New life could be breathed into the Century Jet program if owner Bill Northrup and Roy Norris, chairman and CEO of AASI, can reach an agreement. AASI acquired the assets of Mooney Aircraft on March 18 (AIN, March, page 24) and plans not only to restart the Mooney production line but also to acquire other general airplane programs. Norris has specifically mentioned the Century Jet as one of these programs, while not yet earmarking any others by name. The merged company is expected to go under the name Mooney Aerospace Group.
Northrup confirmed he is in negotiations with Norris and told AIN he is also speaking with another group of investors in the U.S. In December 1997, Norris had joined Century Jet’s executive board. At that time Norris said, “I have been involved with many successful aircraft projects and I’m convinced that the Century Jet is going to be even more successful than the CitationJet program was for Cessna.” He worked as a consultant for about two years and was influential in convincing Northrup to abandon the original single-engine design for the Century Jet’s present twin-engine configuration. Another AASI/Century Jet connection is Dale Ruhmel, who was chief engineer for Century Aerospace and is now v-p of engineering for AASI/Mooney Aerospace Group.
Inability to obtain financing eventually put the Century program on the shelf, but Northrup is still eager to build the superlight jet. “It might end up being called something else, but I still want to build it,” he told AIN last month. Once an agreement is in place, Northrup estimates it will take 20 months of development work to reach first flight and 18 months more for certification.