The mood was upbeat and attendance was strong at the yearly NBAA-BACE (Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition) event this past October in Orlando, Florida. But concerns about inflation, the potential for global recession and the ability to ramp up production because of labor and parts shortages were obvious from manufacturers and customers we talked with. Still, despite supply chain challenges, it’s a lively market for refurbishing aging jets and turboprops—everything from avionics and engine upgrades to paint and interior projects.
Garmin was showing its full suite of retrofit avionics for vintage turboprops and jets, to include the G600 TXi flight displays, EIS (Engine Indication System) and GFC 600 autopilot/flight control system. It was also showing off its G5000 retrofit integrated cockpit—a system with a growing STC for midsized jets, including the Citation Excel/XLS and Hawker/Beechjet platforms. Avidyne was showing its Atlas retrofit FMS—a system that it says will give aging jets and turboprops a new lease on life because it makes for a reasonably easy installation at an affordable price relative to hull value. Aircraft like older Learjets, as one example, might not even have precision GPS approach capability because first-gen EFIS displays won’t support the tech. But the self-contained Atlas units make it possible with minimal panel and wiring modifications, and at the show Avidyne announced an Atlas program aimed at the Lear 55/60 series. We’ll look at the Atlas in an upcoming issue of Aviation Consumer.
Honda announced an updated version of the HondaJet, called the Elite II. Hideto Yamasaki, Honda’s president and CEO, said at its press conference that the improvements made to the latest HondaJet are the result of focused market and geographical research. The latest over-the-wing engine mount (OTWEM) design HondaJet Elite II has a 1547-NM range, a 422-knot cruise speed at FL300, and according to Honda, the best fuel efficiency in its class that’s nearly 15 percent higher on typical missions. The maximum cruise altitude is FL430. To support the range increase, Honda tweaked the airframe’s aerodynamics and increased fuel capacity, while also increasing the gross weight by 200 pounds. It also has ground spoilers, bettering takeoff and landing performance despite the higher weight.
Honda plans to deliver the $6.95 million Elite II with autothrottles in the first half of 2023, and with Garmin’s Emergency Autoland later in 2023.
The Pilatus PC-12 turboprop single is a workhorse and Blackhawk Aerospace has completed baseline flight testing for its PC-12 engine upgrade program. The XP67P Engine+ Upgrade program will replace the PC-12’s stock Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67B engine with a factory-new PT6A-67P, which offers higher internal turbine temperature (ITT) limitations and produces 142 more thermodynamic horsepower than the -67B. The engine swap will improve the PC-12’s power and performance, allowing the aircraft to maintain full power to FL230 and increasing its climb rate by 25 percent. The company is expecting to receive STC approval in Q2 2023.
As for the business aircraft sales climate, there are signs the boom could be slowing. The International Aircraft Dealers Association (IADA) released its Q3 2022 Market Report and offered some interpretation of the data. IADA officer Zipporah Marmor noted that because of pent-up, post-pandemic demand and the rush to complete transactions by year-end for tax purposes, December 2021 saw twice as many deal closings on business aircraft, in all size and performance tiers, as any preceding month of the year—a pace that was “out of balance with the supply and demand situation,” resulting in artificially high pricing. Moreover, she noted the “normalizing” market conditions, shown in the third-quarter statistics, are seen as a needed return to balance and continued disruption is not good for buyers or sellers in the long run. Worth noting is some 40 percent of business-aircraft transactions in 2021 involved customers new to the private aviation marketplace, according to the IADA report.