From commercial jets to light sports aircraft, we are living in a bountiful era of aircraft and technology.
This year alone we have seen flight testing, maiden voyages and aviation start-ups being snapped up by international organisations. Even NASA has reported that they will commence manned flight testing this year with the first piloted X-plane in two decades.
This time, we take a look at some of the exciting new planes that have been released, are soon to be released or have been announced this year.
As a newcomer on the turboprop single scene, the Cessna Denali is under development as a design completely independent from previous aircraft in the Cessna line-up. The clean sheet approach engineers took to design the aircraft has delivered preliminary specifications to match and exceed other aircraft in the same class, with capabilities for both cargo and passenger undertakings.
With European regulations now permitting single-engine turbine charter operations in instrument-flying conditions, the six to 10 seater Denali will be able to slip comfortably into the family of turboprop aircraft spaced over every price point offered by Textron (Cessna’s parent company).
Although exact specifics haven’t been settled on, the Denali is projected to have a reach of 2,963 km with four passengers, a maximum cruise of 527 km/h and a full-fuel payload of almost 500 km. For easy of loading, the aircraft will also feature a 1.3 m by 1.5 m rear cargo door. The aircraft will also feature Garmin G3000 avionics with weather radar, terrain alerting, ADS-B Out and RVSM capability.
Textron has commenced the construction of static and fatigue test articles, with flight testing projected to begin in the third quarter of 2018, with certification scheduled for 2019. Deliveries could begin in late 2019 or early 2020.
Daher TBM 910
An aircraft that we can expect to get our hands on a little sooner is Daher’s latest TBM, the 910. As an offshoot of the well-loved TBM 900, the TBM 910 is designed with an avionics upgrade from the G1000 avionics layout to the G1000 NXi. The new outfit includes enhancements like a moving map in the HSI window, graphic frequency confirmation, improved font readability, VFR sectional and IFR chart support, and better touch feel on buttons. The system is also significantly faster. The new TBM 910 also includes some interior refinements: the seats are redesigned and there are more USB ports, for example. And if you gotta go, an innovative “elite privacy compartment” is now available as an option. First announced last summer at EAA AirVenture, the side-facing potty seat becomes completely blocked off from the rest of the cabin through a creative electrically folding wall.
Dassault Falcon 8X
With the maiden flight of the 5X late last month, all eyes are on Dassault’s Falcon range – a body of aircraft that have become synonymous with the style and luxury of business jets. Like its namesake, the Falcon’s sleek lines and crisp edges cut through the air in first-class style. In this, Dassault’s new Falcon 8X is no different, with increased range and efficiency afforded by engine optimisation, aerodynamic refinements and an increase in fuel capacity. And watch you don’t mistake it for a 7X – with more cabin room, the 8X enters the Falcon line-up at the top.
With Dassault pouring their wealth of expertise and history into the model, the 8X is not messing around. Equipped with three PW307D engines, the aircraft can run with up to 35% more fuel efficiency, a bold play against other ultra-long-range biz-jets in the field. With the capacity to carry up to eight passengers and three crew, the 8X also delivers a range of 11,945 km, a 926-km increase over its predecessor. Jean-Michel Jacob, Senior Vice President and Head of Aircraft Market Development in the Asia Pacific explains that “the aircraft is ideally suited to Asia Pacific because of its long-range capability which means, for example, it can operate non-stop from Hong Kong to London or Beijing to New York”.
The Falcon 8X also has the capacity to take off from airstrips as short as 1,244 m. Mr Jacob says that “one of the key aspects that differentiates Dassault Falcon aircraft from others, is [that the 8X] is an aircraft designed to perform in the harshest and most challenging flying conditions. In parts of China – as like in Australia- operators need to have aircraft that can perform in ‘hot and high’ flying conditions”.
The design of the Falcon 8X’s wing is derived from the 7X, with optimized leading-edges and winglets. The reduction in drag contributes to a 272 kg reduction in weight. Combined with the additional luggage capacity, a 1 metre increase in plush cabin space will keep passengers happy. But if it doesn’t, then uninterrupted internet access thanks to a JetWave high-speed broadband antenna certainly will.
And up front? The Falcon 8X cockpit is outfitted with a fresh generation of the EASy flight deck tech, including a head-up display system dubbed FalconEye. The FalconEye HUD combines the synthetic and enhanced vision capabilities you’d expect in a fighter jet, allowing for much greater situational awareness. The Falcon Sphere II, Falcon’s answer to the flight-bag of old, eases pilot workload a little more too, with a lightweight electronic display equipped with apps to streamline calculations and performance.
