Evolving business jet configurations meet needs with vision, advanced technology, and innovation.
Effective, efficient, and reliable air transport focuses increasingly on sustainable performance and reimagined features.
By Don Van Dyke
ATP/Helo/CFII, F28, Bell 222.
Pro Pilot Canadian Technical Editor
Business jets are operationally optimized to exploit combinations of utility, unrefueled range, and speed in order to meet requirements for reliability, performance, and redundancy, which are important considerations when operating over or into remote or challenging areas.
An Airbus Corporate Jets (ACJ) analysis of JetNet iQ data concludes that the 14,632 private jets in the US comprise roughly 62.5% of the world fleet. Candidates for replacement by new or updated designs suggest that this segment offers significant market opportunities for wide-ranging original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and resellers. Primary figures-of-merit which compel considered upgrades include connectivity, versatility, capacity, and remote/rough/short field operability.
Today’s business jets
The business jet market is dominated by Bombardier, Dassault, Embraer, Gulfstream, and Textron Aviation. Required range and scaled features are key focuses of today’s leaders – the Bombardier Global 7500 (7700 nm) and Gulfstream G700 (7500 nm). Meanwhile, the Cessna Citation Longitude (3500 nm) leads operations into relatively inaccessible destinations.
In mid-May 2023, Embraer announced the sale of 250 7/9-passenger Praetor 500 jets (3340 nm) and related support package to NetJets – an agreement which could exceed $5 billion.
Evolving business jets
Incremental aircraft design evolution is illustrated by the Bombardier Challenger 3500 – an updated look and branding for the Challenger 350 achieved with lowered cabin altitude, improved soundproofing, Nuage seating, and voice-controlled lighting, temperature, and inflight entertainment (IFE) system.
At the 2023 European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (EBACE), Textron announced a further development of its Cessna Citation Excel (560XL) series to the Citation Ascend, with Pratt & Whitney Canada PW545D engines, autothrottle, and Garmin G5000 avionics. The Ascend is expected to enter service in 2025.
Also at EBACE2023, Honda Aircraft debuted its HondaJet Elite II, which comes with greater range, higher speed, and additional features available in a redesigned cabin to replace the HondaJet Elite S.
Upcoming business jets
Upcoming business jets are those in advanced development, pending certification, and/or awaiting release to production. The Bombardier Global 8000, expected to enter service in 2025, features the same fuselage as its predecessor – the Global 7500. This design approach favors current Global 7500 owners who want to upgrade their aircraft to the Global 8000 standard simply by complying with a related service bulletin.
Dassault’s flagship, the Falcon 10X, was launched in 2021 and is slated for entry into service in 2025 to compete with the Bombardier Global 8000 and the Gulfstream G700/G800.
Future business jets
The potential utility, viability, and marketability of future business jets will depend on several influences. These may include:
• Public perception and awareness of business aviation’s quantifiable efforts to ameliorate environmental impact (noise, carbon neutrality, contrail management, etc).
• Development of alternative propulsion systems (open fan, hybrid-electric, compact engine core designs, hydrogen, etc).
• Improved accommodation of crews and passengers.
Sustainability. Public demand for technologies which cap environmental impact are reshaping business aviation, an industry which seeks to achieve carbon-neutral operations by 2050. Since 2020, business jet OEMs use a verified Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) to showcase an aircraft’s environmental footprint throughout its life cycle. Greater availability of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is a critical key to achieving this goal.
Enhanced flight decks. How the aircraft is flown has a significant effect not only on safety and comfort, but on environmental impact as well. Large-format touchscreens enhance situational awareness (SA) and information management by replacing 70% or more of controls on traditional aircraft panels.
Enhanced future flight decks will feature autothrottles and autobrakes as standard. Currently, several business jets feature full fly-by-wire (FBW) technology, but this control philosophy (and accompanying precision) is gaining wider acceptance.
Networked aircraft system monitors will alert pilots to potential faults, offering to switch automatically to redundant systems when appropriate.
In addition, a further development may replace cockpit windows with digital screens displaying multiple live feeds regardless of ambient conditions.
Maintenance. New core designs and parts made from composites require less scheduled maintenance activity and fewer inspections while delivering greater thrust, reliability, and lower specific fuel consumption (SFC). However, this may pose other challenges. Several powerplants have no mandatory scheduled overhauls or hot-section teardown inspections, so these engines are only removed if a fault is detected during flight or scheduled inspection, or if a component reaches its life limit, which may complicate maintenance budgeting, making adherence to the OEM service plan necessary.
Reimagined cabins. Traditionally, available cabin space is divided into working, living, and rest areas, offering functionality and aesthetics to accommodate a range of personal tastes. Future business jets will benefit from updated interior designs offering innovative galleys, increased space, improved acoustics, larger windows, and greater versatility.
Seats can be positioned near windows or reclined to a berth configuration, providing each passenger with a comfortable experience. And a divan couch, if fitted, can be transformed into a bed.
Flexible, movable, and stowable partitions in future business jets may be used to reimagine the distribution of cabin space and create greater privacy.
Advanced IFE systems may feature home theatre digital signal processing, and seat-centric audio technology to personalize vivid cinematic and listening experiences.
Aircraft certification reform. Current FAA regulatory processes often discourage innovation and the fielding of new safety- and performance-enhancing technologies, frustrating both OEMs and operators.
A French vision for hydrogen-electric aircraft was announced at the 2023 Paris Air Show. The Beyond Aero BYA-I midsize aircraft is going to be certified under existing EASA CS-23 rules.
Letters of intent for possible purchases of 72 aircraft have been received
from operators seeking to decarbonize their fleets.
New aircraft designs. European startup Destinus envisions its 25-place Destinus S business aircraft reaching M 5 to cruise at 108,000 ft using liquid hydrogen in combination with jet and rocket engines.
The Spike Aerospace S-512 proposes to transport 12–18 passengers at M 1.6, but it will use the company’s undisclosed proprietary Quiet Supersonic Flight Technology.
Promising technologies, enhanced connectivity, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), and the drive for hybrid, electric, and hydrogen propulsion alternatives will all influence tomorrow’s aircraft designs, features, performance, and, ultimately, societal value.
Don Van Dyke is professor of advanced aerospace topics at Chicoutimi College of Aviation – CQFA Montréal. He is an 18,000-hour TT pilot and instructor with extensive airline, business and charter experience on both airplanes and helicopters. A former IATA ops director, he has served on several ICAO panels. He is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and is a flight operations expert on technical projects under UN administration.