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LIGHT JETS ROUND-UP (2007)

Recently- the new Hawker-Beechcraft announced the delivery of the 200th Premier I light jet - and aircraft for sales of the company’s littlest Hawker continue. Across town- Cessna nears the first flight of its newest jet- the Citation CJ4- making the company’s seven-model light jet line the largest from the most prolific jet maker in business aviation. Nearby- Bombardier continues with strong sales of its lightest bird- the swift Learjet 40XR. ...

Dave Higdon   |   1st August 2007
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Slow Roll
Light Jet segment keeps on rolling.

Recently- the new Hawker-Beechcraft announced the delivery of the 200th Premier I light jet - and aircraft for sales of the company’s littlest Hawker continue. Across town- Cessna nears the first flight of its newest jet- the Citation CJ4- making the company’s seven-model light jet line the largest from the most prolific jet maker in business aviation.

Nearby- Bombardier continues with strong sales of its lightest bird- the swift Learjet 40XR. South several hundred miles in San Antonio- Texas- Sino-Swearingen struggles to survive a financial crisis- despite the certification 18 months ago of the SJ30- arguably the most capable of a field filled with highly capable jets.

Even further south in South America- Brazil’s Embraer continues its progress toward first flight of the Phenom 300- the company’s first light jet and its second purpose-built design behind the Phenom 100 VLJ. And across the Atlantic in Germany- Grob is working towards certification of its spn G180 prototype.

Finally- back in the far west of the U.S.- yet another new entrant- Spectrum International- prepares its Freedom to vie for a share of the light jet market. A busy field- eh? Never more so- it seems…

The Light Jet – king of business flying
The vast majority of the 15-000 business jets flying in the world today are light jets; 3-250 of the 12-000 that Honeywell forecasts will be delivered through 2016 will also be light jets – a number bettered only by the growth in the medium and medium-large segment’s 3-300 units forecast for delivery in the same period.

No wonder planemakers - established and otherwise - cater so heavily to the light segment – it’s the easiest pathway into business aviation for new operators and the easiest to live with for many others. In some ways- the popularity of the light segment stems from its approachability and utility. These aircraft are large enough to sit four to six in club comfort with payload enough to carry four- a crew of two- and luggage across distances of 1-000 miles and more.

Particularly ideal for those trips of 500 miles and less- the light jet generally offers suitable comfort and amenities to keep its passengers relaxed and ready at their destination – even across a day with multiple destinations.

Arguably the best blend of utility and economy- light jets today lack for pretty much none of the technological advances taken for granted in jets at the opposite end of the range. You may not get a private lavatory- but you do get from here to there and back on the typical corporate aircraft mission about as quickly as jets costing two and three times more with cabins two and three times larger.

With the vast majority of corporate operators flying one-plane fleets- what’s not to like? A plane that takes only a few minutes more to make the average flight with enough comfort to make two-hour sits inconsequential- with top-of-the-pack airport flexibility and the lower end of purchase and operating costs. For many an operator- the light jet is all they’ll ever need or aspire to fly. For others- for the time being the light jet is the first rung in their aviation involvement.

And these are parameters on a par with natural laws- and unlikely to change even long term- which makes light jets a strong candidate for continued popularity for operators and profitability for planemakers and their suppliers.

The Light Jet – by the numbers
Now that the VLJ segment is settling in and the Personal Jet segment is in development- defining the light jet became a little simpler. It seems the industry consensus is forming around the VLJ maxing out at under 10-000 pounds. By extension- it then seems- the light segment begins at 10-000 – something of a change when “light” meant anything under 20-000 pounds fairly recently.

The VLJ briefly confused the “light” jet’s traditional weight-based definition largely because the new segment brought in jets at weights previously unseen. No jets existed at those lower weight levels. The top of the “light” segment was never in confusion – the industry long ago defined the upper end at less than 20-000 pounds. So for our categorizing- less than 10-000 pounds applies for the VLJ and PJ- 10-000 pounds to 20-000 applies to the lights.

As you have likely noticed- innovations in construction- materials and design helped muddy the break between “light” and “medium” by introducing cabin cross sections on the heavier lights more comparable to the small end of the medium jet segment. We’ll try to allow some room for light jets that may edge slightly over the 20-000 lbs limit.

BOMBARDIER AEROSPACE: Learjet 40XR aircraft for sale 
The smallest in this stable- the 40XR evolved out of the larger 45- Learjet’s first all-new design since the original model 23 of 1963. The 40XR boasts the same fuselage cross-section as the Lear 45 and its follow-on- the 45XR. The cabin of the 40XR- however- measures less than 18 feet in length- shorter than the 45XR by a bit more than two feet.

Compared to the original Lear 40- the 40XR boasts more power- improved climb capability and increased range. For approximately $9 million- operators of the 40XR get a jet with a mid-size feel- Learjet speed and altitude capabilities- comfortable range and more-than-competitive fuel efficiency and technology.

And in this world- there’s nothing “light” about the capabilities of the 40XR save for its category.

