...To Fly By The End Of 2005?

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The thing that was so exciting about the Starship was not just its all-composite construction. Instead, the whole deal was radical departure: a canard, twin pusher turboprops, tipsails instead of a conventional vertical stabilizer. By contrast, the Spectrum 33 is not at all radical from a distance. It more resembles an unnatural pairing of a baby Learjet with a straight-wing-and-wingletted Citation than a Starship. And that relative simplicity is one reason Blue says he "will be upset if it doesn't fly by the end of 2005." What Spectrum believes it has achieved is "the right combination of proprietary processes and designs to build significantly better and more economical advanced composites aircraft." Allied with Rocky Mountain Composites, Spectrum says it has developed new techniques -- "disruptive technologies" -- enabling lighter and more fuel-efficient airplanes out of advanced composites. Blue and his crew have offered up some exciting numbers for the eight-passenger jet.

Designed to serve the personal transportation, air-taxi, fractional, charter and special use aircraft markets, the Spectrum 33 -- it's named after the Williams engines powering it -- is slated to have a projected selling price of $3.65 million (2005 dollars), be flown by a single pilot and seat up to nine passengers. It will feature a high-speed cruise of 415 KTAS, a useful load of 3,865 lbs. and a payload of 2,000 lbs. With a projected maximum gross takeoff weight of 7,300 lbs, the airplane is slated to weigh only 3,435 lbs empty. By contrast, a Cessna Citation CJ2+ has a typical empty weight more than the Spectrum's gross: 7,695 lbs; its MGTOW is 12,500 lbs. Of course, all of the Spectrum's numbers are very preliminary. The company says it expects FAA certification in the 2007/2008 timeframe. And, no, you can't buy one right now -- Spectrum says it is not accepting orders or deposits. Which is probably a good thing, since a lot has to happen before the company meets its goals, not least of which is that first flight. Will it happen? Blue's been around the block a time or two, and his team seems well-financed, confident and very determined. That they have designed and built a prototype in total secrecy is a plus. But, it's not 1983 any more. And that could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending.