Turbine-powered airplanes originally were only accessible to professional pilots in a crew environment. But in 1964, Beech installed some Pratt & Whitney turboprop engines on a Queen Air and brought the kerosene age to pilots wanting to fly such aircraft solo. The new turbines weren't as fuel efficient as piston engines, but they were smooth running, lightweight, simple, and incredibly reliable. Although a large and complex airplane, the King Air 90 - as the turbine Queen Air was called - was capable of being flown by a well-trained owner-pilot. Small jets of the time, such as the Lear Jet, were more complex to fly and required two pilots.
Starting in the mid 1970s, advances in aerodynamics, avionics, autopilots, and cockpit ergonomics allowed the Cessna Citation 1-SP to be certified as a single-pilot airplane providing owner-pilots access to jets for the first time. With soaring fuel costs in the 1980s, efficient single-engine turboprops such as the TBM 700 brought turbine airplane ownership costs to levels akin to maintaining a large piston twin. More single-engine turboprops have joined the ranks, such as the Piper Meridian, the Pilatus PC-12, and, coming soon, the Epic Dynasty.
Today, further advancement in engines, engine controls, avionics, and autopilots are making it increasingly easy for owner-pilots to fly high-performance turbine airplanes. In an effort to keep costs at bay, manufacturers are exploring more efficient manufacturing processes to lower entrance costs to the turbine arena. New designs are being introduced and older stalwarts are being modernized to cater to the owner-pilot. Whatever the mission, airplanes ranging from single-engine, fixed-gear turboprops to 15,000-pound twinjets capable of more than 400 knots can be flown by owner-pilots.
To help keep track of the many players in this evolving field, AOPA Pilot has created this listing of new single-pilot turbine airplanes that are FAA certified or are on a certification track. Online we've added data compiled directly from the manufacturers. When able, we've used real-world datapoints: such as maximum cruise speed after maximum gross takeoff, in order to provide more accurate data than a brochure. We hope you find this guide and the online specifications useful in keeping track of the many players in this field. See AOPA Online for specifications and additional photos. For additions or corrections, please e-mail: [email protected].
The Adam A700 is an outgrowth of the A500 piston twin. The airframe's unique design was originally inked by Burt Rutan and is made entirely of composites. The cockpit is equipped with the Avidyne FlightMax Entegra avionics suite. Deice is provided by TKS. The A700 is currently undergoing FAA certification.
First out of the starting gate in the very light jet race, the Mustang is fully certified and delivering from its Independence, Kansas, production line alongside Cessna's piston line. Cessna's entrance into the VLJ race legitimized the fledgling market.
Resembling a miniature F-18 Hornet, the Javelin is more personal fighter jet than business transport. Powered by two Williams FJ33s, the Javelin can reach 500 knots and is fully aerobatic. ATG is also pitching the Javelin as a lower-cost military trainer. The Javelin is pending FAA certification.
The CJ1+ traces its roots to the original light jet, the CitationJet (CJ) born in 1993. The CJ1 was introduced in 2000 with Collins ProLine 21 avionics and a 200-pound gross weight increase. The + moniker was added when the Williams FJ44-1AP engine added more thrust and another 100 pounds was added to the gross weight.
In 2006, the speedy Premier was upgraded to the model IA. Improvements in braking and a redesigned interior have resolved customer complaints about the original Premier I. The Premier is unique in this category because of its fuselage spun from composite strands.
The CJ2+ and CJ3 are currently certified stretched versions of the CJ1 powered by Williams engines and are equipped with Collins ProLine 21 avionics.
The largest of the CJ line should start being delivered in 2010. The CJ4 will also feature Collins ProLine 21 avionics with four 8 X 10-inch displays.
Cirrus' the-jet was kept under wraps for an long time. It made its appearance on June 28. The single-engine jet sports a V-shape tail and has seating for as many as seven with three across in the last row. The single Williams turbofan is mounted atop the aft fuselage. The jet is expected to have two doors and a whole-airplane parachute. A maximum operating altitude of FL250 will simplify certification and require less effort to pressurize the cabin.
At EAA AirVenture 2007, Eclipse stunned attendees by showing up with an entirely new jet that's already flying. The Concept Jet is a four-seater with a single Pratt & Whitney turbofan mounted atop the aft fuselage. The engine's 1,100 pounds of thrust is aimed between its V-tail design, similar to that of Cirrus' the jet. The Concept Jet is undergoing market evaluation at this time. There have been no production plans announced - yet.
Diamond is already flying its single-engine D-Jet. The FADEC-controlled Williams FJ33 is mounted in the bottom of the fuselage. Garmin's G1000 avionics system occupies the front office. Like the Cirrus Jet, it will be limited to FL250.
On July 26, Embraer flew its Phenom 100 for the first time. The Brazilian company is creating a line of VLJs that span from the Phenom 100 to the Phenom 300. The Phenom 100 is expected to enter service in mid 2008.
The eight to nine-seat Phenom 300 is expected to enter service in mid 2009.
