UPDATE/CORREX: Air Force to Switch Training Horses?


UPDATE/CORRECTION: A sharp-eyed reader pointed out to me what a  not-so sharp-eyed editor (me) missed in the Air Force's RFI -- Reference speeds were in knots, calibrated airspeed (KCAS).

While the Mustang, according to Cessna can fly at maximum airspeed of 340KTAS (kt, true airspeed), it's maximum KCAS (knots, calibrated airspeed) is 250kt, according to the FAA certification document.

Wikipedia says thusly:

The Eclipse 500, on the other hand, has a maximum KEAS (knots, equivalent airspeed) of 275kt, according to the FAA, which let's say is approximately equal to 275KCAS. 

So the Eclipse is certainly faster than the Mustang.

Regardless, the same sharp-eyed reader points out that the RFI is a starting point only, and that an RFP, if issued, will better reflect achievable performance numbers for the VLJs that might make the cut.


The U.S. Air Force appears to be targeting the Cessna Mustang Very Light Jet (VLJ) to train its next generation of multi-crew aircraft, yet another hit to current provider Hawker Beechcraft with its T-1A Jayhawk, a version of the Beechjet 400A.

Hawker recently revealed that it plans to emerge from bankruptcy as a producer of turboprops and piston-powered aircraft only. 

Miserly fuel burn rather than Hawker’s rocky road appears to be behind the move, however.

In a November 1 request for information, the service is asking for a vendor who can train 700 pilots in 15 classes per year (a new class starts every three weeks) in VLJs and VLJ simulators. Training is to include:

• Low-level operations on Military Training Routes down to 500' as a single-ship or in 2-ship formation
• Conduct simulated air refueling as both tanker and receiver
• Conduct simulated air drop (low altitude)

The preferred aircraft is a VLJ that can seat two pilots and an instructor (one of whom is in a jump seat), with as many as four extra seats in the back. The aircraft must be capable of cruising at 340kt at 500ft agl, and must have a maximum crosswind capability on a dry runway of 25kt.

A quick look at specifications quickly rules out two of the three VLJs on the market today: Eclipse Aerospace’s EA500 is too slow (275kt max) and Embraer’s Phenom 100 does not have the crosswind capability (17kt max).

Cessna’s Citation Mustang is almost just right…

There’s one major hitch with my analysis here. In the RFI, the Air Force says the VLJ is to be a commercial off-the-shelf product in the Part 25 category, which is odd because VLJs, originally, were to weigh less than 10,000lb, in part to fall into the less stringent Part 23 certification category.

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