The future of business aviation in China will include single-engine jets, so says Jim Rice, chairman and CEO of VisionAire Jets, who is here promoting the Vantage composite jet. Rice came to ABACE 2013 not only to show the Chinese market the benefits of a single-engine jet, but also to tell potential investors about the VisionAire program.
VisionAire Jets (Booth P1001) is the developer of the all-composite Vantage Jet. The original VisionAire company built and flew a prototype of the Vantage in 1996, at the time powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D engine. That company had orders for 155 jets, all secured by deposits under escrow, but it went bankrupt in 2007 and had to sell all of its assets. Last year Rice was able to restart the company as VisionAire Jets and repurchase the intellectual property, the prototype Vantage and other assets.
Rice said the reborn version of the Vantage would be powered by a single Williams International FJ33-3AP turbofan engine and be able to fly up to 1,500 nautical miles with a pilot and five passengers. He said the light jet would have a high-speed cruise of 375 knots and a maximum altitude of 41,000 feet, would take off in 2,500 feet and would stall at 70 knots. Avionics would be Garmin’s touchscreen-controlled G3000 flight deck. And Rice claimed the Vantage would have a key advantage over other small jets and turboprops, namely a fully enclosed lavatory in the rear of the cabin.
Putting a new aircraft into production takes a lot of money. During the original program, Rice had estimated a need for $100 to $150 million. He is now hoping that Chinese investors will be interested in helping bring the Vantage to market.
“We’ve got a good team lined up,” Rice said, including Tom Stark, the airplane’s original designer, and Dennis Olcott, a composites manufacturing expert who previously worked for Cirrus Aircraft, Lancair and Adam Aircraft, all builders of small composite airplanes, as well as Piper Aircraft (on the PiperJet single-engine jet program, which has since been cancelled).
Rice estimates that it will take four years to complete the Vantage design, build and fly prototypes and get it into production. By then, Chinese buyers and operators will recognize that single-engine jets will be safe and reliable and ideal for travel in China. “I’m convinced there is a market,” he said. “People would rather get in a jet than a turboprop. This is a great airplane for China.”