The Eclipse 500 is the VLJ that defines the term VLJ. Originally destined to be the jet available for the price of a piston twin, the Eclipse has gone through an engine change, aerodynamic tweaks, avionics changes, and a resulting long certification process. Unlike some other small jets, Eclipse is sticking with two engines and certification to FL410, where the now-certified 500 can enjoy a speed-versus-economy advantage.
Epic's Elite made its first flight on June 7, from Epic's Bend, Oregon, headquarters. Although experimental versions of the Elite will be delivered before year's end, the certified version is expected in late 2009.
The Excel Sport-Jet is still on a certification track despite a setback when the proof-of-concept Sport-Jet crashed on takeoff from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Both occupants of the airplane were unhurt. According to Excel, wake turbulence downed the airplane, but the NTSB has not finished its investigation of the cause yet.
Maverick's Solo Jet utilizes the Pratt & Whitney JT15 engine that powered earlier Cessna Citations. Maverick also claims a blistering 8,000 fpm climb rate.
Grob, the German maker of high-performance gliders and aerobatic airplanes, has thrown its hat in to the corporate jet market with the spn, powered by two FADEC-controlled Williams FJ33s. Like all other Grobs, the spn will be largely composite construction. Up front, the spn will feature Honeywell's Primus Apex avionics suite. Certification of the spn is expected in the second quarter of 2008.
The Piper Jet is another single-engine design with a through-tail engine mounting similar to the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 airliner. It is scheduled for certification and first deliveries in 2010.
The HondaJet features unique designs such as its wing-mounted engine setup, which allows for lower drag, and a roomier cabin. It also has a bulbous laminar-flow nose to improve airflow over the fuselage. Deliveries are scheduled for 2010.
Spectrum's S-40 Freedom is the only other jet besides Honda to utilize the GE-Honda engines. The all-composite jet features a surprisingly large cabin.
Spectrum's smaller entrant to the very light jet market is still a good-size airplane with seating for up to nine.
Swearingen's SJ30-2 is a small but fast light jet that boasts a sea-level cabin at FL410. It is equipped with Honeywell's Primus Epic Control Display System. Now certified, few deliveries have been made as the company struggles to start production.
For years, Cessna's robust Caravan has been doing grunt work as cargo hauler, bush airplane, and utility aircraft. In recent years, however, the Caravans have been adapted into fancy corporate barges with huge leather chairs arranged in a work-friendly club setup. It may be slow and unpressurized, but the Caravan's huge cabin makes for a comfortable ride. Also, for short trips, the Caravan makes economic sense. The Amphibian model is at home in the Alaskan bush or in Manhattan's East River.
Large comfortable cabins, excellent runway performance, and robust construction are King Air trademarks. For more than 40 years, the King Airs have adapted and evolved to maintain their position among fierce competition.
Most recently, the King Airs have been undergoing a performance makeover with the GT versions of the C90 and B200 (under certification). The GTs use the same Pratt & Whitney PT6 engines with higher thermodynamic ratings that are then flat rated to the original certified horsepower. In the case of the C90, the GT model is about 25 knots faster than its predecessor, the C90B. Beechcraft is also installing the Collins ProLine 21 avionics package in the C90 to create the GTi model. The B200 is also getting the GT treatment soon and Beechcraft expects a 15-knot cruise speed boost for that airframe.
The huge King Air 350 remains largely the same. Although it's single-pilot certified, it can only be flown that way if fewer than nine passengers are on board.
The TBM 850 is limited to 700 shp for takeoff just like its predecessor, the TBM 700. However, once the flaps are up, you can boost the power to the full 850 shp and enjoy the extra 20 or so knots of speed and higher climb rates the 850 serves up.
Epic's Dynasty is based on the experimental LT single-engine turboprop . The composite airframe sports impressive lines and creates a large cabin.
Utility Aircraft's PAC 750 XL is a rugged fixed-gear, all-metal airplane targeted at hauling skydivers.
With its roots in the popular Malibu Mirage piston airplane, the Meridian is Piper's first turbine airplane since the Cheyenne. A few years back, the Meridian received a very helpful gross-weight increase thanks to some aerodynamic and structural tweaking.
Piaggio's Avanti II is an eye-catching twin turboprop powered by two pusher props mounted well behind the cabin. Its max operating altitude is a very un-turboprop-like FL410.
Quest recently received FAA certification of the fixed-gear, single-engine Kodiak. With its tall, rugged gear, the Kodiak will undoubtedly be popular with bush pilots.
The Pilatus PC-12 is undergoing a major overhaul to include a fully integrated Honeywell Primus Apex avionics system, a new cockpit designed by BMW Group DesignworksUSA, and a more powerful Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A engine. The PC-12 has a cabin as large as a King Air 200 yet is powered by a single PT6. Like all single-engine turboprops, the PC-12 stalls at a low 61 knots.
British Columbia-based Viking Air announced earlier this year it was planning to manufacture de Havilland Canada's DHC-6 Twin Otters. The company hopes to capitalize on the Canadian icon's reputation as a rugged, versatile twin turboprop that's just as comfortable on skis or floats as on wheels. Deliveries are expected within two years at a price of $3.2 million, adjusted for time of delivery.
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