An inordinately long market downturn is followed by first signs of recovery – but hopeful aircraft are still falling by the wayside, even when they emanate from apparently blue chip companies. Other aerospace stalwarts call a pause in development to reconsider if they have really, really adopted the right formula for their new project.

Only the confident – Dassault and Gulfstream – have launched brand new programs since EBACE delegates last gathered in Geneva. And only one personal jet project has recently been resuscitated after finding an oasis in the funding desert which has claimed so many others in what was going to be a thriving sector of the market.

Has the whittling-down of the field finally come to an end? To provide an answer, readers may care to review the following summaries and decide in which venture – airliner conversions disallowed – they would be willing to invest their retirement nest egg. 

Props and Turboprops

Announced in Geneva exactly a year ago, the EVO version of Piaggio Avanti avoids more detailed mention in this column by virtue of having been certified last December. The ‘Socata Twin’ mentioned in previous reviews offers no updates, save that it notionally becomes the ‘Daher Twin’ following the recent obliteration of the famous Socata marque. Ural’s LMS-9 nine-seat twin drops below our horizon, having been “postponed” in the light of Russian financial troubles.

Beechcraft SETP (PD434)

Three years after announcing the 8/11-seat Single-Engine TurboProp, Beechcraft has nothing more to say, except that it is still talking to potential customers. “Stay tuned,” the company adds.

CAIGA/Zhuhai Leadair AG300

When the original Epic company folded in the U.S. China snapped up the rights to its family of large kitbuilt aircraft. The five-seat Escape turboprop lives on as the AG300, which made its ‘official’ first flight last July, powered by an 850 shp. General Electric H85 turboprop. Chinese type certification is due this year. Range is 1,350 nm. and cruise 324 kt.

Diamond DA50-JP7

Flown as long ago as 2007, this five-seat version of the popular DA40 has spent the intervening time searching for the right engine. The ‘Jet Prop 7’ version first took to the air in Austria on 19 January, sporting a 465 shp. AI-450S turbine built by Ukrainian company Motor Sich JSC in collaboration with Ivchenko Progress. Certification of the -JP7 is planned in mid/late-2016 and, in a nod to the Russian market, the standard ‘Speed’ version will be partnered by a large-wheeled ‘Tundra’ model with slotted flaps and enlarged door. The proposed piston-Diesel version continues to wait upon perfection of its proposed AE440 engine.

Diamond DA62

Known until last year as the DA52-VII, and configured for five adults and two children, the unpressurized DA62 flew in April 2012 with a pair of 180 hp. Austro Engine AE300s, gaining its EASA certification as recently as 16 April this year. The unrestricted version offers a 730 kg. useful load, but Europeans seeking to evade air traffic control levies can opt for 470 kg. by declaring a 1,999 kg. MTOW. Priced at $1 million, the full-spec aircraft, grossing 2,300 kg., will cover 1,285 nmi. at FL120 when the auxiliary tank is filled. And, thanks to a new formulation of its composites structure, customers are no longer restricted to a white finish.

Epic E1000

A certified version of the now-discontinued six-seat Epic LT kitplane is under development, but appears to be falling behind schedule, the planned two conforming prototypes yet to be announced as having flown. Claimed to be the “fastest single-engine turboprop on the market” the pressurized E1000 offers 1,385 nmi. range at 325 kt. with its 1,200 hp. (de-rated) PT6-67A turboprop. There’s also a three-screen Garmin G1000 EFIS and a spacious cabin design which was revealed at NBAA Orlando last October. At least 60 are on order, half of them in Russia – which might explain the slowed progress. Price is $2.75 million.

