Burning & Turning in 2017

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From continued product improvement, through flight testing, certification, first delivery and new product development, 2017 promises to be an interesting year for business jets and turboprops.

While Airbus and Boeing work on their latest models, based on the new generation of fuel efficient, re-engined A320neo and 737 MAX airframes, Bombardier is flight testing the radical Global 7000 and Gulfstream is preparing to deliver its first G500 even as the G600 test programme continues.

​Meanwhile, Cessna is pushing on with the Citations Latitude and Longitude, while making progress on its Denali turboprop, Piper is focused on M-class product development and Pilatus just flew its third PC-24 prototype as it works on the rugged jet-powered stablemate to its best selling PC-12 NG turboprop.

​Airbus Corporate Jets

​At ACJ, the primary focus is on delivering the first green ACJ320neo towards the end of next year. In the meantime, the manufacturer has released its Melody cabin concept for the aircraft, elements of which could be incorporated into new-build ACJ320 jets should a customer desire.

Already in service on the A320neo airliner, the ACJ320neo offers the choice of Pratt & Whitney PW1100G or CFM International Leap-1A engines. Work is also ongoing to offer the shorter ACJ319neo. Airbus’ other new-generation airliner, the A350 XWB is already impressing passengers in airline service and the OEM reports strong interest in the ACJ350 version, scheduled for first delivery in 2019. Boasting a 22-hour endurance with 25 passengers and their baggage, the jet enables what Airbus calls ‘non-stop to the world’ range.


​After its 2014 collaboration deal with Airbus, Aerion is continuing work on the AS2 eight to 12-seat supersonic business jet. The aircraft is expected to cruise at around Mach 1.5 over water and initially at 0.95 over land, but Aerion is confident that work with regulators will eventually see it cleared for Mach 1.2 ‘boomless cruise’ over land.

​Airbus is taking an engineering role with particular emphasis on airframe structures, the fly-by-wire controls, fuel system and undercarriage. Aerion depicts the aircraft as a trijet in its marketing literature and although this is its most likely configuration, powerplant layout will not be firmed up until an engine selection is made. Certification and service entry are expected around 2024. 

​Boeing Business Jets

​On 9 March, Boeing announced the award of FAA certification for its 737 MAX 8 airliner, paving the way for first deliveries in the coming months. It also brought the new line of Leap-1B engined BBJs (below) closer to reality. Boeing plans to replace the 737-800 based BBJ2 with the MAX 8 and the 737-900 based BBJ3 with the MAX 9. Smallest and longest-ranged of the family, the MAX 7 was announced at last year’s Farnborough International Airshow as replacement for the original BBJ, also known as the BBJ1.

Compared to the BBJ1, the MAX 7 is 6ft 4in (1.93m) longer, expanding cabin space and making way for two additional fuel tanks. Combined with the latest aerodynamic developments and frugal Leap-1B, the extra fuel gives the jet a 7,000nm range with eight passengers, sufficient for Dubai-New York.

​Customers must wait until 2018 for the MAX 8 to become available, 2020 for the MAX 9 and another two years for the first MAX 7. Boeing also notes steady interest in the 777, 787 and 747-8 BBJs.


​At its Toronto manufacturing facility and Wichita, Kansas Flight Test Center, Bombardier’s focus is on the Global 7000, a Mach 0.925-cruise, 17-passenger jet, powered by General Electric Passport turbofans. The initial Global 7000 Flight Test Vehicle (FTV) flew for the first time from Toronto’s Downsview airport on 4 November 2016 and will be joined by four further prototypes in an intensive flight-test campaign aiming for service entry in the second half of next year.

​Earlier wing issues involving excess structural weight were resolved in a redesign effort that has delayed the programme by two years. FTV1 is flying with the original ‘heavy’ wing, while FTV2 is expected to fly in April but first deliveries of the lighter wing are not expected until ‘later this year’.

​Bombardier has not confirmed rumours that the even longer-ranged, but shorter, Global 8000 has been cancelled, although no development timeline for the type is publicly available. Meanwhile, the OEM is also working hard to introduce Ka-band on its existing Global line, along with Rockwell Collins Venue CMS/IFE.


​In celebratory mood, Cessna marked the 45th anniversary of the first Citation delivery in January. Development and testing of the Citation Longitude super-midsize jet, the latest in a long line of models since, is due for imminent completion, followed by anticipated certification by the end of the year. Work also continues to gain international certifications for the Citation Latitude.

