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The jet broker looked straight ahead at the collection of business jets gathered on static display a few months back and smiled: “Look at all of them – a variety of choices beyond all belief-” a sentenced uttered as a sigh of admiration. “If this was a restaurant you couldn’t find a treat missing from the menu.

Dave Higdon   |   1st June 2010
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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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The Mid-Size Jet Jamboree (Part 1)
A bunch so big it begs for two parts.

The jet broker looked straight ahead at the collection of business jets gathered on static display a few months back and smiled: “Look at all of them – a variety of choices beyond all belief-” a sentenced uttered as a sigh of admiration. “If this was a restaurant you couldn’t find a treat missing from the menu.

“There’s the very light stuff- for the folks with monetary or use limitations – but it gets them in the door. We’ve got larger jets – still light – and more mediums than slots on a buffet line. And for those with heftier appetites we’ve got the all-you-can-eat lineup of large-cabin and bizliners…”

His voice trailed off… “Nobody should leave hungry-” before he mused further: “You could build an entire business around the Medium Jets alone. What a massive selection.”

Maybe “massive” is a stretch- but there’s no questioning this is indeed a crowded category. Yet the market seems to support this broad range of airplanes we call “mid-size” or “medium” business jets.

Medium-category business jets generally deliver – or at least approach – legs to handle transcontinental flights; many also offer payload that accommodates filled available seats and long-distance flying. Overall- these mid-size jets cruise at speeds that give up nothing to the competition – both within the class and when measured against machines much larger and more expensive to own and operate. And these days the medium jet segment boasts the two fastest civil aircraft flying - both capable of pushing the sound barrier.

Beyond their aerial acumen- the medium jets also give up nothing more than pure square footage to their larger kin where airborne- office facilities are under the glass. In fact- most medium jets provide the buyer with a range of options that accommodate whatever combination of work space and living space the buyer prefers.

Where the best news comes in is the perceived and measurable overall value equation- where you pit price against performance: In the value contest members of the mid-jet segment more than outperform their larger contemporaries – and can even come close to delivering value numbers on par with smaller light jets- where more intangibles like comfort and amenities are considered.

It’s the collective impact of these various attributes that comes closest to explaining the strength of this segment. You could easily argue that the collective attributes also contribute to the model diversity of the group.

Looking at where most development seems focused these days- medium jets seem destined to remain the segment with the greatest appeal. If nothing sells like success- medium jets should almost sell themselves – particularly where the savvier buyer with the broadest needs comes into play.

Tough times- in particular- tend to bring out the most creative as well as the most frugal- and in a world where the path to prosperity can’t be found by frugality alone- investing in the right tools is seldom a bad decision. These days- in business aviation it seems that those judged to be the best tools or the best values continue to be market winners.

We’ve seen the hard-and-fast lines between categories blur slightly over the past 15 years- thanks in part to changes in equipment (which changed empty and gross weights)- and in part due to design targets that help companies carve out small distinctions for their models.

Hence- we’ve heard permutations on the ‘Medium’ jet that get into “super-mid-size” and such. While we’ll define the “Medium Category” here roughly as we have in years past- we must also hedge a bit in a couple of instances – and that’s where our blurred lines come into play.

Jets with MTOW between 20-001 and 40-000 pounds populate our report. We have chosen MTOW because it’s the maximum weight at which the jet can launch on its work- and is generally a good reflection of a jet’s relative size.

In an instance or two- our report may include an aircraft with a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) exceeding the 40-000 lbs upper-limit by a few hundred pounds; we made that choice as manufacturers with solidly medium-category jets gave them equipment and fuel capabilities that upped their MTOW without changing the cabin’s physical space or attributes.

The mission payloads are generally exclusive of the basic operating weight – a number that includes a theoretical pair of 200- pound flight-crew members. Thus- payload becomes an accurate indicator of how much the airplane can carry – which describes maximum fuel passenger and luggage loads available.

