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Read our latest feature:   Show issue: MEBAA
Me & my aircraft; Super midsize jets: Latest models bring advanced technology to super midsize arena
The online charter marketplace Avinode is predicting that the super midsize sector will be the worst affected of all by a downturn in European air charter during 2013.

The online charter marketplace Avinode is predicting that the super midsize sector will be the worst affected of all by a downturn in European air charter during 2013. It suggests that super midsize charter flight hours might fall by as much as 9.1 per cent, although northern Europe could be less affected than the southern countries. This is in stark contrast to the United States, where it believes charter demand for super midsize jets will increase next year.

EBAN's readers fly 845 super midsize jets throughout the EMEA region, and for this report we asked some of them to tell us about their experiences.

Challenger 601/604/605

A handful of the original Challenger 600 model remain in service in South Africa, Bulgaria, Germany, Ireland and the UK, with retrofitted winglets, but the majority of the EMEA fleet are the subsequent variants with factory winglets produced after 1983.

Challenger 601s are still relatively common, in service with the Czech police and the government of Gambia, as well as a host of charter companies. Hangar 8 has four of the variant under its wing.

But the majority of the EMEA fleet comprises the more recent 604 and 605 models. The largest fleets are in the hands of TAG (five 604s and six 605s) and VistaJet with ten of the most recent model. Other specialists include Elit'Avia in Slovenia, ExecuJet Middle East, Arab Wings, Air Lazur in Bulgaria and Hangar 8 again.

The programme has reached a significant milestone with the entry into service of the 200th Challenger 605. The aircraft was handed over to its anonymous owner during a ceremony at the factory in October, with hundreds of proud employees in attendance.

"The Challenger 600 aircraft series was a trailblazer in business aviation and is now the largest fleet in the category worldwide with over 850 aircraft in service," says Steve Ridolfi, president of Bombardier Business Aircraft.

Operators will soon be able to take advantage of an upgrade to the 605 designed to enhance safety and reduce the necessity to divert in poor weather, following the US FAA's approval of the Rockwell Collins head-up guidance system for the type. When the runway environment is sensed and projected on the HGS, 605 operators can continue on final approach below minima to 100 feet above ground level before needing sight of the runway.

The aircraft's manufacturer, Bombardier, goes to great lengths to obtain operator feedback with its customer advisory boards, and so EBAN is delighted to take on board the opinions of Europe's only voting representative, Martin Spiegl of Germany's Imperial Jet Europe.

"Most of the members are from the US," he says. "I am the only member in Europe and as I also cover the Middle East, there are only two of us representing that region."

He is a member of the advisory board for the CL600, CL800 and Learjet series, and is keen to encourage others to join. "The board was a bit US-centric, but now has members from the Middle East, Mexico and elsewhere," he says. The board's meetings are webcast for customers.

Imperial Jet Europe has one each of the 604 and 605 models, and Spiegl is very satisfied with the level of manufacturer support he receives: "There are great field service representatives, good technical support and increased parts availability in Europe.

"We are quite happy with the reliability and the technical support of the aircraft. We are encouraging Bombardier to work on the extension of the maintenance intervals, as the 604/605 platform is well-proven and we are confident that enough data is available to extend the maintenance intervals, which would help all owners and operators to save maintenance costs.

"It is a versatile aircraft, almost all missions needed are possible, and is the backbone of our fleet."

In terms of value for money, Spiegl believes there is room for improve-ment. "Technical publications are expensive compared to other manufacturers, and the iPad solution is more expensive than the paper versions."

The aircraft's best aspect is, he feels, its reliability and comfort; while the worst thing is fuel efficiency: "It would be about time to have better fuel efficiency, although the engines are the most reliable.

"We operate the two models in the same way, but given the advanced technology, it is easier to support a 605 than a 604. For example, all charting is electronic on the 605 while on the 604 we are shipping vast amounts of paper around the world to update our Jeppesen charts. Also for passenger comfort, the 605 is slightly more advanced in terms of inflight entertainment and Airshow."

Falcon 2000

The second most prolific super midsize jet in the EMEA region is Dassault's Falcon 2000 in all its variants. There are a handful of operators in South Africa and Saudi Arabia, but the type is yet to make its mark throughout the rest of Africa and the Middle East. However, it is popular in all corners of Europe.

Fractional operator NetJets has 17 on the Portuguese register, while Air Alsie in Denmark leads the way among charter operators with a managed fleet of no fewer than ten examples. Sirio in Italy operates eight and TAG Aviation seven, while Saudi Arabia's National Private Air Transport Services, Spain's Audeli and Switzerland's Jet Aviation nurture four each.

