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The beauty of the Medium Jet category is deep and wide – deep in choices- wide in capabilities. Consequently- we’ve divided our review of the Medium Jet category into two. Last month we featured jets from Bombardier- Cessna and Dassault- and this month we review jets in the Medium category from Embraer- Gulfstream and Hawker Beechcraft.

Dave Higdon   |   1st August 2011
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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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Medium Jets Review 2011 (Part 2)
Big performers in a balanced package.

The beauty of the Medium Jet category is deep and wide – deep in choices- wide in capabilities. Consequently- we’ve divided our review of the Medium Jet category into two. Last month we featured jets from Bombardier- Cessna and Dassault- and this month we review jets in the Medium category from Embraer- Gulfstream and Hawker Beechcraft.

As noted in July- Medium Jets enjoy their popularity precisely because they’re generally well-balanced by design- with enough space to provide increased comfort- enough speed to run wing-tip-to-wing-tip with most larger jets (sometimes faster) and providing range sufficient to span a substantial cross section of city-pairs. Yet most remain small enough to access a wider variety of airport runways while offering affordability comparable to other- larger tools of industry.

In a nutshell- the Medium Jets’ collective value in space- speed and costs remains the best explanation for the segment’s continuing popularity – and that- in turn contributes- to the group’s model diversity.

As we noted last month- most Medium Jets deliver range of transcontinental capabilities (or at least come close to it) putting within non-stop reach pretty much any pair of cities in the contiguous 48 states- parts of Canada- Mexico or the Caribbean. Even northern parts of South America come into play from the southern States.

For the most part- jets with MTOW ranging from 20-001-40-000 lbs fit into our Medium Jet category featured below. We do hedge slightly in our definition of Medium Jets as we have in previous years- but in these instances we peg the original model weight and allow for increases in derivatives that improve an aspect of performance or capability- but that have no impact on cabin size.

As usual- mission payloads are generally exclusive of the basic operating weight – a number that includes a theoretical pair of 200-pound flight-crew members and their equipment. In this manner the payload number measures how much the operating aircraft can carry in whatever combination the crew wants in passengers- luggage and fuel. With the parameters set- let’s meet the remainder of our Medium Jets segment.

Brazilian planemaker Embraer was a legacy manufacturer of license-built Cessna piston aircraft before it began its steady advance into regional propjet airliners- and then jet powered regional airliners. Today- Embraer produces a whole range of business jets.

In just a bit more than 10 years the corporate aircraft lines of the Brazilian planemaker have grown substantially- and this growth elevates the company into the ranks of business aviation’s other major players in terms of variety- depth and increasingly the volume of airplanes delivered.

The company’s Entry Level Phenom 100- Phenom 300 (Light Jet)- Legacy 600/650 (Large Cabin) and Lineage 1000 (Businessliner) are all currently in production. Meanwhile- Embraer continues to make steady progress with both its Legacy 450 and 500 programs since introducing them at the 2007 NBAA Convention. Service entry for the Legacy 500 is still expected in late 2012- and the Legacy 450 is due about 12 months afterwards.

Embraer holds claim to the Legacy 450 and 500 providing the largest cabins among their direct competitors. The 450 stretches 22 feet- 5 inches in length while the larger 500 measures 26 feet 10 inches. Both sport cabins with six-feet of height and a flat floor throughout.

The two offer a significant difference in range capabilities- Embraer’s Legacy 450 offering a maximum range of almost 2-300 nautical miles at long-range cruise with four in the cabin- while with eight in the cabin it can still travel 2-200 nautical miles at a respectable Mach 0.78. For those wanting more range- the Legacy 500 promises a long-range cruise of 3-000 nautical miles with four on board- or a slightly shorter 2-800 nautical miles carrying eight (at Mach 0.80).

These two Legacy models share many aspects however- including the Honeywell HTF7500E powerplants and Rockwell Collins’ ProLine Fusion advanced flight deck. Also shared are their cruise capabilities - specifications for each show a sporty Mach 0.82 for high-speed cruise.