Finally- all ranges noted reflect IFR ranges- minus reserves for missed approaches- diversions to alternative destinations and the like. With the above points settled- it’s time to meet the group...

The smallest of the Challenger line-up also edges the upper-limit of the medium jet segment. But in the case of the Challenger 300- that also means it has a solid grip on the value equation – especially given a competitive equipped-price of around $24 million.

Yet- calling the 300 the “smallest” Challenger fails to acknowledge how that fits in the real-space race. It boasts an ample cabin stretching nearly 28 feet in length- spanning more than seven feet in width- and standing more than six feet high.

Areas in which the Challenger 300 holds its own include cruise speed- maximum range- airport capabilities and payload - the Challenger 300 gives away nothing to its in-class competitors and stands firmly among the majority of even large-cabin jets thanks to its ability to speed along at Mach 0.82.

In the range race- a Challenger 300 with filled tanks carrying a full payload can cross 2-600 nautical miles- putting it comfortably among business jets capable of making continental flights – with a full cabin- no less. Cutting back on cabin occupants to four passengers and their gear gives the aircraft nearly 700 miles additional range – almost 3-300 miles.

However you arrive at the gross weight of 38-850 pounds- the Challenger 300 gives up nothing to most of its competitors in terms of airport access- thanks to its ability to operate from runways only 4-800 feet long. The 6-826 pounds of thrust from each of the two Honeywell HTF 7000 turbofans provides the motive force and the fuel efficiency (the latter due largely to the precision of the FADEC system that manages their power). O

verall- the Challenger 300 can deliver the bulk of the performance of the larger Challenger 605 – save the higher price and longer runway requirements – and does so at operating costs that reflect a smaller machine.

With age comes wisdom – at least that’s the theory for humans. For business jets- age either means retirement or enhancement. Thanks to Bombardier’s forward thinking- the enhancement path was the choice for Learjet’s oldest model- now dubbed the 60 XR. As it has from its beginning (as the Learjet 55) the success of this model stemmed from its value equation.

Space forms a major part of that equation: The 60 XR cabin stretches almost 18 feet- spans 5.9 feet and measures 5.7 feet tall.

Capable of a Mach 0.81 cruise speed- travelers in the 60 XR spend a little less time en route – even on those 2-405-nautical maximum- range trips- while runway flexibility remains solid- with the 60 XR needing only 5-450 feet. Fly lighter for shorter missions with fewer people- and the choices increase.

The power to provide the performance numbers comes from the two PW305A turbofans Pratt & Whitney Canada produce- each delivering 4-600 pounds of thrust all the way up to ISA+17°C.

In the cockpit- Learjet engineers gave the 60 XR Rockwell Collins’ ProLine 21 digital- integrated panel to help the flight crew manage the airplane and keep it on the shortest-distance track.

The Learjet 60 XR also offers Electronic Flight Bag integration into the ProLine 21 flight deck- providing the entire package of en-route IFR charts- approach plates- SIDS and STARS – in digital-graphics form- saving weight in the airplane and hassles at chart-update time.

It takes about $14 million to secure your own Learjet 60XR.

Currently in development: The newest- largest Learjet ever – the model 85. This is a model that’s already survived multiple crises near the start of development- but the Learjet 85 is progressing- company officials have reported- putting the airplane on-track for a planned 2013 service entry.

The Learjet 85 is aimed to be the first allcomposite FAR 25 business jet and the first all-composite medium jet – at the same time. It also represents a reflection of how the company started collaborating with international partners back at the start of the Learjet 45 program.

Developing the new jet- now in its detail design phase- involves the work of 750 employees working on the project at locations ranging from Montreal- Canada to Queretaro- Mexico- and across the Atlantic in Manchester- U.K.- with the hub and assembly point in Wichita. The company is on schedule with creation of tooling for the fuselage- wings and horizontal stabilizer and that tooling should be in the respective factories by around mid-2010.

