Manufacturer/design owner: Eviation Jets, Ames, Iowa
Type: small business class twinjet
Powerplant: 2 x 2,100 lb (9.4kN) thrust Williams FJ44-1AP turbofans
Significant date: 2005
On Oct. 2, 2003, Real-estate developer Matt Eller acquired $100 million worth of intellectual property and all technical drawings, trademarks, molds and tooling of of the bankrupt VisionAire Corporation of St. Louis, Mo. for $441,000 and created Eviation Jets, based in Ames, Iowa. Eller initially laid low about his plans to revive the single-engine Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D-powered VA-10A Vantage. Early in 2005 he revealed his plans to make a $2 million to $2.5 million twinjet version to be designated the EV-20 Vantage. He had initially evaluated a design review compiled by Scaled Composites, then entered talks with Scaled to complete the aircraft's design, appointing Vantage designer Burt Rutan and former VisionAire engineers Tom Stark and Don Spencer as consultants "I am also keen to get Germany's Grob-Werke on board to build and certify the [composite] aircraft," he said.
There were no plans to produce the EV-10 as such: the single-jet prototype (now redesignated EV-10) was used to merely aid in the building of the EV-20 twinjet, which had external dimensions similar to those of its six-seat sibling. However, Eller didn't want Eviation Jets to be a one-product company, and revealed that VisionAire had been working on six different business jet designs (including one apparently called the Spirit), adding he had plans to produce at least four of these designs, including the EV-20. The EV-10’s JT15D engine was located inside the fuselage, while the EV-20’s two 2,100-pound-thrust Williams FJ44-1AP turbofans were externally mounted near the tail, thus opening up the cabin. According to Eller, the program would be funded "through private investment" and the total development cost would be "way below" the $120 million forecast by VisionAire. The EV-20 program was given the go-ahead in October 2004.
In March 2005, Eviation hired Gregory Powers as its president and COO. Before joining the start-up company, he was an international business development and operational planning executive for Teradyne. Eviation said Powers’ initial focus was to oversee the engineering, development and production of the EV-20 Vantage in Brazil, and to build sales, marketing and capital investment in the U.S. To establish a local presence in Brazil, facilitate financial investment, manage local subcontracts, and manage the aeronautical engineering team, Eviation Jets created a local Brazilian subsidiary, Eviation Jets do Brasil Ltda.
In addition to hiring Powers, Eller foraged until he found two secret certification weapons. The first was Guido Pessotti (see picture), president and chief engineer for Eller's subsidiary company, Eviation Jets Brazil. Secret weapon number two was Hugo Piva. Pessotti, retired president of Embraer, had 35 years of aircraft design and certification experience. He had designed and certified 15 jet aircraft, had led Embraer’s aircraft development programs from the EMB-110 Bandeirante to the ERJ 145 regional jet. and was responsible for certification and managing Eviation's aerospace team. Piva, a retired Brazilian Air Force brigadier general, was vice president of certification and QA. Piva was also the founder of the Brazilian Center for Aerospace Technology, the governing authority for all aircraft certification in Brazil. General Piva was known as "The Father of Brazilian Aerospace."
The prototype EV-20 was expected to fly in February 2006 while the original prototype was flown back to Ames that same month. The single-engine Vantage prototype (now designated the EV-10) that was part of the VisionAire purchase was flown to Sao José dos Campos, near Sao Paulo, Brazil on March 30 and studied by a “highly experienced” engineering team headed by Pessotti, which then started work on building a conforming EV-20 prototype, whose final design was frozen in April 2005. By that time, it had evolved greatly and now featured a T-tail which gave it a much more conventional look. Indeed, Eller and the design team had decided to scrap more than 70 percent of the original Vantage design and breathe fresh air into the EV-20.
In the executive configuration the Vantage was to have room for eight passengers, while in the commuter configuration it would have room for ten. The question of how Eviation could squeeze 10 seats into the same basic design as the EV-10 without stretching the fuselage puzzled observers. In fact, moving the engines outside the fuselage expanded the cabin length from 10.8 feet to 17.25 feet. (Eviation said the cabin length was measured from the cockpit divider to the aft lavatory wall.) Another concern was the mid-fuselage mounted wing. By moving it lower, the VLJ gained more passenger and cargo capacity. The airplane was also to have a glass cockpit. Designed as a private business jet and for travelers who needed speed, comfort, and affordability in small airline transportation, the EV-20 was to be safer, have higher performance standards, fly at higher altitudes and be more comfortable and quiet compared to other low-cost alternatives.
Eviation Jets' made its application for certification to the Brazilian Center for Aerospace Technology (CTA), which was approved April, 28. This means the jet would be permitted to travel in U.S. airspace as the United States' Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) maintains a reciprocal agreement which allows the CTA to certify aircraft in Brazil and receive dual certification in the U.S. By obtaining certification first with the CTA in Brazil, the EV-20 could be on the fast-track and didn't have to compete with all the U.S. VLJs seeking certification from a busy FAA. "The FAA and the CTA have a reciprocal agreement, which means that once we're certified in Brazil, add about a quarter to the time and we should have FAA certification," said Powers. This being said, t 9,250 MTOW, the EV-20 barely met the VLJ criteria, and was the heaviest VLJ to emerge on the market at the time.
“We will build serial number 001 by outsourcing parts manufacture,” said Eller. Final assembly will be undertaken at Eviation’s research and development base in Brazil. Eller says, but he declined to disclose a certification timeframe. Brasilian company Geometra was initially contracted to develop the project of landing gear systems and aircraft brake of the EV-20 Vantage. Due to the excelent results obtained with this project, Geometra was again chosen by the Eviation Jets to develop whole wing, airframe, interior, system, materials, and others. A partnership was also established with Aeroálcool, a company based in France.
Three or four EV-20s were to participate in flight testing, culminating in expected Brazilian and FAA certification in 2007, although Eviation would not disclose its order backlog. When asked about funding, Eller replied that the company was “well funded” and had enough financial resources to make it to certification. Production was “likely to take place in Brazil,” he said, and further noted that the U.S. headquarters were only “temporarily located” in Ames, and could possibly move to the Golden State since Powers resided in California at the time.
“I want to have the necessary capital in place before we start to build the prototype,” said Eller in 2006. “This is a high-risk business but the rewards are also high”, he added. Unfortunately, although he did attract private investment to help fund the aircraft’s certification effort and beyond, there was still a funding shortfall , and the project hasn't been heard of since 2007. There is no confirmation to this day that the EV-20 prototype was ever completed or flown. And judging from the disappearance of the Eviation Jets website, the company is likely in the doldrums or even out of business.
Population: 1 (probably not completed)
Maximum take-off weight: 9,250 lb
Maximum cruise speed: 436 ktas
Crew/passengers: 12 (including 2 crew)