Plane Advantage: New Jet Models Aim to Please CEOs and CFOs

Inbound Innovation
More new business jets are on the way. Later this year Brazil’s Embraer Executive Jets will deliver the updated version of its large cabin Legacy 650, the 650E. Enhancements include a 10-year/10,000 flight-hour warranty—the industry’s longest—restyled seat upholstery and numerous cockpit upgrades. This for an aircraft in a product line whose cabins are already “future proofed,” in Embraer’s words, thanks to interiors designed to be easily removed and remodeled.

Both Gulfstream and Bombardier will introduce longer-range follow-on models (G600 and Global 8000, respectively) a year after their predecessors enter service. Cessna now focuses on the Citation Hemisphere, its first large-cabin aircraft, whose maiden flight is expected in 2019. Dassault Falcon’s 5X, which will have the widest and tallest cabin of any business jet (8 feet 6 inches by 6 feet 6 inches), is slated to enter service in 2020. Larger windows and a “de-cluttered” cabin are among updates to the 7X and 8X interiors the Dassault Interior Design Studio plans for the 5,200 nm-range jet.

Meanwhile the HA-420 HondaJet, which entered service in late 2015, is shaking up the entry-level category. With its highly efficient, patented Over-the-Wing Engine Mount (OTWEM) configuration, engines developed in a joint venture with GE and advanced cabin features, including electronically dimmable windows, the HondaJet serves as both an exemplar of business aviation’s spirit of innovation and a major automaker’s faith in its future.

The question now is how the market will respond to these offerings. Cessna says it’s “excited by order activity” for the Longitude, and Bombardier reports demand for the Global 7000 “is very strong.” Gulfstream doesn’t release order information for its models, but if Pilatus is any indication, the future is bright.

The Swiss manufacturer opened its PC-24 order book amidst fanfare at Geneva’s European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition in 2014, and had sold out its first three years of production (84 jets) and halted further sales by the end of the show. The order book reopens this fall at the National Business Aviation Association’s annual trade show.

Designed to Please

Gone are the days when a visionary aeronautical designer drew a sketch on a napkin and a new plane was born. Today OEMs largely get their ideas for aircraft from current and prospective customers.

When designing the Longitude, with no super-midsize jet of its own Cessna convened an advisory board comprising customers of its competitors, including Bombardier, Gulfstream and Embraer, “to really understand what their expectations were,” says Christi Tannahill,
senior vice president of interior design and engineering. Gulfstream harnessed its Advanced Customer Advisory Team, comprised of some three dozen pilots, maintainers and flight attendants employed by a cross-section of Gulfstream owners. The group reviewed G500 program progress and provided feedback on a quarterly basis.

Bombardier spent four years researching customers’ needs before unveiling the Global 7000 interior and cockpit layout, and continued gathering feedback from customer-based focus groups throughout its initial production work.

Likewise, in developing its STOL twinjet, Pilatus listened closely to customers, whose most common request was for an aircraft as rugged as the PC-12, but with an additional 100 knots of airspeed. The PC-24’s projected 425 ktas (knots true airspeed) gives customers much more than that, and Chairman Oscar Schwenk says the actual top speed “exceeds published performance figures.” But new jets may not achieve all benchmarks an OEM
targets. VanAllen’s Jeff Agur advises “early adapters” who buy new models to seek “performance guarantees in the purchase agreement.”