Five-Year Limit Not Enough Time For Composite Bizjet
Officials at Raytheon Aircraft Co. have asked the FAA for an
extension in the time it is allowed to certify its new Hawker 4000
composite-bodied bizjet under Part 25 regulations, the Wichita
Business Journal reported Monday.
Raytheon's request for an extension -- which the FAA is now
mulling over -- comes as the current five-year limit for
certification is due to expire on May 31. Raytheon filed the
request so it would not have to start the certification battle over
from scratch, according to FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Cory.
"It's very uncommon," she said. "We're exploring the options
with them. We haven't made any decisions yet."
Raytheon spokesman Mike Turner declined to comment on why the
Hawker 4000's certification could not be completed within the
five-year limit; analysts have speculated, however, that the delays
stem from the jet's use of an all-composite fuselage... common on
new GA aircraft, but still a relative rarity for larger bizjets.
(The 4000's wings are made from aluminum.)
"There are very little guidelines available for materials like
advanced composites," said Yeow Ng with the National Center for
Advanced Materials Performance, which is part of the National
Institute for Aviation Research at Wichita State University. "The
guidelines are written for metallic structures. So the FAA is
learning along with the applicant in that regard, like 'How should
we certify composite materials?'"
As Aero-News reported earlier this
year, the company announced in January that final
FAA certification for the transport-category Hawker 4000 would be
delayed until early February, as the company needed to install a
lightning protection system on the test aircraft being used for
final function and reliability testing.
The company originally announced the Hawker 4000 in 1996 -- with
a projected certification date in 2001. Several delays have beset
the project over the past 10 years.
"[The 4000] was supposed to help reinvent the company. Now it's
the source of ongoing pain," said Richard Aboulafia, senior
aerospace analyst with the Teal Group.
Fractional operator NetJets ordered 50 Hawker 4000s last
December. That deal, worth $1 billion to Raytheon, hinges on
deliveries scheduled to begin in 2007.
"These are complex projects that are expected to take time to do
correctly," Cory says. "Our interest, obviously, is to make sure
everything is done correctly and done safely and meets all the
regulatory requirements for a type certification. There are a lot
of t's to cross and i's to dot."