These larger fleets mostly feature a mixture of the original Falcon 2000s and its later variants, the EX and LX.

Dassault has now launched the Falcon 2000LXS, offering improved airport performance, payload and cabin comfort compared to the 2000LX which it will replace in 2014. The 2000LXS will allow operators to access more airports because of new full-length inboard slats which are said to give the aircraft category-leading airport performance and balanced field length.

It will offer a range of 4,000nm (standard aircraft, full fuel, six pax, NBAA IFR reserves, 85 per cent Boeing Annual Winds), will climb directly to 41,000 feet in 19 minutes, and will need just 2,260 feet of runway to land. This is no longer than that needed for a turboprop aircraft, says Dassault.

City pairs possible will include New York to Berlin; Paris to New York or Delhi; and Dubai to Hong Kong or London City.

The cabin sound level within the Falcon 2000LXS has been lowered by two decibels compared to its prede-cessor. It will be delivered standard with an entirely new FalconCabin HD+ cabin management system that places more controls and greater convenience into the hands of passengers. The system provides high definition viewing on monitors up to 22 inches with functions that can be controlled from anywhere in the aircraft via an iPod Touch or iPhone. A dedicated application allows passengers to control video playback, operate optional electronic window shades and adjust the lights, temperature and other cabin parameters to their liking.

The AirCell Axxess II satcom system will be included as a standard feature, as will EASy II in the cockpit. It should be certified in the first half of 2013 with deliveries beginning in 2014.

Guido Schallmo, chief pilot and flight department manager of ThyssenKrupp Dienstleistungen GmbH, is satisfied with every aspect of his Falcon 2000 EX EASy: He appreciates the modern cockpit, very good performance, the aerodynamics and nice cabin. "We are very happy with our Falcon, especially the reliability," he says.

"We got the HUD when we took delivery of the aircraft in April 2007 and we use it every time for all take off and approaches. We were also the first Falcon 2000 EASy operator worldwide who got the Cat III A (HUD III) certification."

If Schallmo has any criticism of the 2000, then it is simply its "high price".

Mehmet Yuksel Hocaoglu of Swan Aviation agrees on the cost issue, but is very satisfied with the performance and reliability of his Falcon 2000LX.

However, Jeroen van Wees of Metterwoon/Flying Group, responding to our survey earlier this year, is very satisfied with the value for money offered by the 2000EX EASy and 2000LX, citing their excellent range, comfort and climb performance. He considers them to be "flexible, high class, comfortable, state-of-the-art aircraft."

He has just a few small criticisms: The 2000 can sometimes have minor, but irritating, electronic glitches; the type rating is not convertible to Falcon 900 EASy; and it has a small cargo door.

Legacy 600/650

The relative newcomer in business jet manufacturing, Embraer, has made remarkable inroads into the super midsize fleet and has now delivered over 100 Legacy 600/650 aircraft into the EMEA region. These have permeated throughout the region, with examples around Europe, in the Middle East and around Africa. They are especially prevalent in the UK, but also in Russia and Nigeria.

London Executive Aviation has seven on its fleet, and there are several operators with five, including ABS Jets in the Czech Republic, TAG Aviation and Prestige Jets in the UAE.

The 650 model, introduced just a couple of years ago, can already be found in Morocco, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the UK.

Embraer's latest innovation is to extend its new eTechPubs iPad app beyond the Phenom aircraft to include the Legacy 600 and 650, elim-inating the need to carry a 40lb flight bag filled with paper manuals.

"With this new app, operators will also have all the information they need to operate and service their aircraft in the palm of their hand," says Edson Carlos Mallaco, vp customer support and services. "This, and other apps we are developing, are part of our strategy to support a paperless cockpit by putting support solutions on tablets and other mobile devices. This effort also includes developing a paperless maintenance base."

Operators with a valid technical manual revision service can use the eTechPubs app to download all technical manuals to a single iPad as part of their subscription. It also works without an internet connection.

Slovenian Legacy 600 operator, Linxair's Zdenko Dremel is happy to congratulate Embraer on the progress made in building a customer support network. "Maintenance support has advanced from 2007 (and before) when it was at a low level with few authorised service centres, to well organised, widely spread European and US support now. This means Embraer has slowly but constantly been improving its overall customer support," he says.

Not that support is often required, as the Legacy is a tough aircraft that seldom leaves an operator in an AOG situation: "Mostly you will be able to make a tech flight in accordance with MEL to a suitable maintenance service. It is a very independent, airliner-based business jet," says Dremel.