​Design and development work on the high-performance Denali single-engined turboprop is also continuing, with the aircraft’s General Electric Advanced Turboprop (ATP) engine running for the first time. Carrying a maximum of 11 occupants, the Denali will offer a 1,600nm range with a pilot and four passengers on board.


​On 30 January, Daher announced first delivery of its Model Year 2017 TBM 930 turboprop. Features new for the model include a redesigned cabin with new seat cushions, headrests and armrests. The seat fairings are now covered in Ultraleather synthetic fabric for increased longevity. Customers choose between Black Diamond, Beige Luxor and Agate Grey cabin ‘harmonies’, with brushed aluminium fittings for the main door stair, handrail, pilot door and rear seat side beam as standard; a polished finish is available as an option.

The cabin temperature controls are now backlit and high-power USB charging ports are installed to left and right. All Model Year 2017 TBM 930 and TBM 900 aircraft are also configured to accommodate the Elite Privacy enclosure, a quick-change option that integrates a lavatory in the aft fuselage. It serves as a bench-type seat with a low divider wall when not in use, but converts to a fully private toilet compartment at the touch of a button.

​In the cockpit, Garmin’s GTX 345 transponder is new. Configured for Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast In (ADS-B In) compatibility, the equipment enables aircraft in US airspace to receive traffic and weather information.

​Previous options that are now included as standard on the 2017 model include a stick-shaker linked to the aircraft’s under speed protection system and the Flight Stream 210 gateway, enabling wireless connectivity for two mobile devices running the Garmin Pilot app. A new digital hour meter for flight time tracking and three high-power USB charging ports are also added to the cockpit.


​Vadim Feldzer, Head of Falcon Global Communications, reports that after gaining certification at the end of last year, Dassault’s Falcon 8X flagship is being delivered to customers worldwide and receiving very positive reports for its performance and cabin comfort. After visiting Bangalore for Aero India 2017 between 14 and 18 February, the aircraft made its Australian debut at Avalon on the 28th.

​Feldzer also says: “The Falcon 5X should go back to flight testing later in the year once we’ve received a new engine shipset.”


​With its Phenom 300 the most delivered bizjet for the fourth year running in 2016 and the Legacy 450/500 earning plaudits, EMBRAER is on a roll. Key developments for 2017 include the Phenom 100 EV, E2VS for the Legacy 450/500, and Legacy 650E.

​According to the manufacturer, the Legacy 650E optimises the design characteristics of the super-midsize Legacy 600 with the range of the large-cabin Legacy 650, adding new-generation avionics upgrades and a 10-year, 10,000‑hour systems and components warranty, for the Legacy 600’s US$25.9‑million list price. The aircraft includes an upgraded Primus Elite Advanced Features avionics suite offering synthetic vision and auto-throttle as standard – auto-throttle will also be available by retrofit from first quarter 2018.

​Primus Elite Advanced Features also replaces the Legacy 650’s cathode ray tube primary flight displays with liquid crystal displays and includes provision for two Apple iPad electronic flight bags. The Legacy 650E will enter service in the first quarter of this year.

​Last September, the FAA granted certification to EMBRAER’s Enhanced Vision System, or E2VS. The equipment combines enhanced vision system (EVS) and synthetic vision system (SVS) into the primary flight display and HUD of the Legacy 450/500. First installations were accomplished towards the end of the year and the manufacturer is rolling E2VS out across its Legacy output in 2017.

​EMBRAER introduced the market to the upgraded Phenom 100 EV in July 2016 and aims to deliver the first aircraft this year. With more than 340 Phenom 100s in service, the Phenom 100 EV features more powerful Pratt & Whitney Canada PW617F1-E engines, sufficient for a high-speed cruise threshold of 405kt at FL330. Full-fuel payload is increased to 645lb and flight time to initial cruise altitude shortened to 19 minutes, 20% faster than for the previous model. The Phenom 100’s already impressive hot-and-high performance is also improved.

The aircraft’s Prodigy Touch flight deck is based on Garmin’s G3000 avionics suite. It includes SVS and introduces three 14.1in high-resolution touch-screen displays. A new weather radar is also available to Phenom 100 EV customers, plus a standard system providing vertical navigation guidance during climb, cruise and descent.

