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The latest contender in the Light Jet field flew recently; another is in the pipeline; and those already flying seem to maintain their popularity year after year- spurring most planemakers to seeming constant cycles of improvements. So it is when the category remains the single-largest in business aviation – although the future growth appears destined for second-place status against the mid-cabin airplanes. Light jets offer ...

Dave Higdon   |   1st September 2008
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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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Still Growing:
Light jet options abound - with more coming.

The latest contender in the Light Jet field flew recently; another is in the pipeline; and those already flying seem to maintain their popularity year after year- spurring most planemakers to seeming constant cycles of improvements. So it is when the category remains the single-largest in business aviation – although the future growth appears destined for second-place status against the mid-cabin airplanes.

Light jets offer heavy-duty flexibility- equally as at home on the shortest fields as at the largest. They offer speeds that rival their larger hangarmates- as well. And many offer operators the option of employing a single pilot on the flight deck – though used more by owner/operators- still a choice even corporate flight departments can make when needed.

With choices literally from around the world- the light jets also excel at giving corporations a way into the sky without sky-high costs to buy or to fly. Further- the geographic diversity of suppliers means that buyers and operators can truly shop around for what they need without feeling hemmed in.

So this month we review the options available in the Light Jet segment- those now in service and those in the pipeline. It’s an impressive collection- to say the least.

The ‘heavyweights’ of business flying…
There are more of them- they sell near the top of the stack- and they often work the shortest routes to the smallest airports – those missions for which a small jet makes most sense- both operationally and utility-wise.

Truly- the light jet- the category from which evolved today’s wide range of options- is the ‘heavyweight’ of business flying. While large jets often come in configurations capable of carrying more- the typical business mission seldom requires more carriage than what the typical light jet can accommodate. Though most larger jets boast the capability to fly longer legs- the average mission of the average business jet still comes in under 500 nautical miles – well within the capabilities of the typical light jet.

And while some light jets top out in terms of speed somewhat below the typical larger jet- on those typical legs that superior speed of the larger aircraft seldom comes into play. You can be looking at a few minutes difference for a much larger investment. And any lack of a full-blown lavatory seldom means much when the legs last only about 90 minutes.

Thus- the appeal of the light jet can be related to its costs which are far below its larger kin- in terms of fixed-ownership and direct-operating costs. Speed- reach- carrying capacity – the light jets clearly hit on all the right points for so many customers on so many missions. From a dollars-and-sense perspective- light jets are often heavy enough.

Our definition of ‘light’
For our purposes- we’re focusing on jets weighing between 10-000 pounds and 20-000 pounds – with some small hedging at the upper-end to accommodate jets whose genesis- size and capacity were in the light range- but where upgrades or enhancements may have edged them slightly above that 20-000-pound bar. There are instances for which the slight difference does exist – but in which the jet in question is still a light at its core. The above break also allows us to differentiate from the traditional light jet class and those new arrivals that populate the growing field of Very Light Jets and Personal Jets – all of which fall below 10-000 pounds. So let’s take a look at what today’s Light Jet crop yields.

Learjet 40 XR & 45 XR
For the prospect interested in a cabin proportioned much like a mid-cabin jet – but shorter – the Learjet 40 XR and 45 XR offer fulfillment.

Capable of standing on its own against larger jets where speed and climb are concerned- the 40 XR is pure Learjet as a downsized version of the 45 – Learjet’s first clean-sheet design since the original Learjet 23 of 1963.

The 40 XR cabin stands just a fraction short of five feet tall- spans just over five feet at its widest- and stretches nearly 18 feet long; the 45 XR cabin stretches an additional 2.1 feet. Both boast legendary Learjet speed- at about 465 knots true- and both provide the flight crew with the ability to cruise as high as FL510 – above most weather and virtually all other traffic.

Power for this performance comes from a pair of Honeywell TFE731-20BR turbofans generating 3-500 pounds of thrust each. The fuel efficiency of these powerplants helps the 40 XR produce a long-range cruise exceeding 1-800 nautical miles- while the 45 XR- with its higher fuel capacity- can turn in more than 1-900 nautical.

The price of this performance comes in at about $9.2 million typically equipped for the 40XR and about $11.8 million for the 45XR.

More information from www.aero.bombardier.com

Citation XLS+
At the top of the stack in Cessna’s light-jet line-up is the slightly above-the-bar XLS+- the latest incarnation of a model launched more than a decade ago that employed a shortened Citation X fuselage and a straight Citation V Ultra wing.

Since first delivery in 1998- Cessna has kept this model on an upward trajectory to the latest variant- the XLS+ certificated earlier this year. With a cabin measuring 18.5 feet long- the XLS+ is among the longest in its class; thanks to the Citation X characteristics- the cabin measures an ample 5.7 feet in height and 5.5 feet in width at its widest.

