The Sport-Jet is a single-engine, all-fibreglass, pressurised aircraft designed for single-person operation by a pilot trained in piston-powered airplanes. Powered by a single turbofan in the 1,350-pound class (such as Pratt & Whitney PW615 or Williams International FJ-33), it will cruise at 340 knots at 25,000 feet (above 95% of all weather), and can carry four persons (plus pilot) over 1,000 nautical miles.
Certification of the Sport-Jet is anticipated two years from now and it is expected to sell for under US$1 million when it reaches market late in 2007.
The Sport-Jet's design history is an interesting one. Designer Bob Bornhofen holds a B.Sc degree in aeronautical engineering from Parks College as well as an M.Sc in aerospace engineering. He was an engineer with NASA's Apollo space program and worked with military satellites before venturing into the design and manufacture of large-format digital copiers.
Upon selling his copier business, Bornhofen moved into aircraft design to fulfill his passion for aircraft and flight. His first effort was the Maverick TwinJet kit airplane, and in 2003 he began work on the Sport-Jet.
Bornhofen has decided to utilise the excess of aviation manufacturing capacity in eastern European countries in order to keep the costs of the Sport-Jet as low as possible
"We are using high levels engineering expertise on a consulting basis, versus the traditional in-house payroll, at a fraction of the cost," explains Bornhofen.
Production facilities for initial fabrication of fuselage, tail, and wings are also being negotiated in Eastern Europe.
"These facilities are sitting idle with substantial production incentives and a ready work force," says Bornhofen, pointing out that much larger aviation manufacturers such as Boeing are also using Eastern European facilities.
"We want jet-engine reliability and ease of operation as well as the simplicity of one engine. Using the latest in advanced avionics, we will provide the pilot with excellent situational awareness," says Bornhofen.
"Our initial rate of climb will be 2,500 feet per minute, and we will certify for a maximum altitude of FL250. These parameters will enable the Sport-Jet pilot to climb quickly above much of the weather, yet avoid many of the issues and unknowns associated with owner-pilots operating where the physiological effects of pressurisation loss are more significant.
"The Sport-Jet will have a ballistic parachute system for two reasons - for occupant protection in the event of a catastrophic mishap and for loss of control such as a spin.
"We have purposely selected a four-seat configuration to limit exposure to liability claims," said Bornhofen. Many advanced features and a simplified design eases pilot workload. "This will contribute significantly to the insurability of the aircraft when operated by nonprofessionals," says Bornhofen.
The aircraft is expected to have a maximum speed of 375 knots and a stall speed of 68 knots. Normal and economic cruise speeds are 350 kts and 310 kts, respectively, according to preliminary specifications.
Airport performance is projected to be 2,300 feet for takeoff and 1,800 feet for landing. With an empty weigh of 2,900 pounds and a maximum takeoff weight of 4,900 pounds, the Sport-Jet should have a range of 1,000 nm with a fuel maximum fuel load of 210 gallons.
Considerable attention has been directed to ease of maintenance and repair. For example, Bornhofen elected a wingspan of 33.2 feet consisting of replaceable wing panels and a wing-mounted landing gear for quick replacement of components in the event of hangar damage or a mishap during landing.
Overall length of the aircraft is 29 feet, with a maximum tail height of 8.2 feet. The aircraft may also feature a specially designed in-flight data recorder to track performance and assist a pilot in obtaining the best results from the Sport-Jet.