Something To Grow On
Mid-size jets grow as a group – again.

It’s not without cause that so much media focus in the past couple of years sharpened our awareness of the up-and-coming Very Light Jet segment and its about-to-be-up-and-coming cousin- the Personal Jet.

From a numbers perspective- the quantity of companies developing aircraft in these groups seems like a revolution in the making. Of course- only since the start of 2007 has there been any meaningful deliveries in the VLJ group- and then by only the two front-running companies.

So it’s equally unsurprising that some might overlook the continuing strength of development in the medium jet class. This group come in a nice range of sizes and prices – and in ever more choices- it seems- each year. Forecasters paint a picture of strong sales in this group during the 10 years ahead and manufacturers continue to refine and expand their offerings in the hopes of capturing their own profitable share of that expected business.

This year’s list covers 14 models- even after one venerable model came off the list because its production ended. By comparison- last year we talked about 12 models on the medium jet list. The reasons for these jets’ popularity are pretty easy to fathom: larger cabins and greater comfort- coupled with longer ranges and generally higher speeds when compared to the light jets from which many a medium jet owner graduated.

The value perception remains high for the mid-size crowd- and the ability to work the airplane to help cover its own investment are important points.

With marketers regularly working to differentiate their products with labels like “Super Mid-Size” and “Entry Level Mid- Size-” trying to satisfy differing- somewhat parochial views presents a significant challenge. “It’s not a mid-size jet- it’s an ultra-mid-size…”

So we’ve stayed with the one parameter that runs consistently through all categories of business jets – their maximum take-off weight. For the mid-size jets: 20-000 pounds to 40-000 pounds encompasses this class – but even then we have a couple of exceptions due to the jets growing in weight without getting larger cabins.

First conceived as a large light jet – and the first all-new Learjet design since the original model 23 of 1963 – the Learjet 45 business jet aircraft gained its XR designation after a series of improvements to the original model that helped push it up to the small end of the mid-size category. The Learjet 45 XR wears its heritage proudly – starting with the Learjet-standard service ceiling of 51-000 feet- a cruise speed of 465 knots and a miserly nature with fuel.

To cover its maximum range of 2-087.5 nautical miles- the Learjet 45 XR needs a mere 6-062 pounds of Jet A – keeping the Direct Operating Costs at the low end of the spectrum. For trips shorter than max range- the 45 XR can seat up to nine- depending on the interior configuration – and that’s plus the two-pilot crew.

Sporting four 8×7-inch screens- the Primus 1000 avionics system from Honeywell helps that crew do its job with a maximum degree of control and awareness. That awareness is a must for an aircraft capable of operating from strips as short as 5-040 feet.

A voluminous cabin- impressive range- speed and flexibility- and frugal operating costs – it’s no wonder that the 45 XR – at about US$11.15m – is a popular choice for business operators.

Go up in cabin size a considerable notch- and in range more than 400 miles and you’ve got the Learjet 60 XR- the newest incarnation of the company’s largest Learjet model.

At about $13.3 million US- you get more than just a longer- wider- taller cabin – you also get the same high-flying- fast-traveling performance that’s kept Learjet aircraft high on the popularity heap for years. Equipped with Rockwell Collins’ sophisticated Pro Line 21 integrated avionics suite- the Learjet 60 XR can be operated from fields as short as 5-450 feet while covering more than 2-450 nautical miles. Top speed comes in at Mach 0.81- keeping the 60 XR among the top performers in the midsize class.

At the small end of Bombardier’s highly successful Challenger line you’ll find the roomy Challenger 300. With a cabin spanning 7.2 feet across and towering above at 6 feet- the Challenger 300 represents a significant step up in the super mid-size category from the Learjets.

Flying on the new-generation HTF 7000 turbofans from Honeywell- the Challenger 300 is a relatively short-field performer- needing only 4-810 feet to depart fully loaded. With maximum fuel- the Challenger 300 can fly legs of 3-100 nautical miles at a swift Mach 0.82.

