VLJ race reaches epic porportions

 - January 31, 2007, 6:46 AM

Bend, Ore.-based Air Investor Resources (AIR)–the parent company of Epic Aircraft, which is currently flight-testing its Epic LT turboprop single–is now teaming with Tbilisi Aerospace Manufacturing (TAM) of Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia, to produce a $1.9 million very light jet (VLJ), dubbed the Tam-Air Epic Jet. The six-seat jet, which shares about 80-percent commonality with its composite turboprop-single
sibling, will be powered by two 1,500-pound-thrust turbofan engines– namely the Williams FJ33, Pratt & Whitney Canada PW615 or GE Honda Aero Engines HF118.

First flight of the 7,050-pound-mtow twinjet is pegged for the middle of next year, with FAA certification expected in late 2006. Like the Epic LT turboprop, the first 18 to 20 copies of the Epic Jet will be experimental owner-built versions, which will sell for between $1.3 million and $1.4 million apiece. (Delivery of experimental Epic Jets is anticipated to start next December.) Projected performance and specifications of the single-pilot VLJ include a 385-knot cruise speed, 41,000-foot ceiling (with an 8,000-foot cabin), a 68-knot stall speed and a 1,740-pound useful load with full fuel (2,010 pounds). The cabin will be 4.6 feet high and 4.5 feet wide. Tam-Air last month began accepting $10,000 refundable deposits for the twinjet.

Meanwhile, AIR said the Epic LT remains on schedule, with all flight envelopes to be expanded by the end of next month, first deliveries of experimental versions starting next year and planned certification in the first half of 2006.