Getting to the point of bringing the airplane to market, however, has been a long road. Without going into gory detail, the path from concept to an airplane ready for prime time took a dozen years, two names, four company presidents and untold millions.
Along the way there were schedule delays galore, certification complications, extensions, reliability issues, big orders and even bigger cancellations. The road has been so rocky, in fact, that it seems nothing short of miraculous that an airplane has emerged at all.
To the delight of its owners today, the airplane that has come to pass is an extremely satisfying one, one that delivers, finally, on all its original promises and then some. It is, argues Hawker Beechcraft, the most advanced business airplane in the world.
And with due respect to some remarkably advanced (though much larger) bizjets and a couple of midsize airplanes emerging right now, it’s hard to dispute that claim. The 4000 is remarkably innovative.
This is something Hawker Beechcraft hasn’t done a good job of selling either, probably because it’s been so busy taking care of its small but growing fleet — there are at this writing 46 Hawker 4000s in service.
Because there’s no set definition, it’s pretty easy to call a product innovative. Regardless of who’s delivering the message, however, the 4000 is without argument a groundbreaking product. Indeed, there are precious few things about the airplane that are business as usual.
The biggest innovation, because it’s the biggest component on the airplane, is the fuselage, which is made from carbon fiber. It’s not the first carbon-fiber bizjet.
That distinction belongs to the Beech Premier light jet, which was the inspiration for the design of the 4000. Like that of the Premier, the fuselage of the 4000 is wound by machine on a huge mandrel. The result is a component that is extremely light, strong and stiff, which are all good things when it comes to fuselages.
Another big innovation is in not going with carbon fiber on the wing but instead creating a tried-and-true metal wing and keeping it simple in terms of the aerodynamic design of the flight controls: the ailerons, flaps, spoilers and speedbrakes; there are no leading-edge devices. By optimizing the design of the airfoil and flight controls, Hawker Beech engineers were able to create a clean, high-performance wing that’s an excellent fit for the mission and the aesthetic. The airframe, according to HBC, is around 60 percent composites. Some skins are composite, others not. The use of materials was smartly determined by looking at the component and determining what worked best in that instance.