Despite having unreliable galley equipment, needing a slightly longer runway, flying lower than the competition and requiring longer pre- and post-flight crew work because of its airliner construction and systems, the Legacy scores highly with Dremel for its "amazing three-zone passenger cabin, the best baggage space in its category, acceptable range, and crew and passenger-friendly equipment.

"If we consider today's market prices, then the investment in a new Legacy 600/650 is high," he says. "But used, at a few years old, the Legacy 600 could be the best buy in an aviator's life! Used market prices are well below the real operational value and your commercial potential. The Legacy 600 is built for the charter market."

He does have one word of warning, though. "This is a complex business jet, not for beginners without corporate or commercial experience. It's not a 'one man band' aircraft. You need an aviation organisation team behind you."

The Legacy would benefit, he believes, from a new and uncomplicated water supply system for galley and toilets, the latest modern e-charts and avionics, and a lighter passenger and maintenance-friendly interior of seats, sofas and sidewalls like the BMW Design in the Legacy 500.

Dremel proposes that the Legacy 600/650 will be eclipsed by a rising new star – its younger modern brother the Legacy 500, which will have lower operating costs and top technology. "But if a good Embraer is replaced with a better Embraer, then Embraer is still a winner, isn't it?" he concludes.

Depreciating value is a concern for Legacy 600 operator Ammr Shaladi of Vibroair Flugservice, who believes that his asset may have fallen by up to 35 per cent. But he is satisfied with every other aspect of the aircraft: "It is clear and easy to operate, with nice range and relaibility in terms of maintenance," he reports.

A final, anonymous, owner gave his verdict on the aircraft, reporting satisfaction overall, with the wide cabin a positive feature, and the cost of spare parts the negative.

Challenger 300

There are single Challenger 300s flying in Saudi Arabia, Mauritius and South Africa, but otherwise the fleet in our region is firmly centred on Europe and Russia. It is notably popular in Germany.

They are mainly operated in ones or twos, but there is a substantial fleet of six in the hands of Amira Air in Austria (see front cover story). This is likely to be surpassed in the future as NetJets has recently placed an order for up to 150 of the type, and some of these are heading for the European fleet.

Operators reporting back in our survey, such as Guy Arend of Premiair SA, are very satisfied with the aircraft, with one anonymous reader praising its overall balance of price, capabilities, cabin and cost of operation, while being less enthusiastic about its noise levels and windows.

Sovereign

Eight years have passed since the introduction to service of Cessna's Citation Sovereign, and in that time it has found favour all around Europe, but especially in Germany and Turkey. There is one in Jordan and one in Saudi Arabia, and the African continent boasts four in South Africa and no fewer than ten in Egypt. The latter is host to the largest fleet in our region; the five Sovereigns flown by Smart Aviation Company include the first to have been equipped for medevac operations.

At the recent NBAA Convention Cessna displayed an enhanced model for the first time, with increased range, updated technologies and improved capabilities. This features Garmin G5000 avionics, range increased by 150nm, Pratt & Whitney PW306D engines, new cabin amenities including the integrated Cessna Clarity cabin management system, in addition to improved seat design, improved short runway performance, integrated automatic throttles, winglets and improved ground cooling performance.

Line flow has already started on the New Citation Sovereign, and entry into service is expected in the early third quarter of 2013. The New Sovereign will also be available with a utility configuration, with options to carry payload, people, or both, depending on the requirements of the mission.

Capt John Bean of The Private Jet Company welcomes the introduction of the Garmin flightdeck, as he is not a fan of the Honeywell system. He believes the current Sovereign "is a fantastic all-rounder, extremely suitable for long or short flights."

Falcon 50

Out of production for some four years now, Falcon 50s remain in service around Europe and Africa, as well as in the UAE. They are popular with governments especially, and flown in this role in France, Gabon, Libya, Morocco, Portugal, Serbia, South Africa and Sudan.

European operators will soon be able to take advantage of an important retrofit upgrade, in the form of performance-enhancing winglets. The FAA granted STC approval for the Aviation Partners Inc winglets in September following an 18-month development programme and exhaustive flight testing.

The first Falcon 50 equipped with blended winglets was on show at EBACE earlier this year. It benefits from drag reduction, and corresponding range increase, of five per cent at Mach .80 and more than seven per cent at long range cruise.

The aircraft arrived in Geneva from Seattle's Boeing Field with a stop in Keflavik. Pilots Dave Hurley, Bo Corby and John Reinhold reported a significant improvement in initial cruise altitude and fuel burn on the initial leg of the trip.

