The federal court judge presiding over VisionAire’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy and reorganization apparently found sufficient merit in one or both investment offers the company presented in court on January 9, one a memorandum of agreement and the other a letter of intent, that he granted a continuance until January 21. Chesterfield, Mo.-based VisionAire had until the latter date to show that one of the investors was willing to provide debtor-in-possession financing until the $120 million investment agreement is made final. “We had been working with one of the investor groups for three or four months and the second one just called out of the blue only a week before,” CEO Jim Rice, CEO told AIN. Both investment offers would entitle the new investors to about 50-percent equity in the company.
Meanwhile, work on the single-engine, all-composite VA-10 is at a virtual standstill as the company concentrates on obtaining financing. Mark Jones, vice president of communications, estimates it will take about 28 to 30 months from the time financing is secured to move the Vantage through certification to initial deliveries, at which point “the program becomes self sufficient,” he said, meaning that additional working capital would not be required. He said the backlog remains “firm,” with deposit-backed orders for 60 aircraft, which represents the first year of production.
“VisionAire is the only company out there that has flown a very light jet with a certified engine [the Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D-5],” said Rice, a true and perhaps not insignificant point in light of Eclipse Aviation’s decision in late November to cancel its contract with Williams International over problems with the under-development EJ22 engine. Cessna has also selected a not-yet-certified engine, the P&WC PW615F, for its Citation Mustang.
“We’d like to get out of the money-raising business and into the airplane business again,” Rice concluded, adding, “and when we do you’ll change our double red rating in AIN’s “In The Works Crystal Ball” [December 2002, page 68] to something more positive, right?” After that article appeared, Rice wrote to AIN, saying, “I just read your December issue of AIN Online, and found it to be very fair and analytical. I can certainly sense you know the predicament startup aircraft companies find themselves in. Thanks for not ‘trashing’ those that try to advance the industry with new products.”
For the record, if VisionAire secures the financing it is now negotiating, reorganizes and emerges from bankruptcy and the Vantage program makes progress this year, AIN will change its next “Crystal Ball” prediction accordingly.