The top end of the business jet market sector is currently the area where most new program activity is taking place. It is forecast that over the next decade 1577 aircraft in this category of ultra-long-range business transports will be sold, worth a disproportionately high total of $95.8 billion.
Just under half the total will be destined for customers in North America, but the fastest growth rates will be coming from expanding customer demands from the Middle East, Asia, China, and Russia, where there are currently few suitable home-grown products to select. New civil aircraft such as the Sukhoi Superjet and Comac ARJ21, which have both suffered severe set-backs coming to market, are emerging in Russia and China as new transports. But although VIP government versions might be sold in small quantities, these aircraft are hardly competitive in open markets with Western long-range executive jet models such as the Boeing BBJ (based on the 737) and Airbus ACJ (based on the A318), or the expanding range of new aircraft from Gulfstream, Bombardier, and Embraer.
Bombardier is the market leader with new-model executive jets ranging from the super light Learjet 70 and 75 nine-passenger aircraft, through the well-established Challenger mid-size family, including the new super midsize Challenger 350, launched in May, and the recently launched top-of-the-range Global 6000, 7000, and 8000.
Each of these new aircraft features the very latest cockpit designs with advanced avionics suites including in some models adaptive LCD displays and synthetic vision systems. The Learjet 75 has a new Vision flight deck featuring Garmin 5000 cockpit displays while the Challenger 350 has the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 advanced avionics suite, with most of the previous features, plus a dual inertial reference system.
Powered by two Honeywell HTF7350 of 7323 lb thrust, the 350 can fly eight passengers for 3200 miles at a cruise height of 43,000 ft. The paperless cockpit and multiscan weather radar is aimed at both increasing situational awareness and reducing the pilot workload. The Learjet 85, due for service next year, is in the mid-size category.
The new Challenger 350 follows on from the earlier 300 model, which has become a leader in its size range with over 400 aircraft sold. Fractional owner Netjets gave the new aircraft a big boost by ordering 75 as part of a larger 275 aircraft shopping spree with Bombardier, worth $7.3 billion.
The Bombardier Global Series, now expanded from the original 5000 model to the 7000 and 8000 models, reflecting the ultra-long range capabilities, offers high speed with generous cabin space and smooth operations at a cruising height of up to 50,000 ft. With lower operating costs than the adapted BBJ and ACJ corporate jets, the Global 7000 and 8000 have an identifiable segment of the top-end market almost to themselves, though for extra cabin volume the Embraer Legacy family also now extends up to the corporate Lineage version of the EMB-70 aircraft, just one tier down from the BBJ and ACJ.
The Global’s most direct competitor comes from Gulfstream in the form of the new G650, which is the largest member of the family. Gulfstream has been improving and refining its family of large executive jets over many years to remain competitive against the growing family of newer designs from Bombardier and Embraer.
Boeing is still pondering how best to adapt its new re-engined 737 Max commercial jetliner products to compete with the long-range Gulfstream G650 and Bombardier Global 7000. The new CFM Leap-1B high efficiency engines on the Max will cut fuel costs and increase range, but the BBJ versions of Boeing’s best-seller still come in at the heavy end of the executive market and may get even heavier if modifications have to be made to extract a 7000 nmi range capability. This might not be a problem for government customers wishing to use the aircraft as a VIP transport for state leaders and high-ranking officials, but it could struggle to match the economics of the purpose-built Gulfstream and Bombardier bizjets.