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Mon, May 15, 2006

Sport-Jet Starts Flight Testing

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 Bornhofen.

"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 their goals.

"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," added Bornhofen.

"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 cabin.

FMI: www.Sport-Jet.com

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