Having already featured in the CIBAS (China International Business Aviation Show) this July, Mr Jacob says that “the first operator for the 8X in Asia Pacific excluding India will be Hong Kong based business jet operator BellaWings, which is due to receive the 8X in August…China is the largest market in Asia Pacific for business aviation with around 320 business jets in the country. But Australia continues to be the second largest business aviation market with around 190 business jets.”
Mr Jacob predicts that the Australian biz-jet field is on the up and up saying “Australia is a market where there are many small and medium-sized business jets. These are used primarily for domestic flights. But we feel with more Australian corporations expanding internationally, demand for longer-range aircraft, such as the 8X, will increase”.
Embraer Legacy 500
Though Embraer’s Legacy 500 entered service in October 2014, July this year marks the maiden flight of the first Legacy 500 built at its industrial facilities in Melbourne, Florida. The midsize business jet is the most recent in a well-loved line of aircraft to come out of the Melbourne Facility, including the Phenom 100, the Phenom 300 and the Legacy 450. Michael Amalfitano, President & CEO, Embraer Executive Jets said in a statement that “We are very pleased with yet another milestone for the Legacy 500 and we look forward to delivering the aircraft in the third quarter…This flight also marks a key milestone for our Melbourne operations, where we expanded our production facility and doubled our footprint.”
With actor Jackie Chain taking delivery of a Legacy 500 in 2016, other would-be buyers can be comfortable they are getting a ‘certified cool’ aircraft. Designed to bridge the gap between the Phenom 300 and the existing Legacy range, the Legacy 500 is powered by 2 Honeywell HTF7500E engines, which allows the aircraft to cruise at Mach 0.83 with a maximum altitude of 45,000 feet. In the cockpit, Embraer strives to offer technologies equivalent or superior to those that are available in much larger commercial aircraft. Incorporating a Fly-By-Wire System designed to reduce pilot workload and optimise efficiency. The system also increases safety, with maximum angle of attack protection preventing the aircraft from stalling.
Measuring 1.8 m wide and 1.9 m high, the Legacy 500’s the cabin is larger than any other aircraft in its class. Embraer Executive Jets has a dedicated Design Centre in the US where customers can meet designers and engineers to craft their perfect aircraft interior. But if you aren’t up for the trip, the combinations of veneers, carpets, upholstery, furnishings etc are extensive.
With four passengers on board and NBAA IFR fuel reserves the Legacy 500 can fly nonstop from Beijing to New Delhi, or Sydney to Jakarta. It also has the capacity to take off from airstrips as short as 1,244 m, making it a very versatile aircraft even in remote regions.
Bombardier C Series
Although it’s been a global leader in business and regional jets, Bombardiers’ latest venture, Bombardier C Series is a first for the Canadian company. As a direct competitor to Boeing and Airbus, the C Series adds two new models to the Bombardier fleet – the CS100 and CS300.
With seating from 108 to 133 and 130 to160 passengers respectively, the CS100 and CS300 pair are claimed to be market disruptors for the commercial aviation industry.
The C Series capitalises on modern manufacturing in the aviation industry. The aircraft wing, centre wing box, wing-to-body fairing, empennage, aft fuselage, and nacelles are all made of composite materials allowing for over 900 kg of weight savings.
The pair are a lot greener too. Director of the C Series Program, Istifan Ghanem says that the “…largely advanced materials, fuselage and wing, combined with fuel-efficient Pratt & Whitney PW1500G geared turbofan engines (the exclusive powerplant for the type) delivers up to a 20% reduction in carbon emissions compared with in-production types.”
The C Series fuselage is manufactured using third generation aluminum-lithium, one of the most advanced aluminum alloys currently available, reducing weight and increasing fatigue resistance. The high-tech material is also reported to be up to 250% more resistant to corrosion over traditional aluminum. And as for fuel burn, the aluminum-lithium alloy and advanced composites improve fuel efficiency and help the C Series aircraft achieve a fuel burn which can get as low as 2L per passenger, per 100 km.
And as for passengers? Feedback so far is positive, with the aircrafts’ generously spaced overhead bins and large windows ensure plenty of natural light floods into the cabin. SWISS recently did a customer survey on the C Series, comparing the c windows aisle, baggage space, comfort, noise with other aircraft in the company’s fleet. Mr Ghanem reports that the C Series “scored much more favourably than other aircraft types”.
Plus, passengers burdened with a middle seat can enjoy a little extra room, with 48 cm seats, compared to Boeing’s 44 cm seats in the 737 and Airbus’ 45 cm seats in the A319. The increase doesn’t seem like much, until you find yourself relegated to the middle row. In those cases, any extra room afforded to you is as precious as a set of good headphones.
