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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedA jet-propelled AirVenture
By James Wynbrandt, EAA AirVenture Today

July 28, 2009 - Oshkosh, WisconsinThe dream of jets for the owner-flown market is coming closer to reality by the day and EAA Oshkosh AirVenture 2009 is the place to see this jet-propelled future on display. The cavalcade of jet news started on Sunday with the unveiling of a kit jet prototype from Sonex, and includes updates on development programs from several companies with Personal Jets (PJs), as the single-engine jet category is known, in development. Here are the models making news at AirVenture:

Sub-Sonex, Sonex Aircraft
“We call it Sub-Sonex,” said John Monnett, founder, owner and president of Oshkosh-based kit aircraft manufacturer Sonex Aircraft, as he unveiled the company’s proof-of-concept singleplace jet.

“The genre is entirely different from anything we’ve done so far. The idea is to have a kit jet that’s well under $50,000.”

The single-place jet weighs 330 pounds and has a 750 pound gross weight. The projected performance numbers, Monnett said, are for a cruise speed of about 250 mph and a VNE (never exceed speed) of 300 mph.

The engine, a modified version of a turbine used to power RC (radio controlled) aircraft, will generate 170 to 200 pounds of thrust. The aircraft has the boxy look of the rest of the Sonex line, the small engine positioned atop the fuselage just forward of the V-tail empennage. The aircraft has not flown nor the engine yet been started.

The Sub-Sonex features simple construction and with a 32 gallon tank has about one hour of endurance—“enough fuel to have some fun,” Monnett said.

The aircraft is on display at the Sonex booth, 622. www.sonexaircraft.com

PiperJet – Piper Aircraft
Last year Piper Aircraft announced the maiden flight of the PiperJet during AirVenture, and this year the PiperJet is making its debut appearance at the fly-in.

Florida-based Piper provided updates on the PiperJet program at its press conference yesterday afternoon.

Piper CEO Kevin Gould said that Piper’s new owner, Singapore-based investment company Imprimis, is committed to the PiperJet, and that Piper will hire 50 new engineers to work on the program.

Bob Kromer, vice president, sales at the company’s Vero Beach headquarters, said the passive thrust-nozzle-vectoring system for the tail-mounted Williams FJ44-3AP engine successfully eliminated pitch changes associated with power changes often found in over-centerline thrust engines.

“There is nothing else like it,” Kromer said of the PiperJet. “Our guaranteed goal is 360 knots (top speed).

“I believe we can safely say we’ve got it made.

Piper reports it holds some 200 orders for the aircraft. It is, however, revising its delivery schedule and the company will make the new time-table public in October at the annual convention of the National Business Aviation Association.

See the PiperJet at the Piper Aircraft display, booth 158. www.newpiper.com

SJ 50 Vision—Cirrus Design
“We’re not trying to build a business jet; we’re not trying to build a VLJ,” said then Cirrus CEO Alan Klapmeier in introducing the SJ 50 at AeroShell Square at AirVenture 2008.

“We’re trying to build a [turbo]fanpowered aircraft that has a higher performance than our piston airplanes, and at this point I think we’re getting close.”

This year The Jet, as Cirrus Design of Duluth, Minnesota, calls it, is the subject of intense interest because Klapmeier is now trying to buy the Vision program from Cirrus. Company President Brent Wouters and company co-founder Dale Klapmeier addressed the issue at a Cirrus press conference yesterday morning.

“(Alan) is the only person we would consider letting peel the jet away, because it would still be part of the (Cirrus) family,” Dale Klapmeier said.

The company is considering Alan’s proposal because development dollars are in short supply; despite the financially tight times, though, development continues, Wouters said. Additionally, a few of the nearly 400 customers holding orders have requested a return of their deposits.

Certification and deliveries were originally scheduled for 2012. But Wouters admitted meeting the target will be difficult without additional financing.

At an event at the Cirrus display area the previous evening, in conversations with well-wishers, Alan Klapmeier expressed guarded optimism that financing could be found and a deal with Cirrus negotiated.

The SJ 50 Vision is on display at the Cirrus booth, 320.

D-Jet – Diamond Aircraft
Diamond Aircraft’s D-Jet, the first of the current generation of PJs, made its world debut at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2005.

The D-Jet is designed to be a step up in performance, but not complexity, from Diamond’s piston line. The service ceiling is 25,000 feet, but that may be raised in future iterations.

“The aircraft can be tweaked or modified to be able to go to the low 30s (30,000s),” said Ken Harness, Diamond COO. “From a structural perspective we have reserved that capability in the aircraft.”

Diamond upgraded the engine during development to the Williams FJ33-4A-19 producing 1,900 pounds of thrust. Top speed is projected to be 315 knots and long range cruise is 240 knots. Takeoff and landing distance are both just over 2,000 feet, allowing a D-Jet to access most airports most piston Diamonds already use.

The price is approximately $1.5 million in 2008 dollars, plus the cost differential between the original and the newer engine. The flight test program continues and London, Ontario, Canada-based Diamond says deliveries will begin in the middle of 2010.

The D-Jet is on display at the Diamond Aircraft booth, 241. www.diamondaircraft.com

Stratos 714 – Stratos Aircraft
Stratos Aircraft of Bend, Oregon, calls its PJ, the Stratos 714 a VLPJ, or Very Light Personal Jet.

The aircraft is still in the design phase, but performance specifications outline a payload capable of carrying four adults with baggage at 400 knots on legs of 1,500 nm with NBAA IFR reserves.

The company has brought a full-scale cabin mock-up to debut at AirVenture.

“The full-size mock-up clearly demonstrates the level of roominess and comfort we are aiming to achieve,’ CEO Michael Lemaire said. “No amount of blueprints or renderings can replace actually sitting in the cabin.”

Stratos plans to use the same model engine as the D-Jet—the 1,900-pounds thrust FJ33-4A-19. The company says it’s here to listen as well as show, and welcomes feedback about the design from potential customers.

The cabin mock-up is on display at the company’s booth, 320. www.stratosaircraft.com

Also… It’s worth noting the absence of Eclipse Aviation aircraft from this list. The now-bankrupt VLJ pioneer is certainly missed, but as the activity above underscores, the movement Eclipse pioneered is moving onward and upward.

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