Another Pro Line 21 installation provides the flight crew with all the tools they need to operate and manage this performer. And as is typical with Bombardier- a high value quotient helps keep demand high for this US$20m performer.

The simplest way to describe Cessna’s newest mid-size jet is with a single adjective: Impressive. The Citation Sovereign jet aircraft offers extreme runway flexibility thanks to its abbreviated needs – 3-640 feet takeoff distance at maximum takeoff weight- behind the power of two PW306C turbofans that offer great fuel economy and a lengthy 6-000hrs inspection interval.

Between take off and landing- the Sovereign can cruise at speeds up to 459 knots on legs as long as 2-800 nautical miles. Up front- the Honeywell Primus Epic integrated avionics suite keeps the pilots on top of their trips.

The large double-club interior available means plenty of space for everyone – whether for four on a maximum-range trip- or up to 12 with other interior options and less fuel. Demand for this jet keeps the Cessna folks smiling- while the $16 million price tag will help keep your company CFO happy.

Still leading the speed contest- the Mach 0.92 Citation X has undergone its own upgrades in the 15 years since its first delivery. Without harming its ability to fly coast-to-coast and back in a day- Cessna gave the latest incarnation the ability to fly from runways as short as 5-140 feet at its maximum takeoff weight.

The Citation X can link destinations 3-100 nautical miles apart – making North Atlantic crossings a relative snap. The Rolls-Royce AE3007C1 powerplants provide the motive force and fuel economy needed to make the Citation X work.

While some find the cabin a bit small for a $20 million business jet- operators like to boast that at the Citation X’s speeds- they never spend enough time in the cabin to feel confined.

For the first time in decades- we don’t have a triple-engine Falcon 50 in the mid-size jet inventory – but we do have a trio of twins- starting with the 2000DX- a standout performer that is every bit a Falcon.

With a runway requirement as short as 5-300 feet- the 2000DX can fly legs as long as 3-250 nautical miles at speeds as high as 460 knots – putting the 2000DX at the top of the pile for range- and near the top of the pile for speed.

Fitted out with the Dassault-proscribed EASy integrated avionics suite from Honeywell- the 2000DX offers a cabin 6.2 feet tall and an elbow-accommodating 7.7 feet wide and 26 feet long. Indeed- with Dassault offering the flexibility to finish the 2000DX for anywhere from eight to 14- this Falcon is a standout at $27.3 million.

Up the money to about $28.95 million and you could get the Falcon 2000EX- a longer-legged variant that’s virtually identical in almost every way – except runway needs- gross weight and fuel capacity. To accomplish the longer range- Dassault made some airframe tweaks that raised the DX gross weight by 1-000 pounds. That was enough to push the fuel capacity up to achieve a 3-800-nautical-mile maximum range- while also increasing runway needed by 285 feet. Otherwise- the EX is a Falcon 2000- through and through.

If good things come in small packages- the G150 should be a big hit with Gulfstream fans. Capable of using runways as short as 5-000 feet- the G150 offers a respectable 470 knot cruise speed and a maximum range approaching 3-000 nautical miles.

Rockwell Collins supplies its sophisticated Pro Line 21 integrated avionics suite Indeed- that Pro Line 21 suite has been custom configured for the G150 so it can accept an optional Gulfstream synthetic vision system for improved night and low-visibility safety. Meantime- Honeywell provides the efficient TFE741-40AR-200G engines- with 4-420 pounds of thrust- each. The G150 comes in at a very attractive price of just under $14 million.

Step up a notch from the smallest Gulfstream and you’d be looking at the G200- a significant gain in size- speed and range from its smaller sibling. The G200 can cover distances as long as 3-400 nautical miles at cruise speeds as high as Mach 0.85- putting it at the upper end of the speed range for mid-size jets.

Runway requirements hit 6-000 feet with the G200 – but the cabin itself is a significant stretch over the smaller Gulfstream at 24.4 feet long- 7.2 feet wide and 6.3 feet tall.