Today, after 1 year in service, the aircraft has flown over 1 million passengers and covered 100’s of different routes. “The market we see for the C Series over the next 20 years is between 7000 and 8000 aircraft” says Mr Ghanem “Our backlog is strong, we have over 360 firm orders, and up to 800 commitments. Major airlines, such as SWISS (Lufthansa), Korean Airlines, Delta and Air Canada, for example have booked orders for C Series aircraft”.
Bombardier Global 7000
But Bombardier hasn’t let the momentum end with the C Series, with the Global 7000 testing going swimmingly. In July this year Bombardier Business Aircraft announced that its Global 7000 aircraft flight test program is progressing as planned and has hit the 500-hour milestone.
In a press release Bombardier stated that they’re raring to go with “…three flight test vehicles (FTVs) in flight testing and two remaining FTVs to join shortly, the Global 7000 aircraft program is on track to meet the aircraft’s targeted entry-into-service in the second half of 2018”. Senior Vice President of the Global 7000 and 8000 program, Michel Ouellette explained that “the three flight test vehicles have been meeting all performance and reliability expectations for this stage in the flight test program, and the pace of testing will continue to accelerate with the two remaining FTVs progressing well towards their respective first flights”. But according to test flight statistics, the aircraft is performing much better than ‘well’ – with FTV1 reaching M 0.995 during a test flight in March 2017 – the largest business jet to operate so close to the sound barrier.
François Caza, Vice President, Product Development and Chief Engineer states that over the 500 hours accrued in testing, “our highly skilled teams have achieved significant milestones, which include completing hot weather and cold weather environmental tests as low as -40C and successfully demonstrating the aircraft’s long-range navigation capabilities by flying over the North Pole region,” says Mr Caza.
With its impressive long-range capability of 7,400 nm (13,705 km) at M 0.85, the Global 7000 can fly eight passengers non-stop [under certain operating conditions] from London to Singapore or Dubai to New York City with a maximum operating speed of M 0.925”.
Cessna Citation Latitude
Since entering the market in August 2015, the Cessna Citation Latitude has slotted in neatly within the company’s midsize range of biz jets. So neatly in fact, that the Latitude saw more deliveries in 2016 than any competing aircraft in the category.
The Citation family itself is a testament to Cessna engineering – a format capitalizing on the tried-and-true elements of existing models to refine and build upon their fleet. For the Latitude, engineers took best bits of the Cessna’s 680 Sovereign and added a better cabin design and cutting-edge avionics into the mix.
In the same fashion, Cessna’s Longitude borrows the basis of its conventional aluminium monocoque fuselage from the Latitude. The aircraft shares the midsize Citation Latitude’s flat-floor cabin measuring 1.83 m high by 1.96 m wide. A 1.04 m stretch in cabin length however, boosts the Longitude’s seating capacity to eight people in double club configuration, rather than the six-passenger capacity of the Latitude. The Longitude also gets an aft-lift with a fuselage designed to accommodate the 7,550-lb.-thrust Honeywell HTF 7000-series turbofans, the most powerful engines fitted to a Citation thus far.
Hawker Pacific, Cessna’s Australian distributor, took to this year’s Avalon Airshow to showcase the Cessna Citation Latitude – an example of things to come for Cessna’s new generation of cabin aircraft.
Tony Jones from Hawker Pacific said that the Latitude is “an introduction to the new generation of Cessna Citation large cabin aircraft with the larger, Citation Longitude, completing certification this year and Citation Hemisphere, coming in 2019… [the] aircraft provides a perfect solution for customers wanting a larger cabin experience with the range to cover the distances in Australia, across the region and internationally”.
Filling the super-midsize range in the Citation line, the Longitude will keep the Garmin G5000 flat-panel touchscreen avionics system (like the one in the new midsize Citation Latitude) with optional head-up display and enhanced vision tech. The Longitude is also equipped with the Cessna LinxUs, an on-board diagnostic system that analyses, reports and logs aircraft systems, relaying real-time data to the pilot. And in the event of an issue in flight, LinxUs will go ahead and diagnose the problem, offer root-cause information and automatically notify maintenance crew via email – subject; fix my plane.
Cessna’s fourth Citation Longitude to enter the test fleet had its first flight in May this year – with total test program hours adding up to more than 400 hours since October 2016. A fifth test aircraft is expected to join the program later in the year, with plans to bring the Longitude to the market frontline by the end of the year.
