Fuel conservation took center stage at the National Business Aviation Association Convention as vendors attempted to hold onto sharp growth in the business jet market. Plane manufacturers highlighted engine selections that conserve fuel and extend ranges, though increased power remains a key aspect of engine selection.
Though fuel prices have declined, the credit crisis has raised concern about the business jet market. While most corporate executives expressed cautious optimism for a continued strong market, they noted that conserving fuel is a growing concern.
“[This year] will be remembered for peaking oil prices and a general increase in concern about energy,” said Dassault Aviation CEO Charles Edelstenne. He noted that fuel consumption has been trimmed by 30% over the past decade, making continuing reductions more difficult to achieve.
However, engine makers are making progress. For example, Hawker Beechcraft's new 450XP uses Pratt & Whitney PW535D turbofan engines that provide about 10% better fuel efficiency than the engines on its predecessor, the 400XP.
The engines use full-authority digital engine control. Though the 450XP engine reduced fuel consumption, it also improved power. The long-range cruise speed was increased slightly, from 412 to 414 knot.
While Hawker reduced fuel consumption, a startup is offering redesigns of the 400XP that is said to offer a 35% reduction over Hawker’s conservation. Nextant Aerospace, formed last year, will remanufacture used or new jets, upgrading engines, avionics, and other equipment including wiring.
Nextant will replace the 400’s P&W JT15D engines with Williams International FJ44-3AP high bypass turbofan engines. Edward McDonald, COO at Nextant, compared his claim of a 35% savings to Hawker’s 10% by saying: “The question of the day is why they picked the P&W engine.”
Hawker’s upgrade to the 450XP “adds credibility to our plan,” he added. The Williams engine also improves thrust from 2965 to 3050 lb.
Other vendors also highlighted conservation. Dassault Falcon Jet President John Rosanvallon claimed that the 900LX “has 40% less fuel consumption that its competition.” However, the 900LX only reduces fuel consumption by about 7% compared to the plane it is based upon, the 900EX. They both use the same engine, so that improvement stems from drag reduction credited to a wing redesign.
Though conservation is a focus, companies are not ignoring pilot’s interest in increased power. Gulfstream focused on power for its G250. It is powered by twin Honeywell HTF7250G engines that each provide a thrust of 7445 lb, propelling the G250 to 41,000 ft in less than 20 min. However, "the engines still exceed the tightest government regulations for emissions and fuel consumption by about 20%,” said Joe Lombardo, President, Gulfstream.
Diamond Aircraft also went for power when it upgraded its D-Jet to use the Williams FJ33-5A engine. That power source is larger than the FJ33-15 used in the D-Jet’s original design.