Eviation develops VLJ in Embraer's backyard

 - November 1, 2006, 6:30 AM

At first glance, the headquarters of Eviation Jets do Brasil seems an unlikely location for the development of a new aircraft. The facility, located in a wooded area outside São José dos Campos, Brazil, seems more like the ideal place for a weekend getaway than the development site of the Eviation EV-20, a twinjet version of the former VisionAire Vantage jet single.

But Eviation’s facility in the South American country makes sense given that São José dos Campos is also home to one of the world’s top aeronautical engineering universities, known as ITA, not to mention the hometown of aircraft manufacturer Embraer.

Eviation’s Brazilian division is headed by Guido Pessotti, who worked as the chief engineer for Embraer for nearly 25 years. After retiring from Embraer in the early 1990s, Pessotti went to work on aircraft design projects in South Korea, Turkey, Germany and France, among other countries. Matt Eller, who bought bankrupt VisionAire’s assets in late 2003, scoured the globe in search of a team capable of moving the aircraft project forward. His search ended when he met Pessotti.

Members of the Brazilian team working on the EV-20 have spent at least part of their careers at Embraer. This vast experience prompted Eller, a real-estate developer, to entrust the development of the EV-20 to Pessotti’s team in Brazil. As president of the company’s Brazilian subsidiary, Pessotti is running the day-to-day operations until manufacturing begins.

The cost Eller expects will be necessary to get the new aircraft from the drawing board to certification is significantly less than the $140 million VisionAire projected. According to Pessotti, the total cost of building and developing the new aircraft in Brazil is roughly $15 million, including certification.

He and his team have been working for the past six months on revamping the EV-20. So far, they have made significant modifications to the aircraft’s design. The original Vantage was a six-seat jet single. For the EV-20, Eviation has added an engine and changed the wing and engine positions, allowing the aircraft to seat up to nine passengers and a pilot comfortably. In addition, the landing gear will be attached to the wings rather than the fuselage, yielding more room for baggage and passengers.

“The original aircraft was too small and uncomfortable, and after several modifications the aircraft is much more spacious and will have more baggage space,” Pessotti said.

The single-engine EV-10 prototype arrived in Brazil in November, and engineers have made several modifications under the watch of James Waterhouse, president and chief engineer of Brazilian aircraft company AeroÁlcool. In March, the aircraft was brought to São José, where the team continues to work on modifications.

According to Pessotti, AeroÁlcool will also be involved in manufacturing the EV-20. However, the location of the plant has not yet been determined, though several Brazilian municipalities and the São Paulo state government have offered tax incentives to bring the facility–and jobs–to their region. Pessotti is leaning toward establishing the plant in São José dos Campos, where he has already scouted several suitable locations. He added that Eller will soon make the final decision about the location of the plant.

Pessotti hopes to build the EV-20 prototype before the end of the year. “We expect our first deliveries in 2007,” he said, “and by 2010 we could be producing as many as 100 EV-20s per year.”