June 1, 2011
By Thomas A. Horne
With 2011 came a few rays of much-needed hope in the new light-jet and turboprop market segments. Inventories of used airplanes were on the decrease—traditionally a sign that prospective buyers will begin to consider buying new aircraft. But confidence remains shaken by the recession of 2008-2009, so many manufacturers have either cut back on their plans to introduce new designs or have delayed their previously scheduled certification and entry-into-service dates.
The recession forced some manufacturers into shelving their production plans, at least for now. These manufacturers aren't represented in this year's AOPA directory of single-pilot turbine airplanes. Meanwhile, companies such as Cirrus and Piper have been bought by foreign firms—a development that we hope will bring Cirrus' SF50 Vision and Piper's Altaire single-engine jets closer to fruition. Similarly, Eclipse Aerospace's injection of funding from Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation may produce the same outcome for Eclipse's 500. But the future of other designs—the Comp Air 12, the Swearingen SJ30-2, the Spectrums S-33 and S-40, and the Stratos 714—remains far murkier.
If there's an upside to the recession, it's that some manufacturers have used the time to invest in new-design development. So this year's directory shows Hawker Beechcraft Corporation's new King Air 250 (the replacement for the King Air B200GT), King Air 350i and 350iER (follow-ons of the previous King Air 350), and the Hawker 200 (the replacement for the Premier II). Other newly certified entries in this directory include Cessna's Citation CJ4, and the Embraer Phenom models 100 and 300.
Information for the directory entries is from company sources, and specifications are given for standard temperature and elevation conditions, unless otherwise noted. Maximum cruise speeds are given for optimum altitude and weight conditions, and maximum ranges are for full-fuel conditions. Information that was not available has been so noted.
The new King Air 250 has a Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics suite plus 850-shp Pratt & Whitney PT6A-52 engines. Maximum cruise is 310 knots. The basic operating weight compared to the previous B200GT model is 355 pounds greater. Useful load decreased from 4,165 pounds for the now-replaced B200GT to 3,810 pounds for the King Air 250.
This newest variant of the very popular C90 series includes a Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics suite and 750-shp Pratt & Whitney PT6A-135A engines, flat-rated to 550 shp. The result is an airplane with a max cruise speed of 272 knots and a max range as far as 1,236 nm. The big news in this latest model is a 300-pound increase in payload with full fuel.
This is the top-of-the-line King Air, and it uses Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics. It is powered by two 1,050-shp Pratt & Whitney PT6A-60A engines and promises a typical high-speed cruise of 312 knots. If you need extended range or a high-performance special-mission aircraft, the King Air 350iER is available for $8.06 million, with a promised typical high-speed cruise of 303 knots.
True to Cessna's Citation marketing strategy, the CJ2+ represents an incremental jump in performance over the now-out-of-production CJ1+. The CJ2+, with its more powerful engines, breaks the 400-knot cruise mark, is 30 knots faster than the CJ1+, and can fly 300 nautical miles farther. The CJ2+ cabin is three feet longer than that of the CJ1+.
Cessna's Caravan was a big hit when it debuted in 1984. It has retained its popularity and Cessna has added more versions of the basic design—now known as the Model 675. Amphibious versions are available, as well as a luxury executive model (the Grand Caravan).
You say a CJ2+ can't carry enough to suit you? The CJ3, with a 1,100-pound greater useful load than the CJ2+, has up to 10 seats and still has cruise speeds similar to those of the CJ2+. And like the CJ2+, the CJ3 also has Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics.
The CJ4 is the top of the CJ line and the latest of the CJs to be certified. Deliveries began in 2010. Thanks to its 3,400-lb-thrust engines and swept wings, the CJ4 surpasses the 417-knot max-cruise-speed barrier. Single-point refueling is standard, as is a new, lighter lithium-ion battery, a new entry-door design, four-panel spoilers, and a ground-spoiler feature.
The Mustang is the lightest of the new generation of small, single-pilot very light jets. But Cessna would rather you call it a light-light jet. Either way, the Mustang has been a success, with more than 200 deliveries since its debut in 2007. It features the Garmin G1000 avionics suite, a max operating altitude of 41,000 feet, and a side-facing, non-belted lavatory seat.
A certification test article of the SF50 single-engine jet has been flying since 2008, but there is uncertainty in the program's future. But there are more than 400 deposit holders for the new V-tail jet, and Cirrus says that certification of the SF50 remains its number-one engineering program. The airplane will have the Garmin G3000 flight deck as its avionics suite.
Daher-Socata officials position the TBM 850 as having jet speeds (320 KTAS) with the lower operating costs typical of a turboprop. It is claimed to climb to 31,000 feet in 20 minutes and fl y 1,400 nm at economy settings, yet use a 2,100-foot runway—shorter when propeller reverse is applied. It comes standard with Garmin G1000 integrated avionics.
