UK start-up and Farnborough debutante Samad Aerospace is garnering a great deal of interest in its eStarling and Starling Jet, with company chief executive Seyed Mohseni announcing on the eve of the show that it has secured letters of intent for 103 examples of the electric and hybrid-electric-powered, vertical take-off and landing business aircraft since the project was unveiled in February.
“We have been overwhelmed by the response to the programme,” says Mohseni, who is displaying on the static a 20% scale prototype of the aircraft.
The six-seat eStarling has secured 75 sales – 50 of which are for an unnamed air ambulance provider – with the 10-seat Starling Jet making up the tally. “Customers also include private owners, companies and commercial operators,” Mohseni says.
Samad arrives at the show having recently wrapped up testing of a 10% scale prototype.
As a result of these evaluations, Mohseni says the Cranfield-based company has decided to abandon a v-tail configuration in favour of a t-tail to improve control and handling.
The Starling pair will have four electric-powered fans to deliver VTOL performance: two in the wingroots thrusting vertically and two on pylons farther aft, which are retracted when the fan is employed for forward movement. A gas turbine provides both main forward thrust and battery charging for the fans. Samad has yet to select an engine provider, but is holding discussions with four manufacturers, Mohseni says.
Hover testing of the 20% scale prototype was completed in June and Samad will begin transition testing after the show. “We will start building a 50% scale model in August and plan to fly it in 2020,” says Mohseni. Construction of the first of five full-scale prototypes will begin early next year, "leading to first flight in 2021”, he adds.
The $6.4 million eStarling will be first to market, with certification and service entry planned within five years. Designed for intra-city travel, the eStarling has a projected range of 350nm (650km) and a top speed of 260kt (480km/h). “As battery technology improves the aircraft will eventually become all-electric,” says Mohseni.
The $12 million hybrid-electric Starling Jet is scheduled to enter service in 2024 with anticipated range and top speed of 1,300nm and 400kt, respectively.
The project still depends on an ongoing fundraising effort. Samad has spent £2 million ($2.6 million) to date and has enough investment to complete testing of the 50% scale model. A further £40 million is needed to bring both models to market, on top of £60 million to build its manufacturing facilities. “We are in touch with three groups of investors and hope to make a funding announcement within weeks," Mohseni says.
Samad has appointed business aviation services provider Luxaviation to sell and support the aircraft in Africa and the Middle East.