A new entry-level bizjet, a pimped out VIP regional and supersonic research. Day 2 highlights from the NBAA 2010 business aviation convention. TIM ROBINSON reports.
Biggest splash of the second day was Piper, which unveiled its revamped PiperJet, now christened Altaire. The single-engined entry-level jet Altaire has had a number of significant changes – from a shorter vertical tail, to a circular cross section fuselage as well as a sleeker profile. The Altaire with a single Williams FJ44-3AP engine will enable the Altaire to be highly competitive against other entry level jets such as the Mustang and Phenom 100. Piper, which now has a new owner in the form of Brunei-based Imprimis, sees the Altaire as being the first of the new family, such as Cessnas CJ1-4. First flight of the Altaire, which even has its own Facebook page, is set for 2012.
Day 2 of the show was also the first official public day – and the opening was preceeded by a press briefing from Ed Bolen from NBAA and Pete Bunce from GAMA (General Aviation Manufacturers Association). They presented the progress the ‘No Plane, No Gain’ business aviation advocacy campaign had made in convincing decision-makers of the value of the sector. Indeed they have now strong backing in Congress, winning over those who had previously been hostile to business aviation. The next step, launched at this show was the appointment of three industry spokesmen with impeccable integrity and credentials – Neil Armstrong, Arnold Palmer and Warren Buffet to put their names to this campaign. Finally, one fact emerged from the briefing about GA and business aviation’s little-known contribution to disaster relief in Haiti following the earthquake. Incredibly some 600 privately owned aircraft, from single engined pistons to Falcon 50s had taken part in this airflift – a Dunkirk-like effort that went largely unreported.
‘Pimp my Avro’ might have been the headline for the latest concept from design consultancy Design Q and BAE Systems for its VIP version of the BAe146/RJX – the Avro Business Jet (ABJ). Two interior concepts Explorer One and Explorer Four have already been unveiled and this third one is a stylish makeover for the ABJ. Aimed at the clubby ‘Entourage’ celebrity set, the Fusion interior looks more like a hip London nightspot than a bizjet, with a 50in HD TV and a bar. The Fusion interior, says BAE is ideal for product launches and that kind of Hollywood social VIP group transportation. BAE is also looking to refresh the exterior of the ABJ, and is talking to winglet specialists Quiet Wing about potentially fitting the aircraft with winglets. Though aerodynamic benefits are possible, winglets would also appeal to the status-concious VIP jet customer too.
After the launch the previous evening, Bombardier gave the press a technical rundown on its two new designs – the Global 7000 and Global 8000. Originally these were a single design – but conflicting requirements from customers (bigger cabin vs longer range) caused Bombardier to seperate it into two aircraft. Both aircraft share the same wing, and same price ($65m), with the 7000 version to have a first flight and entry into service approximately one year ahead of the 8000. Bombardier say the 7000 and 8000 will deliver between 14% and 18% fuel efficency improvements respectively over current long-range bizjets.
While some want long range – others want speed. Aerion Corporation revealed the latest laminar-flow research for its supersonic bizjet. The research, conducted with the help of NASA, saw an instrumented flat-wing section flown on the underside of an F-15 in August. Though Aerion is still on the search for a large OEM to manufacture the aircraft, its orders (50 letters of intent for the $80m aircraft) represent a $4bn backlog, and considering the economic situation have held up extremely well.
Seating specialist B/E Aerospace had brought to the show what they described as a ‘zero-gravity’ chair. Was this some kind of ejection seat for space tourists? The reality was a reclining seat that elevates the knees above the heart, improving breathing and promoting the ultimate in relaxation. Already catching on in the consumer market for the home, B/E have adapted it for the wide cabin large VIP aircraft market. B/E also envisage that the concept is scalable for other bizjets as well as premium class passengers on airlines too. You may not need to book a ticket with Virgin Galactic to experience zero-gravity.