Jim Rice is determined to see his single-engine VisionAire Vantage jet program through to certification and delivery. “We’ve got a long way to go but I would like to finish this,” he told AIN. The newly formed VisionAire Jets held a community awareness event at Hickory Regional Airport in North Carolina on Tuesday to introduce his company to the Catawba Valley, where up to 600 jobs could be created if the Vantage jet goes into production.
Currently, 24 people are working on the project, including former chief engineer Tom Stark. Before VisionAire went bankrupt in 2002, spending about $110 to $120 million, according to Rice, buyers placed orders for 155 Vantages. A proof-of-concept prototype of the all-composite Vantage, powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D, flew more than 500 hours.
The new Vantage will have a more powerful Williams International FJ44-3AP engine and Garmin G3000 avionics, with 1,500 nm range, 375-knot cruise speed and seating for six to seven occupants. Rice has reestablished ownership of the prototype and moved it to Hickory Airport, although it is no longer flying. He said he needs about $100 million to get the Vantage to market. “We don’t have all the money necessary, but I feel there is a market for it and it’s worth finishing. It will really benefit this area to get into a new industry.”