Efforts to develop a short take-off and landing air taxi known as the Jetpod have suffered a setback after a test version crashed in Malaysia, killing the businessman behind the programme.

Malaysian media state that Michael Dacre, managing director of UK firm Avcen, the manufacturer of the Jetpod, was killed shortly after the twin-engined aircraft became airborne from Taiping's Tekah Airport, about 220km northwest of Kuala Lumpur.

Circumstances of the accident have yet to be established but a witness at the crash site tells Flightglobal that the aircraft had already made three runs, during each of which there appeared to be engine problems.

It made a fourth attempt to become airborne, he says, and took off at about 12:45, entering a "sharp climb". It appeared to suffer a problem with its left-hand engine, he says, at about 500-700ft, then yawed sharply to the left and crashed.

Jetpod crash

Avcen intended the high-wing, T-tail aircraft - whose engines were mounted on the upper wing surface - to serve the commercial, military and utility sectors. Images of the wreck indicate a different, straighter wing design than the reverse-delta which features in earlier publicity shots.

In its air taxi role the Jetpod would typically seat a single pilot and seven passengers and operate from 'park and fly' zones outside of cites into downtown landing areas.

 © Avcen

It is unclear how many test airframes of the Jetpod have been assembled.

Avcen, which describes the Jetpod as a "true paradigm shift" in aircraft design, claims the machine would be able to become airborne in just 125m (410ft) and cruise at 300kt.

Source: Flight International