Kate Sarsfield/LONDON

Safire Aircraft has secured adequate investment to fund its twinjet S-26 business aircraft programme through to building the first prototype. The company plans to begin computer-aided design work on the six-seat aircraft in December.

"We cannot reveal how much money we have raised at this stage, but we have been overwhelmed by the response from investors and customers to this project," says Safire president Michael Margaritoff.

The company aims to raise around $100-150 million through public offerings to fund the programme through to certification. It has no plans to set up risk-sharing ventures with suppliers to lower the cost of investment. "There are no joint ventures in sight as we know we can do it alone," he adds.

"We are in a position to begin detailed drawing work. The preliminary designs should be complete at the end of next year when we will begin windtunnel testing," says Margaritoff. The critical design review is to start in the second quarter of 2001, followed by a maiden flight of the first of four prototypes - three flying and one static - a year later.

"We hope to obtain certification and deliver the first aircraft in 2003," he says. Safire has selected its manufacturing base at West Palm Beach International Airport, Florida. "In the first 12 months, we expect to build around 200 aircraft, ramping up to 1,000 in the third or fourth year," says Margaritoff.

He believes that, within the next decade, there will be a surge in demand for small, affordable private jets, as large US airports become more gridlocked and travel becomes more difficult.

Source: Flight International