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Business Air News Bulletin
Business Air News Bulletin
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Me & my aircraft – Midsize jets: Long-legged Latitude and Legacy 500 will breathe life into the midsize sector
The midsize jet sector is in a state of transition, with the most aged models nearing extinction and thoroughly modern new types about to enter service. Some of the earliest purpose-built business jets fell in this category, and there are some of these 1960s designs still flying today.

The midsize jet sector is in a state of transition, with the most aged models nearing extinction and thoroughly modern new types about to enter service.

Some of the earliest purpose-built business jets fell in this category, and there are some of these 1960s designs still flying today. Five Corvettes remain in service in our region, as well as three Jetstars. There are dozens of pre-Hawker BAe125-400/600/700 models throughout Africa, and even a 125-1A in each of South Africa and Gambia. Falcon 20s continue to fly commercially, often with governments.

These venerable types were succeeded by the Citation 650, which is still popular in Germany, and the Learjet 55, which also only really found strong favour in Germany.

Now at the end of their production runs are the Learjet 60 and the Hawker 800/900 series.

And this leaves only two midsize jet models in current series production, the Citation XLS+, the latest incarnation of the Cessna 560 Excel, and the Gulfstream G150, which has its roots in the IAI Astra.

The focus of development of new aircraft has been on larger cabins, and this spawned a whole new sector beyond the scope of this review; the super midsize jet.

But now there are two clean sheet designs on the horizon for what EBAN categorises as the midsize market, and these look set to be game-changers in the sector. During 2014 the first Embraer Legacy 500s should enter service, and by 2015 they will be joined by the all-new Citation Latitude.

In this report we asked owners and operators of the various models to give us their thoughts.

Hawker 800/900

The Hawker 800/900 series may have reached the end of its illustrious production run in the guise of the 900XP, but the later variants will be sought after and put through their paces for decades to come.

EBAN's reader database reveals that Hawkers are in operation in no fewer than ten countries around Africa, including substantial fleets in Nigeria and South Africa where NAC National Airways Corporation has half a dozen. Seven countries around the Middle East are host to Hawker 800s, with the biggest fleets in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. They are also to be found in virtually every nation of Europe, including the world's largest fleet in the hands of NetJets.

Every operator responding to our survey was either satisfied or very satisfied with the type's maintenance support, dispatch reliability, oper-ating capabilities and value for money.

One anonymous captain of 750 and 800 variants reports that the Rockwell Collins cockpit together with the IFIS 5000 makes it easy to work, but that the baggage compartment is small, and the toilet service connection poor (although improved on the 750).

Jaroslav Malinsky of VR Jet A/S concurs that the 850XP is generally very good, but let down by the baggage compartment.

Kristoffer Sundberg of JoinJet A/S flies the 800XPR, which is a substantial upgrade package still offered by Beechcraft for existing Hawker 800 owners. "It is great to deal with Beechcraft, as they always have a quick and cost friendly solution to our problems," he says.

"It is probably the most versatile midsize business jet in the world. You get great range with the modified versions, a great cabin, and great landing and take off capabilities.

"With the current market there are a lot of good bargains to be had on the Hawker 800 and 900 fleet," he adds.

The latest version, the 900XP, is flown by Christopher Mace's SaxonAir, who says: "With Hawker Beechcraft entering into Chapter 11 bankruptcy we were concerned about product support, however the company at Chester has ensured that the support remains, and has worked closely with us to keep flexibility within our operation.

"The 900XP has good range and excellent operating costs, and is seen as a favourite aircraft for charter because of the varied performance.

"Customers love the reputation the aircraft has within the industry, and for good reason. Reliable, well built, great interior, full cabin service available are just some of the many attributes the aircraft can offer over its closest competitors."

However, he concedes that the aircraft is heavy, at nearly 13 tonnes MTOW, and so airport fees are higher than lighter competitors and the fuel burn higher.

"Our aircraft is equipped with WiFi, and this is the most popular passenger option in today's electronic reliance age," he concludes.

Jozef Soltys of US Steel Kosice s.r.o. also flies the 900XP variant, and enjoys the range, quality, proven design, engines and avionics.

Tim Barber of aircraft brokerage JetBrokers reports that there are 53 Hawker 800 aircraft available for sale, compared with 58 this time last year. Average days to achieve a sale is running at an encouraging 120 days. He points out that the VRef price guide has marked 800XP's down by $100k this quarter: "Which is perhaps not as bad as it could have been."

Citation 560XL

NetJets is also the largest operator of the Citation 560XL series in Europe, but the type is prevalent in Austria where there are some 19 owner/operators.

Hans Doll of Atlas Air Service reported his satisfaction with the XLS, especially the combination of comfortable cabin and range performance, but says that a shorter field length would be desirable.

