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High-density business aircraft save operators big bucks over airline flights.

Dave Higdon   |   1st January 2006
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Dave Higdon Dave Higdon

Dave Higdon writes about aviation from his base in Wichita Kansas. During three decades in...
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High-density business jet sales save operators big bucks over airline flights.

If truth be told- corporate shuttles may be one of the least appreciated- highest producing aircraft in business aviation - regardless of the type flown.

Operating solely for the needs of the company- these aircraft – estimated at more than 200 worldwide – often are merely high-density versions of a business jet or corporate propjet. Configured more like an airliner than the stereotypical executive aircraft- corporate shuttles tend to operate on a fixed schedule. Others are actually airliners fitted to match their shuttle role.

Instead of earning their keep carrying revenue-generating passengers like an airliner- however- they earn their keep by providing travel for company employees who need to travel between company facilities on short lead times. With these workers often required to return the same day- they miss out on any airline opportunity to fly at the discounts available with advance bookings and Saturday-night stays.

However- the corporate shuttle passenger generally also misses out on the need for early arrival to clear security checks- further improving the time efficiencies of the corporate shuttles. Corporate shuttles also mean no connection delays- no risks of being bumped from an overbooked flight – and no risks of enduring a screaming child or inebriated tourists intruding on the passengers’ work time.

Best of all- almost any business turbine aircraft can be adapted to the role of a corporate shuttle - whether an airliner- a standard-issue private jet aircraft sales or a business turboprop aircraft for sale. Selecting a sturdy platform is- of course- nearly as important for corporate shuttles as for airline operations – and more an issue than with most private jet sales. While airliners typically fly around 2-500 hours annually- shuttles average around 1-500 - about three times the use of the typical executive-flying business jet.

Despite the high demands- a variety of top notch corporations and many smaller firms long ago recognized the improvements in travel efficiency – time and money saved – and the improved efficiency of their workers who fly on their corporate shuttles. Some companies also claim an improvement in attitude among employees able to conduct necessary travel without enduring the hassles of airline travel today.


Three variants of the CRJ Regional jets for sale 

Earlier this year- Bombardier became the first private jet sales maker to recognize the potential for shuttle-type aircraft with a dedicated corporate shuttle business line. Bombardier looked to the numbers for the existing fleet – dominated by used aircraft converted to shuttles – and the potential for expanding the market in launching not one- but three distinct variants- the Challengers 850- 870 and 890.

The foundation for each model is Bombardier’s highly successful CRJ line of regional airliners- the original 50-seat CRJ200- the 70-seat CRJ700 and the 90-seat CRJ900. That foundation means 800-series corporate shuttle operators benefit from an existing 99.8 percent dispatch reliability rate for the airliners – a rate that should go higher with shuttle operators thanks to their lower utilization numbers.

Aimed at both existing and prospective shuttle users- Bombardier designed three distinct interior modification and confirgurations for each model- each targeting operators’ specific needs. Each offers an efficient solution for the company in need of high-frequency air travel for large numbers of staff.

The standard interior- for example- provides a coach-like cabin with a seating capacity identical to the original airline version: 50 seats for the CRJ200-based 850; 70 seats for the CRJ700-based 870; 90 seats for the CRJ900-based 890. Range for each model stands at about 1-500- 1-900 and 1-700 nautical miles- respectively.

Bombardier also offers each model in a split cabin version with the interior divided between executive seating forward and economy seating aft. In the 850- the split works out to six forward- 26 aft; for the 870- it’s eight forward and 36 aft; for the 890- it’s 12 and 40. Range for each model with this interior varies from 1-900-nautical-miles-plus for the 850- more than 2-200 for the 870 and a bit above 2-000 for the 890.

Finally- each model can be fitted with a Deluxe Cabin – an all business class interior that accommodates 27 in the 850- 42 in the 870 and 52 in the 890. The first two models boast a maximum range of just over 2-200 nautical miles- while the 890 can cover a bit more than 2-000. And all enjoy the other attributes of the CRJ airliners – among them a service ceiling of 41-000 msl and business jet-competitive cruise speeds: Mach 0.8 for the 850- and Mach 0.82 for the 870 and 890.

