By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
Back in 2008, the folks at Desert Aerospace, in Albuquerque, built the Super Salto aerobatic jet-powered sailplane that flies in airshows around the world, and this week they said they have finished flight-testing a two-seat version for the sport flying market. The BonusJet sailplane, which has a 56-foot wingspan, can self-launch and then retract the small jet engine into the fuselage for high-performance cross-country soaring. The jet can also be extended and restarted in flight with the flick of a switch. The aircraft is a modified version of the Bonus glider, manufactured in the Czech Republic. The TJ-100 jet engine is built by PBS, another Czech company. The jet engine makes sense for a glider because it is "small, lightweight and simple," said test pilot Bob Carlton. The BonusJet will be on display next month at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh.
Carlton said the jet is glass-smooth when running, eliminating the component and airframe damage caused by engine vibration. He added that Desert Aerospace also plans to develop an "extreme light jet (XLJ)" kit airplane for the home-built market. Meanwhile, another conversion project using the same jet engine has been put on hold. Sonex Aircraft President John Monnett said last week that during high-speed taxi tests, his TJ-100-powered SubSonex encountered issues with controllability. The design will now undergo a thorough review. "I am committed to seeing the SubSonex through, and am confident that we can be successful; however, it must take a back seat to other company priorities for now," Monnett said.