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EBACE: Demand remains strong for personal jets

Demand for personal jets remains strong, according to the handful of niche developers, but it has been a turbulent year for most of them and the race to be first to market is as wide open as ever.

Diamond - previously a front-runner with certification and service entry originally planned for 2006 - was forced to suspend development of its D-Jet in March because of funding constraints. It is now seeking a $35 million loan from the Canadian government to help fund development of the four-seat aircraft at its base in London, Ontario.

The Austrian-owned company says it needs $90 million to bring the aircraft - first flown as a prototype in 2006 - to certification, which is expected to take about 22 months once the funding is in place. The family of owner Christian Dries, who founded Diamond in the early 1990s, has committed a further $20 million on top of $120 million already spent since the D-Jet was announced in 2003. The Ontario provincial administration has promised $35 million, but only if the national government matches that figure.

 © Diamond Aircraft
Diamond was forced to suspend development of its D-Jet in March because of funding constraints

The two flight-test aircraft have chalked up about 700 flight hours and the order tally for the Williams FJ33-5A-powered aircraft is about 225.

Rival developer Cirrus says sales of its SF50 Vision have reached 430 and it is keen to accelerate development of the $1.72 million twinjet as soon as its acquisition by China's CAIGA is complete. "The sale should be cleared by July," says Cirrus chief executive Brent Wouters. "We will then have the capital to step up work on the Vision - which is our key focus - and bring the aircraft to market within three years." To date, the Williams FJ33-4A-19-powered Vision has flown about 350h.

Piper Aircraft's first jet-powered offering - the PiperJet - was redesigned and rebranded late last year and is now larger and sleeker than its proof-of-concept predecessor. Powered by the same Williams International FJ44-3AP engine, the all-metal Altaire will have a circular, rather than rectangular, cross-section. It has the same 13.5m (44ft) span, but with a longer chord and its four cabin windows on each side of the fuselage will be oval rather than rectangular. Piper says it has all first-tier suppliers under contract to produce the $2.5 million aircraft and its production facilities at Vero Beach, Florida are earmarked for completion during the third quarter.

 © Cirrus
Cirrus has chalked up 350 flight hours on the Williams FJ33-5A-powered SF50

Production parts for the first of four conforming flight-test aircraft are complete, and the first certification aircraft is due to make its maiden flight next year, leading to customer deliveries in 2014.

Meanwhile, Stratos Aircraft is poised to begin windtunnel testing of a one-eighth-scale model of its Stratos 714 single-engined jet, for which it has begun taking orders. The Bend, Oregon-based start-up has secured some external funding but needs more investment to bring the five-seat, $2 million, FJ44-3AP-powered aircraft to market.

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