Kestrel K350

Fresh life was breathed into this stagnating venture last month when Kestrel joined with Eclipse to form ONE Aviation under the leadership of the former’s Alan Klapmeier. Following its acquisition of rights to the six-seat, pressurized, carbon composites Farnborough F1 turboprop, Kestrel had introduced far-reaching changes including a new wing planform; displacement of the main spar to pass beneath the cabin; fewer but larger windows; more baggage space; Garmin G3000 avionics; and a swap from PT6 to Honeywell TPE331 power. As such, it was to offer 320 kt. cruise and NBAA IFR range of 1,300 nmi. with six aboard. Kestrel moved to Wisconsin to gain local government funding for a new production plant, but suddenly found itself with less financial support than it believed it had been promised – a shortfall, it is hoped, that has now been remedied.

Nextant G90XT

This reinvigorated version of the venerable Beechcraft King Air 90 was accelerated in development by STCs already obtained by Garmin (G1000 avionics), General Electric (H75 turboprop) and other OEMs. Major elements were flown last year and all came together in January when the definitive aircraft made its first test flight. The $2.3 million G90XT features a handcrafted interior with improved soundproofing; electronic engine control with complete exceedance protection and single-lever power control technology for simplified operations and reduced pilot workload; digital pressurization and all new dual-zone air-conditioning for enhanced ground cooling; and aerodynamic refinements. Certification and first deliveries are imminent.

Piper M600

Piper’s PA-46 M-class has recently been perked-up, the Mirage transmuting into the M350 (certified last month) while the Meridian now answers to M500. Matrix is still Matrix, but there has been a new sibling since 14 April, when the M600 was introduced at AERO in Friedrichshafen. Based on the M500, and with the same PT6A-42A engine, this offers upgrades in performance, range, efficiency, comfort and safety – and a $2.82 million price label. There’s a redesigned wing and new fuel management jointly boosting range with 1,200 lb. payload to 1,300 nm., and the first Garmin 3000 suite in a single-engine turboprop. Passengers get a redesigned interior; pilots get electronic stability protection, underspeed protection, coupled go-around, hypoxia recognition with automatic descent, automatic leveling, and numerous avionics tweaks.

Reims (Cessna) F406 Caravan II

Changes are in store for this 12-passenger twin-turboprop following the acquisition, in March 2014, of bankrupt Reims Aviation Industries by Chinese-owned Continental Motors Inc. Production has resumed in France, but only to finish two incomplete airframes. Thereafter, the project is transferring to Mobile, Alabama, where the F406 will gain new engines before relaunch. These might be PT6A-135s, but, more radically, thought is being given to Continental GTSIO-520s and/or a new Continental CD-310 Diesel powerplant which is under development.

Tecnam P2012 Traveller

The Italian manufacturer hails this replacement for aging Cessna 400-series and Piper PA-31 twins as “the first new Part 23 aircraft for a quarter of a century.” Traveller will be a rugged, 11-passenger transport with high wing and fixed landing gear, powered by a pair of 350 hp. Lycoming TEO-540 flat-sixes running on Avgas or, it is hoped, Mogas. The aircraft will cruise at 170 kt. for 286 nm. plus 45 minutes’ reserves, after taking off from a 1,600 ft. runway. Pure freight and six-person executive versions are among the options. The prototype has yet to fly, but its new manufacturing plant should be completed this year.

Personal Jets

Full certification status for the Eclipse 550 leaves the Cirrus Vision as favorite for the next departure from this listing of hopefuls. The other two offerings are from companies previously untested in the world of aircraft design. We await news from China on which of the former Epic jets will follow the turboprop AG300 into production at Zhuhai.

Cirrus Vision SF50

Back on course after a flurry of Chinese-funded activity last year, the Vision now has three conforming prototypes in the air and expects certification before the end of 2015. Accommodating five-plus-two, this personal mono-jet has “more than 500” customers and sells at a price equivalent to $1.96 million in 2011 dollars. The V-tail jet cruises at 300 kt. on its spine-mounted 1,800-pounds-thrust Williams FJ33, and will cover 480 nm. (NBAA-IFR) at max payload of 1,200lb. or 1,150 nm. with two lean adults aboard.

