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To everything there is a season- and for every project the correct tool. As companies around the world found ever more need for fast- efficient air transportation- the aircraft evolved as a tool to meet those needs. Aircraft have evolved into large- complex machines from the small- simple airplanes first embraced for business use. As companies expanded their use of aircraft- the aircraft these businesses used grew ...

Dave Higdon   |   1st May 2009
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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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Range and space give top business jets top appeal

To everything there is a season- and for every project the correct tool. As companies around the world found ever more need for fast- efficient air transportation- the aircraft evolved as a tool to meet those needs. Aircraft have evolved into large- complex machines from the small- simple airplanes first embraced for business use.

As companies expanded their use of aircraft- the aircraft these businesses used grew large enough to transport a dozen people in airborne office environments from small- cramped cabin spaces accommodating only two or three.

With growth in the distances traveled by business aircraft users- the aircraft grew legs capable of covering vast segments of the globe in a single flight – a huge improvement over the relatively short maximum range hops possible in predecessor aircraft.

At each step- aircraft manufacturers found ways to employ new powerplant technologies- aerodynamic advances and improvements in materials and manufacturing to make the next generation more efficient than the last. And with each step- the cockpit capabilities improved to enhance crew capabilities and safety- while main cabin accoutrements grew to include virtually every tool found in a modern office on the ground.

The results of aviation’s own form of natural selection plies the world’s skies daily. These advanced travel machines often transport teams of people to points 4-000- 5-000- even 6-000 miles apart. And they do so in times unmatchable using commercial flights. Today’s state-of-the-art in private aviation is reflected in the largest- longest-legged purpose built jets we examine here this month.

Though business aviation has taken a publicity beating in recent months- the well informed know that difficult economic times are the wrong time to shed a tool that makes a company more efficient- more effective and ultimately more profitable.

The Large-Cabin & Long-Range Class
The root trait that binds together our group of aircraft this month largely involves heritage: all are purpose-designed corporate aircraft; none are corporate derivatives of commercial airlines- and all weigh at least 40-001 pounds at maximum take-off weight.

In past on-line aviation articles- we’ve considered ‘long range’ to start at about 4-000 nautical miles; and that guide applies here again this year. At 5-000 nautical miles- ‘ultra-long range’ seems appropriate. And the majority of this group qualifies as at least long range. But as great as the range may be for the top of the ultra-long range performers- size stands as the main appeal of this group.

The combination of size and the potential to fly long distances gives the operator flexibility unavailable in smaller- shorter-legged corporate aircraft. For example- the size allows these jets to fly full seats on the shorter legs most typically flown by the average business aircraft flying an average trip. The aircraft often may be able to carry such a contingent with fuel enough to cover the round trip without refueling- often saving money for the operator.

The distance-and-size equation allows the jets to fly normal loads on legs well beyond typical – and back again- on available fuel. In those rarer instances when it’s needed- these jets can cover distances equal to the world’s largest airliners – but connect points between which no direct airliner service exists.

Companies smart enough to calculate the value in staff-time know the hidden costs of putting busy staff on commercial flights – particularly on trips requiring multiple plane changes. With domestic legs flanking the international segments the time lost interlining on commercial airlines can add days to a round trip. Lost staff time compounds the added meal and hotel costs to make private travel even more competitive.

The flexibility of these aircraft in maximizing the time of the people they carry is as good as it gets in air travel- and it’s that flexibility that continues to keep this aircraft segment competitive – on long trips and short. So with the background in place- let’s examine business aviation’s players in the large cabin and long-range segment.

Challenger 605
In more than 30 years since the maiden flight of a Canadair Challenger- the line of 600-series models to follow retained the core traits that made Bill Lear’s design the ground breaker- even as other jets have joined the large-cabin segment it pioneered. Its refined supercritical wing and modern powerplants give the 605 the blend of speed- range and capacity that remains as appealing today as it was when first revealed as the legacy LearStar 600 back in 1976.

The Challenger pioneered stand-up space with a cabin 6.1 feet tall and more than seven feet wide. The 605’s 25-foot-long cabin provides space enough to accommodate a variety of configuration choices.

