TECHNICAL ANALYSIS : AEROSPACE

The mission is global. The territory, anyplace not barred by politics or barren wastelands. It wasn’t adapted from something that previously existed. And it's agile enough to put down at an airfield that never before had seen a long-range jet.

For Bombardier Aerospace, its new Global Express business jet is a breath of fresh air. Literally.

IN A WORLD clogged with weary business travelers stuck in long airport lines, cramped airplane seats, stuffy cabins and little privacy for a delicate business proposal blazing across a computer screen, it's a promise of private, comfortable travel that's long overdue, according to Bombardier officials. Just the prospect of fresh air aloft for a dozen hours is enough to take a business executive's breath away.

The new entry into the unrelenting business jet skywars is the brainchild of Bombardier's former CEO, Laurent Beaudoin, who decided in December, 1993 that the company needed a truly unique, but comparably priced, high altitude business jet for private corporations and business travelers. It had to be capable of flying 7,480 statute miles (12,048 kilometers) without stopping to refuel.

The result is an ultra-sleek eye stopper, with high lift wings and vortex attenuating tip sails for long range, that has won rave design reviews, but delivers more than a 21st Century appearance, boast officials of the multinational company headquartered in French-speaking Montreal, Quebec, Canada. And, with aircraft accidents receiving increased attention, it's been over-engineered to be the safest plane around.

"The plane's unique environmental controls provide 100 percent non-recycled air," said Leo Knappen, manager of Public Relations and Communication for Bombardier's business aircraft division.

SAFETY AT ANY ALTITUDE

"The new aircraft also serves as a model for reliability, as not just the safety systems, but all of its systems, are triply redundant," he said. "For example, the airplane is furnished with four independent electric systems, three hydraulic circuits and three autonomous, integrated avionics processors. Its control surfaces are also equipped with backup motors."

The Global Express uses the highly-reliable, low-maintenance-cost Rolls Royce BR710 engine, said its program manager, Luc Fouquette. The BR710, and proprietary ultra high lift wing technology, lets the GEX (as it's affectionately called) soar to 51,000 feet, reaching maximum cruise velocity of Mach 0.89 - just under supersonic.

"(The engine) is perfectly designed for the Global Express," he said. "It has remarkable thrust (14,750 pounds per engine) and goes from zero to 43,300 feet in 27 minutes." He said the engine's Stage 4 low emissions exceed the industry's current Stage 3 requirement, with a high bypass ratio for significant noise reduction..

Knappen said the safety features have won high honors from aviation officials in the U.S., Canada and the European Union, home of a chief competitor, the AIRBUS consortium. And it was the first-ever long-range business jet to be certified under rigorous E.U. standards.

The plane caught the attention of Toyota, which took delivery of the very first production GEX, now based in Osaka, Japan. "It's utilized by both our chairman and president for transcontinental travel," said company spokesman Mike Michels.

It's the second Bombardier aircraft for the Japanese auto maker (the other's a Challenger 601) and is owned by Airflite, Toyota's aviation services subsidiary in Long Beach, California. The facility is rated the number one FBO in the U.S.

RAISING THE BAR

Bombardier officials say they have raised the bar for business jets, although its subsidiaries are better known. Its aviation offspring such as Learjet, Canadair (with the purpose-built, fire fighting amphibian CL-415, the "Super Scooper"), deHavilland (of World War II's Mosquito Fighter-Bomber fame) and Short already represent more than 15,000 aircraft, combined, plying the global skies. Although the third largest civil aeronautics manufacturer competing with Boeing/McDonnell Douglas, Gulfstream and AIRBUS, it claims the undisputed spot as leader in the business jet and regional passenger aircraft markets with planes carrying 20 to 70.

With such competition, the company established aggressive design requirements to win the race, said Knappen, That included extremely long range (New York-Tokyo: 13 hours flying time, non-stop), small airport access, superior reliability and a spacious, comfortable and versatile cabin.

Boeing, of course, would beg to differ about who is the real winner, considering its 737-derived BBJ, with similar cost and performance, has three-and-a-half times the cabin size.

AS A NOSE-TO-NOSE COMPETITOR for the increasingly lucrative LRJB (long range business jet) market, Boeing has reported unexpectedly high sales of it's version, with orders at 71 as of the October 2000 NBAA Show.

BBJ's sales are soaring following its 1998 rollout; blowing away early projections of eight a year ago. Presumably those have been at the expense of Bombardier and Gulfstream, who had pretty much claimed the market to themselves. Further, it prompted AIRBUS to convert its A319 for business jet duty.

Bombardier's 500 engineers assigned to the BBJ project "have done a remarkable job of satisfying all of these requirements," said Knappen. "The Global Express establishes precise, new standards for performance, capacity, comfort, design and quality. The 48-foot-long cabin (14.3 meters) is the most spacious in its class."

The result is a $42 million (U.S.) original, designed solely as a business jet, called "breathtakingly beautiful," that some analysts have said sets a new standard for aesthetics.

That confidence was proven in the real world, Knappen added. The prototype set seven world records during 110 introductory flights in 1999. Not bad for the newest Avkid on the block.

- - Bernard Geenen



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