Adam enters its horse into very light jet race

 - May 7, 2008, 6:36 AM

The lightest end of the business jet market gained another player last month as Adam Aircraft Industries of Englewood, Colo., unveiled a mockup of a twin-engine jet based on its all-composite Adam 500 centerline piston twin. Powered by Williams International FJ33 turbofans, the $1.995 million, six-seat Adam 700 is expected to make its first flight in about 10 months and be in the hands of its first customers by late 2004. Certification will be to FAR Part 23 with an exemption for single-pilot operations.

It was just in September at the NBAA Convention in Orlando, Fla., that Cessna Aircraft unveiled its Citation Mustang, adding both credence and clout to the very light segment of the business jet marketplace (AIN, October, page 1). Eager owner-pilots at the convention nearly wore a path in the carpet between the Mustang mockup on Cessna’s stand and the Eclipse 500 mockup displayed by Eclipse Aviation of Albuquerque, N.M. Now there are at least three companies that appear to have the financial resources to bring their six-seat, very light twinjets to certification and production.

Rick Adam, the company’s CEO, claims to have enough money to carry both the Burt Rutan-designed Adam 500 (previously called the CarbonAero A500, and before that the M-309) and the Adam 700 programs to fruition, although Adam executive vice president Chris Finnoff told AIN some additional funding is being sought to increase the size of the investor base. He would not specify an amount, but said negotiations were ongoing.

Finnoff said Adam Aircraft holds firm orders for more than 60 Adam 500s, now with a base price of $935,000, and began taking $10,000 initial deposits for the Adam 700 at the October 21 product launch held at the company’s Centennial Airport headquarters. The $1.995 million introductory price of the Adam 700 will increase after an unspecified number of delivery positions are sold. The A500’s introductory price of $695,000 held for only the first 20 positions, but Finnoff said the initial price for the A700 would apply for more units.

The Adam 700 will use the A500’s wings and tailboom, and essentially the same fuselage, which will be lengthened by three feet to accommodate the fuselage-mounted turbofans and an aft lavatory. The elimination of the forward piston engine gives the A700 a 25-cu-ft baggage compartment in the nose, but the change in center of gravity caused by the loss of weight of this engine necessitated moving the whole fuselage forward 42 in. on the wing, Finnoff said.

Adam Aircraft ordered its first FJ33s from Williams about six months ago and expects delivery of two for flight-test purposes in about eight months. The 1,200-lb-thrust turbofans should be close to certification by that time. Adam plans to use three flying aircraft and one structural test airframe in its A700 flight test and certification program.

The FJ33 turbofans are lighter than the Teledyne Continental TSIO-550Es powering the Adam 500 by a couple of hundred pounds each, and therefore help give the A700 a greater useful load than the A500. Other performance improvements of the A700, compared with the A500, include max cruise speed, 340 kt vs 223 kt.; ceiling, 41,000 ft vs 25,000 ft; and IFR range at max cruise speed (100-nm alternate and 45-min reserve), 1,100 nm vs 1,020 nm. Finnoff said the A700, with a 2,950-ft balanced field length at mtow, is designed to operate out of the same runway lengths as the A500. The A700’s payload with full fuel is expected to be 725 lb.

The A700’s higher ceiling will require greater pressurization (8.6 psi vs 5.5 psi in the A500) to maintain an 8,000-ft cabin at 41,000 ft. To accommodate the higher “hoop loads,” the fuselage will be reinforced with additional layers of Toray, the pre-impregnated carbon-composite fabric Adam is using on the entire airframe.

Inside the fuselage, more differences between the A500 and A700 will be apparent. On the flight deck, a three-screen flat-panel display will dominate the jet’s front panel, and airborne weather, traffic alert and terrain awareness displays will enhance situational awareness. (The basic A500’s panel includes conventional electro-mechanical flight instruments and dual Garmin GNS 530 navcoms with five-inch color displays, while upgrade packages add such items as satellite weather datalink transceiver, lightning detector, terrain awareness and warning system and Goodrich traffic collision and avoidance detector.) Negotiations with avionics suppliers are ongoing, said Finnoff. Sidestick controls will be standard on both models.