Flaris LAR1

Although the apparently ready-to-go prototype was unveiled at the 2013 Paris Air Show, this Polish five-seat light jet was only just reported as ready for flight-testing in the days running up to EBACE. It is a piggyback-engined machine optimized for the private pilot, featuring ease of handling; operation from grass airfields of moderate length; automobile-like cabin; and detachable wings for economical storage. Originally stated to be powered by a 1,460-pounds-thrust Pratt & Whitney Canada PW615F, it is now described as merely having “a modern turbofan engine”. For $1.5 million, the LAR1 offers 380 kt. cruising and a two-up range of 1,400 nm. First aircraft, in the Experimental category, are due off the line in 2016. Planned Part 23 certification will take a little longer.

Stratos 714

Following a development hiatus, receipt of further funding has permitted Stratos to begin parts fabrication for the prototype of its Williams FJ44-powered, largely carbon fiber personal jet. With a designation indicating an impressive Mach 0.7 (415 kt.), one engine and four people, the 714 is intended to carry its occupants and their baggage over a 1,500 nmi. NBAA range at up to 41,000 ft. Cabin space per passenger exceeds that of most aircraft of this size.  The rear fuselage’s seemingly inordinate length gives a long tailplane arm, which is part of the design’s docile handling philosophy. Landing speeds and distance requirements for the 714 are considerably below twin-jets, making many more airports accessible to the Stratos, while sidestick control, EFIS cockpit and fully integrated autopilot lighten pilot workload.

Very Light and Light Jets

Recent granting of Type Certificates to the Cessna M2, Cessna CJ3+ and Learjet 70/75 leave Pilatus at the very start of a flight test program and Honda not quite as close to the finishing tape as it thought it would be.

HondaJet

Announcement on 27 March of provisional FAA certification for the HondaJet is not exactly what was promised, but it does, at least, indicate movement in a generally favorable direction. The first production example flew last June and 12 more are in final assembly. However, none will be handed over to customers until certification is upgraded. At $4.5 million for a typically equipped example (including three-screen G3000 avionics), the HondaJet offers accommodation for up to seven, including one or two pilots. Cruise speed is 420 kt. and IFR range with four occupants is 1,180 nmi. plus 45 minutes reserves. Honda’s customer service facility at Greensboro has already obtained Part 145 approval and its HF120 engine has been certified for over a year.

Pilatus PC-24

Another aircraft on the brink of leaping skyward, the PC-24 prototype was pulled out of its hangar on Switzerland’s National Day, last August 1, by a team of 24 horses. Unveiled at the 2013 EBACE, the Williams FJ44-powered twin ‘sold out’ all 84 available production slots on a ‘tote board’ above the company’s booth at last year’s show. Cast in the spirit of the PC-12 turboprop, it has the ability to operate, with up to 12 (including a single pilot) aboard, from unpaved runways of 2,690 ft. There’s a large-volume cabin with freight door and rapidly removable seats, permitting easy reconfiguration for transport, medical evacuation and other roles. Cruising at 425 kt. the $8.9 million PC-24 will cover 1,190 nm. with a 2,500 lb. payload, or 1,950 nm. with four passengers. Pilatus ACE avionics, developed with Honeywell, include a synthetic vision system, autothrottle, graphical flight planning, TCAS II and localizer performance with vertical (LPV) guidance capability. First flight was achieved on May 11.

SyberJet SJ30

After two previous owners of the company failed to ship more than four production aircraft to customers between them, Swearingen’s SJ30 passed into the hands of SyberJet in April 2011 at the bargain price of $19 million. An unhurried product improvement program has resulted in two new sub-variants: standard SJ30i with a new interior, plus Honeywell SyberVision avionics suite comprising four 12-in. LCDs; and SJ30x, which augments this with more powerful FJ44-3AP-25 engines replacing the -2A version. Deliveries (aircraft #5) will start next year from a brand new center at Cedar City, Utah. Despite its age, the $7.25 million SJ30 delivers high performance, including Mach 0.83 maximum cruising and a three-pax NBAA IFR range (SJ30i) of 2,130 nm.

