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Something incremental happened on the way to the new-jet dealer: The gap between former entry-level jets and the rest of the light-jet pack largely shrank out of existence. Something happened since when a first-timers’ jet price helped differentiate between just any old jet weighing less than 20-000 pounds and one specifically attractive to the first-time buyer with modest travel needs.

Dave Higdon   |   1st August 2004
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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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Price gap grows for new entry-level business jets for sale - no longer 'budget' aircraft- they remain the mainstay...

Something incremental happened on the way to the new-jet dealer: The gap between former 'entry-level' jets and the rest of the light-jet pack largely shrank out of existence. Something happened since when a first-timers’ jet price helped differentiate between just any old jet weighing less than 20-000 pounds and one specifically attractive to the first-time buyer with modest travel needs.

The conventional logic held these birds as the transitional jet- designed to minimize risks and worries for business travelers moving across to corporate aircraft for sale from the common carriers or on-demand charter rides.

Often less than half the cost of other light jets- this group typically operated at speeds and altitudes between those of propjets and other higher-dollar turbofans – say in the low-to-mid 300 knot range and below FL350. Well- those performance differences remain today- as do the lower operating costs and performance levels- relative to other light jets.

The realm of the 'budget' jet- however- seems to have migrated to new territory; to the emerging landscape of the very light jet (VLJ)- those weighing less than 10-000 pounds and priced under $3 million.

Today’s 'light' jet class does barely retain the 1:2 bottom-to-top price ratio- by which the top of the class costs about twice as much as the bottom- but the bottom has slipped above $4 million for the first time – and that’s well beyond double the median price of a jet in the new and-emerging VLJ neighborhood. That is probably a good thing – many would frown on such class distinctions when the entire category is under challenge from up-and-coming new entrants getting entrenched down below.

Better- perhaps- to just work off the weight range long accepted as 'light' in the business jet world – below 20-000 pounds – and recognize that the low end now exists below the empty weights among today’s smallest established jet models: That’s a 10-000 pound gross weight – for an airplane that- at its basic operating weight of nearly 7-000 pounds- pretty much matches the gross weight of the new group.

Nonetheless- these frugal performers offer as much value today as back when some of them were launched 15 years ago. Let’s meet the 2004 class of light business jets- a class available on budgets between $4.1 million and $7.9 million.


The light jet leader with five under 20-000 pounds

With a lineup constituted by three evolutions of the CitationJet aircraft for sale- the popular Citation Bravo business jets for sale and the well-regarded Encore- Cessna Aircraft dominates the group of jets weighing less than 20-000 pounds. Indeed- what a variety these five represent – from cabin size to performance and price: Here’s the rundown.

The CJs- 1 through 3

Evolved out of the original 1991 CitationJet- today’s lineup of T-tailed- Williams-Rolls-powered Cessnas span three different sizes. The Citation CJ2 business jets for sale came along about four years back- as the original CitationJet simultaneously received an update and the new Citation CJ1 aircraft for sale name to match the model expansion.

The Citation CJ3 business aircraft for sale joined the team two years ago and rounded out the line of Cessna’s most-approachable jets- a line of jets with identical panels and flying qualities that make them natural for their single-pilot IFR approval – particularly with the all-solid-state three-screen Collins ProLine 21 panel standard on all three CJs. With screens measuring 8x10 inches- the full-color Collins gear covers all the pilot’s needs for communication- navigation and situational awareness.

Pretty much the biggest differences between the three stem from the varying cabin sizes and the changes they mandate. The slight differences in power- wingspan and performance that come with the resulting weight changes do nothing to differentiate them as perhaps the easiest-flying business jets in the market.

All three Citation aircraft for sale USA share the same cabin height and width: 4.8 feet tall- 4.8 feet across at the widest and 3.1 feet at floor level.

The CJ1’s 11-foot-long cabin can comfortably seat four in a club arrangement that preserves open access to the two seats on the flight deck. Power comes from two FJ44-1A turbofans making 1-900 pounds of thrust each.