Bombardier Learjet achieved a first earlier this year when the FAA granted part conformity and manufacturing permission from the FAA for Category 1 and 2 aircraft parts from the Mexico facilities – the first American to win such an approval for work in Mexico.

Of course- the final product is the ultimate statement of success or failure – and the product plane has numbers that should help it achieve the company’s goals. The design parameters for the Learjet 85 are for a cabin 5.9 feet tall- 6.1 feet wide and almost 25 feet long. That’s about three inches taller- about two inches wider- and 2.5 feet longer than the 60 XR (above).

Pratt & Whitney Canada promises the new PW307B will produce 6-100 pounds of thrust with the lowest emissions ever- thanks to state-of-the-art design touches such as the TALON low-emission combustor- a new FADEC system and high-tech changes to the core designed to enhance both reliability and efficiency.

The Learjet 85 promises a maximum range of 3-000 nautical miles carrying four while speeding along at a maximum cruise speed of Mach 0.82 – with Learjet’s typical high-fuel efficiency and the most space ever offered in a Learjet. That space can include an optional seven-foot-long sofa capable of seating three – with room beneath for storage.

From Rockwell Collins Learjet engineers selected the all-new Pro Line Fusion integrated panel system to give crew members advanced benefits and graphics enhancements. The three-screen cockpit will sport 15-inch displays providing the full spectrum of navigation and communication- flight management- power and systems management and air-data information.

With a target price of approximately $18 million in 2009 dollars- the Learjet 85 is already making its mark in sales and increased interest. Things look good for this jet- given its expected arrival at about the same time forecasters expect a rebound in business jet sales.

More information from www.aero.bombardier.com


The benefits of evolving a proven design are obvious – just look at some of the designs Cessna itself has evolved over the four decades since the first Citation flew. Yet there’s no getting around the potential in starting with a clean sheet of paper- sharpening the pencils- if you will- and embracing the latest advances offered in aerodynamics- avionics- power and systems.

That’s why Cessna’s Sovereign stands as a success in its own right. The company started with some clean ideas and moved forward- promising a Citation like no other. Consequently- the largest Citation yet delivers a spacious cabin more than 25 feet long- 5.5 feet wide and 5.7 feet tall. It’s an interesting balance in space and efficiency that delivers good comfort to the occupants- and high performance for the folks writing the checks.

The clean lines allow the Sovereign to cruise along efficiently as fast as Mach 0.80- while delivering excellent distance too: as far as 2-800 nautical miles- and retaining access to scores of airports unusable by many of its competitors.

In runway terms- the Sovereign needs as little as 3-600 feet to operate from – topping the segment and bettering even a few light jets.

Credit for the power and fuel efficiency backing up the Sovereign belongs to the two engines back near the empennage - the P&WC PW306C turbofan - each producing 5-770 pounds of thrust. Couple this power with the clean-sheet sleekness and it’s not difficult to see how the Sovereign delivers its range- speed and runway performance.

Cessna promised the Citation Sovereign would deliver at a level no prior Citation matched – except for top speed and range. Looking at these numbers- the sales performance and continuing market strength- it’s hard to dispute that Cessna’s approach paid off. Of course- a competitive price never hurts- either- and at about $17.5 million the Sovereign succeeds on all points.

Some things do get better with age- and you can see the benefits accumulate from the recent enhancements to the Citation X. That name is a holdover from the years when Citations received number designations- a system that started to vanish with the advent of the CitationJet- Bravo and Excel. Name aside- throughout its lifetime (now approaching two decades since first flight) the Citation X has held tightly to the accolade of ‘World’s Fastest Business Jet’ and ‘World’s Fastest Civil Aircraft.’

With the recent approval of an aftermarket enhancement- the Citation X can deliver even better performance than before – though that maximum Mach 0.92 top speed remains unchanged.

First- there’s far more to the Citation X than its speed: Behind the speed the Citation X’s 37-degree wing sweep looks distinctive both on the ground and in the sky- where it delivers high efficiency at even nominal cruise speeds like Mach 0.80.