More information from www.aero.bombardier.com

CESSNA AIRCRAFT: CJ1+- CJ2+- CJ3
Think of Cessna’s line of Citation business jet aircraft for sale as an umbrella for operators of below the large-cabin segment: If your needs involve a mid-size- light or very light business jet- Cessna’s umbrella covers you.

And with three strong-selling models at the low-end of the light range- three more covering the higher end of the light range and one more in development in between- and you get a hint at why so many business jet buyers never sway from their Citation loyalties.

When Cessna reinvented the entry-level light jet concept nearly two decades ago- few observers realized the CitationJet represented the launch of a light jet genus all of its own. The CitationJet of 1991 later evolved into a second CJ- then a third- and- soon- a fourth will emerge.

Cessna’s Citation CJ1+ business jet aircraft for sale- CJ2+ and CJ3 all represent the advancement and evolution of that single model- the CitationJet. And the latter models succeeded largely because of how the original model helped re-energize the light jet market.

The CitationJet became possible because of an evolution in jet power that brought us the Williams-Rolls FJ44- and the CJ line was able to grow in part because of growth in the power available from this diminutive fanjet. Where size matters- these three airplanes vary almost wholly by size and power.

The CJ1+ offers a cabin 11 feet long; the CJ2+ cabin gains more than 2.5 feet in length; the Citation CJ3 aircraft for sale compares closely with the Citation Bravo at 15.7 feet long. Cessna added seating to increase the CJ2’s capacity- then wisely added leg room and comfort space to the CJ3 rather than tempting payload limits by shoehorning in more seats. All three aircraft share in their panels- all employing 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- at about 384 knots for the CJ1+ to about 413 and 415 for the other two CJs respectively. Prices vary from about $4.2 million for the CJ1+ to $5.7 million for the Citation CJ2+ jet aircraft for sale 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 Encore+
Among Cessna’s most-successful straight-wing jets- the Encore followed a path similar to the CJs to earn its “plus” designation - but remembering the Shakespearian line- “What’s in a name-” it bears mentioning that performance and high value underpin the Encore’s success- before and now as the Encore+.

The $8m-plus Encore+ delivers greater speed- at 425 knots- and range improved to 1-650 nautical miles. As with the CJs- Cessna turned to Collins for the Encore+’s Pro Line 21 cockpit- while performance and range numbers come courtesy of the two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW535B turbofans- each producing 3-400 pounds of thrust in the Encore+ installation.

The Encore+ boasts a cabin length exceeding 17 feet and 4.8 feet tall and wide. All in all- the Encore+ is aptly named because it represents so much of what Citations have long done well - plus a bit more.

Citation XLS+ jet aircraft for sale 
Light jets more expensive than the Citation XLS are pretty much non-existent- but- at the same time- light jets with XLS speed- range and room are pretty much non-existent- too. And thanks to a set of improvements covering airframe- power and panel- the revised XLS+ improves on all these areas.

As a reflection of its roots – the original XL evolved when Cessna shortened the fuselage of a Citation X jet aircraft for sale and mated it to the wing of a straight-wing Citation V. As a result- the XLS+ sports a cabin standing 5.7 feet tall- 3.9 feet wide and 18.5 feet long – giving the XLS+ top marks in size among all light-category Citations.

But the XLS+ is about far more than size: Thanks to a pair of fuel-efficient- 4-119-pounds-thrust P&WC PW545C turbofans- the XLS cruises at more than 440 knots- and offers a range exceeding 1-850 nautical miles – all improvements over the original XLS.

Again- Cessna tapped Collins and the Pro Line 21 for the four-screen panel now standard in the XLS+. This system provides everything needed by the flight crew- from navigation and weather to attitude and engine data.

At about $11 million- the Citation XLS pretty much tops the light jet price list – but for good reason.

More information from www.cessna.com

HAWKER BEECHCRAFT: Premier IA jet aircraft for sale 
By now pretty much all of business aviation knows that there’s no Raytheon in the general aviation aircraft business - not after the year-end 2006 announcement that a group of investors bought the old Raytheon Aircraft Co. and launched a new business under the name Hawker Beechcraft. As the name indicates- this new entity now carries on the legacies of two historical aircraft names- Beech and Hawker.

A technological leader when first launched six years and 200 units back- the Premier IA today remains unique among light business jets for sale: An aircraft with a metal wing and an advanced composite fuselage. The Premier stands out also as the first completely home-rolled jet to come out of the old Beech Aircraft plant in east Wichita- Kansas. A product of its physical uniqueness is its size and performance- the main reasons operators find the little jet attractive. Speaking of size alone- while the Premier’s gross weight comes in at nearly 4-000 pounds less than its Hawker counterpart- the Hawker 400XP aircraft for sale- the Premier IA’s cabin stands more than a half a foot taller and wider. At 13.5 feet long inside- the cabin fits comfortably into the lower end of the light-jet cabins – but its height and width give it a larger feel.

Flying on the 2-300 pounds of thrust made by each of its two FJ44-2A aircraft engines- the Premier IA tops 450 knots in cruise and offers economic flying on distances as long as 1-380 nautical miles.

