I stood the autothrottles of the Hawker 4000 up straight, and like magic they came right out of my hand and set their own power as though they knew just what I wanted. I kept my left hand on the tiller along the sidewall waiting for the 60-knot callout, at which point I knew the big rudder would become active. Hearing “60 knots,” I swapped hands, putting both on the elegant ram’s horn-style yoke and hanging on, keeping the airplane straight as it accelerated down the runway, centerline hash marks flashing past. Then, as we passed quickly through 100 knots and just a bit more, I heard “rotate,” and I did, the view changing from runway to blue and clouds as I pulled back and we climbed, positive rate, gear up, 400 feet, flaps up, then 14 degrees nose-up as we climbed straight out, the big picture-window view out the front and to the sides making the message quite clear that this is an impressive airplane by any standard.
To put things into a business perspective, let’s start with the big picture. The Hawker Beechcraft Corp. (HBC) Hawker 4000 is a super-midsize airplane that seats eight passengers in an elegant and luxurious stand-up cabin. With a range of nearly 3,200 nm, it is a true coast-to-coast performer against nearly any headwind and at better than airline speeds. It is a remarkable short-field performer for an airplane in its class, and it is competitively priced too. On top of that it is remarkably sophisticated, with systems and features unparalleled in its category. Sounds great, right? And it is.
So the question is, why has it taken so long for the 4000, which was delivered to its first customer three years ago, to get off the ground?
That’s the question that Hawker President Bill Boisture had when he walked in the door a couple of years ago. This is the story of where the airplane came from and, more importantly, how it has arrived.
The Price of Innovation
Ask those who have been there and they will tell you that, if you want to be an innovator, be ready for surprises. And be aware that very few of those surprises will be pleasant ones. Along the way toward that great new product, there will be detractors, financial setbacks, unforeseen technological hurdles and resistance from the regulators. And if you’re lucky, you’ll get the whole thing done not when you originally hoped to be crossing the finish line, but in about double that time. That’s not pessimism; when it comes to aviation, that’s just the way these things go.
Which is why the story of the early years of the Hawker 4000, which for years was known as the Horizon, is in many ways a painful one to recount. Until you get to the good part, that is, which HBC believes is ready to happen right about ... now.
New Concepts All Around
From the beginning the concept, like many such things, seemed nothing but promising. The Horizon would be a super-midsize bizjet with a mechanically wound carbon-fiber fuselage, metal wings, cutting-edge avionics, industry-leading automation and highly integrated systems.