November 1, 2012
By Alton K. Marsh
Photography by Mike Fizer
Lights are on late in the Hawker 400 XPR bay at Sierra Industries in Uvalde, Texas, these days as technicians work after hours to put the Hawker Beechcraft modification program back on schedule. The company has a contract from Hawker Beechcraft to develop kits for Hawker Beechcraft service centers that will replace the Pratt & Whitney JT15D-5 engines with more powerful 3,200-pound-thrust Williams FJ44-4A-32 engines and add winglets to the original Beechjet 400. Optional Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics are available, with one installation already in progress at a Hawker Beechcraft Services facility in Atlanta. A final option is an integrated flight information system with electronic charts and satellite weather.
A first flight with the new engines was completed in May. Six weeks were lost because of cash flow problems, now fixed, related to Hawker Beechcraft’s bankruptcy filing. Competitor Nextant Aerospace ( “The NeXT Beechjet,” October 2011 AOPA Pilot Turbine edition) has a similar program based on the 3,050-lbst Williams FJ44-3AP engine, drag-reduction changes to the engine mounts and cowling, and Pro Line 21 avionics, but is well out of the starting gate with 16 deliveries and 83 orders on the books.
There are only 604 of the 400-series in the fleet, making for fierce competition. Jay Heublein, vice president of sales and marketing at Nextant Aerospace, said production will reach 36 aircraft a year.
Fierce competition between Nextant and Hawker Beechcraft centers on the engine. Nextant claims it chose a newer refinement of the Williams FJ44 engine while Hawker says its iteration of the same engine provides better hot and high performance. Nextant is ahead in orders, not to mention deliveries, but Hawker can claim an advantage as the original manufacturer.
The Hawker 400 is based on the Mitsubishi Diamond that was purchased by Beechcraft in 1986 and then produced by Beechcraft/Raytheon/Hawker Beechcraft through 2010.
Brian Howell, vice president of aftermarket sales and business development for Hawker Beechcraft, said the Pro Line 21 avionics are already certified for both three- and four-display systems in the 400XPR, and predicted remaining certifications needed for the engines and winglets—plus the integration of the two—will occur in January 2013. First deliveries are expected in February, Howell said.
Heublein estimated the cost of the Nextant 400XT upgrades in aircraft already delivered to be $4.4 million, although individual prices vary depending on options ordered such as satellite phones, WiFi, and Internet. Although Nextant did not initially offer winglets, Elliptical Winglets were on the drawing board late last year. Meanwhile, Howell predicted most of the Hawker Beechcraft 400XPR upgrades will total between $4 million and $4.8 million, depending on options.
Hawker Beechcraft has three owner 400s in the Sierra hangar to speed the certification program. One initially got only engines (the pressurization system was not hooked up for the May first flight), one was to get only winglets, and the third aircraft will test the integration of both engines and winglets. The one scheduled for integration testing was the object of after-hours work seen at Sierra during my visit, and technicians reported it was going smoothly after a steep learning curve for the first reengining. Howell said two of the aircraft—the one that made the first flight and the integration test aircraft—eventually will have all the upgrades and become demonstrators. He is talking with the owner of the 400 that will be used for winglet testing about getting all upgrades.
Howell said the HB 400XPR, with 3,200 pounds of thrust, will burn 150 gallons per hour and give the aircraft a 1,950-nm range. The engine reserve is expected to be $285.82 per hour, with a total operating cost of $1,430.13, the Hawker official said. The biggest claim is superior hot-day and high-altitude performance compared to the lower thrust Nextant conversion. Hawker Beechcraft offers a two-year warranty on the airframe and a five-year warranty on the Williams engine. Negotiations are in progress with FlightSafety International training centers for training in the 400XPR, and with banks for aircraft financing.
Except for the engine reserve amount, Nextant has refuted nearly all the performance and price information offered by Hawker Beechcraft, based on estimates Nextant made for engine performance.
Nextant officials claim a 2,003-nm range, or 53 nm more than claimed by Hawker for its 400 XPR. HB officials offer, when asked, a 31-page booklet countering claims made against its XPR by Nextant.
Based on the intense rivalry, we look forward to doing a pilot report on the Hawker Beechcraft 400XPR, and comparing results with the already published report on the Nextant 400XT.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
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