Bombardier backs the 800-series Corporate Shuttles with its extensive service network already tailored to meet the needs of its airline and corporate operators.

Prices vary- of course- from model to model and interior to interior- but the average tab for the 850 runs a bit more than $25 million- almost $40 million for the 870- and just short of $36 million for the 890.

More information from www.aero.bombardier.com


Corporate shuttle based on ERJ airliners

Brazil’s capable planemaker Embraer also offers a corporate shuttle configuration for its Legacy business jet for sale- a variant of the Embraer Regional Jet 135 for sale known as the EMB-135LR.

Embraer offers its shuttle model in a two-abreast- 20-seat corporate shuttle version- in contrast to the Government VIP/Executive version cabin that sports a twelve-seat cabin with sideboard- tables and three-seat sofa- or the airline version- which seats 35 in an all-coach configuration.

A variety of options are available- including wireless high-speed data through an Inmarsat Swift64 Mobile Network for in-flight access to the Internet- telephone and fax systems- and staff workstations.

The cabin and in-flight-accessible baggage compartments are air-conditioned and pressurized by a Hamilton Sundstrand air conditioning system and Liebherr Aerospace pressurization system. And the luggage space can handle nearly 1-000 pounds of bags and other hardware.

Almost half the Legacy aircraft ordered to date have been for the shuttle variant.

The Legacy corporate shuttle sports the same circular cross-section fuselage as the ERJ- with the Honeywell Primus 1000 digital panel. But the Legacy sports higher-powered engines – the Rolls-Royce AE3007 A1/3 rated for 7-000 pounds of thrust- plus a higher fuel capacity for longer range.

Embraer incorporated the larger fuel tanks into the belly and aft fuel tanks in new extended fairings- in addition to the wing tanks- to provide a maximum usable fuel capacity of 27-500 pounds in the Legacy corporate shuttle.

The Legacy Shuttle can turn in speeds as high as 450 knots- cruise more than 1-800 nautical miles- and costs a high-value $17 million.

More information from www.embraer.com


19-place SF-340 shuttle

Thought out of production for several years- Saab Aircraft’s trend-setting airliner of the early 1980s boom in regional airlines remains a stalwart today - with some converted to roles as corporate shuttle aircraft. In fact- it took the advent of so-called Regional Jets in the early 1990s to start to unseat turboprops like the 340 from their dominant role in regional airline operations.

Ironically- a Pennsylvania bank was among Saab’s early customers for the 340 – and that airplane was configured as a shuttle more than two decades ago. Today’s 340 Shuttle offers seating in one of two configurations- a 30-seat high-density shuttle version with all-coach-style seating- or a 19-seat version employing an all-Business Class environment. Both retain the room and efficiency that made the 340 a popular airliner.

Saab Aircraft Leasing manages nearly 300 Saab 340 and Saab 2000 aircraft- with a growing number employed in shuttle operations. Credit for the aircraft’s continued appeal is due to its stand-up cabin- solid flying characteristics- broad runway flexibility- a cruise speed upward of 270 knots- and a maximum range exceeding 1-000 nautical miles.

More information from www.saabaircraftleasing.com


Beech 1900D converted propjet airliner

Well into double-digit territory as corporate shuttles- the Beech 1900D airliner provides a low-cost- high-efficiency solution for operators in need of an aircraft of moderate size (11 to 14 seats in the shuttle configuration)- speed and range.

Raytheon Aircraft launched its 1900D Shuttle program in 2004- and more than 35 of the out-of-production turboprops have gone to new customers as shuttle conversions out of the 439 1900Ds built since the early 1990s.

Thanks to the fuselage redesign Beech undertook of the 1900C in 1991- the 1900D Shuttle offers a stand-up cabin unique within its class. Simple- reliable systems and the ubiquitous Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A engines give the 1900D Shuttle among the best reliability rates in its field.

And as former airliners- the costs of a 1900D Shuttle can be among the lowest in business aviation. The altered states of the 1900D has proven popular. In the first three quarters of 2005 Raytheon converted five 1900D Shuttle aircraft.

More information from www.raytheonaircraft.com

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