NBAA-BACE Diary 2021: Refurbs, Avionics

Demand for used business aircraft is at an all-time high and that's fueling the refurbishment market. HondaJet teases with a new big-jet concept.

After a one-year hiatus, the big airplanes and pilots who fly them came to Las Vegas for the 2021 NBAA-BACE gathering. The mood was positive, and not unlike the lower-end piston market, things are hopping in the bizjet and turboprop world. 

New airplane announcements, new avionics projects and certification, retrofit programs for old jets and plenty of buzz about alternate fuels were a few of the highlights. Here are a few standouts.


According to Honda, the concept—including a full-size mockup—was on display to collect customer feedback and validate market demand. If it’s a go, the aircraft will feature Honda’s over-the-wing engine mount (OTWEM) configuration, natural laminar flow (NLF) technology on the wings and nose and a carbon composite fuselage. 

The HondaJet 2600 is expected to have a range of 2625 nautical miles, high speed cruise of 450 knots and maximum cruise altitude of 47,000 feet. Designed for single-pilot operation, the aircraft will include autothrottle and autobrake, an advanced steering augmentation system (ASAS) and runway overrun awareness and alerting system (ROAAS). It will come equipped with a customized avionics suite based on the Garmin G3000 and offer three types of modular, customized cabin configurations.


The Pilatus PC-12 is a workhorse, no matter which vintage, and plenty of earlier models are about due for some upgrades. Blackhawk introduced an engine mod, and Garmin had an avionics solution.

Once the supplemental type certificate (STC) has been approved, the XP67P Engine+ Upgrade program will replace the stock Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67B engine found on legacy PC-12s with a factory-new PT6A-67P. The -67P, which has higher internal turbine temperature (ITT) limitations and produces 142 more thermodynamic horsepower than the -67B, will increase the aircraft’s power and performance including allowing the PC-12 to maintain full power to 23,000 feet.

According to market research conducted by Blackhawk, there are currently 1700 PC-12 models in operation, more than 600 of which will be eligible for the XP67P upgrade. Flight testing is expected to begin in early 2022. Blackhawk is targeting the first quarter of 2023 for STC completion and estimates that the upgrade will be priced at around $800,000.

For the cockpit, Garmin announced retrofit approval for its TXi EIS, and a fully modernized cockpit retrofit solution for select PC-12/45 and PC-12/47 models that includes the GFC 600 autopilot, G600 TXi primary flight display(s), GTN Xi navigators, GTX ADS-B transponders, GWX weather radar and a GI 275 electronic flight instrument configured as a standby flight instrument. Garmin’s EIS for the PC-12 adds more functionality than stock, including dynamic gauge limits, limit timers and data logging.

Early PC-12s were equipped with BendixKing EFIS and autopilots, and while many have been upgraded with Garmin navigators, the TXi display and EIS upgrade brings the airplane into the current-gen avionics world.

That’s Garmin’s latest flight deck upgrade for Pilatus PC-12 models, top. It includes the G600/EIS TXi GFC 600 autopilot and GTN navigators. That’s the King Air 200 test bed, bottom, that Tamarack Aerospace is using to earn an STC to retrofit its Performance Smartwing active winglet system.


Textron Aviation unveiled its next-generation Cessna Citation M2 Gen2 and Cessna Citation XLS Gen2 business jets. With the buyer demographic targeting airline passengers, there is focus on the cabin experience. 

The seven-passenger Citation M2 Gen2 upgraded features include more inflight accessible storage, wireless charging capabilities and USB-A ports at each cabin seat, new interior styling and three inches of additional legroom for the copilot position. As with the original version, the airplane has a range of 1550 NM and comes equipped with the Garmin G3000 avionics suite. 

The Citation XLS has a range of 2100 NM, can seat up to 12 passengers and is equipped with Collins Aerospace Pro Line 21 avionics. The Gen2 edition upgrade adds a new lighted airstair door and entry curtain, redesigned cabin seating and wireless cabin management system. It will also offer USB charging ports at each cabin seat and optional Bongiovi Immersive speakerless sound system.

Speaking of the Excel/XLS series, a company called Citation Partners brought a freshly refurbished Citation Excel—called the Excel Eagle—to the show. These airplanes are in high demand on the used mid-sized business jet market because of the good range, large cabin, decent performance and good dispatch reliability. But the earliest Excels date back to the 1990s, still sporting original interiors, paint and CRT tube flight displays. The Eagle program, priced just shy of $1.5 million, brings the airplane to modern-day standards with a high-end custom interior, new paint and Garmin’s G5000 integrated avionics. Each aircraft undergoes Citation service center inspections, although the refurb doesn’t include new engines since the majority of hand-picked Excels already have time remaining on the engines.

The company was started by Russ Meyer, Gary Hay and Russ Meyer III—all retired high-level Cessna Aircraft executives—who know everything there is to know about the Citation line. More than 1000 Excel/XLS aircraft are in active service worldwide—far more than any other model. Citation Partners has teamed with Yingling Aviation for a good part of the refurbishment process. Citation Partners said that VREF, the aircraft value reference, has already priced an Eagle $1.25 million higher than a standard Excel or XLS.


The company announced a new project to certify its Performance Smartwing active winglet system on Beech 200 and 350 King Airs. The Smartwing for the King Air is the second airframe variation mod produced by Tamarack, and when certified, the King Air series will join the roughly 150 Cessna CitationJets currently modified with Tamarack’s Active Winglet. 

This mod process is being done in partnership with Dynamic Aviation and is under review by U.S. military and defense organizations interested in improved mission capabilities including enhanced high/hot takeoff performance, extended loiter time and increased payload.

The Tamarack Performance Smartwing modification is expected to replace current King Air passive winglets, which the company says will substantially improve handling and significantly increase fuel efficiency. The Citation fleet exhibits up to a 33 percent fuel savings over stock aircraft, according to Tamarack.

The company, as we previously reported, emerged from bankruptcy after an FAA Emergency AD grounded the fleet of Tamarack modified Citations when one crashed because of a hardware failure in the system’s actuator. All existing aircraft were modified, and the company has strengthened its support network for routine inspections and modifications.

Larry Anglisano
Editor in Chief Larry Anglisano has been a staple at Aviation Consumer since 1995. An active land, sea and glider pilot, Larry has over 30 years’ experience as an avionics repairman and flight test pilot. He’s the editorial director overseeing sister publications Aviation Safety magazine, IFR magazine and is a regular contributor to KITPLANES magazine with his Avionics Bootcamp column.