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...


“The new Williams Engine installation provides for a weight savings of approximately 120 pounds per side — this actually favors the CG profile for the aircraft and it is nearly impossible to load the plane outside of that envelope,” says Jay Heublein, Nextant Aerospace executive vice president, Global Sales and Marketing, “and the redesign of the nacelle structure creates a significant lifting surface not found in the predecessor aircraft; this provides for improved slow speed handling characteristics.”

The new nacelles allow better inspection and quicker access. While the original nacelles were positioned in the classic way, the new nacelles are held in place with captive latches. The opening is larger; and the nacelle itself need not be physically removed for routine work, as it is hinged. This cuts down on shop space requirements and damage to the paint and the nacelles themselves. Nextant says that 90 percent of service items can be accessed within 30 seconds, not the case on the predecessor aircraft.

Heublein says, “We took every opportunity to look at maintenance support for the product and make significant enhancements where possible. For example, the most frequent inspection on the pre-existing platform was a 90-day inspection of the emergency battery. We have replaced that system with a new lithium-ion power source that now takes the inspection interval all the way out to two years.”

 

Everything fits

Keeping configurations (up to and including an air ambulance) within standards allows Nextant to increase known options while holding down costs. No matter what cabinetry, seating, or auxiliary furniture the customer wants, he is choosing from configurations that will fit, whose weights and effects on CG are known, and whose look is still eminently customizable — finishes, fabrics, leathers, veneers — these can result in a one-of-a-kind aircraft, without the engineering and fabrication expense of a full-custom setup. Seating, furniture, wiring — all the options, all the hard points, all the connectors — are in place in all the XTi airframes, allowing the customer to build the cabin to his taste.

Nextant has three floorplans available, though the latest (forward divan; rear club) has shown to be the overwhelming favorite.

What that means for maintenance is that replacements will fit, without modification to the airframe; a configuration change is possible, and the knowledge that the ordered components will fit and work.

 

New where needed

Nextant’s cockpit suite is now Rockwell Collins ProLine 21. The cabin management system is Rockwell Collins Venue; and the cabin features multiple 110/220-volt outlets, and Aircell’s AXXESS cabin communications system for intercom, high-speed Wi-Fi (accommodating multiple passengers), Ethernet, and two-handset (cockpit and cabin) satellite phone.

All the lighting is now LED, for longer life, lower current draw, and cooler operation. LEDs don’t work on “dimmers,” but six levels of lighting are available through switching. Between the (interior and exterior) LED lighting, wiring, and new winglets, 27 pounds went away. Using a lithium-ion battery in place of the old lead-acid unit saved another 16; and its maintenance check is two years, rather than the old battery’s 90-day cycle.

Completely new parts, and new-design parts, grew from Nextant’s experience with the airframe. Known weak points, known corrosion points, have been addressed.

 

Donor aircraft and downtime

With some 600+ airframes produced, from the Diamond to the latest 400, airframe shortage has not become a problem. Nextant buys airframes opportunistically, and is always preparing subassemblies, wiring harnesses, panels, furniture and seat frames, table skeletons, ribs, etc., to be sure that orders will be filled quickly. There is no “downtime” at Nextant.

The philosophy of Nextant is to provide, as Jay Heublein says, “a reliable, fast, long-legged airplane that’s economical to operate.” And to buy: at $4.95 million, it’s a brand-new, state-of-the art, light jet. At half price.

For more information visit www.nextantaerospace.com.


Tim Kern is an aviation writer, aircraft builder, and private pilot. He is based in Anderson, IN, and can be reached at info@timkern.com. The following companies provided information and photos for this article. Jet Connections, www.jetconnections.co.uk; Comlux USA, www.comluxaviation.com; BizJet International, www.bizjet.com; and MJ Aircraft Interiors, www.mjaircraft.com.

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