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. Nearing the 30th year since the first Challenger entered service- the 605 model remains a class leader thanks to its blend of size- capability and value.

Global 5000 and XRS
Nearing two decades after its launch- Bombardier remains one of the top players in blending a large-cabin design with jumbo-jet legs in its Global line of corporate aircraft. Bombardier’s Global models can hold their own with any aircraft used in business where range is concerned – even if it’s markedly smaller than the airliner derivatives that challenge for range dominance.

Airport flexibility is- for example- one trait in which the Global models beat their commercial-rooted competitors- in part because of the size difference. The size difference also works to the advantage of the Global family in direct operating costs.

But at 6.3 feet tall and 8.2 feet wide- the Global family aren’t anything approaching small. At 42 feet and 48 feet long respectively- the 5000 and XRS both provide space enough for effective business activity- and for restful travel.

At a maximum range of about 5-000 nautical- the Global 5000 brings within reach of one point more than one-sixth of the globe; at 6-200 nautical- the XRS expands that reach to about one-quarter. A global business environment often needs a global business travel tool.

More information from www.aero.bombardier.com

Citation Columbus
The Columbus itself stands as an example of business aviation evolution. Cessna launched itself into the business jet for sale market with a single-pilot light jet designed to provide a step-up move for pilots of the company’s largest piston and propjet twins.

As the company’s simple jets grew in popularity- the appeal of a small jet grew among businesses; and as market acceptance grew- Cessna’s customers grew more sophisticated in their use – and with that growth- Cessna grew new models- larger and more-sophisticated.

But at no time in the process did Cessna ever lose touch with the importance of any segment it served; witness the rebirth of the light jet in the CJ line and the introduction of personal jet in the Mustang at one end of the market- and the speedy Citation X at the other.

But that upper limit - the Citation X business aircraft and its stable mate- the Sovereign - remain solidly in the mid-cabin segment. For years- Citation customers asked Cessna for something beyond its mid-cabin offerings- something in a large-cabin jet- and those current and would-be customers got their wish in early 2008 when Cessna confirmed the launch of the all-new Columbus large-cabin jet.

In the Columbus- the market will get a jet that fits into both the large-cabin and long-range segments as well as the biggest- longest-legged Citation yet. Although the slowdown in the economy and business aviation has prompted Cessna to slow development- progress will ultimately bring to market an aircraft capable of covering 4-000 nautical miles at a speedy Mach 0.80.

The Columbus promises a maximum cruise speed of Mach 0.85 and a ceiling of 45-000 feet – with a relatively low 6-700 msl cabin altitude at the jet’s ceiling.

As is typical when breaking new ground in business aviation- Cessna tapped new technology to provide the Columbus with its capabilities. To work with the advanced aerodynamics of the Columbus- Cessna tapped the new PW810 high-bypass turbofan from Pratt & Whitney Canada. And to give flight crews the best of today’s leading-edge technology- Cessna selected the new Pro Line Fusion integrated flight-deck system from Rockwell Collins; four 15-inch displays will fill the panel.

Cessna also tackled lowering operating and ownership costs in other ways- such as using brushless starter-generator equipment and a hybrid fly-by-wire control architecture- which should also save weight.

More information from http://columbus.cessna.com

Falcon 900DX & 900EX
For those who see safety in numbers- these two triple-engine Falcons serve as two of Dassault’s three solutions for maximum redundancy. With a trio of Honeywell TFE731-60 powerplants handling thrust needs- the Falcon 900DX and 900EX variants offer security on even the longest over-water flights. Both of these Falcons also fall within our parameters for large-cabin and long-range business jets.

The higher-max-weight 900EX can cover an impressive 4-800 nautical miles non-stop- while its lighter hangar mate- the 900DX can travel 4-000. Conversely- it’s the 900DX that provides slightly better runway performance out of the same aerodynamically refined airframe. And just as these two share powerplant models- they both also share a flight deck – in this case- Dassault’s EASy version of the Primus 2000 system from Honeywell.

The flight deck provides flight crews with all the navigation- hazard-avoidance and situational-awareness tools needed to manage an aircraft that cruises at Mach 0.82.