The PW545C engines also reflect a line of continuous improvements from the 545As installed on the original XL. Making 4-119 pounds of thrust each- these Pratt & Whitney Canada turbofans offer fuel specifics that allow the XLS+ to cruise as far as 1-858 nautical miles.

Cessna also opted to give the flight deck an upgrade- opting for the Collins Pro Line 21 integrated avionics suite employing four screens- each 8x10 inches. Enhancements to the flight-deck system include advanced diagnostics- electronic navigation charts and IFR approach plates- even XM Wx satellite weather datalink- adding an element of weather information to compliment the on-board weather radar.

Already a success story- the XLS+ version of the 560XL stands to only build on that foundation. At a price of about $11.86 million- that foundation looks strong for supporting a fleet of 1-000 by the decade’s end.

Citation CJ1+- CJ2+- CJ3
Spawned from the original 525 launched in the late 1980s and certificated in 1991- the original CitationJet can boast of a family tree growing like no other model Cessna has produced- past or present.

Like so many advances in aviation- the CJ line came about because of an engine-technology breakthrough – in this case- Williams International’s groundbreaking FJ44. Growth in the power available from the same powerplant package helped the CitationJet grow into a multi-model line-up.

The cabins range from 11 feet in length for the CJ1+ to 13.6 for the CJ2+ and 15.7 feet in length for the CJ3. Cessna also expanded seating to improve the CJ2’s capacity but instead opted for more leg room for the CJ3- which helped avoid payload limits that could result from trying to fit more seats.

All three aircraft share in their panels- each employing Rockwell Collins’ Pro Line 21 system- and all three deliver useful legs- ranging from 1-300 nautical for the CJ1+- 1-600 nautical for the CJ2+- and about 1-875 nautical for the CJ3. Speed is also respectable- as about 384 knots for the CJ1+ to about 413- 415 for the other two CJs.

Prices vary from about $4.7 million for the CJ1+ to $6.3 million for the CJ2+ and $7.4 million for the CJ3. As an added incentive for owners- all three share in type ratings and the trio is approved for single-pilot IFR.

Citation CJ4
As a continuation on the CJ story- back in May Cessna achieved the maiden flight of the CJ4. This $8.3 million variant is due for certification late in 2009- but won’t actually start showing up on ramps until early 2010.

As well as its higher-thrust engine- physical differences between the CJ3 and CJ4 include the latter’s longer cabin- which measures 17.3 feet long – as long as the Citation Encore+. The CJ4 also has a Swept Wing (approx 12° sweep) utilizing three speed brake panels with the center panel being a modulated type- electrically heated glass windshield and side windows- new enhanced maintenance friendly cabin entry door- and single point pressure refueling fuel system for quick turnarounds.

Avionics on the CJ4 are also different - there are four 8x10 inch panels instead of the three found on the CJ3. This aircraft will also have an extensive list of Standard Avionics and interior items not found on the other aircraft.

The engine- Williams’ FJ44-4A- produces 3-400 pounds of thrust- the most yet for this engine model. With great fuel efficiency- these engines allow the CJ4 to fly 1-825 nautical miles. About $8.7 million gets you a CJ4 - and the line is already growing.

More information from www.cessna.com

Phenom 300
It’s flying and it’s continuing to gain sales and interest to match that of its smaller sibling- the Phenom 100. Embraer designed the $6.35 million Phenom 300 for short-field take-offs thanks to an advanced wing and the power of its two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW535E engines. Making 3-200 pounds of thrust each- they’re powerful enough to quickly propel the Phenom 300 to its service ceiling of FL450 and cruise at a maximum speed of Mach 0.78.

At lower speeds the Phenom 300 offers the ability to cover 1-800 nautical miles with six on-board- or fly shorter legs with its cabin filled with a total of nine occupants – legs long enough to connect London to Iceland- the Azores or Moscow.

The Phenom 300 employs standard anti-skid braking using brake-by-wire technology. The jet’s Prodigy flight deck is a custom-executed version of Garmin International's fully-integrated G1000 avionics suite. In this installation- the Phenom 300 panel sports a trio of 12-inch- high definition displays- with full interchangeability from the standard configuration of two Primary Flight Displays and a single Multi-Function Display.

The Phenom 300 has a 76-cubic-foot baggage capacity and the most ample cabin space with an interior designed by BMW Group DesignworksUSA which includes a wardrobe or refreshment center- a private lavatory and satellite communications.

While sporting what Embraer says is the largest cabin volume in class- the Phenom 300 fits nicely among the hotter performers in the light jet segment. Start watching for the Phenom 300 on a ramp near you in the second half of 2009.

More information from www.embraerexecutivejets.com


Progress is temporarily on hold on the Grob spn - the sole European entry into the light jet realm. But- the benefits are in full view: a large cabin capable of carrying six plus crew on legs as long as 1-800 nautical miles- at the top of its class. The cabin stretches nearly 17 feet in length- stands a full 5.5 feet high and spans the same width. At these dimensions- the cabin can seat as many as eight.