The CJ2’s cabin- at 13.6 feet long- sports a center-club seating arrangement with two more seats aft ahead of the luggage/lav space. Access to the two flight-deck seats is equally open. The FJ44-2C fans used on this CJ make 2-400 pounds of thrust.

The CJ3 also seats six using the same distribution in the cabin- but at 15.7 feet long- the cabin delivers more leg room without encroaching on access to the two flight-deck chairs. The largest of the CJs also gets the most-powerful FJ44 engines- the –3A version making 2-780 pounds of thrust.

Just as the engine employed for each CJ helps maintain a similar power loading throughout the line- likewise slightly different wing spans help keep wing loading close to equal.

By keeping all three aircraft as closely matched as possible- the CJs qualify as one type for pilots who qualify in any of them – a single type rating that means the pilot who checks out in one is approved to fly any of them.

The three do differ slightly in areas such as time-to-climb – a factor of power and wing area most of all – as well as in cruise speed and range- but with those differences come commensurate price changes:

The $4.2 million CJ1 boasts a top cruise speed of 380 knots and a maximum range of 1-475 miles at a cruise speed closer to 340 knots. The $5.7 million CJ2 tops out at 410 knots for its top cruise speed and can cover more than 1-700 miles at a power setting for about 380 knots. Meanwhile- the CJ3- at just more than $6 million- offers the greatest range- 1-900 miles- at a cruise speed of about 390 knots- a bit below its posted max cruise of 417 knots.

With the FJ44s among the most frugal fuel users in the business aviation fleet- operating costs per-mile for the CJ family stands among the lowest available.

Citation Bravo & Encore

More powerful than the CitationJets with cabins accommodating for seven- the Bravo and Encore differentiate themselves more inside than on the airways – though the Encore can boast of the highest speed of the Citation group.

Both the Citation Bravo business jets for sale and Encore cabins feature a center-club seating design with two more forward-facing seats aft and a seventh aft-facing seat just back from the flight deck opposite the cabin door.

Both of these Citation aircraft for sale use Pratt & Whitney power- and both are 500-series engines. On the Bravo- the powerplant of choice is the PW530A making 2-887 pounds of thrust. The Encore uses the PW535A engine making 3-400 pounds of thrust- the highest in the light-jet class.

The Bravo clocks in at a bit more than 400 knots at maximum cruise speed and delivers a best-cruise range of 1-900 nautical miles; for the Encore- the top speed comes in at just short of 430 knots with the range a class-topping 1-970 miles. The Encore also stands at the top of the time-to-climb pack- able to make FL370 in 13 minutes- a full three minutes faster than its nearest competitors.

Both the Bravo and Citation Encore business jets for sale also sport the top-notch Honeywell Primus 1000 avionics system with three 8x7-inch screens – two PFDs- one MFD – and dual flight directors. Best of all- though- both jets fly like Citations – that is to say- with easy manners and solid harmony.

The Bravo fetches just under $5.9 million for its blend of size and performance- while the Encore comes in at just under $7.8 million for its largest-in-class cabin and top-of-the-line flight deck.

Raytheon Aircraft Co.

Today Raytheon manufactures the Beechcraft and Hawker line of aircraft and boasts a light business jet model from each. Unlike the Cessna line- though- these two jets differ as much as two machines can.

Beechcraft Premier I

A pioneer in new-technology aviation- the Beechcraft Premier I business jet for sale sports a state-of-the-art composite fuselage and low-parts-count metal wing- a blend of materials that produce a cabin notably larger and lighter than its direct competitors. Actually- the cross section of the Premier I exceeds that of any other light jet- at 5.5 feet high and 5.6 feet across. At 13.6 feet long- the cabin length comes in at about the same as a CJ2.

Capable of comfortably carrying four in a club-seating configuration with another passenger using the second cockpit chair- the Premier I can cover upwards of 1-300 nautical miles non-stop.