Midsize and Super-Midsize

This sector is where the action is – not all of it positive, as evidenced by removal of the Learjet 85 after Bombardier chose to suspend the program in January, a few months after the prototype had flown. Some question marks hang over the Falcon 5X and Cessna Longitude timetables, while it is now clear from last November’s Zhuhai Air Show that one or more indigenous Chinese business jets could be included in this size category in a few years.

Cessna Latitude

A prototype and three production Latitudes flew in 2014, the aircraft due to achieve certification in the second half of this year as Cessna’s answer to the Embraer Legacy 450. The second production machine, with a representative interior, made the public debut at NBAA Orlando last October. For $16.25 million 2011 dollars customers will get a pair of PW306D1 engines attached to Cessna’s widest-yet passenger cabin with stand-up access throughout its length of more than 16 ft. and accommodation for two crew, plus between seven and nine passengers. G5000 avionics, autothrottles and Clarity cabin management are included. Payload with full fuel is intended to be 1,000 lb. and latest range estimates are for 2,700 nm.

Cessna Longitude

Recent Wichita whispers suggest the Longitude might be longer than expected – in both fuselage extent and timescale. The all-new, 12-passenger Model 800 is typical Citation, with metal monocoque structure, 30-degree wing sweepback, T-tail, twin podded engines and manual controls, apart from fly-by-wire rudder and roll spoilers. That said, Safran-Snecma Silvercrest turbofans, each of some 11,000 pounds thrust, are a departure from the norm. There’s also an Intrinzic flight deck with Garmin G5000 three-screen EFIS, complete with synthetic vision. As announced at EBACE in 2012, the $26 million Longitude was intended to have a range of 4,000 nm. (not including diversion reserve) at cruise at speeds up to Mach 0.86. It was due to fly in 2016 and start deliveries at the end of 2017, though the reported design re-think may push these estimates to the right.

Dassault Falcon 5X

The “largest and most advanced Falcon jet” is due to be flown in the second quarter of this year, on its way to late 2016 certification, but has not yet put in an appearance. Two 11,450-pounds-thrust Safran-Snecma Silvercrest turbofans will convey 16 passengers and three crew in an 8 ft. 6 in. wide cabin at speeds up to Mach 0.85. Estimated ranges with eight passengers are 4,750 nmi., increasing to 5,200 nmi. at a more economical Mach 0.80. Naturally, there’s a Honeywell EASy cockpit, including HUD; plus in-flight engine health monitoring, a new wing and other advanced technologies. Price is $45 million at 2013 values.

Embraer Legacy 450

This shorter version of the Legacy 500 is following about a year behind its big brother, so Brazilian certification is expected within the next couple of months. Seating between seven and nine, the $15 million 450 first flew in December 2013 and promises 2,500 nmi. NBAA range with four passengers at Mach 0.78. Power comes from a pair of Honeywell HTF7500E turbofans of 6,080 pounds thrust each. Legacy 450/500 are the first in their classes with fly-by-wire technology and the option to fit a Rockwell Collins HGS-3500 compact HUD and related EVS-3000 enhanced vision system.

Gulfstream G500 and G600

Given the choice of all numbers between zero and infinity, Gulfstream chose to re-use G500 when launching its new pair of related business jets last October. In fact, the shorter-fuselage, three-cabin G500 will be first to fly (some time soon), achieve certification (2017), and begin deliveries (2018), with the four-cabin G600 following about 12-18 months behind. Prices are $43.5 million and $54.5 million respectively (2014), but both are designed for 18 passengers, not including up to four crew. Pratt & Whitney PW800-series turbofans provide the power for eight-passenger flights spanning 5,000 nmi. (G500) or 6,200 nmi. (G600).

Ultra-Long Range

Bombardier is discomforted by Dassault’s rapid and opportunistic insertion of the Falcon 8X into this sector, while Gulfstream has equally speedily rushed an extended range G650 into service.

