Despite a venture capital environment which one chief executive describes as "the worst in 20 years", developers of new small jets are stubbornly hopeful of raising funding to complete certification and begin production of their designs. But most are restructuring their programmes to reduce the near-term financing required.

The latest casualty is Century Aerospace, which describes its twin-turbofan CA-100 Century Jet programme as "dormant". The company had hoped to build the aircraft at Alliance Aerospace, in Macon, Georgia, but owner Bill Northrup was forced to close Alliance last month after the bank foreclosed on loans.

Century has relocated to Northrup's home base of Ellicottville, New York. "We're still talking to one airframe and two financial groups," he says. The company has spent about $10 million and needs a further $60-80 million for certification.

Safire Aircraft, which hopes to develop the SA-26 personal jet, is also on the fund-raising trail. In a bid to attract investors, Safire has approached its 800 delivery position holders to convert their $8,000 refundable deposits into binding orders in return for performance and price guarantees. Buyers would make no further payments until first flight, now planned for early 2003. Certification and first deliveries of the under-$900,000 aircraft are now planned for early 2004.

Eclipse Aviation last month announced a restructuring of its Eclipse 500 personal jet to reduce the financing required to reach first flight, which has been delayed by just a month to July 2002. Certification has been delayed six months to the end of 2003.

Earlier this year, struggling VisionAire brought in Israel Aircraft Industries to verify the design of its single-turbofan Vantage to increase the confidence of potential investors. The US company has already spent $100 million and needs $120 million more.

Aerostar Aircraft is trying to raise $40 million to certificate the FJ-100 by June 2003. The six-seat FJ33 powered jet will sell for $1.95 million.

Source: Flight International