Falcon 7X
Dassault continued to advance the Falcon line with the certification of its largest- longest-range model yet- the cutting-edge Falcon 7X. With power from three P&WC PW307A turbofans- the 7X boasts an impressive ultra-long maximum range of 6-000 nautical miles- a mark helped along by the advances in aerodynamic design Dassault achieved.

The light weight of the 7X makes it an impressive load hauler at all range combinations. And the first-ever fly-by-wire control system used in a purpose-built business jet contributes to both the light weight of the jet and its flight-deck integration with a specific incarnation of the EASy flight deck. As a value leader- the Falcon 7X stand out thanks to its top-notch capabilities and a highly competitive price point.

More information from www.dassaultfalcon.com

As dominant a player in the large-cabin category as any- Gulfstream offers a variety of ‘here-and-now’ and ‘in-the-future’ models that fit into our weight and range parameters- starting with the G350.

The smallest of Gulfstream’s large-cabin contenders- the G350 comes to within 100 miles of clearing the long-range bar with its 3-900 nautical capability. Top-notch runway performance- at 5-050 feet at gross weight- gives the G350 mission flexibility ahead of many of its in-class competitors. It’s maximum cruise speed of Mach 0.88 make the G350 a stand-out- while its roomy cabin allows space for all to relax or work. The G350 cabin stands 6.2 feet tall- spans 7.2 feet in width- and stretches a full 37 feet.

Up front on the flight deck- the crew enjoys the efficiency of Gulfstream’s PlaneView incarnation of Honeywell’s Primus Epic integrated panel suite – complete with enhanced vision and a heads-up display system.

G450 Business Jets
Start with everything that makes the G350 a stand-out business jet- up the maximum weight about 2-500 pounds- make that weight available as fuel- and you have the essence of Gulfstream’s G450. A longer-range variant of the G350- the G450 offers about 500 additional nautical miles carrying the same eight people as the G350 mission profile.

With all other things being equal – airframe- engines- avionics – you might expect the higher weight and longer range to impose some sort of trade-off. You’d be correct. In the case of the G450- the sacrifice for an approximately 13 percent increase in range is a nine-percent penalty in runway performance. That penalty still keeps the G450 a 5-500-foot runway performer- and at lighter take-off weights puts the airplane back in the same territory as the G350.

G500 & G550
This pair top out the current fleet of large-cabin and long-range Gulfstream jets – and they stand well into the ultra-long-range segment- overall. The G500 and G550 grew out of the same philosophy that spawned the G350/G450 duo – two jets sharing all but fuel capacity and the limited differences created by individual fuel loads.

The G500 and G550 share their 6.2-foot-tall-by-7.3-foot-wide cabin; both cabins also stretch just over 50 feet in length. They employ the same Rolls-Royce BR700-710C4-11 powerplants- and their output of 15-385 pounds of thrust- and of course- they 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 6-700 nautical miles - that’s 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 for some time… well- at least until the certification of the next Gulfstream.

The G650 promises to make marks and break marks to a degree seldom seen in aviation- and deliver a degree of comfort and utility- flexibility and performance that sets the bar forever higher. With the G650- Gulfstream is working on a leap like the one made with its ground-breaking GV of more than 15 years ago. The G650 stands to set a new mark in cabin size among purpose-built business jets- with more than 2-100 square feet available for the main cabin.

Up on the flight deck- Gulfstream opted 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- working with the latest advances in head’s-up display capabilities from Rockwell Collins.

The advanced aerodynamics of the G650 airframe serve to eke out the most from the new Rolls-Royce BR725 powerplants- sporting advances in power and efficiency- alike.

The product of the two new 16-000-pounds-thrust engines- the sleek airframe and weight-shaving touches together should produce 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- long-range or ultra-long-range jet.

Do you need to cover 7-000 nautical- plus reserves? Then ease the throttles back to a still-hot Mach 0.85 and the G650 will take you the distance – and still top its classes. Back at program launch last year- Gulfstream targeted late 2009 for the first flight of the G650- with certification expected in 2011.

More information from www.gulfstream.com

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