Bell 505 Jet Ranger X
But the Citations aren’t the only shiny new kids on offer from Hawker Pacific. February 2017 also heralded the company’s confirmation of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s certification of the new Bell 505 Jet Ranger X Helicopter.
The Bell 505 Jet Ranger X is proving popular not just with private owners but within the commercial industry too. According to Hawker/ Pacific, the helicopter is in high demand with more than 400 letters of intent worldwide since its initial launch in 2014. The reason? It might have something to do with the JetRanger’s proven past, and the promise of advanced tech, comfort and versatility in an aircraft with consistently successful incremental additions and modernised design.
The single light twin helicopter’s cabin is complete with ready-for-business comfort from the get go, with five forward facing seats. 75/25 split clamshell doors allow easy access and the aircraft’s flight deck features a fully integrated glass Garmin G1000H cockpit for crew situational awareness and generous windows deliver high exterior visibility for both safety and a mighty pleasant view. With a 2.04 m² flat floor and an 0.51 m³ luggage bay, the chopper complies with stage 4 noise compliance.
The Bell 505 Jet Ranger X is powered by Turbomeca Arrius 2R Engine, featuring dual channel FADEC (with backup), automatic start up, and an updated maintenance program with 3,000 hour TBO. Max speed tops out at 232 km/h with a range of 644 km.
Hawker Pacific already has limited availability for first access to the Bell 505 Jet Ranger X in Australia delivering 5 new Bell 505 Jet Ranger X aircraft in Australia and 3 in New Zealand over the coming 12 months. The company will deliver Australia’s first Bell 505 Jet Ranger X to Nautilus Aviation in mid-2017. Our advice is to get in quick if you want to be flaying this helo anytime soon.
With the aviation landscape progressing in leaps and bounds, the industry overall is turning to greener, more efficient technology. As hybrid cars multiply on the roads, companies like NASA are looking to bridge the gap between electrically powered transport on the ground and in the sky.
This July, NASA announced they had acquired a second Tecnam P2006T fuselage, doubling down on their research into Leading Edge Asynchronous Technology (LEAPtech). The resulting aircraft, the X-57 (nicknamed Maxwell) pairs a uniquely-designed wing of 14 electric motors turning propellers with the body of the Tecnam P2006T.
As the lightest twin-engine certified aircraft available, the P2006T is a peppy plane, having established itself as a popular choice for numerous flight training facilities, surveillance and maritime patrol units dotted around the world.
The X-57 project is part of NASA’s New Aviation Horizons initiative, which will produce up to five larger-scale aircraft. The X-57 will be built by the agency’s Scalable Convergent Electric Propulsion Technology Operations Research (SCEPTOR) project, over a four-year development period at Armstrong Flight Research Centre, California, culminating in first flight targeted practiced for this year. The wing will be manufactured and integrated on the P2006T fuselage by the US based company Xperimental, designed to utilise all 14 electric motors for take-off and landing. During cruise however, only the two outermost motors will be used. According to NASA its projected that “distributing electric power across a number of motors integrated with an aircraft in this way will result in a five-time reduction in the energy required for a private plane to cruise at 282 km/h”.
NASA hopes that the wing, manufactured and integrated onto the P2006T fuselage by the US based company Xperimental, will demonstrate an increase in cruise energy efficiency, as well as reductions in carbon emission and aircraft noise. As the first NASA X-plane to feature a fully distributed electric propulsion system, which according to a recent press release with hopefully “validate the idea that distributing electric power across a number of motors integrated with an aircraft in this way will result in a five-time reduction in the energy required for a private plane to cruise at 281 km/h”.
At this stage NASA’s research team are flying simulator-designed mock-ups of the X-57 Maxwell at the Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. If successful, the working model X-57 Maxwell will be measured alongside Technam’s standard model P2006T twin, undergoing stringent comparison with the ‘conventional’ aircraft to monitor data and trends between the two.
Distributed to Australia by Global Aviation Products, SkyReach’s BushCat is a bit of a Swiss army knife when it comes to aircraft. As well loved bush-bashers start to show their age, newer, purpose built aircraft have more room to make their own impression on the market. As the latest generation of aircraft previously known as the Cheetah, the BushCat can operate in a vast variety of harsh conditions, with options for nose-wheel, tail-dragger and amphibian configurations readily available. The BushCat amphibian makes use of the 1400 Clamar amphibious floats, a composite of carbon, Kevlar, and S-glass fibres, resulting in a lightweight product immune to corrosion and leaks.
As a two-place side-by-side strut-braced high-wing monoplane, the BushCat’s rugged appeal was shaped in the harsh plains of South Africa, an environment not unlike our own Australian outback. The aircraft is outfitted to endure rough landings and course airstrips with a solid aluminium spring gear system and the introduction of a hydraulic disk brake system, a development on the mechanical drum brake system of its Cheetah predecessors.