The D-JET is among the easiest to operate of the VLJ designs, with its single turbofan engine and 25,000-foot max operating altitude. Its 5,690-pound max ramp weight also makes it the lightest of the light jets. The cockpit is centered around the three-screen Garmin G1000 avionics suite. It has been in development since 2007, and certification is expected in late 2012.
Eclipse Aviation created the concept of the VLJ with the development of its Eclipse 500, which went to market in 2007. The airplane was a sales success, with some 260 units delivered. In February 2011 Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. bought into the Eclipse, inspiring some to predict production could by late 2011. Total Eclipse upgrades of the original models are for sale now.
Development of the Emivest Aerospace SJ30-2 is a 20-year saga that spans three continents, millions of dollars in costs, and multiple changes in corporate ownership and bankruptcies (see " Trials and Travails of the SJ30," January 2011 Turbine Pilot). But the SJ30-2's performance has never been in dispute: It offers stunning speed and range at altitudes up to 49,000 feet.
With a max cruise speed of 454 knots, the Beechcraft Premier 1A is the fastest of the single-pilot jets. It features swept wings, a composite-construction fuselage, and Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics. The airplane's comparatively large cabin dimensions and a lift-dump system that uses a maximum flap deflection to assist in braking after touchdown are notable.
Introduced at the 2010 NBAA convention, the Hawker 200 will be the replacement design for Hawker Beechcraft's proposed Premier II. The airplane will have winglets, a new variant of the Williams FJ44 engine, a 10-year warranty, and 400-hour inspection intervals. The Hawker 200 will have a composite fuselage and aluminum wings. Entry into service is set for 2012.
Honda has taken a patient, innovative approach to its first foray into the GA marketplace with a twinjet that uses over-wing engine pylons, composite materials, and an engine developed with General Electric. The first HondaJet flew in 2003, and conforming prototypes have turned in exceptional performance in speed and efficiency at altitudes up to 43,000 feet.
The all-composite Kestrel is meant to fit into the single-engine turboprop marketplace somewhere between the TBM 850 and the Pilatus PC–12. With its six to eight seats, a 325-knot cruise, and target price of $3 million, CEO Alan Klapmeier says he expects to sell and produce 75 new airplanes a year.
This all-metal, fixed-gear utility plane built in New Zealand by Pacific Aerospace Ltd. was originally developed to haul skydivers but also is marketed as a utility aircraft. It was certified in the United States in 2004 and carries a single pilot and up to nine passengers. The aircraft has a range of 582 nm.
Embraer made a big splash in 2008 when it entered the business-jet market with its Phenom 100 entry-level light jet. The Phenom 100 has the Embraer-specified Prodigy glass cockpit, a three-screen Garmin G1000 system tailored to show system information and synoptics on its multifunction display. Deliveries passed the 100 mark just two years after its introduction.
The Brazilian-built Phenom 300 is the Phenom 100's bigger brother. The 300 features slightly swept wings and 440-knot max cruise speeds, and it shares the 100's three-screen Garmin G1000-based Prodigy avionics suite. The popular Phenom 300 is a direct competitor of Cessna's CJ4—which has virtually identical performance specifications, but at about $1 million less.
PC–12s are big-cabin load-haulers par excellence, and most are ordered with a stylish seven-seat interior designed by BMW DesignWorks USA. The airplane features a single 1,200-shp Pratt & Whitney PT6A-67P engine, a forward air stair door, and a huge aft cargo door that is remotely operated.
Piper Aircraft has rebranded the PiperJet "Altaire" and made design changes, including a larger cabin, longer wing, and shortened vertical tail. The PiperJet logged more than 400 flight-test hours and pioneered an automated trim system designed to adjust for power changes in the single tail-mounted engine. Customer deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2014.
The turboprop Piper Meridian has become a mainstay of the Piper fleet despite competition from VLJs and turbocharged pistons. The six-seat Meridian with its 500-horsepower PT6A-42A can reach 30,000 feet (limited to 28,000 in RVSM airspace), several thousand feet above high-performance pistons. The Meridian is equipped with the Garmin G1000 avionics suite.
The Quest Kodiak was developed specifically for missionary operations to unimproved runways. The utility aircraft has a Garmin G1000 glass cockpit and can cover more than 1,000 nm with IFR fuel reserves at cruise speeds up to 183 KTAS. It is powered by a Pratt & Whitney PT6A-34 and can be adapted to a wide variety of cargo and passenger configurations.
The A-Viator is a multipurpose, high-wing turboprop twin with entry-level simplicity. A large, unpressurized cabin can be configured for executive or charter use. The A-Viator is derived from a long line of Italian-built designs, and as such closely resembles the Partenavia series of light piston twins and turboprop twins.
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Tom Horne has worked at AOPA since the early 1980s. He began flying in 1975 and has an airline transport pilot and flight instructor certificates. He’s flown everything from ultralights to Gulfstreams and ferried numerous piston airplanes across the Atlantic.
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