Bombardier Global 7000 and 8000

Bombardier has afforded these business jets higher priority than the unfortunate Learjet 85, but whether that means the 7000 will make its maiden flight this year, as planned, still is not certain. Derivatives of the Global 6000 long-range twinjet, the pair have different fuselage stretches: 11 ft. 3 in. for the 17-seat 7000, and just 2 ft. 3 in. for the 13-seat 8000. A pair of 16,500-pounds-thrust GE Passport 20 turbofans is common to both. The 8000 spans 7,900 nmi. under NBAA conditions with four crew and eight passengers, while the 7000 will reach 7,300 nmi. with four crew and 10 passengers. Long-range cruise for both is at Mach 0.85, but 0.90 is attainable over shorter distances. When announced in 2010, cost was in the region of $65 million.

Dassault Falcon 8X

Announced at EBACE last year, the latest Dassault tri-jet appears to have leapfrogged the 5X to make its first flight on 6 February. Certification and deliveries are due before the end of next year. Essentially, the aircraft is a Falcon 7X with a 1.10 m. (3 ft. 7 in.) fuselage stretch divided between fore-and-aft increments; a Falcon 5X cockpit; 5% extra power; and a more efficient and lighter wing. Max load is 19 passengers and three crew but, more realistically, eight-plus-three can travel 6,450 nm., NBAA IFR, at Mach 0.80, in a cabin atmosphere of 4,000 ft. at FL410. Price is unofficially understood to be around $57 million.

Large Jets

Re-engined twinjets from the two major manufacturers feature prominently, now that the VIP Sukhoi Superjet has been certified (December 2014) and the Bombardier CSeries business derivative deferred until the airliner is satisfactorily in service.

Airbus ACJ350

The A350 XWB airliner entered airline service in December. C-Jet of Hong Kong ordered the first Airbus Corporate Jet ACJ350 in November 2007, and eight for various customers were on the books three years ago. Today, a solitary mid-length -900 remains under contract for an undisclosed, non-airline operator. Range is 10,050 nm. with 25 passengers, and it is powered by a pair of 84,000-pounds-thrust RR Trent XWB-84 turbofans. Airline A350-900s cost around $305 million.

Boeing BBJ MAX

In April 2014, Boeing announced its first order for the next-generation BBJ in the form of a MAX 8, equivalent in fuselage length terms to a BBJ2. Delivery to a cabin outfitter is due in 2018. With CFM LEAP-1B engines, the 737 MAX offers 14% greater fuel economy and an increased range of 6,325 nm. in -8 form, while a stretched BBJ MAX 9 goes 6,255 nm. Boeing is still considering the launch of a shrunk MAX 7 equivalent to the original BBJ.

COMAC ARJ21 Xiangfeng

Certified in December and now in route-proving commercial service, China’s 90-seat ARJ21-700 airliner obtained one order and two MoUs last year from two companies which will use it in the executive transport role. No data have been released regarding any specific modifications for business use.

Supersonics

An interesting and promising 12 months has just passed for ‘the last man left standing’ in this challenging sector.

Aerion AS2

A significantly redesigned Aerion model was displayed at EBACE last year, sporting three engines (type to be announced) in place of the previous two. Shortly thereafter, Airbus announced it was to make a “substantial commitment of resources” to the program, including transfer of key technical staff to Aerion’s HQ at Reno, Nevada. There’s also a subtle change to the business plan, which will see Aerion lead the $3-4 billion project with a group of contracted OEMs, rather than hand it over to OEMs to build. Range target is still 5,000 nm. Aerion plans to have the AS2 flying in 2019 and certified in 2021 at a target price of $100 million. On the touchy question of noise, Aerion says that its technology allows ‘boomless’ cruise at up to Mach 1.2 using atmospheric diffraction, while where no restrictions exist, the AS2 will reach Mach 1.6.