The Premier I employs the proven Williams-Rolls FJ44-2A engine making 2-300 pounds of thrust - power enough to drive the bird to cruise speeds in excess of 450 knots true and to altitudes as high as FL410. Maximum gross weight of the Premier I comes in at 12-500 pounds- and that’s svelte for a jet of its size.

With an all-solid-state Primus 1000 panel from Honeywell Aerospace- this Beechcraft lacks nothing for its mission- whether as a corporate tool or a personal chariot – a benefit of the Premier I’s single-pilot IFR capability. The price for this capability comes in at about $5.7 million – also a svelte number for the size and abilities of this cutting-edge jet.

Hawker 400XP Aircraft for sale

This light jet enjoys a history of evolution that has helped make it progressively more competitive over the years - an evolution that matches the name changes at each turn. Raytheon purchased the Diamond from Japan’s Mitsubishi and renamed it the Beechjet back in the late 1980s. Last year the Beechjet became an official part of the Hawker organization with another update and a moniker change to the 'new' Hawker 400XP.

The Hawker 400XP of today employs a cabin completely redesigned as recently as three years back. That cabin sports a center-club configuration with newly designed seats that convert to full-size sleeping berths for the longest travel missions.

The Hawker 400XP’s cabin also benefited from the adaptation of new sound-deadening materials and redesigned engine mounts for the two Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D-5 engines that power the jet. The result is a cabin measurably quieter than before.

The smallest Hawker also received a panel lift- if you will- with the embrace of Collins’ Pro Line 4 integrated avionics system with the latest to keep crew awareness and flight management at its best.

Raytheon’s Hawker Division managed these changes without compromising any of its traditional strengths- among them its best-in-class 465-knot cruise- its capacity for up to seven passengers- the reach to cover legs almost as long as 1-700 nautical miles- and the flexibility to fly from fields of only 4-200 feet.



This should be the year in which we finally start to see the Sino Swearingen SJ30-2 business jet for sale coming off the line at Sino-Swearingen Aircraft in San Antonio thanks to an acceleration of the flight-test schedule in recent weeks.

After years of alternating between progress and problems- it actually appears that sometime late in 2004 this long-promised light jet might finally achieve certification and become an operating reality – it’s been nearly 15 years in the process.

However- with parts coming off the production line at Sino-Swearingen’s new factory in Martinsburg- West Virginia- and certification work speeding toward a conclusion in San Antonio- Texas- it’s finally looking good. Moreover- what a jet this one promises to be.

Originally designed as the SJ30 by the legendary Ed Swearingen- the evolved SJ30-2 boasts just about the best numbers of any jet in its class – numbers that are the envy of even larger jet operators. Would you like some examples?

Among the design touches that make the SJ30-2 unique are an innovative wing design that can deliver cruise speeds above Mach 0.83 – which will be the best in class- in fact- once the plane is certificated – and still achieve a stall speed barely more than 90 knots.

There are other traits unmatched among light jets – and in some cases- by business jets of any category. For example- the fuselage is built to maintain a sea-level cabin while cruising ahead at FL410 and still hold a cabin of only 1-200 msl while at the SJ30-2’s maximum ceiling of FL490.

The sleek swept-wing design and beefy cabin work with the reliable- 2-300-pound-thrust FJ44-2A engines with such efficiency that the SJ30-2 can fly the longest legs in its class- a whopping 2-500 nautical miles – and with a full-cabin payload- on top of it all.

That means the future SJ30-2 owners can look forward to a no-compromise non-stop ability to cross the continent fully loaded- with airport numbers that make available most of the country’s paved runways.

Indeed- this $5.5 million jet is another that benefits from its approval for single-pilot IFR operations. With so much promise held for so long- it’s a mark of customer confidence that Sino-Swearingen still holds orders covering the first three years of production.

• More information from:
Cessna Aircraft: www.cessna.com
Raytheon Aircraft: www.raytheonaircraft.com
Sino-Swearingen: www.sj30jet.com

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