Reimagined, Rebuilt, Reborn

At the Richard D. Shea/Cuyahoga County Airport in East Cleveland, there is a quiet airplane manufacturer hard at work. The Nextant 400 XTi is the result of a revolution in thinking, on the part of both the company and the FAA. One of only two such...


At the Richard D. Shea/Cuyahoga County Airport in East Cleveland, there is a quiet airplane manufacturer hard at work. The Nextant 400 XTi is the result of a revolution in thinking, on the part of both the company and the FAA. One of only two such businesses in the country (the other is the IKHANA factory in California, where Twin Otters are “re-lifed”), the Nextant jets are, like TV documentaries, “based on” existing design; but the end result is so different, that the resulting airplanes are new. Don’t ask me; ask the FAA. As these planes go out the door, they wear a new data plate with a new date of manufacture and production number.

Starting with the Hawker 400A/XP (which itself derives from the Beechjet 400, which came from the Mitsubishi MU-300 Diamond) new acoustic insulation from N2 Aero [www.n2aero.com] allow a new composite inner shell, which runs the full length of the pressurized area, from Jeff Bonner Research & Development of San Antonio, TX [www.JBRND.com] to actually add space inside – an increase of 3 inches in shoulder width and 2 ½ inches in height. The insulation isn’t just smaller; it’s a lot quieter. Nextant says that the donor Hawker 400XP cabin has an ambient noise level of about 81 db at FL410. That’s not bad, and it’s typical of light jets of that era. The Nextant XTi interior registers 72-73 db. Considering that a 3 db drop is perceived as about half the noise, the new interior is only about one-eighth as loud as the original.

Several Hawker owners, inspecting the Nextant, have asked where the fuselage “plug” was added. In addition to the actual increase in interior volume, the perception of added space is enhanced by a re-thinking of seating arrangements. Most light jets have a “club-forward” seating arrangement; the Nextant interior has the club seating at the rear. This, coupled with the three-seat divan that allows a 6-foot 5-inch long reclining rest area, optimizes the arrangement for the most-used PAX configuration. (Nextant’s research shows that most trips have no more than three to four passengers, though the interior typically seats seven — plus the lav.) President Sean McGeough explains, “The company was created to meet specific market demands in today’s light jet sales market.”

Unlike a mod shop or completion center, Nextant is set up like an OEM, but with added customization options. All the mounting points for all the options are included in all the airframes. Standardized options will all fit, without custom work. This allows the most-popular floorplans to all be accommodated without additional airframe modification. McGeough is proud that the “cookie cutter” approach can yield a truly custom look and feel. “Unlike other light jet manufacturers that offer limited interior selections, we have the highest standards and materials for our customers to choose from,” which, he says, “is particularly important in the international market.”

Specifics help illustrate the depth of the operation

The weak points and the “corrosion farms” of the airframe are well-known. Nextant not only disassembles much of the original aircraft; it manufactures new and improved parts. In the horizontal tail, for example, you will find new, stronger ribs. These more-rigid components do a better job of supporting the skin, and thus reduce fretting and loosening of rivets, introduction of water, and so on.

Performance (both power and economy) is addressed in the addition of all-new Williams FJ-44-3AP, which, in addition to a longer (5,000 hour) TBO, faster climb to altitude, and shorter takeoff, also burn up to 25 percent less fuel. Just “bolting these on” was not the case. Entirely new pylons and attachments, changes in fuel delivery, and new nacelles were part of the deal.

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