XTI Looks to 'Crowdfunding' for TriFan 600

 - August 25, 2015, 9:00 AM
Denver-based XTI is designing an aircraft that would be powered by three turboshafts, two on the wings and a third mounted aft.

XTI Aircraft Company is exploring the potential of a crowdfunding campaign to help bring its vision of a TriFan 600 six-seat fixed-wing vertical-takeoff business aircraft to reality. Founded in 2012, Denver-based XTI is designing an aircraft that would be powered by two turboshafts driving three ducted fans, two on the wings and a third mounted aft. The wing-mounted fans would rotate up for vertical lift and then rotate forward for flight. The aft fan would be engaged for vertical takeoff and landing, but would then be disengaged and retracted, covered by “clamshell”-like doors to provide a more aerodynamic contour during flight. 

Combined, the engines, mounted aft, would produce close to 6,000 shp, enough power for vertical lift and high-altitude flight, said Jeffrey Pino, XTI's vice chairman and former president and CEO of Sikorsky Aircraft. The aircraft would be capable of reaching altitudes in excess of 30,000 feet, fly between 800 nm and 1,200 nm and yet land on a helipad, Pino said. Price is projected to be in the “high single-digit” or “low double-digit” million-dollar range, he said, adding that the aircraft would be targeted for personal travel, executive transport and air medical, among other uses.

XTI is billing the aircraft as the first high-speed, long-range vertical takeoff and landing airplane to provide “true door-to-door travel.”

“No traditional jet, helicopter or other aircraft opens the same world of possibilities,” said David Brody, chairman and founder of XTI and also founder and former chairman of vertical lift specialist AVX Aircraft Company.

Along with bringing in Pino, Brody has assembled a team of industry and engineering veterans to build the new company. They include chief engineer Dennis Olcott, previously chief engineer for Adam Aircraft and the PiperJet program, and XTI board member Charlie Johnson, who is a former Cessna president.

The company has begun to engage in initial talks and data-gathering with potential engine, transmission and fly-by-wire suppliers. But at the same time it is stepping up its fundraising activities as it mulls moving to the next stage of development. Today, XTI is launching a crowdfunding exploratory campaign to gauge interest from would-be investors. The company is providing information and seeking expression interest through the website startengine.com. XTI will track interest over the next several months and then decide whether to file with the Security and Exchange Commission for formal investment solicitation.

“We view equity crowdfunding as a creative way to involve everyone as true stakeholders,” Brody said. Crowdfunding is a newer form of fundraising that is typically conducted through the Internet and involves larger numbers of unaccredited investors.

Under SEC regulations, the amount a company can raise through crowdfunding is capped at $50 million, Pino said, adding that XTI is viewing this option as only one mechanism to fund the TriFan 600. The company expects to rely primarily on more traditional means of raising capital, he stressed.

“This team knows exactly what is required to finance, design, certify and launch a program of this magnitude,“ Pino said. “Our current efforts are focused on raising capital, finalizing diligence on our technology and initial discussions with key vendors that will lead to building a prototype.” The company is not yet ready to establish a timeline, since that is predicated on the funding availability, he said.

But Pino expressed confidence that the company will launch the aircraft and that the technical feasibility is there. The design relies on proven concepts but will incorporate new technology, he said. “The revolutionary part of our design is really the ratio,” Pino said.

While aimed at a maximum of five passengers, the aircraft would be “our first product,” said Pino, who would not rule out the possibility that the design could be scalable.

Editor's note: this article has been updated to reflect fan configuration.