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Global Express XRS Overview

More than 80 Bombardier Global Express XRS business jets have entered service since December 2005 and operators say the aircraft has matured into a rock-solid reliable transportation asset with increased range and even better cabin comfort than the original Global Express.

Announced in October 2003, the XRS is an improved version of the Global Express, certified five years earlier, featuring greater fuel capacity to allow typically equipped aircraft to fly eight passengers 6,150 nm at Mach 0.85 and land with NBAA IFR reserves. The XRS also incorporates a Service Bulletin that raises its MTOW to 98,000 pounds, thereby affording greater range/payload loading flexibility for operators of aircraft having relatively heavy empty weights. A separate Service Bulletin bumps up MTOW to 99,500 pounds to accommodate even heavier weight completions.

The increased operating weight Service Bulletins are a welcome improvement to the aircraft, according to operators. That’s because the original Global Express had an ultra-lean 6,000-pound completion allowance that didn’t accommodate popular options, such as high-density acoustic insulation, satcom, satellite TV, entertainment system improvements or upgraded galley equipment. Bombardier projected a BOW of 48,500 pounds for the original aircraft. For the XRS, the spec BOW has been increased to 51,200 pounds, including standard HUD/EVS, three-channel Inmarsat satcom, Iridium phone and an improved crew rest area.

Even so, operators say that the 51,200-pound BOW is too low an estimate, insisting that typical BOWs range between 52,000 and 54,000 pounds because of optional cabin entertainment equipment, denser acoustical insulation and upgraded furnishings. As more options continue to become available, interior completions get heavier. The extra empty weight may prevent operators from carrying more than five or six passengers with full fuel. Nearly nine of 10 XRS operators, including most we contacted, have opted for the 99,500-pound MTOW Service Bulletin to provide more loading flexibility. The extra heft diminishes much of the advertised range advantage between the XRS and the original Global Express, some operators said.

The 1,500-pound boost in MTOW to 99,500 pounds increases standard-day takeoff field length to 6,483 feet, an increase of 293 feet. However, the aircraft very much is hot-and-high weight limited because of engine-out climb gradient requirements. Departing from BCA’s 5,000-foot elevation, ISA+20°C airport and using a slats out/flaps six-degree high-lift configuration, the maximum allowable takeoff weight is 94,543 pounds, nearly 5,000 pounds below the 99,500-pound standard-day MTOW limit, according to Dan Fennessey, a senior captain who flies an XRS for Tudor Investments.

But operators say that the cabin, not ultimate performance, sells the aircraft.
“If you want the best performance in this class, buy a G550. If you want the best cabin, get the Global XRS,” said one operator. “Our owner briefly considered a G550, but the size of the Global’s cabin, especially for transpacific trips from the West Coast to Asia, made the difference,” said Warren Justice, who flies an XRS managed by Solairus Aviation in Petaluma, Calif.

Operators praised the Global Express XRS for having an even better cabin environment than the original Global Express, an aircraft that boasted the largest cabin of any purpose-built, long-range business aircraft. The XRS retains the same cabin volume, but features two more cabin windows, the highest pressurization of any current production, long-range, large-cabin aircraft and 15 cubic feet of additional baggage space. It also features faster refueling, LED cabin lighting and a slats out/zero flaps takeoff configuration for improved hot-and-high engine-out climb performance.

Bombardier has summited the learning curve with interior completions, according to operators. Aircraft are rolling out of Bombardier’s Montreal completion facility close to schedule and with excellent fit and finish.

Pilots say that dispatch reliability, cruise speed, runway performance, low V speeds, cockpit and cabin comfort, and ride quality, along with impressively low interior sound levels, low cabin altitude and systems automation are among the aircraft’s best qualities.

