I do love flying Hawkers. The Ipeco crew seats are comfortable and have dozens of adjustments; the cockpit is spacious; and the visibility out of the curved windshields is good. The big tiller wheel under your left hand is a simple hydraulic valve that meters pressure to the nose gear, making steering on the ground effortlessly smooth and easy. And the brakes are powerful but do not grab at taxi speed as many systems of more recent design tend to do.
For the takeoff we would make the go/no-go decision at 108 knots (V1) and then rotate at 116 knots indicated airspeed. If an engine failed, best single-engine climb angle (V2) was 126 knots. The drill is for the pilot flying to keep his left hand on the nose wheel tiller and right hand on the throttles to start the takeoff while the copilot positions the yoke as appropriate for any crosswind. When the rudder is effective, the pilot flying moves his left hand to the yoke to continue the takeoff.
Hawkers have only one unusual flying quality: At rotation, the yoke feels like it's connected to the elevator by rubber bands. You haul back on the yoke, and for an instant, nothing happens. And then the nose rotates, you release pressure and the airplane feels perfectly natural from then on.
Initial climb with the new engines was impressive, and even more so to note rates nearing 3,000 fpm out of 20,000 feet. Even climbing through 39,000 feet on the way to FL 400, the rate was near 2,000 fpm, not what anyone has come to expect from a Hawker. The DEEC control the engines perfectly, and you simply reduce power after takeoff until the word climb appears near the N1 fan-speed display. You do the same to set max cruise power, which in this case at FL 400 yielded a cruise speed of 440 knots with a fuel flow of 1,400 pounds per hour. The Pro Line 21 system showed a headwind of more than 100 knots, but with 5,000 pounds of fuel -- half the fuel capacity -- remaining, it computed that we could fly 900 nm into the teeth of the wind before getting to a very generous reserve fuel of 1,500 pounds.
I also tried the published long-range cruise speed, but I can't imagine ever using it unless you had a screaming tailwind and a very long way to go. At LR cruise of Mach .70, down from the Mach .766 at high speed, the true airspeed was 401 knots, and fuel flow was down to 1,170 pph.
Hawkers have a big handle that you use to modulate the speed-brake extension to any desired amount, so controlling descent rate is easy and smooth. Many other jets have speed brakes that are all or nothing. The big handle, when pulled up and over a gate, quickly extends the flaps to an extreme "lift dump" angle on the runway after landing for very effective deceleration and braking.
On the way back down to Wichita, there were some buildups around, and we could see them on the XM Weather radar page on the Pro Line 21. But the Hawker also has room in the nose for an 18-inch weather radar antenna, which is unusual for a midsize jet. The bigger the antenna, the greater the ability of the on-board Collins radar to see, and even see through, the first lines of weather.
The gusty wind and bumps were waiting for me back at Wichita, where I flew an ILS just for practice. The Hawker has a fairly small wing and thus a higher wing loading, so it is not tossed around a lot by turbulence, making it easier to stay on the approach course. The airplane is near the ideal landing attitude while on the glideslope, so very little flare is needed to make the landing. Despite the gusts, my landings worked out nice, which is another reason the airplane has been in production so long. An airplane that embarrasses its pilots gets a bad rap quickly.
However, I did prove to myself later back at Beech Field that it is very hard to bounce a Hawker. My excuse is that the threshold was displaced for workers near the runway and I flew a steeper angle than usual and cut the power while still too high. The result was a real thud, but the Hawker absorbed the hit; the mains stayed on the runway, and the rollout, as usual, was straight and true. It turned out to be an unintended short-field landing.
Times are tough for all airplane sales, but I'm optimistic about the 900XP because it does more for less, and that's a winning formula. Because of the efficiency of the new engines, the 900XP burns 4 percent less fuel per hour. The longer life of the engines means the engine renewal cost for each hour is 10 percent less. Add in the increased cruise speed and quicker climb of the 900XP compared to the 850XP, and you get an average cost per nautical mile that is 6 percent less for direct operating costs.
Is there an end in sight for the Hawker as it closes in on 50 years of continuous production? The 900XP proves to me that the answer is, "Not yet."