Further to their speedy and spacious traits- the Legacy 450 and 500 can claim the shortest runway needs of any Medium Jet: a meager 4-000 feet for the Legacy 450- and 4-600 feet for the Legacy 500. Prices- adjusted for 2011- stand at around $16 million for the Legacy 450 and $19 million for the Legacy 500.

More information from www.embraerexecutivejets.com

Gulfstream Aerospace stands as the yardstick by which many measure business jets. That is a status achieved through decades of successfully delivering excellence. From the GII that followed the company’s twin propjet- the company’s growth- evolution and diversification continue- having never sacrificed the stature achieved when the company built a single jet model.

The G150 - the entry level Gulfstream among a product line of eight jets - benefits from the standards set by the company long ago and from the planemaker’s ongoing embrace of new and improved technologies (whether in airframe aerodynamics- propulsion efficiency- cabin accoutrements or flight-deck systems).

The smallest Gulfstream can carry fuel to fly nearly 3-000 nautical miles and speed along at Mach 0.85 while needing less than 5-000 feet of runway for take-off – and less than 3-000 feet to land. Gulfstream’s G150 has the distinction of demonstrating its qualifications in its ability to use London City Airport- a highly constrained runway converted from a loading pier in the Docklands District on the Thames – no small accomplishment.

Gulfstream tapped Honeywell to power the plane with a pair of TFE731-40AR turbofans- providing fuel-efficient power for launch- climb and cruise. Complementing the G150’s flight capabilities- engineers equipped the G150 with a PlaneView flight deck- an outstanding front office for the crew.

A highly refined Gulfstream-specific variant of Rockwell Collins’ Pro Line 21 panel- this flight deck boasts a variety of advanced features created to ease flight-deck workload and enhance crew situational awareness. Among those features integrated into the G150 flight deck is the optional Safe Flight Automatic Throttle System- which continuously manages thrust during all phases of flight – from take-off and climb to cruise and descent- as well as for approach- landing- and even a ‘go-around’.

The G150 crew can also benefit from selecting Gulfstream’s own Enhanced Vision System from among the available enhancements. Already popular among flight crews of Gulfstream’s larger models- EVS lets pilots see what would otherwise be invisible in the dark.

The G150 also serves space aplenty- with a main cabin stretching to almost 18 feet in length- nearly 6 feet tall and almost 6 feet wide. The company offers a variety of interior configurations to suit the varying needs of operators. For below the $16 million mark (with options) Gulfstream’s G150 earns points for value as well as its stand-out performance.

G200 Although the G200 is nearing the end of its production-run- it remains a solid performer among Medium Jets with above-average space for whatever you want to do in the main cabin- which measures nearly 24.5 feet in length- stands 6.25 feet tall and spans more than 7 feet.

This is a jet that can squeeze into an airport with much less runway than it usually needs to launch: 3-280 feet for landing- but slightly more than 6-000 feet for take-off. The G200 sets a high bar for its successor- the in-development G250 (below)- through its ability to fly non-stop about 3-000nm at Mach 0.80 or 3-400 nautical miles at Mach 0.75.

Gulfstream has offered the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 4-based integrated panel with several desirable options- and also offers the airplane with three floor plans for the passengers in the back. A G200 currently sells at just under $24 million - but its replacement is closing in on approval.

G250 The world of Medium Jets is populated with workhorses from several OEMs- though Gulfstream arguably owns much of the Medium and Large Jet niche with eight models – one preparing to ease into the line-up and ease another out. Gulfstream’s G250 offers features and performance that bring to mind the Ultra-Long-Range G650 also in development at the company. Both boast some heady technological advances – among them- departures in control architecture.

For the G250- this includes its hybridized flight controls - a package employing best-choice solutions in each of the three axes; manual connections to the ailerons; hydro-mechanical architecture for pitch control loop; and culminating with full digital-electronic fly-by-wire actuation of the G250’s wing spoilers and rudder.

The G250’s sophisticated PlaneView 250 integrated flight deck is developed out of Rockwell Collins’ new Pro Line Fusion system- which blends functions and awareness tools for a new level of systems control and management.

