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Me & My Aircraft: Manhattan Jet Charter augments world's largest Premier fleet with Learjet alternative
Manhattan Jet Charter (MJC) and European Skytime are combining to offer clients the best of two worlds - Premier cost-effectiveness and spaciousness and Learjet range and speed.

Manhattan Jet Charter (MJC) and European Skytime are combining to offer clients the best of two worlds - Premier cost-effectiveness and spaciousness and Learjet range and speed. MJC offers a block hours scheme for its Premiers based at Farnborough and has introduced AOC management services for European Skytime's Learjet 40XR and 45XR operations.

Trevor Jones, MJC md, says: "The Learjets represent a good partner for the Premier operations. We can now offer our block customers flights into Cannes or provide longer range flights with additional passenger capability when required. Being able to offer a total of eight aircraft stands us in good stead in providing replacement aircraft in the case of breakdown and in offering a wider range of aircraft to our client base."

The block hours scheme is called the Premier Hours Option and it allows clients to convert some hours from the Premier to the Learjet at an agreed offset rate. "We also provide a back-up service to the Learjet operation in the case of overbooking or breakdown," Jones explains.

The Premier 1, according to Jones, is an aircraft where everyone wins. "Pilots just love the aircraft. It is very exciting to fly with initial climb and cruise performance very similar to the Lear 45," he says. "Passengers prefer the larger cabin size, everyone has their own space and it is very suitable for taller people needing that little extra headroom."

Jones adds: "Another very good feature is that it has a rear external baggage hold which can take 400lbs. There is plenty of room for skis and golf bags." But: "The crew do not like the toilet which is not externally serviced. It may well be of a similar design to that installed on other aircraft but an externally serviced toilet is much better and is a must for all new aircraft design in my opinion." He adds: "We do not like having to use the fuel anti-ice additive on two counts. Firstly you have buy it, and secondly you have to carry it. I would like to have seen fuel heaters on the engines but I am told this might have added to the weight of the aircraft, which incidentally is slightly under 5,700kg."

Some aircraft, Jones points out, have pressure refuelling purchased as an optional extra, but this again adds to the aircraft weight. "Pressure fuelling is not always as useful as first thought as not all suppliers provide the fuel with the additive and you are forced to revert to over wing refuelling. However it might get you refuelled much quicker at Nice on a Sunday afternoon!"

Jones points out: "The original designers may have had in mind a single pilot owner concept for the American market. So as MJC has operated six Premier 1s in a multi-crew ad hoc charter environment throughout five summers and winters with all the commercial pressures then yes we are going to see more snags and problems than the private owner but simply because of the number of hours being flown."

But he adds: "An excellent feature offered by Hawker Beechcraft Corporation (HBC) is the provision of the Support Plus contract. This is a pay by the hour servicing contract which covers almost every eventuality and includes airframe and avionics. The engines can be covered in a similar way by either the Williams Total Assurance Program (TAP) or a tailored JSSI programme. These are all a must but will require a contract period of five years for the Support Plus - this can be transferred and sold on with the aircraft." Servicing must be undertaken by an authorised HBC service centre.

Jones says that each service centre is required to hold a certain inventory level of spare parts. "But from our experience we would recommend that operators themselves keep available items including engine anti-ice valves which seem to have an ability to fail just when you don't need it and will stop you flying into known icing. I believe HBC is resolving this issue."

He recalls: "In the early days there were a number of recurring failures of flap computers and some ADC issues which appear to have gone away now due to the ongoing improvements being made by HBC. Like any aircraft flap failures are significant because of the increased landing distances required due to the increased Vref speeds. Some early aircraft apparently were reported to have had some issues with the operation of the lift-dump system. In 2004 the system was modified so that it no longer needed weight on the nose wheel to operate. It is a manual system deployed by pilot at touchdown and is very effective."

In 2006, Jones says, HBC announced a reduction of between 3 and 4 knots Vref which was very well received by public transport operators. "Unfortunately operators are still having to refer to the original landing performance charts originally calculated for the higher Vref. Revised ones have not been produced to show the appropriate reduction in landing distance. There has been very little benefit to the commercial operator and subsequently commercial operations into airports like Cannes remain virtually impossible for the sake of a new chart written around the lower Vref. This would be very welcome particularly if it were combined with a four degree approach landing distance chart." But Jones says that, to date, HBC has resisted recalculating the landing performance graphs for the revised Vref. "Consequently we are unable to sell commercial charter flights to Cannes using the Premier 1 or 1A."

He adds: "After five years of operations I cannot report any major issues with the airframe besides some paint flaking at the rear tail cone area. Re-painting can be a problem because the composite requires a special preparation and painting procedure and it cannot be assumed that just any paint shop has the required training and expertise."

Additional training is required because some engineering practices for composites differ from that of conventional airframes.

Jones says the Premier has a good ramp appeal, is fast at Mach.80, comfortable and practically unbeatable on sector cost versus speed when operating within its sector range for the payload. He adds: "Continuous climb to its max certified level of F410 is easily coordinated by ATC. Some aircraft, although designed to fly at these levels, are often restricted due to their final cruise level Mach number being too slow. This factor is often overlooked when determining which aircraft to purchase. The Premier meets these requirements most of the time, however it is true that on hot ISA days the last few thousand feet are clearly at a reducing rate of climb. This is not surprising when one considers that the Williams FJ44-2A produces only 2,300 lbs thrust which of course is one reason for the economical operation."

MJC, formerly Manhattan Air Ltd, started operations with the Beechcraft King Air 200 in October 1993 but, in response to market demand in the London region, changed to jets and purchased its first Premier 1 in June 2004.

"With currently six aircraft, including one Premier 1A, we subsequently have become the largest operator of the Premier in the world, according to HBC," Jones says. On value, the Premier 1 met speed, comfort and cost requirements for a capital outlay of less than US$6 million. "It's true that the Learjet 45 met many of these conditions and certainly had better range, however it was also somewhat more expensive," Jones says.

Manufacturer's comment

Hawker Beechcraft Corporation says that until 30 September, 2009, the Premier 1A is available for zero-cost maintenance for five years or 1,000 hours, whichever occurs first. "In addition, customers can take advantage of bonus depreciation in 2009, which could provide significant tax savings." HBC has also announced that Aeronautics Limited will be a non-exclusive sales representative for England, Scotland and Wales. "In addition to HBC's own factory direct sales team for the UK, Aeronautics Limited based at Kemble airport will market and sell new and pre-owned current-production Hawker and Beechcraft aircraft," says Sean McGeough, vp international sales.

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