When the economic downturn of 2007 struck, there were several bizjet segments that took a hit. Surprisingly, the largest cabin jets seemed not only immune to the crisis but to thrive on the turmoil. The sales of most light jets got knocked for a loop, but it was the midsize segment that spun out of control. The result was savvy bizjet makers going upscale with their midsize ambitions. Gulfstream’s G280 is a super midsize, though you might want to add a few more “supers” to it, and Dassault’s Falcon 2000EX, Bombardier’s Challenger 300 and even Cessna’s own Sovereign+ went upscale in terms of size, range or both in an attempt to seek out buyers who wanted more.
Traditional midsize jets went the way of the biplane, however. The Learjet 60 was discontinued in favor of the emerging Lear 85, which subsequently got scratched in light of a troubled development process and too-little interest. Hawkers by Beechcraft were eulogized — we loved them dearly — and that was about it. The only true midsize jets left are two newcomers, the Embraer Legacy 450 (which is nearing certification) and the Gulfstream G150, the much-enhanced Gulfstream version of what was originally the Astra SPX and a few things before that, and the Latitude. All cost between $15.5 and $16.5 million.
Even after Gulfstream got done enlarging the fuselage of the airplane, it is still smaller and seats fewer passengers than either the Latitude or the Legacy 450. It also uses considerably more runway than either other plane; its avionics system, PlaneView based on the Collins Pro Line 21 System, is top-notch but a generation older than either the Collins Fusion in the Brazilian beauty or the Garmin G5000 in the Citation.
The Embraer Legacy 450 is the slightly shorter version of the recently certified and delivered Legacy 500. The 450, like the 500, is a fly-by-wire airplane with impeccable flying manners, about the best in the business in any segment, a rival to Gulfstream’s G650 ultra-long-range wonder plane. The 450 has a great cabin, good runway performance (though not quite as good as the Latitude’s), good range and great safety systems, like its competitors.
The choice for many buyers will be between makers as much as planes, with Cessna’s and Embraer’s shiny new entrants looming large to prospective owners looking for great passenger spaces and runway performance.
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