Between its five-screen flight deck and competitive performance/space- it is no wonder that the $22 million Gulfstream is a popular solution for many operators.

Upgrade the panel- augment the aerodynamics and improve the integration on an existing winner and the result is another stand-out Hawker – this one the 850XP- the upgrade to the 800XP launched last year. With new owners and a new name – Hawker Beechcraft – the company focused on evolutionary improvements rather than revolutionary change in creating the 850XP.

The easiest visual cue to the difference is the in-house designed winglets which improve range- speed and climb. The result is a comfortable mid-size jet capable of cruising at nearly 450 knots on legs approaching 2-700 nautical miles carrying four plus a crew of two. Runway requirements for take off stand at about 5-000 feet.

The Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 flight deck provides the crew with the high-end capabilities you’d expect in a jet descended from the line of Hawkers dating back more than four decades. Likewise for the Honeywell TFE731-5BR powerplants and their sophisticated FADEC controls.

Equipped to industry standards- the Hawker 850XP still comes in comfortably below the $14 million mark- a testament to the value co-efficient of this familiar line.

It’s here – it’s finally- really here. And the Hawker 4000 is- despite its years-late status- still a medium jet like no other. Sporting a cutting-edge composite fuselage- metal wing and sophisticated engine and panel gear- the Hawker 4000 offers space and performance that defy its outside size and apparent heft.

Thanks to the innovative production technique used to make the carbon-fiber-and-honeycomb fuselage- the Hawker 4000 offers a 6.5-foot width and 6-foot height all along its 25-foot cabin length. Height and width would- the company says- be several inches smaller had it used metal and held the same external dimensions.

And that’s not even mentioning the weight savings of several hundred pounds. Weight advantage comes into play when the P&WC PW308A engines each spool up to their full 6-800 pounds of thrust – and runway requirements come in at as little as 4-500 feet. The efficiency of the airframe and engines contribute to a maximum range of 3-300 nautical miles and speeds as high as 470 knots.

Up front- the Hawker 4000 sports Honeywell’s highly sophisticated Primus EPIC integrated avionics system- including a cursor-control input station for each pilot- allowing them to control most of the aircraft’s systems without leaning in to turn a knob or push a button. One other thing remains to keep the Hawker 4000 high on the list of appealing mid-size business jets – its price- still about $20 million.

The secret is in the wing tips – proprietary designs from Aviation Partners. Add them to the 2000EX and you get the 2000LX- with an extra 200 miles of range thanks to the wing tips- alone. That means the LX cancover 4-000 nautical miles on the same fuel and thrust needed for the EX to fly just 3-800 nautical.

In development for about a year- the wing tips not only improve range- they also help climb- allowing the Falcon 2000LX to go direct to FL410 in a scant 18 minutes. The 2000LX also sports the same EASy flight deck common to the DX and EX. Although empty weight will increase slightly- Dassault still promises a full-fuel- eight-seats occupied performer. Price was not available as of this writing.

HAWKER 750 & 900XP
Essentially variants of the Hawker 800/850- the Hawker 750 and Hawker 900XP deliver slightly different mission profiles in a package that matches (in size) the 850XP. The Hawker 750 will offer all the size- comfort and performance benefits of the 850XP- but with fewer amenities and a lower price – $12 million – when it enters service later this year.

The Hawker 900XP will offer more than the 850XP in many performance areas- albeit at a price of $14.2 million – about $1.5 million more. For the big difference between the 850XP and the 900XP- we need look mainly at the powerplants: The 900XP uses a new variant of Honeywell’s TFE731- the Dash-50R- which delivers muchimproved hot-and-high performance- climb performance and fuel efficiency.

Compared to the Dash-5BR used on the Hawker 750 and 850XP- this new engine offers a 24-percent range increase in hot-and-high departure conditions- as well as a seven percent improvement in range during normal ops – thanks to a six percent overall reduction in specific fuel consumption. As with the Hawker 750- the 900XP is due for delivery later this year.

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