The Citation X’s cabin measures the same as the Sovereign – except in overall length- with the X about a foot shorter- and up front- the crew’s work benefits from Honeywell’s sophisticated Primus 2000 flight deck- a five-screen system that features dual FMS- GPS and inertial guidance on board.

Where the runway and rubber meet- the Citation X defies expectations for a fasterthan- others jet. Runways as short at 5-140 feet are enough for the Citation X – and that’s in stock form. Providing the push for this airplane’s performance is Rolls-Royce’s well-regarded AE3007C1 powerplants- each producing thrust of up to 6-764 pounds.

Add Winglet Technologies’ new elliptical winglets to the Citation X and gain as much as 1-200 pounds for hot-and-high days- a boost in range- faster climb-to-altitude performance and improved runway numbers. And since the whole point of flying fast is shorter trips- the elliptical winglets are a nobrainer. That helps make the Citation X a continuing value at about $22 million.

More information from www.cessna.com


An evolution of the Falcon 2000EX- the 2000DX continues Dassault’s devotion to improving its line of twin jets. The Falcon 2000 series came into the arena almost 20 years ago with the latest two models respectively earning their flying papers in 2007 and 2009.

First the Falcon 2000DX shares Dassault’s devotion to the specialized version of Honeywell’s integrated flight deck in the form of the EASy system- while providing a spacious cabin stretching 26.2 feet in length- 7.6 feet in width and 6.2 feet in height – with a wide array of finishing options available to the customer.

The two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW308C powerplants produce 7-000 lbst and their efficiency plays a key role in allowing the Falcon 2000DX’s high cruise speed – a very decent Mach 0.86. These powerplants also deliver efficiency at the more nominal Mach 0.8 and make the Falcon 2000DX fuel-efficient for long legs… anything up to a full 3-250 nautical miles- while the ability to fly from runways as short at 5-300 feet is retained.

The 2000DX’s low approach speed and high landing weight significantly enhance the airport and mission flexibility. Another high point favoring the 2000DX’s appeal is its ability to climb direct to FL410 – and do so in breathtaking time (about 17 minutes).

At about $29 million- the Falcon 2000DX is far from the least expensive in our group- but many an operator will see it for more than its price tag and more for its combination of speed- access and efficiency.

Certificated in early 2009- Dassault’s Falcon 2000LX stands out as the most-capable yet of the 2000-series twins. As noted earlier- this Falcon also employs the standard EASy flight deck- offers the same cabin and uses the same P&WC PW308C powerplants making the same 7-000 pounds of thrust.

But seeing the difference should be easier than in most cases of evolution- thanks to the distinctive look provided by the blended winglets developed by Aviation Partners in cooperation with Dassault. API developed a special High-Mach Blended Winglet for a design previously optimized for speed – the Dassault Falcon 2000 wing.

The addition of API’s winglets required reinforcing straps on the upper and lower wing panels and servo actuator door to accommodate increased loads at the tips. The outcome was a baseline wingspan nearly seven feet longer than the 2000DX at more than 70 feet – but with only a small empty weight increase. As intended- however- the performance gains more than offset the small cost in weight.

Now boasting a maximum range of 4-000 nautical miles- the 2000LX provides added capability to connect a larger array of city pairings – such as London and Dubai- Mumbai and Paris- Moscow and New York or Brisbane and Hong Kong - all in a single leg. Other benefits of the winglets on the 2000LX include excellent climb performance on par with its siblings – and those numbers were already stunners.

The factory is handling new-production installation of API’s winglets on the 2000LX; API is handling the retrofit market. Priced at about $31 million- the Falcon 2000LX may prove to be the best value in a Falcon 2000 ever.

More information from www.dassaultfalcon.com

Well- folks- that gets us about halfway through our 2010 review of Medium Jets. Check out the July issue- in which we’ll attend to the balance of the group for our 2010 review of medium jets.

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