NBAA Convention News

Stratos’ forecast partly cloudy

 - October 22, 2009, 9:42 AM

The new CEO of Stratos Aircraft (Booth No. 3905) on Monday made the case for his company’s proposed single-engine, carbon-composite very light jet and its supporting business model, even as he declined to provide details about the company’s current employment or release a timetable for the Stratos 714 project.

Aviation-industry veteran Alex Craig, who previously held engineering and executive positions at Boeing, Honeywell, Rockwell and Williams International, said he had received an informal commitment from a leading investment bank to provide what is expected to be more than $100 million for the 714’s development and certification, as long as Stratos can first raise an estimated $15 million required to build one or two prototype aircraft and successfully fly them. Craig said he is having discussions here at NBAA designed to secure that “first round” funding.
Much about the 714 project remains unknown. While the aircraft was designed to be powered by a single Williams FJ44-3AP turbofan engine, Craig said that Pratt & Whitney Canada also has an engine that would satisfy the aircraft’s technical requirements. He also said that an avionics manufacturer has not been selected, nor has a production site.

Craig said the company has issued several requests to different communities in several states to, in effect, bid on the location of a manufacturing site. However, he said that Stratos would rely on certified, or about-to-be certified, technology to mitigate development risk and inspire investor and customer confidence.
Craig claimed the Stratos 714 would outperform every other single-engine and twin-engine VLJ in terms of speed and range and that the 714’s performance data has been “validated by a third party.” However, he admitted the company has yet to conduct scale-model wind-tunnel testing.

Planned performance includes a 400-knot cruise speed at 41,000 feet carrying one pilot and three passengers 1,500 nm. (The model number 714 stands for 0.7 Mach, one engine and four occupants.) The aircraft is designed to fly 2,000 nm with full fuel and a 460-pound payload, the equivalent of two occupants and luggage.
Stall speed is estimated at 63 knots. “Your standard [Beechcraft] Baron or Bonanza pilot will have no problem flying this airplane,” Craig claimed.

Craig said he envisiones several possible interior configurations for the aircraft, with seating for up to five occupants. “Maybe we will have to rename it the 715,” he joked.

The airplane’s current interior design calls for a 56-inch wide cabin with 30 inches of rear-seat leg room, LED lighting and a large, left-side cabin door.

He added that Stratos aims to develop a sales and service support network that will provide buyers and operators with a customer experience similar to one given to luxury automobile buyers. He said Stratos would benefit from “lessons learned” from both the failures and successes of other VLJ companies.

The company is currently domiciled at the Bend, Ore. airport and has a fuselage mockup on display at this year’s NBAA. To date, Stratos has announced one order, from Cascade Air Charter in Bend, Ore.; it previously announced that all deposits are held in escrow and are fully refundable.