​EMBRAER has augmented the Phenom 100’s ice detection and deicing system with an automatic alert for ice accretion. The SurfaceWatch runway incursion alert system and reactive wind shear alerting are available, as well as a new brake control unit that improves lateral controllability.

​Finally, passenger comfort is improved in the redesigned cabin, which features a straight-line main aisle and relocated power outlets offering USB charging and providing more space.


​Gulfstream first flew the G500 in 2015 and anticipates receipt of FAA type certification this year, followed by first customer deliveries. Capable of covering 5,000nm with eight passengers, the G500 will cruise at Mach 0.85 and reach a maximum altitude of 51,000ft.

Alongside G500 certification, the G600 flight-test programme will continue throughout 2017. The aircraft first flew late last year and FAA certification is anticipated in 2018, followed by initial deliveries.

​Although it has new aircraft programmes running in parallel, Gulfstream has not forgotten its in-service legacy fleet. It recently received a supplemental type certificate for ADS-B v.2 for the GIV, completing the system’s availability across the Gulfstream range. According to the company’s Director, Corporate Communications Heidi Fedak, the move marks Gulfstream out as: “… one of the first original equipment manufacturers to offer ADS-B Out for its full fleet of aircraft.”

​The OEM is also offering Jet ConneX as a completion option and for retrofit this year.


​Marketing efforts for the unusually configured HondaJet continue in 2017, initially with the aircraft’s first appearance in China, at the Asian Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition at Shanghai, between 11 and 13 April.


​With its latest Avanti EVO model gaining increasing traction in the US market and recently made available for charter in the UK, Piaggio is seeing renewed interest in the type. The new variant is quieter than its Avanti II predecessor, aerodynamically refined and introduces five-bladed scimitar propellers for its Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 engines. 


​On 6 March, Pilatus flew the third and final prototype of its PC-24, which it’s dubbing the Super Versatile Jet. The two-hour five-minute sortie saw the series-standard aircraft join the first two prototypes in the test programme and Pilatus reported they had flown 1,350 hours to date. The latest aircraft will perform the type’s certification flying, towards a milestone expected to be reached in fourth quarter this year. Pilatus says initial deliveries from its 84-aircraft order book will go ahead immediately after certification.

Pilatus is also seeing burgeoning success with its rugged PC-12 NG turboprop – global sales were up 20% in 2016. Pilatus notes: “We expect to deliver the 1,500th PC-12 in mid-2017, and the worldwide fleet of PC-12 aircraft will surpass the 6 million-hour milestone about the same time.”


Piper is tight-lipped about its plans for the M500 and M600 turboprops, but Jackie Carlon, Director of Marketing & Communications reveals: “We have a product development strategy for each of our M-class models that will enable us to provide the market and our customers with innovative and meaningful products.” 


​In summer 2016, two Sukhoi Business Jets (SBJs) were delivered to the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) for governmental and military commander transport as the first SBJs ordered by a non-Russian customer. The RTAF signed for a third jet in December. By early 2017, nine SBJs were in service.


​Still the world’s fastest, longest ranged light jet, the SyberJet SJ30 uniquely offers a sea level cabin altitude to 41,000ft. Mark Fairchild, General Manager & Director of Sales/Customer Service at SyberJet, says: “We’re finishing work on a new cockpit we call SyberVision, incorporating Honeywell’s Epic 2.0 avionics into the certified SJ30. We’re expecting to fly our flight test aircraft later this year, beginning the certification process that will enable us to begin delivering the upgraded SJ30i in 2018.

“SyberVision features four 12in LCDs and standard SmartView SVS, INAVTM moving map display system, electronic charts/maps, TCAS II, TAWS Level A, synoptic displays, dual FMS with dual WAAS GPS/LPV, single INS, on-board weather radar, full EICAS, electronic checklists, DME, ADS-B Out, and 0.3nm RNP, as well as support for FANS-1A, SmartLanding, SmartRunway, TOLD, ADS-B In, emergency descent mode, and RVSM operations. Options include CPDLC, XM weather, flight data recorder, cockpit voice recorder, dual charts/maps, HF radio, satcom and EVS.

“The SJ30i will also have a new cabin layout with an all new, forward-facing beltable potty seat and sixth window. Its more aggressive styling includes carbon fibre and brushed aluminium, while other high-end automotive finishes will also be available.”