VisionAire Jets has tweaked the design of its Vantage entry-level business aircraft to accommodate a wing-mounted trailing-link landing gear, and is now awaiting funding to launch production of the single-engined type.
“The trailing-link landing gear will give Vantage pilots and passengers a much softer landing than the original aircraft’s fuselage-mounted design,” says VisionAire founder and chief executive Jim Rice.
To accommodate the modification, the Newton, North Carolina-headquartered company has lowered the wing’s position on the fuselage by 80cm (2.75ft) and made a few other “minor engineering adjustments”, Rice says. “All we need now is the funding to enable us to build the first conforming prototype. We are ready and eager to go into production,” he adds.
Talks are under way with “credible international investors” with a view to securing $115 million in three instalments to fund the programme through certification and into service. “The first $35 million will be enough to set up a manufacturing facility and build parts for the conforming prototype. We have already identified a production site at Hickory [Regional] airport [in North Carolina],” Rice says.
“The remaining $80 million – split into two chunks – should be enough to bring the aircraft to market.”
The Vantage programme is currently being supported by 80 local investors, including VisionAire employees, all of whom Rice says “are determined to see the aircraft succeed”.
“It’s not just aerodynamics that get an aircraft off the ground,” he says. “It takes lots of money, and we have already spent around $170 million on the programme over its lifetime.”
Bringing new investors on board is “a challenge”, he adds. The company has $5 million of funding remaining, “so we are being very thrifty”.
Rice, along with many of the current Vantage investors, has been a devotee of the design since its inception in the late 1980s. The six-seat aircraft made its first flight in 1996, and the proof-of-concept prototype had flown more than 500h before the company was forced into Chapter 7 liquidation in 2003.
The Vantage technical drawings, trademarks and tooling were acquired later that year by US venture Eviation Jets. However, the financial crisis in 2008 led to a funding shortfall and the intellectual property was subsequently sold to VisionAire.
“The Vantage is still ahead of its time,” Rice says. Powered by a Williams International FJ44-3AP turbofan and priced at about $2 million, the Garmin G3000-equipped aircraft is projected to have a range of 1,500nm (2,780km) and a cruise speed of about 375kt (694km/h).
“It is uniquely placed to fill the gap between high-end piston and turboprop types and light-cabin business jets. We will get this project to market, whatever it takes,” says Rice.
Article source: http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/vantage-gets-trailing-link-landing-gear-but-funding-429514/