Crash Severely Damages Sport-Jet Prototype

 - November 16, 2006, 10:26 AM

The sole Sport-Jet prototype crashed while taking off from Colorado Springs Airport last Thursday. According to the NTSB, the single-engine VLJ was substantially damaged–“both landing-gear assemblies separated, the left wing was crushed and bent aft at midspan and the horizontal stabilizer was crushed.” Pilot James Stewart and mechanic John Welty were “seriously injured,” the Safety Board said. Tower controllers told the NTSB that “the airplane departed [11,022-foot-long] Runway 17R, became airborne only momentarily, and then impacted the runway and surrounding terrain.” Several witnesses reported that at approximately 15 feet above the ground, “the airplane rolled hard to the left and began to cartwheel down the runway.” The airplane came to rest 3,000 feet down the runway. Bob Bornhofen, president of Excel-Jet (developer of the Sport-Jet) said it wasn’t immediately clear how this accident would affect the Sport-Jet program or its planned mid-2008 certification, but the company “has suspended work” until further notice. The VLJ had logged 25 hours since first flying in mid-May.