They also like the aircraft’s typical Mach 0.85 cruise speed that allows them to shave up to an hour off many transoceanic missions. Few, though, are comfortable flying the aircraft 6,150 nm at the speed. Most say they plan legs no longer than 5,500 nm to 5,800 nm so that they arrive with plenty of reserves for holding or diverting to alternate airports. They also commented that they have to fly a near test-pilot-perfect flight profile and assume textbook standard-day conditions to achieve Bombardier’s advertised performance numbers, including setting fuel flows by hand rather than deferring to the autothrottles to achieve maximum range. “Some customers tend to believe the sales pitch regarding range performance. We spend a lot of time cleaning up what salesmen tell customers,” Justice commented. But he added that he can fly two legs at maximum cruise speed between California and Asia with a fuel stop in Alaska and beat the advertised nonstop, long-range cruise time on 6,000-plus-nm missions. In addition, he arrives in Asia with more comfortable fuel reserves.

Operator Demographics and Mission Profiles

Most large public corporations, along with many small firms, we contacted were reluctant to talk about their aircraft or they spoke to BCA on condition of anonymity. This contrasts with the willingness of many operators to talk openly about their aircraft in our February 2004 Global Express Operator Survey. Lack of a large number of respondents also prohibited our providing a composite report card for the aircraft because of the probability of excessive sample errors.

Using Amstat’s turbine aircraft database, we learned that about six of 10 Global Express XRS aircraft are registered in the United States and about one-quarter of the fleet is in Europe and the United Kingdom. A dozen are owned by Bermuda shell corporations. There also are a handful in Asia and Africa.

Global Express XRS operators mainly fall into two demographic groups, according to Amstat. Large corporations, such as Danaher, ExxonMobil, General Electric, Kohler and McDonalds, comprise one group. High net worth individuals (HNWI), such as Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey, along with small, successful entrepreneurial firms, such as Tudor Investments and Sierra Nevada Corp., represent the second group. Some HNWIs and small firms, particularly in Europe, have put their XRS aircraft into charter service with firms such as Comlux, TAG and VistaJet.

Large companies, especially multinational firms, typically operate the XRS as flagships of their mixed model fleets. A large part of those fleets include other, smaller Bombardier business aircraft, such the Learjet 45XR, Challenger 300 and Challenger 604/605. Some operators own fractional shares of other aircraft that may be used for peak demand periods and for substitutes when their fleet aircraft are down for maintenance.

Most operators contacted said they fly the XRS 250 to 450 hours per year. Large corporations typically have higher utilization than small firms, as high as 500 to 600 hours per year. One operator reported flying the aircraft 800 hours per year.

Typical load factors are low for a long-range aircraft that can comfortably seat 15 to 16 people in three cabin zones. Most operators say they typically fly two to four people on transoceanic trips, seldom carrying more than six people, the maximum number the aircraft can comfortably berth on overnight missions.

On shorter-range trips, some operators occasionally fill all the seats. That poses a baggage storage problem, operators say. The aircraft’s 195-cubic-foot aft baggage compartment is too small to accommodate more than six passengers’ bags. And the location of the external baggage door makes it difficult to fully fill the compartment without carrying some of the bags through the cabin and loading them through the access door in the aft lavatory.

Heavy empty weight aircraft can pose loading problems for operators. While Service Bulletin SB 700-11-020 increases MTOW to 99,500 pounds with little more than a tire upgrade and a logbook entry, maximum zero fuel weight remains unchanged at 56,000 pounds. Assuming each passenger weighs 200 pounds with baggage, that prevents the operators from filling all the seats if the aircraft’s BOW is 53,000 pounds or greater — regardless of fuel load. Some operators said their aircraft weigh 54,000 pounds or more, limiting them to 10 or fewer passengers on any trip they fly.

Plush completions also have a substantial impact on purchase cost and delivery times. The average completion costs $10 million, according to Viswanath Tata, executive vice president of Aerospace Concepts, a Montreal-based aircraft consulting firm that specializes in Bombardier aircraft completions. Tata said that it takes eight to 10 months to complete an aircraft and that custom completions can take longer. This can cause completion schedules to slip 90 days or more.


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