NBAA 2016 : between uncertainty and pragmatism
By : Frédéric Vergnères
Copyright : Frédéric Vergnères / NBAA
On November 1 to 3, Orlando welcomed once again the National Business Aviation Association trade show. A key event that is reflected by strong participation both in terms of exhibitors and in the number of visitors.
Despite the sluggish market, this year’s NBAA did not lack for innovation. Especially for aircraft manufactures which, despite a challenging sales context, are striving to modernize their existing lines and develop new products. This cautious attitude is confirmed in Honeywell’s annual market forecasts which expects 8,600 aircraft to be delivered over the next decade. A figure that is nevertheless down 7% from last year’s study. As a result, all professionals remain cautious as regards the future and are trying to develop new market niches in order to secure their investments. Despite the market uncertainty as well as the forecasts, the event held in Florida welcomed over 1,000 exhibitors and 27,000 professionals. The static display, split into two sections, presented 114 aircraft including some new beauties that came out especially for the occasion.
CESSNA TURNS ONCE AGAIN TO THE SILVERCREST
Let’s begin with Cessna. One year after unveiling the Longitude at the NBAA, Cessna presented for the first time its aircraft on the static display and less than one month after its first flight. Cessna used this event to focus on the program’s progress and especially the performance of the twinjet. The range of the aircraft was also changed to 3,500nm, i.e. 100nm more than initially planned. The same applies to the kerosene payload that was increased from 1,500 (680 kg) to 1,600 lbs (725 kg). With the program’s progress and the flight of the second prototype in late November, Cessna expects to receive certification of its super midsize by the end of 2017. As regards its other programs, Cessna reported on the Hemisphere. This twinjet, which falls into the large-cabin aircraft category will be the largest aircraft ever built by the firm. According to Scott Ernest, President and CEO of Textron, “For the first time in more than 20 years, the large-cabin segment will see a clean-sheet design aircraft with the Citation Hemisphere”. A major challenge for the aircraft manufacturer which also presented new program specifications. Cessna indicated that it had selected Silvercrest to supply the engine. A comeback for the French manufacturer with Cessna after it had stopped using Silvercrest on the Longitude last year. As for avionics, Cessna will equip the Hemisphere with Honeywell’s Primus Epic system as well as for the first time in manufacturer’s history, an electronic flight command system supplied by Thales. In addition to this announcement, Cessna also unveiled the interior cabin of the future twinjet with a full-scale mockup of its fuselage. Capable of welcoming up to 19 passengers and 2.6 meters wide, the Hemisphere’s cabin will feature three separate cabin zones and will include all-new seats specially designed for the Cessna model. With this twinjet expected to take flight for the first time in 2019, Cessna is openly aiming its expertise at new markets while entering the race against actors such as Gulfstream and Dassault that until now were not direct competitors.
PC-24 CROSSES THE ATLANTIC
Second major new aircraft present on the tarmac of the Orlando Executive Airport was the PC-24. The twinjet developed by Pilatus crossed the Atlantic for the first time in order to be presented at the trade show. A very strategic move for the Swiss manufacturer on a continent where it has been particularly successful with the sales of its PC-12. Pilatus is counting on the North American market (the world’s top market) to develop sales of its “all-terrain” twinjet. The presentation of the P02 prototype on the static display also allowed the manufacturer to reveal a little more on the current program. The two prototypes have combined more than 1,000 test flight hours on more than 600 flights. According to Oscar J. Schwenk, Chairman of the Board of Directors for Pilatus, “The data collected so far indicates that our super versatile jet is likely to perform even better than previously announced.” He added that updated performance data would be published for the next European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition in May 2017 in Geneva. A third prototype is expected to join the test fleet by early 2017. The latter will help to wrap up the aircraft certification in the third quarter of 2017 and an entry into service for the PC-24 before the end of the year. In addition to test flights, Pilatus also indicated that it had made significant progress in the field of crew training and customer support. Pilatus accordingly developed its own training unit by integrating a motion-based flight simulator in cooperation with Flight- Safety International. Pilatus also provided an update on its maintenance program, CrystalCare. It will include a program of options to select scheduled or last minute maintenance work in order to apply cost variations. As regards the market, Pilatus remains optimistic. In 2016, the aircraft manufacturer reported 20% growth in sales of its PC-12NG up from 2015. Pilatus delivered 90 of these aircraft during the year. For 2017, Pilatus expects to deliver 1,500 PC-12.
