 500 and 450.

Expected to enter the market this year is the Legacy 500. Beyond the shared 6-foot-10-inch width and 6-foot height, Embraer's engineers gave the Legacy 500 a 26-foot, 10-inch long fuselage (six feet longer than the Legacy 450’s), with IFR range pegged at 2,800 nautical miles carrying eight passengers at a respectable Mach 0.80.

Both fly-by-wire jets sport side-stick roll and pitch control, Rockwell Collins state-of-the-art Pro Line Fusion avionics package with four 15.1-inch high resolution LCD displays, graphical flight planning, Jeppesen charts and maps, and the Synthetic Vision System (SVS). The optional Embraer Enhanced Vision System (E2VS) encompasses the latest Rockwell Collins Compact Head-Up Guidance System (HGS) and Enhanced Vision System (EVS).

The smaller Legacy 450, however, is trailing the Legacy 500 slightly, and is not due to market until 2015.

A unique program continues to progress down in the Carolinas, where Honda Aircraft pursues late 2014 certification of its groundbreaking HondaJet light jet (for deliveries in 2015). When certified, the HondaJet will become the only business jet flying on the power of engines designed by the same root company. The HF120 engines are produced by a partnership between Honda and aircraft-engine maker GE – but the main design of the engines is the product of more than two decades of work by Honda...before it launched the aircraft’s development.

The FAA delivered certification of the engine in mid-December 2013 ending an eight-month delay. The agency also awarded Honda Aircraft Type Inspection Authorization, which shows that the manufacturer met certain design requirements and allowing FAA test pilots to begin the final testing phase required for type certification.

The airframe employs a composite fuselage that measures smaller outside than competing models. But like Dr. Who's TARDIS, the HondaJet delivers more interior space than its exterior would or should provide for its size. The secret? Honda's design that eliminates any fuselage hardware for carrying the two powerplants, as is common in most business jets. Instead, Honda engineers designed over-wing pylons that carry the two turbofans, thus freeing the fuselage for more people and stuff.

And those above-the-wing powerplants provide an aerodynamic benefit, too, thanks to judicious use of the Area Rule to minimize interference drag between the fuselage and the pylons and nacelles. The result: the fastest jet in its segment with a top cruise speed of 420 knots.

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