MARKET SEGMENT ANALYSIS

Doing yeoman's work-midsize bizjet operations

Mission-specific and multirole, medium muscle moves managers around markets.


Bombardier Learjet 60XR (top) traces its midsize heritage to the original Learjet 55 (L), seen taxiing at SUS, and later Learjet 60 (R), shown at GVA (Geneva, Switzerland). Announced at NBAA in 2005, the 60XR is powered by 2 PW305s and is equipped with Collins Pro Line 21 avionics.

Like the Hawker, the Learjet 60 is a "legacy" airframe-a development of the original Learjet 55-and although GAMA statistics show it as a consistent seller the past 10 years, it has been outpaced by its rivals.

Interestingly, Learjet 60 sales have fallen off since Bombardier introduced its supermidsize Challenger 300, due largely to the latter's popularity. Yet, while it appears the Learjet 60 has taken a back seat to its rivals in terms of sales, it has a loyal following in the industry.

EAT (Wenatchee WA)-based Executive Flight, a charter management company, operates a Learjet 60 in addition to nine 30-series Lears and a Challenger 600. COO Don Harter notes, "The 60 fits our fleet of airplanes well.

Though every aircraft is a compromise of range and speed, the PW305 engines on the Learjet 60 are really a blessing-they have a lot of thrust and they're very fuel efficient. The airplane, after the first hour, is pretty much as fuel efficient as the 30-series."

Another operator who uses the Learjet 60 reports similarly miserliness in fuel consumption. "We see 200 gallons per hour on our stage lengths. I've even had it down to 192 gph at long-range cruise, [but] because we do a lot of international stuff with the airplane, we're doing longer stage lengths."

If the XLS is known for runway performance and the Hawker for range, the Learjet 60 is known for its power in the midsize group, which translates to both speed and climb performance.

Executive Flight's Don Harter says, "We have a special approach at EAT that requires a steep missed approach climb gradient with one engine inoperative (OEI). To approve us for the approach, FAA has required we make the 460-fpm climb gradient with one engine inoperative in the worst weather conditions we're operating in.

The Learjet 60 will do it all the way up to max landing weight, and that's with anti-ice on." Of its OEI performance especially, Harter recalls, "I remember when I went to initial [training] on the airplane, and the instructor was teaching us to brief our pitch attitude for climb and it was 17°!

Executive Flight COO Don Harter notes that the powerful Learjet 60 is still extremely fuel efficient.

And that's with one engine inoperative-it's amazing." Shared resources Although large fleet operators of midsize jets often have a phalanx of staff keeping the armada in the air, small flight departments operating midsize airplanes often do it without the benefit of a staff maintenance director or scheduler/dispatcher, sometimes creating additional workload for chief pilots.

Like most challenges, necessity is the mother of invention, and many smaller operators have developed a system to handle the work-resource sharing. Some operators turn to Part 91 management companies for that assistance.

As one pilot notes, "I'm still a big believer that a well-run boutique management company can be an asset to an owner. A small staff of 2 or 3 people can oversee 4 or 5 airplanes. For a few thousand a month, they take the entire administrative burden away from a small flight department.

There's a great niche for that-especially now." While the idea of shared resources is not new, a twist on how aircraft maintenance functions are accomplished is compelling. Even if a "full service management company" is unavailable locally, some aspects of the management of the aircraft can still be had à la carte.

Another popular "legacy" midsize aircraft, the Dassault Mystère-Falcon 20, gave rise to the 3-engine Falcon 50 series. This Falcon 20-5, seen at GSO (Greensboro NC), is one of more than 100 still active throughout

Notes one Hawker pilot, "In the past, I've reached an agreement with the local FBO and would pay them a monthly maintenance fee. In turn, they would track the CAMP runs, complete all the paperwork, and essentially act as my maintenance director.

I went as far as sending one of the mechanics from the FBO to school on our airplane with the arrangement that when our airplane broke and we needed him, the FBO would provide us with favorable service.

Frankly, that worked very well." Flight planning also presents workload-and while trip planning companies offering à la carte service abound, traditional methods still work. One pilot reports doing all flight planning through CTA-FOS.

Contract Pilot Stillwell notes, "I've always been a career believer in Honeywell GDC, but lately I've been using Flightplan.com. I know a lot of people are using it. It's free and it's user friendly."

For many, the direct relationship and close contact with the CEO or principal executive greatly outweighs any additional workload germane to a small flight department operating a midsize business jet.

It was the Citation III's adaptable cabin configuration in particular that spawned the VI, VII, Excel and XLS+ and that was used as the basis for the Citation X and Sovereign. the world.

Especially in today's economy, direct correspondence with the boss can be reassuring. As one pilot points out, "I often have much more frequent communication with the CEO than most of the company managers.

It personalizes it, and I feel informed as to the company's health." Big picture Each midsize aircraft clearly has its advantages. It is the operator's mission profile that dictates which of the current production midsize workhorses best suits individual needs.

The popular Hawker 750/ 850XP/900XP series offers a marginally larger cabin than its contemporaries and it has longer range. The Cessna Citation XLS+ offers the best runway performance in the group, allowing access to more airports.

And the Bombardier Learjet 60XR not only looks fast just sitting on the ramp, but backs it up with class-leading speed. Each midsize aircraft today-be they older airframes still flying in the 4 corners of the world or new production aircraft rolling off the assembly lines-perform yeoman work for the industry.

Many act as the sole corporate airplane for a small company, a speedy Part 135 workhorse, or a specialty aircraft that gets employees closer to the job site at smaller, outlying airports.

Regardless of that role, midsize bizjets soldier on reliably and with little fanfare, confident of the industry's quiet admiration of this unique class of aircraft.

Douglas Wilson started as a lineman at JGG (Williamsburg VA). An active pilot, he now serves as director of line operations and customer service for Galvin Flying Services at BFI (Boeing Field, Seattle WA).

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