EMBRAER UNVEILS THE LEGACY 650E
Arriving in force with its entire catalog, the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer presented a new version of its Legacy 650, the 650E. With this new E version, Embraer wanted to upgrade an aircraft derived from the EMB-135J as well as the Legacy 600. Embraer wished to introduce updated automation and other systems. The E version twinjet, that will enter into service in 2017 at a price of $25.9 million will have a synthetic vision system as part of the latest Primus Elite Advanced Features. In addition to the various avionics updates such as the installation of a traffic collision avoidance system and XM ground-based weather information to the moving map, the new cockpit on the 650E will be equipped with two iPads as part of the Electronic Flight Bad (EFB). The improved user interface appears to have been one of the drivers of this new update. The upgrade also made several changes to the cabin interior featuring new shades while keeping the three distinct cabin zones as one of the key factors of success of the aircraft. In addition to its new aircraft, Embraer also presented on the tarmac the latest version of its entry-range twinet, the Phenom 100EV. The aircraft comes with a livery specially inspired by the electric flight control of the Legacy 450 and 500, is the latest version of the aircraft initially launched in 2005. The EV version also features a Prodigy Touch screen system integrated with the Garmin 300 avionics architecture. The Brazilian aircraft manufacturer selected Pratt & Whitney to power its aircraft with a modernized version of the PW617F. More powerful but with less fuel consumption, the PW617F1-E engine was chosen for the aircraft. According to Embraer the twinjet will be certified in 2017.
DASSAULT RELAUNCHES THE 900LX AND PREPARES FOR THE FUTURE
To celebrate its centenary, Dassault Aviation once again made headlines during the NBAA trade show. With its Falcon 8X having just entered into service, the French aircraft manufacturer shared the development of a new cabin on board its Falcon 900LX trijet. Dassault remains enthusiastic in terms of this aircraft for which more than 500 units have been produced. It is therefore logical that Dassault would chose to integrate new innovations, for certain issues stemming directly from the 8X program. The cabin interior has been entirely redesigned “to better match current standards” as highlighted by Olivier Villa, CEO of the Dassault’s civil division. The cabin design has been rendered more fluid to improve the feeling of space. Engineers also paid particular attention to the integration of new equipment. Also included is a new LED mood lighting system that produces both high-quality traditional white light and a selection of programmable mood lighting. The new acoustics are derived from the Falcon 8X and reduce cabin noise by two decibels. The new cabin will be compatible with the latest high-speed connectivity systems and will feature the FalconCabin HD+ program using a fiber optic network to distribute audio and video content. The cockpit will integrate the new FalconEye combined Heads Up Display as well as the new integrated electronics “Flight bag” solution dubbed Falcon Sphere II. Following this announcement, the 100-year old manufacturer also provided an update on the pace of production of its Falcon 8X which includes 32 aircraft already produced. The aircraft also received two new certifications; one in Brazil and the second in the United Arab Emirates. India is expected to certify the aircraft before the end of the year. Concerning the Falcon 5X, Eric Trappier is confident and confirmed that deliveries of the aircraft would begin in 2020. By then, Dassault may however have announced the arrival of a new aircraft. The CEO stated that Dassault engineers are working with the marketing and sales teams “to know the needs of tomorrow’s market and especially to prepare for the arrival of a new Falcon when the time arises”.
