Eviation Jets developing a twin-engine Vantage

 - November 1, 2006, 6:01 AM

Details emerged about two more very light jets (VLJs) during last month’s Latin American Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition in Brazil, a fitting venue since both aircraft are being developed in the South American country. One is from Embraer, and the other is a $2 million to $2.5 million twinjet version of the former single-engine VisionAire Vantage.

Real-estate developer Matt Eller, who acquired the intellectual property of bankrupt VisionAire in October 2003 for $441,000, has been laying low about his plans to revive the single-engine Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D-powered Vantage– until now, that is. Eller told AIN last month that his aviation company, Eviation Jets, has not only established operations in the U.S. and Brazil but also has an eight- to 10-seat twinjet version of the Vantage, dubbed the EV-20, on the drawing board.

In March, Ames, Iowa-based Eviation hired Gregory Powers as its president and COO. Before joining the start-up company, he was an international business development and operational planning executive for Teradyne. Eviation said Powers’ initial focus is to oversee the engineering, development and production of the EV-20 Vantage in Brazil, and to build sales, marketing and capital investment in the U.S.

The single-engine Vantage prototype (now designated the EV-10) that was part of the VisionAire purchase was flown to Brazil in November and is currently being studied by an engineering team headed by Guido Pessotti, an aeronautical engineer who led Embraer’s aircraft development programs from the EMB-110 Bandeirante to the ERJ 145 regional jet. Pessotti, the president of Eviation’s Brazilian division, and his “highly experienced” team will soon start building a conforming EV-20 prototype, which Eller said he expects will fly in February.

Twin Vantage

There are no plans to produce the EV-10; instead, the jet single will merely aid in the building of the EV-20 twinjet, which has external dimensions similar to those of its six-seat sibling. But how can Eviation squeeze 10 seats into the same basic design without stretching the fuselage? The EV-10’s JT15D engine is located inside the fuselage, while the EV-20’s two 2,100-pound-thrust Williams FJ44-1AP turbofans are externally mounted near the tail, thus opening up the cabin. In fact, moving the engines outside the fuselage expands the cabin length from 10.8 feet to 17.25 feet. (Eviation said the cabin length is measured from the cockpit divider to the aft lavatory wall.)

Three or four EV-20s will participate in flight testing, culminating in expected Brazilian and FAA certification in 2007. Eviation would not disclose its order backlog and noted that it won’t start active marketing efforts until next month.

Preliminary numbers for the VLJ include an mtow of 9,250 pounds; 1,760-pound payload with full fuel; 1,200-nm NBAA IFR range; and a max cruise speed of 427 knots. The company has not yet selected the avionics for the twinjet, but it has said the EV-20 will have an all-glass cockpit.

When asked about funding, Eller replied that the company is “well funded” and has enough financial resources to make it to certification. Meanwhile, production is “likely to take place in Brazil,” he said, though this is not set in stone. Further, Eller noted that the U.S. headquarters are only “temporarily located” in Ames, and since Powers currently resides in California the company could possibly move to the Golden State.

Eller concluded by saying that he doesn’t want Eviation Jets to be a one-product company, and he told AIN that VisionAire was working on six different business jet designs. He said he has plans to produce at least four of these designs, including the EV-20.