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On the previous occasion that EBAN ran a feature on super midsize jets, in November 2012, it was widely predicted that the sector would be the 'worst affected of all by the downturn in European air charter.' At that time our readers flew 845 super mids in EMEA, and in contrast to forecasts, the majority were extremely enthusiastic about the capability of their fleet. Gulfstream and Cessna were equally buoyant: it was the eve of the launch of the G-280 and four of these jets have since entered service. The Citation Longitude and Latitude were at the blueprint stage in 2012, and their introduction to the market is now very much in sight.
Challenger numbers in EMEA have risen slightly in the past two years, but for the most part the number of registered aircraft has remained stable, flying in the face of the naysayers.
For this report, we asked super midsize jet owners for feedback on their aircraft.
What qualifies as a super midsize jet anyway?
In the absence of universally-accepted definitions, EBAN and its handbooks of business aviation have come to their own conclusions as to which business jets fall into which category; midsize, super midsize and long range – and it has not always been easy.
Cabin volume is the most important measure, but range and speed also cannot be ignored. So, at the margins we have the Hawker 800 in the midsize category, while the comparably-sized Citation X has edged into this report about super midsize jets.
At the other end of the cabin spectrum, the Challenger 800 finds itself in the super midsize because it lacks the range to compare alongside the long-range jets, and it could easily be argued that the large cabin and 3,000nm-plus range of the Embraer Legacy also make it a strong contender in that category.
If in doubt about how the various aircraft compare, remember that all business aircraft are listed on the www.handbook.aero web site, with specifications and details of maintenance support, charter operators and training organisations.
Cessna manufactures or has in development four types which fit into the category of super midsize: the Citation Sovereign, Citation X, Citation Latitude and Citation Longitude. The most recent generations to roll off the production line are the Sovereign+ and X+, which offer enhancements to their predecessors. The Sovereign+ brings increased range, upgraded avionics and enhanced performance to the line. It has winglets and a range of 3,000 nm with a top speed of 460 kts and the ability to climb to 45,000 feet in 27 minutes. Its cockpit features G5000, integrated auto-throttle and the Cessna Clairity cabin management system.
The Sovereign series has been in service since 2004, and there are currently more than 300 operating worldwide, with total flight hours exceeding 800,000.
The Citation X+ is billed as 'the world's fastest civil aircraft' and has seating for up to 12 passengers, a maximum speed of 527 kts and a range of 3,408 nm. It too has added winglets, which enable it to cruise at 51,000 ft and burn less fuel. The modification also improves take-off and landing performance, including in hot conditions or at higher elevations.
The Citation Latitude is positioned between the XLS+ and Sovereign+. It offers impressive payload, speed, range and cabin experience and is due to be type certified in 2015. The cabin in the Latitude is six feet tall and the aircraft boasts a range of 2,500 nm and maximum cruise speed of 440 kts. It can be configured for up to nine passengers.
The Longitude is still in the design stages, with customer input a driving force behind the process.
Ideal for two hour legs despite technical hitches
Michael Hoeck flies a Citation Sovereign for Heidelberg Cement in Germany. He is satisfied with every aspect of the aircraft, especially its operating capability. His favourite feature of the Sovereign is its take-off and landing performance, but he admits that he is disappointed with the size of the cabin. He says that he would like to upgrade the charts and maps in the cockpit and improve the cabin entertainment system.
Andreas Mundsinger of ProAir Aviation in Germany expressed general satisfaction with his Citation Sovereign. His favourite thing about the aircraft is its overall flight performance, take-off and landing performance, and cabin space. “The worst thing is that it is always in competition with the Challenger 300!” he remarks. Mundsinger feels that charter rates for business aircraft more generally are not in a range that can be operated economically to create 'acceptable' earnings.
Bombardier offers several super midsize aircraft, including the Challenger 300, 350, 605 and 850. The Challenger 300 is billed as 'the true executive office for the skies'. Customers benefit from inflight connectivity and a functional and comfortable cabin. The jet is configured for nine passengers and has a maximum range of 3,065 nm. ProLine 21 is installed as standard, along with four lcd displays and synthetic vision.
