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People love choices- don’t they? You need look only at the amazing variety of choices we enjoy in our everyday products and consumables to prove the point. Operators of business aircraft find many excellent options too small or capable of too little of what they need; of course other choices are- conversely- too large and far exceeding the needs – or budgets – of the would-be user. Like a flock of Goldilocks- what most business aircraft users tend to embrace fits “just right”… such is the root of

Dave Higdon   |   1st July 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 1)
Big performers in a balanced package.

People love choices- don’t they? You need look only at the amazing variety of choices we enjoy in our everyday products and consumables to prove the point. Operators of business aircraft find many excellent options too small or capable of too little of what they need; of course other choices are- conversely- too large and far exceeding the needs – or budgets – of the would-be user. Like a flock of Goldilocks- what most business aircraft users tend to embrace fits “just right”… such is the root of the popularity of medium jets.

This category of aircraft offers considerable variety within the segment. Medium jets enjoy their popularity precisely because of their well-balanced design: they’re large enough to offer increased comfort; fast enough to fly neck-and-neck with most larger aircraft (or faster); and offer range to reach a huge cross-section of city pairs.

Yet they’re still small enough to access a wider variety of airport runways than their larger kin- and affordable. Essentially- they are productive to a degree that matches the owner’s needs at costs that match their budget. Charter companies love medium jets. Fractional programs and corporations find them appealing. For flexibility medium jets deliver without the higher expense of space that brings no particular benefit to the owner – and no speed advantage at all.

If you are flying on the North American continent most medium jets generally deliver range of transcontinental capabilities (or at least come close). Some even provide the lift to exploit full-plane seating and maximum range – at the same time – and largely without compromising the luggage carried.

All of the above might leave you wondering what’s to gain from a larger jet? As per the medium jet- they have their place within the business jet user’s universe - they offer longer range (if you regularly need 4-000 miles or more). But if you don’t- the chances are that you’ll need a medium jet which gives up virtually nothing- aside from the square-footage of space offered by larger airplanes. And that includes the trappings of today’s full-function airborne-office hardware.

All of the above add up to significant travel value for today’s increasing numbers of workers- support staff and technicians who most-frequent business aircraft. Summed up- the collective value of the space- speed and cost equations best explains the continuing popularity of the group- which in turn contributes to the group’s model diversity.

Aircraft categories and qualifications can become complicated business. With this in mind- we’ve stuck with a basic weight-based approach. Cabin volume classifications can have merit- but only when the cabin space is consistently defined (and it’s not). For the most part jets with MTOW ranging from 20-001 pounds and 40-000 pounds made this report.

We’re not above hedging- slightly- though - and while we continue to define “Medium Jets” as in past years; in some instances- gross-weight increases over the originating variant were made to improve performance – without a concomitant alteration of cabin dimensions.

Befitting of its appeal to operators- the medium jet category is vast - and as a consequence- we will review it in two parts. The first part (featuring Bombardier- Cessna and Dassault products) appears below. We’ll review products from Embraer- Gulfstream and Hawker Beechcraft in August. Having settled the parameters- let’s meet the first half of our group.

Start with a leading large-cabin jet- resize appropriately- power to size and give it some of the best avionics available and you have Bombardier’s smallest Challenger model - the Challenger 300.

The Challenger 300’s cabin delivers the operator’s choice of a double-club seating arrangement or a club section with a divan that provides one additional seat - all in 16.5 feet of cabin that stands 6.1 feet high and spans an enormous 7.2 feet. Power plugs at each seat- dual-zone climate control and generous luggage space (106 cubic feet) that is in-flight accessible via a fully-enclosed lavatory makes the working space comfortable.

On the flight deck- the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics system and all the usual aviators’ accoutrements gives the flight crew a space attuned to the needs of business flying.

For maximum-seating missions- a Challenger 300 can carry a full payload across 2-600 nautical miles- putting it comfortably among business jets capable of making cross-continental flights. But the performance can shine even brighter at a nominal cruise speed of Mach 0.80- carrying four (and full fuel) to vault 3-065 nautical miles. Such range is enabled by Honeywell’s HTF7000 turbofan engines- flat rated to 6-826 pounds of thrust for excellent hot-and-high performance.

The Learjet 60XR provides reliability and performance at an exceptionally low operating cost per mile and avoids step climbing that can add time and fuel expense. Among the smaller aircraft in this category- the Learjet 60XR still boasts a cabin exceeding 17 feet length. But at 5.7 tall and 5.9 wide- the 60XR offers a single club section plus another two seats.

The Learjet 60XR is not meant to serve as a meeting room so much as a speedy conveyance that minimizes time spent aloft. Capable of cruising more than 2-400 nautical miles at Mach 0.81- the Learjet 60XR can climb at more than 6-000 feet per minute.

Its service ceiling of 51-000 feet also puts the 60XR higher than almost anything else flying – excepting other Learjet models.

The Learjet 85 is currently in development- but can already lay claim to survivor status thanks to a series of crises through which it arrived on its current development track to become the first FAR 25 business jet with both wing and fuselage made of composite materials.

You can see some of the progress in the work Learjet is doing in Wichita where a new assembly line- pre-flight and paint hangar are under construction to go with the new manufacturing spaces in Wichita and Mexico (where the main components will be manufactured from carbon-fiber composites). Work is also underway in Belfast- Northern Ireland with upward of 1-200 employees engaged in the project across these three locations.

Designed to fill the gap between the Challenger 300 above it and the Learjet 60XR below it- the Learjet 85 is the largest Learjet yet. Learjet’s design puts the cabin at 5.9 feet tall- 6.2 feet wide and 24.8 feet long. But- as always- space is only part of the appeal: performance is the real deal- with a Learjet-typical nominal cruise speed of Mach 0.82- a long-range cruise of Mach 0.78- and the ability to carry four about 3-000 nautical miles.

