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Light & Very Light Jets (Part 2):
Small delivers big - for little.


Within the first part of our Light and Very Light Jet Review(September issue of World Aircraft Sales Magazine- p98)- we looked at Light and Entry Level Jet offerings - both certified and en route to certification - from Bombardier- Cessna- Cirrus and Diamond Aircraft.

We established that our review covered aircraft weighing under 20-000 pounds MTOW; with the split between Entry Level and larger light jets occurring at 10-000 pounds. We also allowed some small border excesses on the upper-end of our 20-000- pound weight limit for models that started firmly in the light jet segment- but subsequently edged slightly upward of the limit through improvements and enhancements.

The same criterion applies within the pages of this concluding review- and this month- we have spread our coverage to include aircraft from Eclipse- Embraer- Hawker Beechcraft- Honda and Piper Aircraft. Without further ado- let’s meet the remainder of the class.

ECLIPSE AEROSPACE INC:
ECLIPSE 500

What a rollercoaster ride this little airplane has endured over the years. At first meteoric in its rise as a power player in aviation – without even cutting metal – Eclipse Aviation boasted of its plans to revolutionize how airplanes are designed- built- certificated and used - and in turn revolutionizing commercial flying around a new form of point-to-point jet service.

In the end- years of delays- disputes- problems and finances didn’t prevent the company from finally certificating the Eclipse 500 and starting serial production – but of a product that left the factory still in need of a return trip to be brought up to the final type certificate standards.

In the end- it all collapsed; investors took over- shed founder - and would-be visionary - Vern Rayburn- bailed out the company and the doors then closed in bankruptcy. Last year investors acquired the assets and began a step-by-step resurrection of the company – wisely starting with the support of the 250-plus airplanes already delivered and finishing some in the production pipeline. Now- support services and authorized facilities are in place and growing - and hope has been restored for the program.

The Eclipse 500 was the smallest twin of the batch of VLJs that have flown- boasting a 370-knot top speed- 1-100 mile range- under-3-000-foot runway needs and the ability to cruise up in the same altitudes as other jets – as high as FL410- while consuming less than 50 gallons an hour with the PW610 engines. The folks at Eclipse Aerospace are working toward resuming production and fulfilling the promise of this VLJ for individual pilots.

More information from http//:eclipseaerospace.net

EMBRAER AIRCRAFT:
PHENOM 100

When you start a few steps behind the competition you need to maintain a better pace to catch up. To pass them- you need to go faster. Embraer wasn’t the first out of the gate with an entry-level jet in the form of its Phenom 100- but the Brazilian planemaker has clearly maintained a passing-lane pace in getting the little jet to market and into pilots’ hands.

The smallest Phenom is proving popular with its operators - just look at the GAMA 2Q 2010 numbers which revealed it as the current best-selling business jet. Credit must go to the Phenom 100’s performance- capabilities and cabin. Embraer designed this jet to fly as fast as 390 knots; to make legs as long as 1-178 nautical miles; and to fly as high as FL410. The airplane also features the roomiest cabin and the largest baggage compartment in its class- counting on an exclusive interior design in partnership with BMW Designworks USA.

If there’s a competitive disadvantage for the standard Phenom 100- it’s strictly ground-based- where it needs 3-400 feet for takeoff – putting it behind most of its contemporaries. For those customers who need an improved takeoff distance- though- Embraer offers the optional Enhanced Takeoff Thrust- which brings takeoff distance down to 3-178 ft.

Embraer stands among the other entrylevel jet manufacturers in recognizing the strengths of Pratt & Whitney Canada’s 600- series engines- selecting the PW617F to power its aircraft. In the cockpit- the Phenom 100 features the Prodigy Flight Deck- a unique avionics suite developed in partnership with Garmin based on its G1000. Prodigy incorporates improvements and adaptations based on Embraer’s extensive experience in designing cockpits for commercial and defense airplanes.

PHENOM 300
Another feather in Embraer’s growing business aircraft headdress- the Phenom 300 won its wings late in 2009 to take its place among the light jet segment – and help the company built its product line from the small end- up. Embraer took a new tack for this segment by employing control-by-wire technology for the Phenom 300’s braking and anti-skid systems.

Standard single point refueling- externally serviced lav and hot wings and horizontal stabilizer (no de-ice boots at all) also boost the airplane as a unique contender in the segment. The company did take a common approach with the choice of the Prodigy Flight Deck for the cockpit – adapted specifically for Embraer; a choice apt to be appreciated by any pilot stepping up from the Phenom 100.

The P&WC PW535E engines’ 3-360 pounds of thrust give it the capability to directly reach FL450 and to hit Mach 0.78 at its high cruise speed. Slowed down a little the Phenom 300 can span 1-971 miles in a single leg – with six occupants on board. The generous total 85 cubic feet of storage space should accommodate most luggage needs- featuring a 66 cubic feet main baggage compartment. The spacious cabin is capable of comfortably seating as many as nine passengers.

Embraer tapped BMW Group DesignworksUSA to create the cabin- which can include touches like a private lav- the operator’s choice of a demi-galley/refreshment center- or a wardrobe- and satellite communications.

