Dave Higdon/WITCHITA

Visionaire has laid off the bulk of its workforce pending the conclusion of a continuing design review, and receipt of a substantial cash injection sought to fund the development of its Vantage single engined jet.

The second wave of layoffs in as many months displaced about 75 workers. A first round of cutbacks early last November saw 35 employees go.

The design review was initiated in December in an effort to reduce the Vantage's weight and stall speed. One analysis revealed that the aircraft's empty weight is more than 365kg (800lb) heavier than projected.

According to an industry source, the company's concerns were so serious that it considered adapting a straight or single-taper low-wing design and abandoning the Vantage's distinctive forward swept mid-wing configuration These concerns have virtually halted the flight test programme.

Visionaire director of technical operations Mark Jones says: "Money is never in excess for a new company developing a new product from scratch and VisionAire is apparently no exception."

He says the investment needed to fund the Vantage through its certification programme will become available, but he declines to discuss specific details of funding methods.

The industry source says that the programme still requires extensive work, including fixing control problems in the proof-of-concept aircraft, completing developmental flight tests and freezing the design, constructing at least two certification articles and completing certification flight tests, certificating the production line and beginning production and deliveries from the new factory in Ames, Iowa.

"We had been looking toward certification and first deliveries late in 1999," says Jones. "We'll have a new target date when we complete the review, which should be in late March."

Meanwhile, none of the 150 Vantage customers is believed to have abandoned the project. "As far as I know, everyone is hanging in there. They trust that the Vantage they get will be an even better aircraft than the one they thought they were buying," says Jones.

Source: Flight International