Power will come from a pair of Pratt & Whitney Canada PW307B engines producing 6-100 lbst for an airplane with a svelte MTOW of 33-500 pounds – light for its size thanks to the wonders of carbon composites. On the flight deck- Rockwell Collins newly approved Pro Line Fusion integrated flight deck will take pride of place- complete with synthetic vision system (SVS) and a cursor-control input device.

With five prototypes under construction- the model should begin deliveries in 2013. On that basis- first flight should come in 2012.

More information from www.aero.bombardier.com

Meet the runway-performance champion among mid-size jets: the Citation Sovereign- capable of launching from runways as short as 3-600 feet. That equates as a huge advantage when working to reach outlying cities and large towns with airports far from capable of hosting the airline category.

With a cabin 25.3 feet long- the Sovereign carries anywhere from eight to twelve seats that can swivel 180 degrees for increased meeting flexibility in-flight. While not huge- the cabin offers 5.7 feet of height and 5.5-feet of width. However- baggage space is among the most generous of comparable private jets- with 135 cubic feet capable of carrying plenty of weight.

Credit for the power and fuel efficiency backing-up the Sovereign belongs to the two P&WC PW306C turbofans- each producing 5-770 pounds of thrust. The blend of Cessna’s clean-sheet design and the power of the PW306Cs combine to explain how the Sovereign can deliver its range- speed and runway performance.

Cessna promised a Sovereign that could deliver better than all prior Citations (excepting speed)- and when you consider the performance numbers and the sales landed- it’s easy to see that Cessna delivered.

We interrupt this review of current Citation models to interject the Citation Ten where the Citation X would have been if it wasn’t living on borrowed time. The Citation Ten is due to fly later this year- with certification and first deliveries to follow in 2013.

So what does the Citation Ten offer that the Citation X lacked? Quite simply- a little more of all that operators loved about the original – and based on Cessna’s record with the original “World’s Fastest Business Jet”- the Citation Ten should hold even greater appeal.

The Citation Ten features a fuselage stretched 15 inches for more cabin space over the Citation X - and additionally- Cessna standardized new winglets for more-efficient performance; added a new electrical system; made dual lithium-ion batteries standard; and opted to be the first to use Garmin’s newest avionics for business aircraft - the touchscreen G5000.

In addition- the Citation Ten brings in an auto-throttle function and a cabin redesigned with new seats and appointments- among them a proprietary fiber optic-based cabin management system with the latest interface options for greater in-flight productivity and connectivity.

Cessna tapped the new Rolls-Royce AE3007C2 turbines for the Citation Ten- each rated at 7-034 pounds of thrust and offering a four percent improvement in takeoff thrust; nine percent improvement in climb performance; seven percent improvement in cruise thrust; and an additional 1.4 percent improvement in specific fuel consumption.

This change and improved aerodynamics contributed to performance enhancements that include a range increase of 211 nautical miles at high-speed cruise- a payload increase of 214 pounds- and a higher climb rate – enhanced with the ability to climb direct to 45-000 feet.

Cessna also teamed up with Dallas-based Heads-Up Technologies to develop an intelligent cabin management system (CMS) that integrates cabin electrical systems- avionics and communications through a fiber optic backbone and an intuitive touch-screen user interface.

More information from www.cessna.com

Certificated in early 2009- Dassault’s Falcon 2000LX stands out as the most-capable yet of the 2000-series twins made over past years. This Falcon employs the company’s selfbranded Honeywell avionics with EASy flight deck- and offers the same cabin – a spacious one at 26.2 feet long- 7.6 feet wide and 6.2 feet tall – with a wide array of finishing options available to the customer.

The Falcon 2000LX also employs the same P&WC PW308C powerplants as previous 2000 models - offering the same 7-000 pounds of thrust.

There are visible differences- though- most notably the distinctive blended winglets from Aviation Partners- in cooperation with Dassault. Developed specifically as a High- Mach Blended Winglet- this design is optimized for speed versus fuel efficiency – though it delivers on both.

With a wingspan nearly seven foot longer than the Falcon 2000DX (more than 70 feet) the performance gains more than offset the small weight gain registered in the process. The blended winglets help give the Falcon 2000LX a maximum range of 4-000 nautical miles and speeds as high as Mach 0.86- with the capability to connect a significant set of city pairs.

The Falcon 2000LX can connect London and Dubai- Mumbai and Paris- Moscow and New York or Brisbane and Hong Kong - all non-stop.

Debuted at EBACE in May- the Falcon 2000S is Dassault’s latest take on the venerable Falcon 2000 model- offering changes in power and cabin that are designed to make it more efficient and quieter- with better environmental numbers all around.

Flying since February- the 2000S sports new New-Generation- 7-000 lbst Pratt & Whitney Canada PW308C engines with the engine-OEM’s new TALON II combustors. These use fuel better to generate nitrogen oxide emissions 20 percent lower than prior models – but without any power penalty. Dassault claims the Falcon 2000S will boast the best full-fuel payload in its class at 1-850 pounds. With a 41-000 pound MTOW- the Falcon 2000S promises a balanced field-length of 4-450 feet - among the shortest in its class.

With the combination of the new powerplants- integrated winglets and other cleanups- Dassault says its Falcon 2000S will be able to climb directly to 41-000 feet in a mere 19 minutes. The certified ceiling will be 47-000 feet. Expect Dassault’s latest iteration of the Falcon 2000 (and the six-passenger 3-350 nautical mile maximum range that it offers) to be another popularity winner.

More information from www.dassaultfalcon.com

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