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Wed, Mar 09, 2005

VLJ Market Opening Up: Sport-Jet Weighs In

One of the more publicized events leading up to a prize fight is the much-celebrated "weigh-in." The significance  of such an event is not lost on one of the latest entrants in the hotly contested Very Light Jet market. 

"Airplanes, like their pilots, tend to gain weight over time," says an oft-repeated statement of aircraft owners. In the same vein, aircraft in development always seem to end up with many more pounds than originally conceived.

The Excel-Jet Ltd., skunkworks operated by jet designer, Bob Bornhofen (the same guy who developed the Maverick Twin Jet before it was taken over by folks who doomed the project due to mismanagement and false marketing), note that they're not creating their single engine Sport-Jet in the same way that other very light jets are being developed.

The Sport-Jet is being developed by a small team working efficiently and quickly. Claiming similarities to Rutan's SpaceShipOne development, Bornhofen also believes in a small efficient and focused team. As noted, it was Bob Bornhofen who designed the Maverick TwinJet and flew it to Oshkosh in 2000. This aircraft was test flown to 250 KTIAS and won praise from Bob Hoover for its flight handling qualities. Three of these jet kits were completed and flown to speeds above 340 knots.

As proof of their intent, the Excel-Jet team put the prototype Sport-Jet on scales to find the aircraft may come in under the design empty weight of 2,800 pounds. Yet the single engine bird has a wider cabin than most in the VLJ race. The Sport-Jet features a composite fuselage that mates to an aluminum tail and wings; a weight efficient choice that Excel-Jet believes will also aid certification. Wings are being completed by an overseas supplier (in much the same way Boeing and Airbus sublet component parts to other producers).

Bornhofen expects to fly the Sport-Jet this spring.

Excel-Jet's new model is a 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. "This will contribute significantly to the insurability of the aircraft when operated by nonprofessionals," said Bornhofen. The new model will sell for around $1 million, will cruise at 340 knots at 25,000 feet (above 95% of typical weather), and can carry four persons over 1,000 nautical miles.

Excel-Jet Ltd. is the Colorado corporation formed to bring a new generation of light jet to the market.

FMI: www.sport-jet.com

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