GULFSTREAM ON TRACK FOR THE G600
Gulfstream unveiled a new interior for its G500 during the NBAA. An interior which, according to the aircraft manufacturer, was designed in close collaboration with a customer panel. The cabin design is derived from the one presented on the G600 mockup last year during the same event. Among the distinctive elements that stand out are the new ergonomic seats. The floor has also been redesigned with the possibility for full customization, especially with stone or wood that may be selected as an option. The G500 cabin presented during the event revealed the choice of two contrasted shades in order to differentiate the different zones of the aircraft. The latter offers three separate living spaces capable of accommodating up to 19 passengers. While the cabin on the G500 is in the final development phase, Gulfstream announced that it had delivered the first prototype of the G600 to the flight test center in Savannah. The first flight of the aircraft is expected in a matter of days. The aircraft underwent instrumentation and has completed ground vibration testing. Four additional prototypes will join the first prototype to successfully complete the testing. For the time being, over 55,000 test hours have been conducted for both the G600 and G500 programs. The G500 program which has been making good progress, with the start of tests on a fully-fitted aircraft, is expected to result in the certification of the aircraft by US authorities in 2017 and the first deliveries are scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2017. While the two programs were the focus of the manufacturer’s news, it also indicated that it had delivered its 200th G650 and its 10th G280. The twinjet, which becomes with the withdrawal of the G150 from the catalog Gulfstream’s entry range family, also demonstrated its performance by obtaining the “steep approach” certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Israeli civil aviation authorities. This new capability will enable the G280 to access key areas such as London City.
BREATHING SPACE FOR BOMBARDIER
The Canadian manufacturer was unable to celebrate the first flight of the Global 7000 during the NBAA. The first prototype of the aircraft (FTV1) took its maiden flight on November 4, the day after the Orlando event ended. This very important step for Bombardier is expected to enable the Global 7000 to enter into service in the second half of 2018. The maiden flight, which lasted 2 hours and 27 minutes, allowed the crew Ed Grabman, Jeff Karnes and Jason Nickel to testing basic system functionality and assessing the handling and flying qualities of the aircraft. The flight crew conducted a gradual climb to 6,096 m (20,000 feet) and the aircraft reached a planned test speed of 240 knots. This first flight was especially awaited since the manufacturer has undergone some turbulence in recent months. And since good things come in pairs, Bombardier also announced that it had reported solid performance in terms of sales and deliveries during the third quarter of the year. Its restructuring plan which was launched less than two years ago enabled Bombardier to deliver 36 aircraft during this period. Accordingly, 7 Learjet, 19 Challenger and 10 Global were delivered bringing the total deliveries for the year up to 109. The aircraft manufacturer also ensured that it was on track to exceed the 150 units of aircraft delivered in 2016.
As regards orders for the third quarter, Bombardier announced having recorded 30 aircraft in its order books or a total of 122 aircraft since the beginning of the year. These orders include those for Zetta Jet which officially announced the purchase of four Challenger 650 twinjets during the trade show. This order follows the signature of a contract entered into between the Chinese firm Misheng Financial Leasing Co, Zetta Jet and Bombardier Business Aircraft. The contract is valued at around $129.4 million.
SF50 VISION CERTIFIED
After a launch in 2006 and few years out of the spotlight, the Cirrus Vision Jet SF50 is back. This single-engine aircraft aimed at the very light jet market obtained certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) during NBAA. More than a new aircraft, it is the first certified personal single-engine aircraft to enter into aviation history. And the manufacturer now under Chinese control counts on taking advantage of this to develop sales of its $1.96 million aircraft. This “pocket jet” is primarily intended for owners wishing to advance from the Cirrus light aircraft range to a jet. All while keeping the same avionics ergonomics. Furthermore, the aircraft is also closing in on turboprops such as the TBM 900 or the Kestrel especially in terms of performance. As a reminder, the aircraft has a cruising speed of 300 kts (555 km/h) with a maximum range of 1,250 nm (2,011 km). The factory based in Duluth, Minnesota must deliver the first units in December and is already preparing to release one unit per week throughout 2017. The aircraft manufacturer also stated that it had already produced 10 series aircraft.