VisionAire rolled out its Vantage six-seat, proof-of-concept business jet on 8 November from Scaled Composites' Mojave site in California.

Firm orders for "nearly 50 Vantages, representing sales in excess of $75 million", have been booked to date, says VisionAire founder, chairman and chief executive, James Rice.

"Of those 50 Vantage buyers, over half are stepping up from piston aircraft, 14% are using turbine aircraft and 20% operate a mixed fleet. Nearly 10% did not own an aircraft at the time they selected their Vantage," he adds.

Part of the early attraction is the $1.6 million price for 1998 delivery. This includes training for one pilot and one mechanic, and "-puts its price point at about 50% that of the least-expensive new business jets now on offer, yet its performance is comparable", claims Rice.

The all-composite business jet is powered by a single 13kN (2,900lb)-thrust Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D-5, and is distinguished by a forward-swept wing, mid-mounted behind the cabin. The low wing-loading provides the low stall speed required for certification of a single-engined aircraft. VisionAire had hoped for a stall speed of around 70kt (130km/h), but it appears this will be "closer to 80kt", says Rice.

Certification and testing of the first six aircraft are still scheduled to take place in the fourth quarter of 1998, despite the delay of the roll-out. The first flight, which was originally expected in April, is now scheduled to take place by the end of this month.

Although Scaled Composites made the first Vantage, the initial prototype will be made in St Louis, Missouri, while production aircraft will be assembled by VisionAire in Ames, Ohio.

Rice says that Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites and its parent company, Wyman Gordon, have recently broken ground in Montrose, Colorado, for their new site, in which they will produce the airframe parts for the Vantage.

Other companies supporting the venture include avionics supplier AlliedSignal, FlightSafety International, which is "committed" to develop a simulator, and P&WC, which is providing two JT15D-5s for structural design and flight testing.

"VisionAire is working on a statement of work agreement with Lockheed Martin involving design-analysis methods and structural-test services, helping us with Federal Aviation Administration certification," says Rice.

Source: Flight International