(October 2011) In today’s challenging used biz-jet market, it’s safe to say that value is everything and that even then it’s sometimes not enough. This has led to some remarkable refurbishment programs designed to take much of the used airplane part out of the equation while actually giving buyers better performance — in some cases much better performance — than the airplane could boast when it was rolling through the factory doors.
A few years ago a new company, Nextant Aerospace, started by Flight Options principal Ken Ricci, sprang up to fulfill a need. That need wasn’t to refurbish Beechjets. In fact, in terms of brand and model, Nextant was agnostic. Its mission was to create a very affordable like-new airplane for the fractional/jet card market and to do it at less than half the price of a comparable new bird.
So Nextant began its efforts by searching for an eligible donor airplane. The suitable candidate would need to be readily available, reasonably priced on the used market, desirable to begin with and suitable for a major refurbishment — meaning, mostly, having no life limits on the airframe.
The clear winner in this sweepstakes for Nextant was the Beechjet 400A, which was manufactured in great numbers — 600 of them were built over a more-than-two-decade run — with nearly every one of those airplanes still flying.
In addition to there being a lot of 400As available at a good price, the airplane has no life limits. Its airframe is remarkably strong to begin with. Moreover, it could, Nextant determined, benefit in a big way from improvements to two of the three areas where refurbs matter the most, avionics and engines. With cabins, there’s not much a refurbishment company can do to create extra space. Luckily, the Beechjet had a lot going for it there to begin with: plenty of room and a flat floor, a rarity in anything below a midsize airplane. Finally, the 400A was already a very desirable airplane in the charter and fractional markets, where customers came to appreciate its speed and good cabin coupled with reasonable costs.
After Nextant settled on the 400A as the focus of its efforts, the route that it chose to bring its like-new airplane to market was to adopt the structure, strategies and methodology of a new-aircraft manufacturer.
The “new” airplane would be remanufactured in a factorylike setting, it would be supported with new-airplane-like warranties and support, and it would have “type” specific training available in a level-D full-motion simulator.
The end result to the customer would be an airplane that could be acquired for about half that of comparable models, that would have comparable or better performance than new models in its class, that would have low operating costs (thanks to a lot of new components and warranties) and that would have good resale value.
Most Elaborate Refurb Ever?
The result is the Nextant 400XT, a highly refurbished Beechjet 400A. I’d venture to say that the 400XT represents the most comprehensive refurbishment of a civilian turbine product that we know of. In fact, while the company would like to call it a new airplane, it instead refers to it as “remanufactured,” which is a term that doesn’t have any official meaning when it comes to airframes so far as the FAA is concerned. But it does get across the idea that the product has been extensively ... well, remanufactured. Once you see it, you’ll get the idea. It’s gorgeous.