The 350 has comparatively low direct operating costs and Bombardier believes it offers superior performance, reliability and value. It is equipped with more powerful Honeywell engines and updated winglets to improve climb. It too is suitable for nine passengers. Its range is 3,200 nm.
The roomier Challenger 605 can seat 10 passengers; it is sold as a 'widebody' aircraft in the super mid category. It has dual autopilot with single autothrottle and an enhanced vision system, and its range is up to 4,000 nm.
The 850 seats two crew and up to 14 passengers, with six-screen Rockwell Collins ProLine 4 fitted as standard. It also has an enhanced ground proximity warning system and TCAS II. Range with eight passengers on board is up to 2,811 nm and cabin height is more than six feet. The airframe has completed at least 11 million hours of service, and its maximum operating altitude is 41,000 feet.
Exceptional range meets a spacious interior
Stephane Leporq of France's Bouygues Service Transport Air provided feedback on his Challenger 605. He says he is very happy with the maintenance support he receives. He is also pleased with the dispatch and value of the aircraft, and speaks highly of both the avionics and the cabin experience offered to passengers. “One of the only drawbacks with this aircraft is that it is quite an old concept. The design is 30 years old.” he remarks. There are no slats, which he says is a shame. His most desired upgrade is HUD.
London Executive Aviation md George Galanopoulos operates a Challenger 300. While he is satisfied with the maintenance support he receives, he says that parts dispatch can be slow, and availability limited. “There is a shortage of service centres in the UK, with almost non-existent support at Luton. The exception is Hamlin Jet, which is not officially a Bombardier authorised centre.”
He believes the aircraft is highly advanced from a technological point of view. “We have encountered some electronic issues, but these are usually solved powering the aircraft off and on.
“The Challenger 300 is ideal for charter operations, as it operates non-stop from the UK to anywhere in Europe, the Middle East and north or central Africa. It can cross the Atlantic and get you to any part of the US with a quick refuelling stop in St. Johns, Canada.”
He says that a particularly positive feature of the Challenger is its cabin space and the value for money it offers. “The 300 has a high quality of interior finishing and is a solid airframe,” he adds. “I would appreciate longer range and improved parts availability and product support from Bombardier.”
Ceo Patrick Margetson-Rushmore adds: “The quality of the cabin for the passengers is very high. We have been operating the 300 for a number of years and have found the aircraft to be reliable, effective and to complete its missions as expected.”
Challenger 604 operator Michael Wiegand of Germany's FAI rent-a-jet AG is satisfied in all respects with the aircraft, with the range and cabin size being particular plus points. He would prefer to have more room in the baggage bay.
Martin Spiegl is responsible for a Challenger 605 for Imperial Jet in Munich, Germany, and he also sits on the Challenger customer advisory committee for Bombardier. He describes the maintenance support he receives from Bombardier as 'great', and praises its field service representatives and parts availability. “Bombardier has come a very long way with availability and support,” he says. He is satisfied with dispatch reliability, but says he is not convinced by the figures released by the OEM regarding dispatch.
He adds: “Only the AOGs and delays that are reported to the OEM are taken into consideration, and this is then compared with the flight times of the full fleet. This does give you a 99.9 per cent rate; all of us know that the reality is very different. Nonetheless, the CL605 is a quite mature aircraft and AOGs are rare.”
He would like to see more efforts from the manufacturer to improve fuel efficiency and range, despite the age of the type. “There is no movement at all, which will make the 605 lose ground to its competition. Bombardier has announced the increase of maintenance intervals, but it is only a half-hearted approach in my view.
“Ten tasks of the now redundant 400 hours inspection stay as 'out of phase' tasks. There is no effort to improve, which would lead to real reductions in maintenance costs.”
