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Dave Higdon   |   1st July 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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Light jets dominate market still - and will for a while yet

According to the old line: 'A rising tide floats all boats.' From all reports- forecasts- predictions and sundry crystal-ball gazers- the tide is definitely rising beneath the business jet aircraft for sale market – so much so that this rising tide will float the business jet fleet to ever-higher levels over the next 10 years.

As you’ve read right here within the pages of World Aircraft Sales Magazine- growing sales are predicted for the next two to three years with the remainder of the forecast period experiencing a slight drop to a plateau in aircraft sales that still exceeds the sales in years preceding the forecast period.

As evidence- look to the backlogs reported by most business jets for sale makers – with many looking at record or near-record numbers stretching into the end of this decade. And no numbers fair better than the numbers for light jets.

Long the dominant segment- light jets appear positioned to remain at the top of the heap – at least until the anticipated VLJ boom starts to exert its influence over the market in the future.

You need look only to the variety and value of the light jet niche to understand why they stand to remain the most-popular segment for years to come. Relatively low costs combine with relatively high utility and – in many cases- at least – performance numbers comparable to many larger- more-expensive jets from the mid-size niche. The word for this is ‘value’ and today’s light jets offer value like never before – value that could improve depending on fuel costs.

Few – if any – energy experts predict a return to the fuel prices of a year ago- making low-consumption aircraft more attractive than ever. Worries about slowing economic growth and a recent downward trend on Wall Street make smaller investments more attractive than larger ones.

With the typical business aircraft mission still a relatively short 350 to 500 nautical miles – and well within the range parameters of every light jet made – many companies realize that less can- in fact- be more. More cost-efficient are these smaller jets- yet still plenty comfy for those 'typical' 45- to 90-minute legs.

This isn’t to say that today’s circumstances threaten the existence of the mid- and large-cabin categories. But budget-conscious operators are aware of what their typical mission entails – and how much easier it is to live with lower-cost corporate wings when lacking any real need for a stand-up cabin- office-suite amenities or transcontinental legs.

And that means times are looking good for light jet makers. Demand for pre-owned aircraft should also remain high for years to come.

Below you’ll find snapshots of the selections available in the light jet category and why they hold appeal for so many buyers.

Defining the Light Jet Realm
First- however- we should define what we mean by light jet. The advent of the VLJ market threw something of a wrench into the work of categorizing jets by weights – primarily because no jets existed before at some of these weight levels. But the muddying of the waters is mostly at the bottom end of the light jet category since the upper end long ago was defined as 20-000 pounds max weight.

Before VLJs- the light jet was any jet 'under 20-000 pounds gross weight' – nothing much below 10-000 pounds existed. Today the VLJs range in weight from under 6-000 pounds to nearly 8-000 pounds- weights more commonly associated with single- and multi-engine piston aircraft. Thus we have the new niche – under 10-000 pounds for the VLJ- 10-000 to 20-000 for Light Jets.

But even here we may hedge our numbers a little to accommodate here-to-fore light jets that breach the 20-000 limit by a few hundred pounds – pounds gained as the otherwise light-size jets gained capabilities through manufacturers’ improvements.

Bombardier Learjet 40XR
The Learjet 40XR for sale offers us an excellent example of the old adage- 'less is more.' In this case- the 40XR is less than its progenitor- the
Learjet 45 for sale – and more of a value than before thanks to upgrades that made the Learjet 40 into the 40XR.

First up- as a downsized derivative of the Learjet 45 business jet for sale airframe- the 40 sports a cabin under 18 feet in length – versus the near 20-foot cabin length of its larger sister ship. The shorter airframe provides a variety of benefits in performance- range and fuel efficiency. But the 40XR is also more than its progenitor with improved propulsion- climb and range numbers.

In size and price – about $8.7 million – the 40XR compares favorably with Cessna’s highly popular Encore series. The Learjet business jets for sale owns a speed edge of about 20 kts- while the Encore boasts of a range advantage of about 200 nm – with the fuel-efficiency edge going to the Learjet.

All in all- the Learjet 40XR may be the low end of the Bombardier Business Aircraft line – but it’s comfortably at the top of its class by all the measures that make believers out of potential buyers.