Once again the panel comes from Collins – and once again it’s a Pro Line 21 with the latest capabilities. Size- speed- sophistication and reach - all total up to a good value for a jet in the low $6 million range.

Hawker 400XP
Still a staple after all these years- the 400XP came to the old Beech Aircraft through a purchase of the old Mitsubishi Diamond line more than 20 years ago. The Diamond underwent an Americanization to become the Beechjet 400A jet aircraft for sale and after a corporate realignment three years ago- it became the littlest Hawker- the 400XP.

Today’s 400XP offers speeds as high as 468 knots- legs capable of covering more than 1-400 nautical miles- the maturity of its two Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D-5 engines- and the proven technology of the Collins Pro Line 4 panel. The package represents an excellent value combination for under $7.5 million.

More information from www.hawkerbeechcraft.com

SINO-SWEARINGEN: SJ30
The first all-new jet after the Learjet 45- the SJ30 has been a work-in-progress for nearly 18 years – and only now has its certification and a factory working to iron out kinks and satisfy demand. But buyers undoubtedly are considering the wait worthwhile thanks to a set of singularly striking numbers: 2-500 nautical miles in range- non-stop – with a full cabin- at speeds as high as 475 knots true.

What’s not to like about a jet that lets you fill the seats- fill the tanks and fly across North America- upwind- with a load? 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 Swearingen SJ30 business jet aircraft for sale 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

DEVELOPMENTAL LIGHT JETS
Nothing indicates success in business more than the attraction of others into the fray. And these aircraft’s developers are all attracted to the light jet field based on their beliefs – belief in the market’s potential- as well as their belief that they can do it better… or at least- differently enough to stand out.

Here’s a snapshot of three programs that strive to soar on the wings of the light jet popularity.

EMBRAER: Phenom 300
Coming soon to a ramp in Brazil- the Phenom 300 is Embraer’s first light jet – and its second purpose-built business jet in a pairing that includes the Phenom 100 VLJ. This aircraft makes one wonder what took Embraer so long. Underestimating Embraer would be perilous in the highly competitive market that is business aviation.

The Phenom 300 was unveiled at the 2005 Paris Air Show and its blend of traits and size quickly attracted a solid customer base. Among the attractions: a maximum cruise speed of more than 500 knots- a maximum range of 1-800 nautical miles and competitive space and payload – all for less than $7 million.

Embraer tapped Pratt & Whitney Canada for the established 3-200-pounds-thrust PW535/4 turbofans- and Garmin for the G1000 totally integrated avionics as the foundation for what Embraer calls the Prodigy Flight Deck.

As the Phenom 100 neared its maiden flight- the 300 continued to move toward its own inaugural lift-off later this year.

More information from www.embraer.com

GROB: spn
Military training pilots as well as motorglider and sailplane pilots around the world know Grob for its recreational aircraft. The spn G180 Utilijet stands to make the company familiar in some new circles.

Flying in tests since July 2005- certification is planned for the second quarter 2008. During its test period the spn racked up numbers that should help make “Grob” a familiar name to American corporate flight departments.

Thanks to its carbon-fiber/composite construction- the spn’s spacious cabin and high payload capacity makes carrying six (plus pilot) for full-fuel legs of 1-800 nautical miles the best combination of legs and capacity in its class. Stretching 16.9 feet in length and measuring 5.5 high and wide- the cabin can comfortably handle as many as eight.

The spn also boasts runway performance that assures operators of maximum airport flexibility – take off distance of 3-000 feet at maximum take-off weight with capabilities of landing on unimproved surfaces.

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 reliability- high fuel efficiency and low maintenance costs for the spn.

Interestingly- the spn is Europe’s only entry into the ‘light jet derby’- and with the home-field advantage and admirable numbers- the $7.15 million Grob stands poised to make its presence felt in all corners of business aviation.

More information from www.grob-aerospace.com

SPECTRUM AERONAUTICAL: S-40 Freedom
Last- but not least- the S-40 first saw daylight as a developmental program last year at the NBAA convention in Orlando. To say Spectrum caused a stir may understate the reaction- since the company has yet to certify its first design- the Spectrum’s S-33 Independence that the company unveiled a year earlier. But the company is on track with the S-40- attracting customers ranging from individuals- companies and fractionals.

What makes the S-40 so appealing? Thanks to its carbon-fiber construction- the Freedom boasts a cruise of 435 knots- a whopping 2-200-mile range- a cabin closer in dimensions to a small mid-size jet- all wrapped in a composite package priced around $6.5 million and expected to hit the ramps of the corporate aviation world in 2010.

In addition to employing advanced technology in the airframe- the S-40 is also using a new cutting-edge powerplant so far tapped by only one other planemaker. Spectrum chose the GE Honda HF120 developed by Honda and going into the equally innovative HondaJet VLJ.

We classed the S-40 as light because- despite its large cabin and high performance- the S-40 falls short of the 10-000 pound mark by a few pounds – pounds that don’t accurately reflect the Freedom’s capabilities. And if- as often happens- the S-40 gains a few pounds in development- well- then it will have been in the right section all along.

More information from www.spectrum.aero


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