Some support services are seen as incredibly expensive when laid against the benefits. Spiegl finds it difficult to understand why technical publications are increasingly based on iPad or other digital devices rather than the hardcopy version. “The OEM is trying to take advantage of regulatory requirements to have two or more iPads on board, in order to charge double subscription fees. Technical publication subscriptions are also very expensive.”
Despite these qualms, reliability and cabin size are huge plus points for him. The upgrade he desires most is FANS 1/A, which soon becomes mandatory and is important to operate NATs. Currently, the two most desired tracks in FL 360 to FL 390 are reserved for FANS 1/A equipped aircraft only.
The Falcon 2000 was first announced in 1989 and its maiden flight took place in March 1993. Subsequent variants including the 2000DX, 2000EX, 2000EX EASy, EASy II and 2000LX were unveiled, and the Falcon 2000 remains an exceptionally popular large cabin aircraft in EMEA. A more recent innovation is the 2000S, and most EBAN readers who contributed to this piece fly an EASy variant of one sort or another. A Falcon LXS with inboard slats is pending certification, and its flight deck will include optional HGS and EFVS, winglets, improved engines, an updated cabin management system and options for a BMW interior.
Worth every dollar and it excels on the runway
The Falcon 2000 justifies its price, says Dutch real estate entrepreneur Jeroen van Wees from Metterwoon, who has a 2000 EASy. He is very pleased with maintenance support and capability and describes the aircraft as 'excellent' overall. There have been some electronic glitches with the jet, and he would like to upgrade to a 5X when this is available.
Marcus Brunninger agrees that the 2000 EASy offers good value. He operates a Falcon for German mass media corporation Bertelsmann and his favourite aspects of the jet are its short field capability and long range performance. The fact that it enables access to London City is also a huge advantage. However, he adds: “Pratt and Whitney support has been poor. I would like to install EASy II with synthetic vision.”
London Executive Aviation ceo Patrick Margeston-Rushmore also operates a Falcon 2000 EX EASy. He describes 'a very comprehensive service provision' and has had no problems with dispatch reliability since the jet entered service. “It is a good looking aircraft – the best way I can sum it up is that it has Gallic refinement,” he says. “It is true that it is expensive, but these aircraft do retain their value.” An increase in range is the sole improvement he would like to have.
Michal Warnej of Poland's Magellan Pro Service is yet another 2000 EASy enthusiast. He is more than satisfied with every aspect of the aircraft and is full of praise for its runway performance. His only criticism is for the onboard computers: “They send too many false CAS messages when on the ground.” His most desired upgrade is EVS.
Gulfstream's two entrants in the super midsize market are the G200 and the G280. For the G200, out of the 250 aircraft that were produced, approximately 35 are based in EMEA. The majority of these aircraft are in Europe, with the largest concentration in eastern and southern regions.
The G200 has a range of 3,400 nm at a cruise speed of Mach 0.75. It can accommodate up to 10 passengers in two living areas and has a large external baggage compartment. The flightdeck is the ProLine 4 avionics suite. The last G200 rolled off the production line in December 2011 and went into service in 2012.
In 2012, Gulfstream certified the G280 and began customer deliveries. Today, there are more than 30 G280s in service, including multiple deliveries in the EMEA region. With a range of 3,600 nm at Mach 0.80, the G280 offers long range and high speed; the manufacturer says it is the only aircraft in its class to be able to fly regularly from London to New York against the winds. It completed two world record flights from Paris to New York (seven hours 40 minutes) and London to Chicago (eight hours 13 minutes). The G280 requires only 1,448 m balanced field length at maximum take-off weight to depart. It too can accommodate 10 passengers in two living areas, but includes a longer cabin interior with in-flight access to the baggage compartment.
The flight deck is the new PlaneView 280 avionics and includes standard autothrottles, autobrakes and automatic emergency descent. Customers can select the optional enhanced vision system and synthetic vision system for improved pilot situational awareness during low-visibility conditions.
Too many products makes value retention impossible
Raúl Díaz-Varela operates a G200 for Kern Pharma in Barcelona. While he is satisfied with maintenance, dispatch and operating capability, he is far from happy with the value of the aircraft: “Due to the launch of the G280 and the economic crisis, the price of G200s has fallen too fast.
