XTi Aircraft has begun the critical design review of its TriFan 600 vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft. This process is expected to be complete by early April, the Denver, Colorado-based start-up says, at which time the design will be frozen and construction of a 60% scale prototype can begin.
“We have already started building the fans and wing ducts for this aircraft, and will soon start static thrust performance and verification testing on these components,” XTi chief executive Robert LaBelle says.
“Our plan is to fly the completed prototype by the end of September,” he adds.
The aim of the initial flight-test phase is “to demonstrate that the TriFan can transition from vertical to horizontal flight, manoeuvre around the airfield, and then transition to vertical flight again”, LaBelle says. He expects this campaign to last about eight weeks.
“Once we have given a visible demonstration of the TriFan’s capabilities, we will begin building the first of three full-scale test aircraft," LaBelle says. Ground tests are scheduled for late 2019, leading to first flight in early 2020.
XTi launched the TriFan in 2013 with the aim of creating an aircraft with business jet-like speed and the take-off and landing performance of a helicopter.
The six-seat aircraft was originally designed with twin Honeywell HTS900 turboshaft engines, gearboxes and driveshafts, but XTI switched to hybrid-electric propulsion last year in an effort to reduce the TriFan's weight and production costs.
It has teamed with US engineering firm Bye Aerospace to develop the new system, which will have a turbine-driven generator, batteries and motor.
XTi has yet to decide where to base its production line and flight-test facility. “We are looking at options in a number of US states,” LaBelle says. “We’d like to stay in Colorado, but we will go where the incentives being offered give us the best advantage.”
Finance for the TriFan is being drawn from XTI founder and chairman David Brody, private equity investors and crowd-funding stakeholders. LaBelle is confident the company will have enough money to bring the aircraft to market in 2022.
XTi has already received 60 orders for the VTOL aircraft from a mix of private owners and commercial operators, representing about $390 million in revenue, LaBelle notes.
The TriFan has a projected speed of 300kt (555km/h) and a range of 670nm (1,240km) in VTOL mode or 1,200nm in conventional take-off and landing mode.