Beechcraft, competing head-on with Nextant Aerospace with its factory upgrade of the Beechjet 400, is planning to reissue a customer letter warning that major modifications to Hawker or Beechcraft aircraft that are not factory authorized will not be factory supported.
The company originally stated the position in a customer communication in 2011, and Christi Tannahill, senior vice president of Global Customer Support for Beechcraft, said the company wanted to clarify its position because it has received customer inquiries about this support.
If an aircraft is modified under a third-party supplemental type certificate, then Beechcraft will not support the aircraft for liability purposes, Tannahill says, because the aircraft has been materially altered out of the company’s control.
The 2011 letter, which will be updated and issued in the next few weeks, says the supplemental type certificate (STC) holder “is expected to provide product support and warranty for its installation” and that the company’s services network “will refuse service at its facilities to aircraft modified with substantial changes … will not provide support for inspections, maintenance, technical support or warranty.”
Tannahill cites as an example Nextant’s 400XT aircraft, a substantially modified Beechjet 400 with new engines, avionics and interior. She notes the 400XT is characterized as a remanufactured aircraft, but that Beechcraft simply views this as another way to say the aircraft is substantially modified.
The Nextant 400XT runs in direct competition with Beechcraft’s own Beechjet 400 upgrade – the XPR. Beechcraft is hoping to certify the upgrade later this year, giving Nextant a two-year head start on bringing the upgraded aircraft to market.
But aside from the Nextant aircraft, Tannahill points to an airworthiness directive thatis developing regarding Hawker 800’s modified with winglets. The AD follows a service bulletin that Aviation Partners issued on May 3 restricting flight to 34,000 ft. on affected aircraft to address oscillation concerns. She stresses that the winglet is not a Beechcraft company modification, but one developed by a third-party provider outside of the company. The AD will not limit aircraft that do not have the modification, she says.
Nextant President Sean McGeough – a former Beechcraft executive – says “It’s unfortunate that Beechcraft would choose not to service customers.” But he says that Nextant is equipped to handle that support: the company provides its own full factory warranties, has its own support network and provides its own parts manufacturer approval (PMA) parts. “We don’t rely on parts from other manufacturers,” McGeough says. He adds that Nextant provides complete engineering support – something he says has come into question.
Further, Nextant is integrated with its new sister company Aerospace Products International (API) on parts distribution to expand its parts reach. Nextant parent Directional Aviation Capital announced April 2 that it had acquired a stake in API.
McGeough believes the company could cover all required parts, but says even if Nextant could not, Beechcraft is legally bound to provide parts.
While Beechcraft questioned Nextant’s use of the term “remanufacturing,” McGeough stresses that the aircraft is completely revamped and delivered like new to customers, to the point where it has a new model designation for FAA approval purposes.
He says the aircraft’s concept is “value-driven” – to be able to bring an aircraft to market without carrying the costs of a $500 million-$1 billion program required to certify a new aircraft. Nextant instead is able to bring an aircraft to market with about $30 million in investment, dramatically reducing the cost-per-aircraft.
The 400XT – and now its XTi successor – will compete head-on with the Beechcraft 400XPR upgrade when it reaches market, likely later this year. When asked if Nextant was interested in purchasing the type certificates of the Hawker 4000 and Premier, McGeough says “we did consider it” but the company chose not to pursue it. But he adds that the company could be interested in the TCs for the other Hawkers – the 400 and 800 programs – should they become available.