More information from www.aero.bombardier.com

Cessna Citation Jet 1+ business jets for sale- CJ2+- CJ3
You need only look at the long list of models Cessna Aircraft offers in the light category to wonder why so many other companies bother to compete – but then you remember that variety and individuality are common traits among aviators… so naturally one-brand dominance is highly unlikely.

But there’s no denying that Cessna’s three current lightest Citations help the company develop the brand loyalty that’s long marked the typical Cessna customer.

The CJ1+- Citation CJ2+ aircraft for sale and CJ3 all represent the advancement and evolution of a single model- which- itself- re-energized the light jet market – the CitationJet launched in the late 1980s. The CitationJet evolved out of the availability of an all-new powerplant with a difference from past advances: small versus larger- with lower- rather than high power.

Since the diminutive Williams-Rolls FJ44 entered service on the CitationJet in 1991- several other planemakers embraced the little turbofans and Williams’ market penetration increased with the new FJ33 series going into at least one VLJ.

Cessna took advantage of the new engine by designing an all-new airframe for the CitationJet- one with a T-tail in place of the conventional tail of most Citations- and one with systems oriented completely toward single-pilot operations.

If size matters- though- these three airplanes for sale vary little – and then mostly in size. Cessna offers the CJ1+ to differentiate it from the larger CJ2+ and Citation CJ3 aircraft for sale – each a larger stretch on the original airframe. The CJ1+ offers a cabin 11 feet long; the CJ2+ cabin gains more than 2.5 feet in length; the CJ3 compares closely with the Citation Bravo at 15.7 feet long.

Surprisingly- Cessna used the added space differently than it might have- by improving leg clearances and seat space at each larger size- rather than to cram in more seats. As a result- the CJs are basically all seven to eight-seat jets with some flexibility.

All three aircraft sport FJ44 engines as well as Collins Pro Line 21 avionics systems- 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: about 384kts for the CJ1+ to about 413 and 415 for the CJ2+ and CJ3 respectively.

Prices vary from about $4.2 million for the CJ1+ to $5.7 million for the CJ2+ and $6.7 million for the CJ3. Best of all for the budget-oriented operator and owner/pilot: all three support single-pilot IFR operations. So- let your needs be your guide.

Citation Bravo- Encore+
Cessna’s two most-successful straight-wing jets have evolved through several labels over the years- but the names have less to do with success than the numbers. Strong performance and high value are the basic parameters for these two birds.

First- the eight-seat Citation Bravo business jets for sale delivers about 400kts for legs as long as 1-600nm; Cessna tapped Honeywell for its Primus 1000 avionics suite for this aircraft.

Next up- the $8 million Citation Encore+ ups the speed ante to 425kts and the range outlook to 1-650nm- and Cessna opted for Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 for the Encore+.

Both aircraft sport 500-series engines from Pratt & Whitney Canada- the Bravo with the PW530A making 2-887 pounds of thrust- and the Encore+ with the PW535B making 3-400 pounds.

The Bravo’s 15.8-foot-long cabin is long on amenities and short on runway requirements- while the Citation Encore aircraft for sale adds about two feet to cabin length compared with the Bravo. Essentially- these birds make sure you don’t lack a Citation option- regardless of where you need to fly.

Citation XLS
At $10.7 million- the Citation XLS pretty much tops the light-jet price list – but for very good reason.

With its two PW545B turbofans each making 3-700 pounds of thrust the Citation XLS business jets for sale has the ability to turn in 430 knots at cruise while covering more than 1-720 nautical miles – with reserves- of course.

Again- Cessna tapped Honeywell for its Primus 1000 integrated cockpit gear. As a reflection of its roots – the original XL evolved out of a shortened Citation X fuselage and a straight Citation V wing – the XLS sports a cabin standing 5.7 feet tall and 3.9 feet wide. At 18.5 feet long- the XLS wins the size race among Cessna’s light jets.

More information from www.cessna.com

Raytheon Premier IA Business Jets for sale
A technological leader when first launched- the Premier IA remains unique among today’s business jets for sale as an aircraft with a metal wing and an advanced composite fuselage. And the Premier will remain alone in its unique construction blend until the Hawker 4000 wins final certification expected by the end of summer.