"We are excited to be showcasing the rebirth of the Falcon 50," says Joe Clark, API founder and ceo. "Between blended winglets and the other modern upgrades available for the 50 we expect to see this airframe around for a very long time to come."

Challenger 800

The Challenger 800 and its current incarnation, the 850, are derived from the CRJ200 airliner, and have entered service around Europe and the Middle East.

The leading operator is VistaJet in Austria with four of the type, but there are others; Imperial Jet Europe, Kogalymavia in Russia, TAG and ExecuJet.

Charles Will reports general satisfaction with the Challenger 850 which he operates. It benefits from a large and spacious cabin, but has relatively poor range and climb capability: "My aircraft is the only Challenger 850 I know of not to have the extra fuel tanks fitted in the rear baggage area. So the range is relatively poor for that size of aircraft; even less than the CRJ, from which it is derived, because it is so much heavier (empty weight).

"Installing internal tanks on a completed aircraft could be done, but at a heavy cost in terms of down-time and money. In other words, I would like it – but the owner wouldn't!"

Martin Spiegl of Imperial Jet Europe benefits from the extra range of the Challenger 850ER. "There is loads of line maintenance available due to CRJ200 communality," he says. "Field service representatives and technical support are very engaged, and dispatch reliability is up to airline standard, which is exceptional for the business jet segment."

The aircraft is very efficient, but heavy on the interior, which limits the payload with full fuel, he adds, and expensive spare parts like windshields have different part numbers than on the CRJ200, although they are the same parts. "This routes the spare parts business back to Bombardier, as I cannot buy parts from big commercial airlines. and so the pricing stays high.

"It is a good aircraft with a great cabin for reasonable money, if the range is not needed."

Envoy 3

The home of the Dornier 328 – from which the Envoy 3 is an adaptation – is Germany, so it is no surprise that the largest population of the type is located there.

Kristoffer Sundberg is the charter manager at JoinJet A/S, the charter division of Sun-Air of Scandinavia. Sun-Air has a commercial fleet of Dornier 328s in airline configuration, and this is a positive benefit for JoinJet and its Envoy 3.

"328 Support are very expensive and slow to deal with. So it is to our great advantage that we have one of the biggest spare parts stocks in the world for the Dornier 328 jet," he explains.

"As we have bought our Envoy at the right time in the market we do believe it is a great value for money aircraft. But it would be very expensive to operate if we did not have the support from our regional airline with expertise in the 328 jet."

Sundberg believes the best attributes of the Envoy 3 are its cabin, low noise and baggage volume, while the negatives are slow speed and low maximum altitude. Long range fuel tanks and the London City modification are desirable upgrades.

Earlier this year we also heard from Chris Tamerius Antrobus of Swiss-Jet AG, about the Envoy 3 in its operation at the time. He was also generally satisfied with the aircraft, but alluded to high replacement part prices and poor support for the landing gear.

G200/Galaxy

About to be superceded by the entry into service of the Gulfstream G280 (see sidebar story), the G200 started life as the IAI Galaxy when it entered operations in 1999. Yet to find its way into African service, the aircraft is used in the UAE and around Europe. Austria and Switzerland are home to several each, while Spain hosts the largest fleet operator in the region: Executive Airlines.

Tyrolean Jet Services operates a 2011 factory-new G200 on its AOC for worldwide charter. In its early history this aircraft has already been operated on various long range tours to the US, Canada, the Caribbean and even to Brazil and Argentina.

The usual flight profile is more Europe-related, where the TJS G200 is being operated on the "floating base" system, which works well in order to avoid too many ferry flights.

Gulfstream's customer support is excellent, the company says, and assists TJS' own in-house CAMO and Part 145 maintenance facility. The aircraft is reported to perform well and is supported by two captains, two co-pilots and two cabin attendants on permanent positions.

Citation X

There are more than 25 Citation X aircraft around the EMEA region, from Angola to Finland. They are most frequently solus aircraft of their type, but the German air force transport unit has three.

When the plans were drawn to improve on the Citation X systems and performance, that aircraft was to be called the "Citation TEN". Through the design and certification process, the Citation TEN has claimed the title of world's fastest business jet, but customers have told Cessna that they prefer the new aircraft retain the Citation X name.

"You can see customer input present throughout the entire process," says Roxanne Bernstein, senior vp of marketing. "We've implemented customer input with various designs, we value customer feedback with services, and we also listen to the customer when it comes to guidance with naming our aircraft. Customers value the performance and system improvements with the updated aircraft, the fact that the New Citation X is the world's fastest business jet with a top speed of Mach 0.935, and they value the original name. So Cessna has decided that, moving forward, this aircraft will be called the New Citation X."

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