Peter Stroud of Marshall Executive Aviation is also very satisfied with the maintenance support, dispatch reliability and operating capabilities of the XLS.

He especially appreciates: "The flexibility it offers, good runway performance, very large external baggage hold and nicely proportioned cabin with ample room for the passengers."

On the negative side, he finds the aircraft a little slower than some of the opposition, and lacking in storage in the eight passenger layout.

"It is a great aircraft for the European market, with good performance and reliability," he concludes.

Kimon Daniildis of Interjet SA has experience of both the Citation 560XL and XLS, and praises their cost efficient operation. On the negative side he points to corrosion on some specific critical parts, and would like to have had more range.

Michal Wamej of Magellan Pro-Service has encountered problems with maintenance and reliability with the XLS+ but is very satisfied with the aircraft's operating capabilities and value.

"It has very good runway performance and a pilot friendly cockpit, but would benefit from a vacuum toilet. I think this is very good aircraft with very good value for money, I love to fly her, but our own unit has malfunctions too often," he says.

JetBrokers reports that there are currently 23 XLS available (7 per cent of the active fleet), compared to just 17 at the start of last year. XLS prices held steady this quarter.

Learjet 60

The Learjet 60 can be found throughout Europe and the Middle East, and in Nigeria and South Africa. It is notable by its absence from Russia, but is represented on the Ukrainian register, and the type is present in largest numbers in Germany and Austria. Major fleet operators include VistaJet and Quick Fair Jet Charter.

One respondent to our survey with experience of the Learjet 60XR says that the aircraft has nice looks, which is good for charter, very good time-to-climb and very good avionics.

On the downside he reports that it has too small a baggage compartment and is not so fast (0.78 at FL410). He is dissatisfied with the APU, landing gear and brakes. He suggests buying instead a Learjet 45 or 75, which have a smaller cabin but at a lower operating cost.

Another reader wishing to remain anonymous was equally unhappy. While praising the engines and climb performance, he points out that the 60XR has only one training centre all around the world, in Dallas.

But not all anonymous responses were downbeat: One was happy to report strong satisfaction all around, pointing out that the Learjet 60 sells easily to charter customers and represents good value for money both for the operator and the passenger, as well as being very reliable.

Martin Spiegl of Imperial Jet Europe operates two Learjet 60XRs and one Learjet 60, and says he is very satisfied with maintenance support. "The FSRs and the tech support do go the extra mile for you to make a flight happen when there are problems. The maintenance facilities are various in Europe and they are all capable."

As far as dispatch reliability is concerned: "It could have been better, although finally most of the avionic issues have been sorted out. Corrosion is starting to become an issue. The maintenance schedule does not enhance the operational availability of the aircraft, as it is too fragmented and the vendor intervals do not match with the aircraft intervals."

He believes that residual values are falling due to the current pause in production.

Eric Rechtsteiner of Air Independence has no such concerns, and reports himself to be very satisfied with the Learjet 60, as does Capt Lino Xeureb of Eurojet (Malta): "It climbs like a rocket above all weather, up to FL410 in 16 minutes. I have 4,600 hours in command on the Learjet 60 and my dispatch reliability is 99 per cent. Thanks to MCM Munich and MCM Malta for the optimum technical support, especially to Alex Vit."

He believes the aircraft would have been improved by scissors steering rather than nosewheel.

Other issues mentioned during our survey included 60 days every year just for normal maintenance, landing distances and undersized tyres.

Tim Barber at JetBrokers reports that the Learjet 60 market remains sluggish and inventory remains high. "A total of 47 aircraft are openly advertised and no doubt a good few additional aircraft are available off market. At the beginning of 2012 there were 51 Lear 60s for sale, so the for sale inventory is broadly unchanged over the past 12 months. Some four aircraft have closed this year compared to a total of 34 last year and 30 in 2011; so it is clear that there are buyers in the marketplace."

The latest VRef price guide shows a reduction of the "typical" 2006 aircraft of $200k, taking the base value for a 3,200 hour aircraft, on programmes, no damage history and so on, to $4.2m.

Gulfstream G-150

There are Gulfstream G-150s in Austria, Cyprus, Germany, Israel, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey. Avcon Jet in Austria is the region's leading operator. Gulfstream recently reported that the worldwide fleet of 100 aircraft has now passed 130,000 flight hours with a dispatch reliability of 99.83 per cent.

Unfortunately no G-150 operating readers of EBAN responded to our survey, but we did hear from Bruno Sørensen of North Flying A/S who is satisfied with his Cessna 650 Citation VII, although it has expensive spare parts.

Meanwhile Rocco Cellucci of Air One Executive has an even greater challenge with his Falcon 20 F5, for which there are now no new spare parts available. He is, however, very happy with its range and passenger capacity.

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