To really understand the Hawker 4000, it’s important to realize it’s a super-midsize airplane with features that are sometimes found on the best large-cabin business jets, airplanes that typically cost many millions more than the $22 million price tag of the 4000. My sense when flying the airplane, which weighs just less than 40,000 pounds at max takeoff weight, is that you’re flying something in the same class as a large-cabin Falcon, Gulfstream or Global. There are a few features still that you can’t get. No head-up display system is yet available for the 4000, nor is there any enhanced vision option at this time.
While other, more recent bizjets have gotten a lot of ink for their fly-by-wire flight controls, the Hawker 4000 has had a limited set since its inception. The rudder, spoilers/speedbrakes and stab trim are all fly-by-wire, and the ailerons and elevator are, as Hawker sales rep Patrick Buckles described them, “the original fly-by-wire,” in this case the “wires” being good old cables and bell cranks.
The results of this hybrid approach are very satisfying. You get an airplane that hand-flies smoothly with the advantages of fly-by-wire on the secondary flight control systems. One benefit, for instance, is an always-on yaw damper for the powerful, electronically controlled rudder. There is also brake-by-wire, which in this case works superbly. The feel of the pedals is very natural, which you can tell on hard braking after landing and when taxiing. It’s easy to get just the right amount of brake when you need it. In short, HBC seems to have come up with a great approach to fly-by-wire that simplifies the operation — there are no elaborate flight control laws to learn and adhere to in case of emergency — and at the same time, the weight and complexity of many flight control systems have been greatly reduced.
Autothrottles are also standard on the 4000, a feature that can’t be found as factory equipment on any existing airplane at this price point. (The midsize Embraer Legacy 500, due out next year, will feature autothrottles, along with full fly-by-wire flight controls.)
For those of you who haven’t flown with auto thrust, it is a remarkable innovation that enhances safety by keeping an eye on the power at critical junctures of flight. In the 4000, for instance, the autothrottles can be programmed to hold certain indicated airspeeds at a given flap setting. With the first notch of flaps, the throttles will give you 180 knots, with two notches 160, and so on. They greatly reduce workload and cut down on power errors. One common scenario is the level-off after a descent. When pilots get busy with other tasks with the airplane on autopilot, sometimes they forget to bring the power back in a timely manner, and speed can bleed off quickly. The autothrottles, on the other hand, are never distracted. They’ll also remember to reduce speed when you level off after a climb, which can keep you from busting a speed restriction, and they can hold Vref on final, I learned, within a couple of knots even in gusty conditions. You can, of course, switch the autothrottles off, but I’m not sure why you’d want to, other than for the practice. Their operation, by the way, is smooth and intuitive. Pilots will love them.