“Gulfstream should have been more cautious to keep the value of the G200 models.
“Nevertheless, I believe that the combination of range and comfort inside the cabin is impressive. It gives you a lot of flexibility to organise your trips, especially inside Europe.”
The 'price erosion' remains his chief concern, and he says that the aircraft also suffers from restrictions at some smaller airports.
Embraer's entrants to the super midsize sector are the Legacy 600 and Legacy 650. The 600 was introduced in 2000 and can carry 13 passengers for 3,050 nm or eight passengers for 3,450 nm, in three distinct cabin zones. It has additional fuel tanks behind the baggage compartment, winglets, Honeywell Primus Elite avionics, 'smart landing' RAAS, and is certified to a ceiling of 41,000 ft. The 650 is a longer range version of the type, and is capable of 3,900 nm.
Embraer is supportive and dispatch is high
Our first Legacy 600 respondent is Falcon Aviation Sevices' Abdulla Hassan Almulla. He is satisfied with the maintenance support he receives but feels that the aircraft would benefit from improved brakes. Dispatch and performance are both pleasing, and he is especially satisfied with the aircraft's value for money. “It takes little more fuel than other similar aircraft,” he comments. “Its speed when flying below 10,000 feet could be better, and I would also like it to have had a better wing.
“The final improvement I would make would be to improve the steering of the jet during taxi.”
George Galanopoulos of London Executive Aviation is responsible for a fleet of eight Legacy 600s and 650s. He heaps praise on Inflite Engineering at Stansted, which he says offers excellent support for base and line maintenance 24/7. Owing to many redundancy systems, he is able to dispatch the aircraft with 'deferred defects' and he says that the performance of the Legacy matches up to the specifications set out by Embraer. “These aircraft offer the best value for cabin and hold size in the market and it is very difficult to find a fault,” he adds.
Ceo of LEA Patrick Margetson-Rushmore adds his thoughts on the Legacys in his fleet. “Embraer provides a very reliable AOG support service and very few flights have been lost due to unserviceability over the last 10 years,” he says. “The operating capability of the jets is based on a scheduled airliner, so reliability is good.”
He echoes the sentiments of other respondents by saying that asset value has been 'hit hard' throughout the recession. He says the onboard microwaves have a tendency to blow out, and wishes the finish quality was a little better and the range further. He appreciates the three separate zones in the cabin, which is of ample size and concludes: “The Legacy 600 and 650 are very versatile European aircraft, with good passenger volume. It is a little low on cabin height by an inch or two, but this is compensated by acres of baggage space.”
Ceo of Air Hamburg Floris Helmers is responsible for two Legacy 600s. He is very satisfied with them: “The L600 is a reliable aircraft that offers three cabin zones and a huge inflight accessible baggage compartment for the lowest price on the market.
“Maintenance support has been good, combined with the recent certification of our staff at Cat B1. We have a good network of Part 145 maintenance locations for short ferrying times.”
Dispatch has also been high, and Helmers reports that the Legacys have the lowest AOG in the fleet. He uses the aircraft to reach the same spots as his Citation fleet can, including London City and Samedan in the Swiss Alps. A quick turn around with 15 minutes 'on block' including refuelling is possible at airports such as Frankfurt. He would prefer increased range and would upgrade to a Lineage 1000 if he could.
Although EBAN had no respondents for the type, the Hawker 4000 has been active in EMEA as a super midsize. It offers seating for up to 11 passengers, a maximum cruise speed of Mach 0.84 and a range of 3,200 nm, along with a certified ceiling of 45,000 ft. Constructed of advanced composite material, the fuselage features a 72" stand-up cabin with a 77.5" width. A flat floor runs the entire length of the aircraft, leading to a substantial baggage area.
The flight deck features the Honeywell Epic avionics suite with digital communications, navigation and surveillance (CNS) radios and five hd 8x10" lcd displays.