Jetpod Entrepreneur Killed In Test Flight

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Michael Dacre, 53, was killed on Sunday in Malaysia as he was attempting to fly the prototype of the Jetpod, a jet-powered STOL aircraft. Dacre, who had designed the airplane, was the managing director of Avcen, the London-based company that was developing it. The Star, of Malaysia, reported that Dacre taxied down the runway three times before taking off, but then at about 600 feet the aircraft suddenly shot vertically into the sky, veered left, crashed to the ground and exploded. The company's promotional materials describe the Jetpod as an eight-place, very quiet twin-engine jet that would be capable of speeds up to 350 mph and could land or take off in about 400 feet. Dacre envisioned several possible roles for the airplane, including medevac, personal transport, and air taxi. The jet could also be used by the military for reconnaissance and would be able to operate from aircraft carriers without the need for a catapult or arrestor gear, according to a company video posted online. The company planned to start production by 2011.

The Avcen Web site has been taken down and replaced by a statement expressing sadness at the loss of Dacre and a desire to continue the development of the aircraft. "Our day of success and accomplishment also turned out to be a day of tragedy," reads the statement. "Mike had a dedicated passion to the project and as a world-class aviator was extremely well respected in the world of aviation. ... His team here at Avcen will work together to live his dream making the Jetpod a successful member in the family of aviation."