Type: single engine turbofan 7-place business aircraft
Powerplant: 1 x 1370 kg Pratt & Whitney JT15D-5D
First flight: 16 November 1996
Arguably the company that started the community looking downscale where jets are concerned, the Visionaire Vantage has been around longer than all the others – and is also arguably the most-unique as the only single-engine jet conceived or developed. First launched at the Las Vegas NBAA convention in 1994, a proof-ofconcept Vantage made its first flight in the fall of 1996 on a unique forward-swept wing designed to enhance low-speed handling while satisfying the competing demands of high 350-knot cruise speed and a 70-knot landing speed.
Company chairman James O. Rice managed to secure buyers, risk-sharing partners, development funding and support from the community of Aimes, Iowa, for a factory – completed back in 1997. Somewhere along the way though, the program took some hard knocks. The proof-of-concept plane, designed and manufactured by Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites in Mojave, California showed up some problems in the wing, the landing gear, engine inlets and interior systems. The JD15D engine, a proven performer, shined, along the way – the very reason the company opted for an older, established powerplant. Indeed, the target numbers were enviable: 350-knot cruise; 1,000-nautical-mile range with a 1,250- pound payload; and the ability to use runways as short as 2,500 feet. All for about $1.75 million – back at the beginning.
Nevertheless, the program has been largely dormant for the past three years, with most employees long ago laid off. That doesn’t mean that the program is dead, Rice told us at NBAA. In a brief conversation, Rice reiterated that funding remains the biggest problem– and that he is closing in on the funding needed to resume work. The company still operates out of its offices at Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield, Missouri. The company’s website now quotes a price of $2.195 million. And if it could move back into active status, there are still a large number of pilots who would relish a jet like the Vantage.
Real-estate developer Matt Eller acquired the intellectual property of bankrupt VisionAire in October 2003 for $441,000 and created Eviation Jets, based at Ames, Iowa. The single-engine Vantage prototype (now designated the EV-10) that was part of the VisionAire purchase was flown to Brazil and studied by an engineering team headed by Guido Pessotti, an aeronautical engineer who led Embraer’s aircraft development programs from the EMB-110 Bandeirante to the ERJ 145 regional jet. Early in 2005 Eller revealed his plans to make a $2 million to $2.5 million twinjet version of the formerly single-engine VisionAire Vantage, the EV-20 Vantage.
Population: 1 [N247VA]
Crew/passengers: 1 crew, 5 passengers