In the Works: Eviation Vantage

 - March 30, 2007, 7:30 AM

Buying the assets of a bankrupt aviation company is one way to lower the cost of entry into the industry, but it’s still a risky business. Iowa real-estate developer Matt Eller paid $441,000 last October to acquire the intellectual property of VisionAire, and thus acquired the moribund single-turbine Vantage very light jet. Eller’s goal is to certify and build the Vantage, but in the meantime he’s still searching for funding.

“I researched VisionAire for three years before buying it,” he told AIN last month. “I think the Vantage is a great product. VisionAire spent $110 million on it and went bankrupt. That’s just a bummer. In the country, people work really hard just to make a living. It was a big deal to the people in Ames to have a corporate jet manufacturer coming to the area.” The city of Ames helped finance the construction of a $5 million assembly plant, which VisionAire never occupied and was not part of the assets Eller bought.

Tom Stark, former VisionAire president, is working as a consultant for Eviation. Eller said Stark believes it easier to fix the problems with the original Vantage design than go with the redesign that VisionAire was developing before it closed. However, Stark is considering replacing the Vantage’s single Pratt & Whitney JT15D-5 with two Williams FJ33s. Target price is $2 million to $2.5 million.

But what about financing? Eller answered, “When I have the contracts in place, I’ll explain it some more and answer any questions. Right now I can’t breach confidentiality.

 “I take calculated risks. I won’t go into a project until I know I can build and rent it,” Eller concluded, referring to his success as a property developer.