SyberJet SJ30i Completes Its First Test Flight

Updated aircraft includes a new-generation SyberVison cockpit.

SyberJet SJ30i taking off
The SJ30i hasn’t lost any of the exciting performance of the original SJ30.SyberJet

When I first flew the original Swearingen SJ30 in San Antonio more than a decade ago, I was impressed with the light jet’s rocketlike performance. Jets with cruise speeds of nearly 500 knots true and a maximum range of 2,500 nm were and still are rare. The original SJ30’s ability to hold its cabin at sea level sea up to 41,000 feet also made the airplane a winner. The jet’s designer, Ed Swearingen, gained fame 40 years ago with a line of tough, fast Merlin and the regional Metroliner turboprops with a design philosophy–large wings and big engines are not always the better answer–at the heart of the light jet. Actor Morgan Freeman signed up as an early owner of one of the single-pilot certified jets.

While I came away from that first flight impressed with the airplane’s performance, I remember a nagging question I posed to my company demo pilot, Mark Fairchild, after we landed. Why will anyone spend $6M (then) for an airplane with a steam-gauge cockpit, when so many aircraft in 2006 were debuting with a host of glass cockpit options? Turns out not too many people did. Over the years the original SJ30 suffered through some financial and mismanagement turmoil, including a number of prominent accidents. Many people assumed it was only a matter of time before the sprightly little jet disappeared completely.

But some people, like Mark Fairchild, never lost faith in the airplane. As NBAA 2019 opens in Las Vegas this week, SyberJet Aircraft, the new owners of the SJ30 series, are attending having just completed a successful maiden flight of the updated SJ30i. SyberJet conducted the flight from its Engineering and Product Development Center at the San Antonio International Airport (KSAT) and kicked off an 18-month certification test program which will culminate in an amended type certificate for the SJ30i and immediate subsequent deliveries thereafter.

The new SJ30i, powered by a pair of Williams FJ44-2A engines, retains most of the same performance of the original airplane, but has brought both the cockpit and cabin up to modern standards. Up front, pilots will find as standard four 12-inch liquid crystal displays, with the SmartView synthetic vision system (SVS), INAV moving map display system, electronics charts/maps, TCAS II, TAWS Level A, synoptic displays, dual flight management systems (FMS) with dual WAAS GPS/LPV, single inertial navigation system (IRS), onboard weather radar, full EICAS, electronic checklists, DME, ADS-B Out, and 0.3-nm RNP, as well as support for FANS-1A, SmartLanding, SmartRunway, TOLD, ADS-B In, emergency descent mode, and RVSM operations. SJ30i options include CPDLC, XM weather, flight data recorder, cockpit voice recorder, dual charts/maps, HF radio, SATCOM, enhanced vision systems, second MFD, and the flexibility for other customer requests.

Mark Elwess, chief engineering test pilot and senior flight test engineer Robert Moehle crewed the SJ30i on its first flight. Elwess said, "We completed all of the test points planned for the first flight and got a look at how much easier the cockpit and systems are to manage with the new Honeywell Epic 2.0 cockpit. The SJ30i known as the fastest and longest ranged light jet on the market now has a cockpit to lead us into the next generation."

Mark Fairchild, now Syberjet’s vice president of customer experience, said, "The SJ30i takes the original SJ30-2 to the next level. While it remains the fastest and longest-range jet in its class, the SJ30 now has all of the advances in cockpit and electronic design to make it simply the finest light jet available. In addition, the SJ30i also features an all new interior design in conjunction with the lowest cabin altitude of any business jet flying today. NBAA visitors can see the flight test aircraft at Static Space SD908 at Henderson Executive Airport.