Ideal for its heavy use within anti-wildlife-poaching missions, another handy trick to the BushCat is its completely removable doors. Skyreach states that the doors can be removed and/or refitted in less than 3 minutes, making it great for photography or tracking undertakings with a completely unhindered view.
The primary structure of the aircraft is made from aluminium tubes bolted together via stainless steel brackets. The simplicity of this design reduces manufacturing cost and time, resulting in a product with a high strength per cost ratio. Furthermore, in the event of damage to the primary structure, this design philosophy allows the customer to replace only the parts which have been damaged. But the rugged aircraft hadn’t skimped on comfort either, with the widest cabin in its class and offers generous headroom making the aircraft perfect for all sizes of pilots.
Another interesting addition to the BushCat is its control stick, mounted between both occupants, forward of the central arm rest. This configuration allows the pilot to keep his or her hand on the stick at all times, freeing the other hand for the throttle and panel mounted instruments. The use of a single stick ensures that control system complexity is kept to a minimum and that cockpit entry and exit is not blocked by floor or panel mounted systems. To accommodate the centrally mounted control stick, the designers of the BushCat have found a neat place to put the throttle. Two interconnected throttles are mounted comfortably at the end of the armrests. Both arm rests can also rotate to facilitate exit and entry into the cockpit, without affecting the throttle position.
Stalwarts of the outback, sports aircraft and kit planes are also experiencing an increase in availability and affordability due to recent developments in aviation-related engineering. Simplified manufacturing and reduced production costs have enabled companies like Belgium’s UL Power to enter the market more readily. Distributed by Corvus Aero in Australia, Les Elliott of Corvus Aero states that although the market was slow to start with, specialized engine companies like UL Power are beginning to gain traction, with sales progressively picking up in Australia.
Developments in 3D printing and the use of composite materials mean that pilots are afforded a growing range of options in terms of aircraft powerplants. Flicking through the gallery of the company’s recent conquests, I’m met with a significant array of aircraft models fitted with UL Power’s engines. From die-hard bush-bashers like the Bushcaddy r80 to the futuristic Cozy MKIV, pilots can tailor aircraft to their specific needs and economic considerations. Mr Elliott is confident that the move towards more tailored approaches to powerplant manufacture is a long term one.
Piaggio Avanti EVO
And speaking of futuristic looking aircraft, Piaggio’s Avanti EVO has now taken flight in the United States. Distinguished by its endearing whiskers, the Italian company’s twin turboprop P.180 line makes use of meticulous aerodynamic designs to produce jet like speed on turboprop fuel flows. Based on its three-lifting-surface configuration. The main wing is placed near the rear of the fuselage, while a second, smaller wing at the nose provides extra lift and efficiency. A wing mounted on the tail completes the trio of lifting surfaces. The combination boost adds up to more efficiency in flight, less fuel burn, and lower operating costs per hour compared to traditional aircraft of similar size.
The latest instalment in Piaggio’s P.180 line, the Avanti EVO combines its counterpart’s aerodynamics, adding greater passenger comfort and enhanced safety features to the mix. Piaggio outlines the key improvements to the contemporary design, explaining that “…while claimed top cruise speed remain[s] unchanged compared to Avanti II, the Avanti EVO is able to fly 80 km further than its predecessor…an optional 176-lb extended-range fuel tank boosts range from 2722 km to 3278 km. Fuel consumption [is] reduced [by] 3% compared to Avanti II, with a corresponding reduction in CO2 emissions”. A 20% reduction in cabin noise has also been provided by the adoption of a five-blade scimitar propellers configuration.
Stand-up cabin height in the Avanti EVO is 1.75m which Piaggio claims to be is the biggest in class. With a capacity to seat 7 passengers Piaggio says its cabin volume equates to “the most space per seat in class”. The company goes on to explain that “the airframe consists of 90% aluminium alloy and 10% composite construction. The engineer’s objective was to concentrate the primary stress from the wing, landing gear and aft pressurization bulkhead on the “structural core” of the aircraft. This allowed a noticeable weight saving in that area since the same structure supports different loads at different times”.
Consistent with the current direction of technology, the aviation industry continues to develop at a rapid pace. Be it more efficient engines, greater range and capacity, better tools in the cockpit or a strap-in toilet with folding electronic curtains, the advances in aircraft design are staggering. It’s hard to imagine what current advances in aviation will afford us on the horizon. But one thing’s for certain – it’s going to be a darn good ride.