Second Sport-Jet In Progress

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"We're building the next plane same as the last," Sport-Jet founder Bob Bornhofen told AVweb Tuesday. With the fuselage currently in construction, that aircraft should be in the air "in 10 or 11 months." The project to produce a $1 million certified four-seat single-engine jet that would cruise at 340 knots at 25,000 feet suffered a major setback when the original proof-of-concept aircraft on June 22, 2006, crashed after 25 hours of otherwise "virtually flawless" flight testing. Test pilot James Stewart survived the crash without injury and has stayed on with the project. "We had to convince some financial types that it wasn't the airplane," Bornhofen said, but while the program could always use more money, funding has been secured to see the build of the second aircraft through to completion. The new aircraft will incorporate the design's originally intended aluminum wings and further optimize cabin space. (The original proof-of-concept aircraft flew with composite wings due to a problem with a supplier, according to Bornhofen.) "We haven't found anything that would prohibit the plane from gaining certification," said Bornhofen, who aims to reach that goal in two to three years.

As for the crash, "It was wake vortex -- from our perspective we have a lot of supporting evidence. It's physically impossible for the aircraft to roll that quickly no matter what you do to the controls." The NTSB has yet to issue a probable cause, and the Safety Board's preliminary report says nothing about wake vortex. Bornhofen said that both wings were flying at the time of the crash and the flight controls were working properly. "The one flaw we found is the aircraft can't get through a DASH-8 vortex." Bornhofen concluded, "We did what we said we were going to do. We put a plane in the air, proved it's performance, proved its safety and we're going to go forward."