July 30, 2011
By Thomas A. Horne
The Aerostar Aircraft Corp. brought its new jet conversion of an Aerostar 601P to this year’s EAA AirVenture, and drew crowds of the curious. The company mounted two Pratt & Whitney PW615F engines of 1,460 lbst—the same engines used in the Cessna Mustang—under the Aerostar’s wings and has been testing the design at its Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, location.
So far, the airplane has been limited to flights below 30,000 feet owing to pressurization concerns, but Aerostar Aircraft Co-founder Jim Christy said that an attempt to fly at 35,000 feet may soon be in the offing. Christy said the airplane has logged 15 hours of flight time.
Performance goals include a maximum cruise speed of 400 knots and a range of 1,000 nautical miles. There have been no orders for the revamped Aerostar. Christy is looking for investors to pick up the project, which he said may begin with retrofitting piston-powered Aerostars. If there’s enough interest, he said that seeking a type certificate could be an option. This would allow the airplane to be manufactured as a new airplane with the PW615s. Christy said that the anticipated price tag for the conversion will be in the neighborhood of $1.2 million.
The Aerostar design’s long history began in the late 1950s to early 1960s when famed designer Ted Smith developed the airplane. Eventually, Piper Aircraft Corp. bought and manufactured the Aerostar in the 1980s, touting it as the fastest production piston twin in the world. In 1989, Piper’s then-president M. Stuart Millar proposed a jet-engine-powered Aerostar, but nothing came of it. Now it seems the idea has taken on new life.
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Tom Horne has worked at AOPA since the early 1980s. He began flying in 1975 and has an airline transport pilot and flight instructor certificates. He’s flown everything from ultralights to Gulfstreams and ferried numerous piston airplanes across the Atlantic.
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