October 21, 2010
By Thomas B Haines
If a personal jet never becomes a reality, it won’t be for lack of enthusiastic entrepreneurs. History is replete with promising personal and very light jet designs that never went beyond the mock up stage or, in an even fewer cases, flying proofs of concept: ATG Javelin, Epic Jet, Eviation Vantage (née Visionaire Vantage), Excel-Jet, Sport-Jet, Safire, Spectrum 33, and Adam 700, among others. Only the Cessna Mustang and Phenom 100 have made it to market successfully, with the Eclipse 500 still attempting to mature into a contender.
The HondaJet, PiperJet, Diamond D-Jet and Cirrus Vision soldier on in extended development programs.
A new company hoping to plow through the wreckage and on to success is Stratos Aircraft. Founded by former Williams International executive Alexander Craig and entrepreneur Michael Lemaire, the company is proposing a four-place, 400-knot, single-engine jet capable of flying as far as 1,500 nautical miles and as high as 41,000 feet. With expertise tapped from other programs, the company has done extensive design work on the composite aircraft and is shopping for the first round of funding, $15 million. However, Craig acknowledges that given all of the spectacular failures over the last decade, drumming up money, especially in the weak economy, is an extraordinary challenge. If he can get the first round of funding—and meet certain development targets—that success will leverage a second round that is more assured.
Craig believes that he can succeed where others have failed because Stratos has learned from the mistakes of others and because he believes he has a better product.
“We started with a mission statement and developed an airplane to meet that,” he said. Four people, 400 knots, and 1,500 nm with IFR reserves is the mission. Stratos designed an airplane to make those targets and, Craig says, the finished product will do that. The maximum gross weight will be 7,200 pounds. Useful load will allow for four 190-pound people and 30 pounds of bags a piece. The small airplane will be powered by a single Williams International turbofan producing 3,000 pounds of thrust. By contrast, the Diamond D-Jet single-engine jet uses a variant of the Williams engine that produces only 1,900 lbst.
Craig won’t say when the $2 million airplane will be certified—or even when the first flight of the “conformable ready” development airplane will occur. He will share a timeline with potential investors, but to the public he is not making any promises. “That is one thing we learned from the others: Don’t make promises you can’t keep,” he said. While there is no public timeline, the company is taking refundable deposits, which will be held in a protected escrow account; the funds not available to the company until targets are met.
AOPA Editor in Chief Tom Haines joined AOPA in 1988. He owns and flies a Beechcraft A36 Bonanza. Since soloing at 16 and earning a private pilot certificate at 17, he has flown more than 100 models of general aviation airplanes.
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