More information from www.embraerexecutivejets.com

HAWKER BEECHCRAFT:
PREMIER II

Nothing is ever so good on the first pass that it can’t be improved on – a trait followed diligently by the original Beech Aircraft Corp. and its line of corporate successors. Just look at the Bonanza and King Air series- and their decades of evolution. Today’s HBC continued that tradition by bringing a series of upgrades to bear to create the Premier II- a follow-on to the Premier IA.

First- HBC upgraded the Williams FJ44 to the newer FADEC-managed 3-050-poundsthrust -3AP (from the 2-300-pounds-thrust -2A originally employed on the Premier). Aside from the higher thrust available across the operating range- the change also delivers reduced fuel consumption. The new engine- coupled with winglets- contribute to the Premier II being able to fly 355 miles farther on the same fuel and payload.

Other improvements to the Premier II from the engine upgrade include better climb performance and an increase in cruise speed to 465 knots – numbers also partly attributable to the new winglets designed for the aircraft.

Finally- the Premier II boasts a higher useful load- improved runway performance and longer inspection intervals. Otherwise- the Premier II still boasts the cabin space made available by the tow-wound composite fuselage and the clean aerodynamics of its metal wing.

HAWKER 400XP
The successor to the Mitsubishi Diamond/ BeechJet 400A- this is a model still in demand after all these years. Indeed- for an operator who covets an aircraft that’s cleared the rigorous demands and redundancy requirements of FAR 25 airline-level certification – while staying in the light end of the fleet – the 400XP is a natural choice.

The P&WC JT15D-5R engines run efficiently enough to give the smallest Hawker a still-air range of 1-465 nautical miles carrying four (with NBAA IFR range (w/100 nm alternate))- the breathing power to climb above most traffic at FL450- and the push to hit 450 knots in cruise – or slow down to an economy fuel flow that still delivers 414 knots.

Meanwhile- the front office employs Rockwell Collins’ proven Pro Line 4 with all the features a working crew needs to perform at their best and safest.

More information from www.hawkerbeechcraft.com

HONDA AIRCRAFT:
HONDAJET
This is the program that makes short-return artists take a pause – a program with decades behind it in the development of first an engine and- only then- an airplane to use them on. But down in North Carolina- the parallel development of the GE/Honda engine and the HondaJet continue apace- marrying a unique engine with an equally distinctive airframe – and making the presence of Honda a mainstream reality at airshows and fly-ins like Oshkosh for several years now.

The HondaJet’s distinctive over-wing pylon-mount system is not a first in aviation – several Soviet designs employed it – but it is new in business aviation. In what may be the best execution ever- the mounting delivers significant benefits for the cabin space race- eliminating from the fuselage any and all of the engine-related hardware that can cut into cabin volume.

Those distinctive powerplant locations also- somewhat surprisingly- generate lower drag than tail-mounted engine installations conventionally employed. The combination of good power and clean aerodynamics lets the HondaJet achieve a cruise speed of 420 knots with fuel numbers running 30- to 35- percent better than comparable engines. That efficiency- of course- helps the HondaJet achieve a still-air range of 1-180 nautical miles on significantly less fuel.

While at first look the HondaJet may seem smaller than its capacity – eight seats – the illusion is one helped along by those over-wing engine mounts. The cabin actually measures 4.9 feet tall- 5 feet wide and a long 17.8 feet in length.

Once again- the flight-deck system is provided by Garmin in the form of a specific installation of the G1000 system in the panel.

More information from www.hondajet.com

PIPER AIRCRAFT:
PIPERJET
The single-engine PiperJet continues Piper Aircraft’s long tradition of targeting the owner/pilot - and the PiperJet stands poised to break ground as the first turbofan single to win certification and enter production in the light-jet segment (Diamond’s D-JET falling firmly in the Personal Jet category). Williams International developed a model of the FJ33 specifically to power the PiperJet in the form of its FJ33-3AP.

While thermodynamically able to generate 3-000 pounds of thrust- the -3AP variant used in the PiperJet is flat-rated to 2-400 pounds – a step that will help reserve power on hot-and-high days- reduce fuel burn- and reduce maintenance demands for the aircraft.

Even at its flat-rated power level- the -3AP can power the PiperJet to a service ceiling of FL350- push the plane to a 360-knot cruise speed- while managing fuel efficiently enough to fly 1-300 nautical-mile legs – lifting a full 800-pound payload in the cabin.

The PiperJet proof-of-concept aircraft first flew in 2008 right before the economic recession. Piper was acquired by Imprimis in mid- 2009 and since then Imprimis has invested considerably in the PiperJet program. The company has hired over 100 new engineers- and Piper is rapidly developing the production aircraft in Vero Beach- Florida.

More information from www.piper.com

SUMMARY
That concludes our Review of Light and Entry Level Jets for 2010 – it is quite a collection. Factoring the aircraft in both parts of our review- private aviation seems closer than ever to the long-sought goal of a jet for every level…but it’s not quite there yet.

Doubtless- we’re apt to see more new players in the years ahead as engine technology continues to evolve and the smaller-end becomes an enduring dream of many. If you didn’t find info on a VLJ- Personal or Light Jet program here that you expected to find- we did drop some due to lack of progress- lack of response to inquiries or news of the program’s suspension. With this many airplanes already in the article- spending more time and space on speculative or dormant efforts seemed a bad use of your time.


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