The Premier stands out also as the first completely ‘home-rolled’ jet to come out of Beech Aircraft. But it’s not for its uniqueness- alone- that people purchase Premiers; it’s the unique blend of size- weight and efficiency that makes it attractive.

For example- even though it’s nearly 4-000 pounds lighter at gross weight- the Premier IA sports a cabin more than a half a foot taller and wider than its stable-mate- the Hawker 400XP. The Premier is only 13.5 feet long inside the cabin- but the other dimensions make it feel bigger than it really is.

The two FJ44 powerplants deliver 2-300 pounds of thrust that push the Premier IA to a top cruise speed above 450 knots – at an efficiency level that makes easy work of 1-380-mile legs. Not shabby for a jet barely breaking the $6 million point.

Hawker 400XP
If the Premier is the first all-Beech jet- the
Hawker 400XP airraft for sale derived from the Beechjet 400A stands as the first jet to wear the 'Beechcraft' name to even approach successful sales levels after several jet programs the company acquired and dropped over the years.

Re-named last year as the Hawker 400XP to better fit with the Hawker business jets for sale line- the 400XP evolved out of the Mitsubishi Diamond business jet from Japan – and it’s doing quite well almost two decades later.

The 400XP can cover more than 1-400 nautical miles at speeds as high as 450kts true – and all for just over $7.1 million. Conventional in construction and engine- the Hawker 400XP employs a pair of JT15D-5 engines from Pratt & Whitney Canada – which just proves how many tricks an old dog can manage.

More information from www.raytheonaircraft.com

Sino-Swearingen SJ30-2
The first all-new jet after the Learjet 45- the
Swearingen SJ30-2 business jet for sale has been a work-in-progress for the past eleven years- with the actual flight test program lasting five years. However- buyers undoubtedly are considering the wait worthwhile- thanks to a set of singularly striking numbers: 2-500 nautical miles in range- non-stop – with three in the cabin- at a cruise speed of 450ktas. (The aircraft is actually capable of 470ktas cruise- but the range at the higher speed and fuel flow is reduced to 1800nm).

And there’s more – like the roomy cabin dimensions at 4.8 feet wide- 4.4 feet tall and 12.5 feet long in the cabin. At $6.2 million- the SJ30-2 is distinct and unique among light jets – and it would be a rarity among even many medium-class business aircraft.

More information from www.sj30jet.com

To read more about Sino Swearingen click HERE to view their featured page on AvBuyer.com

Embraer Phenom 300

Due on the market in 2009- the Phenom 300 is Embraer’s first foray into the light jet market – but not its last. Thanks to its successful line of general aviation and commercial airliner products- betting against Embraer regional jets for sale should be a high-odds position.

The Phenom 300 was announced in Washington- D.C. last spring and unveiled at the NBAA Show last fall with some attractive numbers to commend it to prospective buyers. A maximum speed of 450 kts is only a start. The max range of 1-800nm continues the attraction… and a price under $6.7 million rounds out the most-important numbers.

Picking Pratt & Whitney Canada’s proven PW535E/4 turbofans for their 3-200 pounds of thrust lowers the risk somewhat- as does selecting Garmin’s avionics as the foundation for what Embraer calls the Prodigy Flight Deck.

So far- interest has proven strong enough to keep the program moving forward towards first flight in 2008.

More information from www.embraer.com

While not a new player in European aviation-
GROB Aerospace has not been a name familiar to the business aviation community – unless you happen to be a pilot who flies one of the company’s motorgliders or trainers. But the launch of the SPn light jet could well change that equation.

Designed to carry six- a pilot- and 685 gallons of fuel for 1-800nm legs and operate into short and unimproved airfields previously inaccessible to jet aircraft- the SPn will make its mark as the first all-composite light jet when certificated in fall 2007. The 16.9-foot-long cabin makes handling up to eight passengers a breeze; the 5.5-foot height and width makes for comfortable seating room.

Honeywell’s new Apex integrated avionics suite will assure that the SPn has the latest in a state-of-the-art instrument panel. And the Williams International FJ44-3A engines assure both reliability and high fuel efficiency for the new jet.

This first new entry into light jets by a European entity in decades means a welcome expansion of competition – and some new variety in the choices available to operators with $6.9 million to invest in a new-technology aircraft.

More information from www.grobspn.com


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