Capable of flying from unimproved runways as short as 3-000 feet- the spn seems capable of even shorter numbers when the runway is an improved surface.

In addition to pioneering an all-carbon-fiber light jet- Grob continued its cutting-edge ways by tapping Honeywell for the new Apex integrated avionics suite- assuring that the spn has the latest in a state-of-the-art instrument panel. And the proven Williams International FJ44-3A engines assure both reliability and high fuel efficiency with low maintenance costs to match.

Excellent runway performance- a large cabin- and excellent fuel specifics all combine to make the spn a potential contender in its field.

More information from www.grob-aerospace.net.

Premier IA

A true pioneer in business aviation- Hawker Beechcraft’s little Premier can boast nearly 250 delivered in its seven years of service – and it’s about to get better as the updated Premier II (see below) comes to market. But until the new kid lands on the block- the Premier IA stands as a singularly significant aircraft that helped restore respect to the word “composites.”

Built with a carbon-fiber/honeycomb sandwich fuselage and a low-parts-count metal wing- the Premier represents the benefits of high-tech materials when employed cost effectively – in this case- thanks to automation that lays down the carbon fiber over a shape-conforming mandrel.

Powered by a pair of Williams FJ44-2A fans making 2-300 pounds of thrust- the clean- light Premier IA can cruise more than 1-490 nautical miles at speeds as fast as 451 knots and at altitudes as high as FL410 – on miserly fuel that belies the spacious cabin.

For example- with cabin dimensions of 5.4ft high- by 5.5ft wide (at the widest)- and 13.5ft long- the Premier IA is wider and taller- but shorter than its hangarmate- the Hawker 400XP. But the Part 23 Premier uses nearly 20 percent less fuel than the Part 25 Hawker 400XP. That certification difference is significant (see below).

Priced as just over $6.2 million- the Premier IA offers larger jet speed with smaller jet runway and fuel-efficiency numbers.

Premier II
Starting with a good thing – several- actually- like the fuselage- wing and powerplants – and going one or two better- results in a solid performer taking aim at expanding its reach. Such is the basis of the Premier II- Hawker Beechcraft’s latest evolution of its original in-house light business jet.

In this case- the one better is the Williams FJ44- upgraded from the 2-300-pounds-thrust -2A to the newer FADEC-managed 3-050-pounds-thrust -3AP. The only arguable downside to this change is the reduction in fuel needed to make a trip- and the impact that could have on the homefield FBO…

For example- carrying the same payload- the Premier II can cover 355 additional nautical miles- largely a factor of the aircraft’s improved climb performance and the efficiency gains of new winglets designed for the airframe. A 15-knot cruise speed gain to 465 knots also helps the cause.

Additionally- the engines provide a higher inspection interval- 4-000 hours versus 3-500 hours. The Premier II also boasts a higher useful load.

When certificated and in delivery around the second quarter of 2010- expect to pay about $7.3 million to land in the left seat of your own single-pilot Premier II. But there will be a line; orders and options already exceed 100 units – and it was launched only this past May.

Hawker 400XP
It’s a different airplane certificated in a different category for a different market- say the folks at Hawker Beechcraft- where the old Diamond still shines as the Hawker 400XP. The updated Premier (discussed above) comes very close in many elements – but is still a FAR 23 airplane to the 400XPs FAR 25 basis. That means two pilots to fit a different level of equipment and redundancy on the airliner-category-qualified 400XP.

The 400XP remains solidly competitive in a market filled with youngsters by offering up to 465 knots at cruise- more than 1-400 nautical-mile legs- the maturity of its two Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D-5R engines- and the proven technology of the Collins Pro Line 4 panel.

That difference in certification does mean two pilots on the flight deck with the benefits that can entail on those above-industry-average legs. That is why the 400XP continues to stand as a solid value at about $7.2 million.

More information from www.hawkerbeechcraft.com

S-40 Freedom
The latest advance for this two-year-old program came a few months back when Spectrum Aeronautical announced its embrace of the Honeywell Primus Apex integrated panel for use in the upcoming S-40 Freedom carbon-composite light jet. That follows earlier revelations that the S-40 will use the GE-Honda HF120 advanced turbofan and that the S-40 Freedom will get to market ahead of the company’s VLJ- the S-33 Independence.

The choice of a four-screen Primus Apex panel complements Spectrum’s single-pilot IFR plans for the Freedom and complements the numbers published for this developmental design. For example- the Freedom is expected to deliver a still-air maximum cruise range exceeding 2-200 nautical miles – topping the light-jet field – along with a cruise speed of 435 knots.

The 6-foot-tall-by-6-foot-wide cabin should give the Freedom the largest cabin in light jets – large enough to offer a fully-enclosed lavatory for passengers making those longer flights. Spectrum is shooting for certification late in 2009 with customer deliveries starting in early 2010.

More information from www.spectrum.aero

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