Business Airplanes

By Fred George
Source: Business & Commercial Aviation
May 01, 2013

Business aircraft manufacturers experienced checkered results in 2012. The industry delivered 69 fewer aircraft than in 2011, but there was a 10+% spike in turboprop deliveries, mainly due to a significant increase in the number of ag aircraft shipments. Last year, however, piston-engine aircraft shipments declined by 1.9% and there was a 3.4% drop in turbofan aircraft deliveries, continuing a four-year downward trend. Overall, there were only 13 more general aviation aircraft delivered in 2012 than in 2011.

But that's only part of the story. As in 2010 and 2011, long-range, large-cabin business aircraft fared better than makes of smaller turbofan aircraft. Bombardier delivered 92 large-cabin jets, Dassault shipped 66 Falcon Jets and Gulfstream moved 83 large-cabin models. Airbus had nine corporate jet deliveries and Boeing shipped a dozen jetliners for conversion, including eight 747-8 head-of-state jumbo jets. More importantly, the book-to-bill backlog ratio improved for most large-cabin aircraft makers, providing them with healthy near-term revenue streams and helping to shore up asking prices. Notably, less than half of these shipments were to customers in North America.

Shipments of light, midsize and super-midsize aircraft remain flat, if not falling. Most acutely, the bankruptcy of Hawker Beechcraft Corp. witnessed the shutdown of the Premier IA and Hawkers 400XP, 900XP and 4000 production lines. So, those models are being dropped from our Purchase Planning Handbook this year. Cessna fared marginally better, but it delivered only three more Citations in 2012 than it did in 2010. Deliveries of Embraer's Phenom 300 were up by six units, but Phenom 100 shipments fell to their lowest level since entry into service in 2008. Sales of the Bombardier Learjet 40XR and 45XR also have been flat for the last few years.

So, light and midsize business aircraft manufacturers are refreshing their model lines to help reinvigorate sales activity. Several new models are making their debut in this year's Handbook. Bombardier is discontinuing its 40XR and 45XR in favor of the Learjet 70 and 75, a pair of second-generation Model 45 aircraft that will enter service in the first half of this year. They're fitted with more powerful Honeywell TFE731-40BR turbofans, Vision flight decks featuring Garmin G5000 flat-panel avionics and new winglets, among other aerodynamic refinements. Increased engine thrust and winglets will shave at least 12% off TOFL, along with improving climb performance and boosting range.

Cessna's second-generation Citation Sovereign also is making its first appearance in the Handbook. It features a new Garmin G5000 avionics suite borrowed from the new Citation X, plus a stretched wing, more powerful and repositioned Pratt & Whitney Canada turbofans, slightly more fuel capacity, and higher takeoff and landing weights. The upgraded Sovereign has more tanks-full payload, improved runway performance and increased range compared to the original model. Its enhanced range and payload make it more competitive with some super-midsize jets.

The Embraer Legacy 500 is one of the new super-midsize jets against which the new Sovereign will compete. With full developmental and certification flight tests now under way, the Brazilian jet is making its first appearance in this year's Handbook. It has impressive credentials, including being the first business aircraft in this size range to be fitted with fly-by-wire (FBW) flight controls. The three-axis digital FBW system has a full range of high-level control laws to ease pilot workload, to provide flight envelope protection and to improve passenger ride comfort.

The Legacy 500 is powered by a pair of 6,540-lb.-thrust Honeywell HTF7500E engines that enable it to fly four passengers at least 3,000 nm. Maximum cabin altitude is 6,000 ft. and the cabin has a flat floor as well as a forward galley with sink. The flight deck features Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics with four 15.1-in. displays. The passenger compartment is equipped with Honeywell's Ovation Select cabin management system.

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