The VLJ Wars Get A New Entrant
It's looking good for Excel-Jet's Sport Jet program now that
flight testing is finally underway. The Sport-Jet logged almost
four hours of initial flight-testing over the weekend. First
flights followed Excel's rapid installation of the FJ33-4A engine
less than two weeks after delivery of the Williams engine.
"Takeoff rolls have all been less than 1,800 feet from the 6,000
foot MSL Colorado Springs airport," noted designer Bob
"Rotations are smooth at 65 knots, and Sport-Jet literally flies
off the runway around 70 knots. Climb rates are almost 2,000 fpm
however we still haven't pushed the throttles to 'climb' or
'takeoff' power setting yet so the real performance is still to
come," Bornhofen added.
"The Sport-Jet is proving to be very stable, quiet, and with
excellent control harmony and feel," reported pilot McElroy, an
experienced airline and test pilot who has been working closely
with the Excel team. He also indicated Sport-Jet has superior
visibility especially during landing.
"Landings were performed at 80 knows over the threshold with
flaps in approach position and the air brakes deployed," said
McElroy. He observed that touchdown came at around 75 knots.
"We have learned we need a faster chase aircraft to support the
next series of flight tests." noted Bornhofen. James Stewart flying
a turbo Mooney as chase aircraft was already airborne before the
Sport-Jet takeoff. He reported that, "The Sport-Jet walked away
from me even with its gear down. It is an awesome sight in the air
and this plane represents every GA pilot's dream. There was no way
to keep up with the Sport-Jet until McElroy reduced Sport-Jet's
power setting substantially."
"We expect to move through flight testing and into certification
with the same speed as initial development," stated Bornhofen. He
added that many of the requirements to take Sport-Jet through Part
23 certification have already been addressed. As with the initial
development done by the small, skunk works-like team, the cost of
certification is expected to be dramatically less than other VLJs
which have had to raise large amounts of capital to accomplish
"Our project is organized very differently than other projects
we are following," said Bornhofen.
Excel-Jet's new Sport-Jet is a spacious 4-seat, single-engine,
all-glass aircraft aimed at the general aviation pilot. Sport-Jet
has been designed for single-person operation by a pilot trained in
piston-powered airplanes. Many advanced features and a simplified
design eases pilot workload.
"We have confirmation from the largest GA insurance broker in
the US that our approach will contribute significantly to the
insurability of the aircraft when operated by nonprofessionals,"
"We wanted to provide the GA pilot with a true performance jet
aircraft in a insurance friendly platform. Our flight testing shows
we are achieving that goal."
Sport-Jet will sell for about $1 million, cruise at 340 knots at
25,000 feet (above 95% of all weather), and can carry four persons
for more than 900 nautical miles in a surprisingly spacious