The resulting package of control advances; modern- FADEC-controlled power; and leading-edge efficiency results in a jet capable of carrying four people 3-280 nautical miles – at Mach 0.82. Reduce the speed to Mach 0.80- and that same fuel and cabin load can traverse 3-400 nautical miles (20 percent further).

The G250 needs less than 5-000 feet of runway to start a lengthy journey. Beyond the front-office attributes and the performance parameters of the G250- Gulfstream’s designers paid ample attention to the passengers in the back- providing a main cabin nearly 26 feet long- standing 6.25feet tall and spanning 7.2 feet. Now in flight testing- the G250 should start landing on customers’ ramps later this year.

More information from www.gulfstream.com

To date the largest business aircraft Hawker Beechcraft has made- the Hawker 4000 surpasses anything previously offered by Hawker-Siddeley- BAe or Beech Aircraft Corp. – in technology and in capabilities. Yet the Hawker 4000 has not yet had the impact on sales of the Hawker 800XP or Twin Beech. Nevertheless- plenty of time remains for the model to achieve the lofty levels of its predecessors.

When first launched as the Hawker Horizon this larger-than-average Medium Jet broke ground with its composite carbon-fiber fuselage and metal flying surfaces - constructed using high-speed machining techniques and a smaller-than average parts count.

Designed from the outset for inter-continental- as well as transcontinental travel the aircraft is uniquely equipped as standard with such features as dual air-cycle machines and five sources of electrical power for redundancy- dual auto-throttles and dual Inertial Reference System. The weight savings from the use of carbon fiber allowed all these features to be added without sacrificing payload capability- and results in a class-leading seven passenger/full fuel capability.

Honeywell’s Primus Epic integrated flight deck is the standard – the Hawker 4000 was the certification test bed – and Pratt & Whitney Canada provides the motive force through two PW308A fanjet engines producing 6-800 pounds of thrust each.

Having overcome significant delays- technical challenges and a name change- the Hawker 4000 ultimately beat all challenges thrown at it - but performance ultimately sells: The Mach 0.84 maximum speed and 3-300 nautical mile range are solidly in the mainstream of the Medium Jet category- while the large- quiet comfortable cabin puts the Hawker 4000 at the upper-end of its class. Runway performance as short as 4-500 feet makes the Hawker 4000 more flexible than most of its category kin- and the price – around $23 million – makes it more than a little competitive.

Following on successes of the 800-series Hawkers- Hawker Beechcraft opted to produce two models in order to reach buyers with varying wants and needs. The Hawker 750 and 900XP share Rockwell Collins’ advanced Pro Line 21 flight deck (proven popular on the 800XP/850XP)- and they share similar cabin amenities and space. Both offer cabins 21.3 feet long- 5.7 feet high and 5.9 feet wide.

Apart from that- they’re as different as you might expect for the price differences. The Hawker 900XP- for example- utilizes the -50R version of Honeywell’s well-regarded TFE731 engine- aiding the aircraft’s range- climb performance- economy and hot-and-high performance.

The Hawker 900XP’s increased wing-span (thanks to the standard-equipment winglets)- higher ramp weight (to accommodate increased fuel capacity)- and some extra touches in the cabin- round out the major differences from the Hawker 750. For the Hawker 750- the company kept the Honeywell TFE731-5BR powerplants deployed with such success on the 800XP.

Engineers also removed a fuel tank from the aft fuselage- replacing it with an external baggage compartment to increase luggage space; and the wing remains unchanged. While the 900XP sports a much-higher operating weight range- the updated Hawker picked up only 250 pounds over the 750’s empty operating weight- which accounts for the Hawker 900XP’s slightly lower full-fuel maximum payload.

The $13-million Hawker 750 delivers a maximum range of about 2-100 nautical miles (and all the space of its predecessor). Alternatively- at $16 million- the more-capable Hawker 900XP delivers a maximum range of nearly 2-900 nautical miles. Specific differences aside- however- the two remain- at their cores- descendants of the original HS-125 jets that evolved so well into today’s Hawker 750 and 900XP.

More information from www.hawkerbeechcraft.com

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