A new light jet program long in the making made noise this week when the single-engine, turbine-powered composite Stratos 714 took off from Redmond, Oregon, and completed a 10-minute flight with gear down. Flight test pilot Dave Morss reported that he was satisfied with the handling of the aircraft.
The first flight of what the company is calling a proof-of-concept jet is, of course, just an early step in the FAA certification process for Stratos, which isn’t currently taking deposits for the jet as it moves toward FAA approval. The jet is a four-seat composite model powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D turbofan, an engine that was developed in the late 1960s. A version of the engine was on the original Citation I fanjet. The low cost and ready availability of the engine are key benefits, though as an early-generation GA turbofan, it’s not as fuel-efficient as later models, including the Williams FJ44 series, various models of which power today’s fleet of Citations.
The targeted performance of the Stratos 714 is impressive—a 1500 nm range, a 400-plus-knots top speed and a ceiling of 41,000 feet—all figures that, if achievable, would make the small jet much faster and higher flying than any available production single-engine aircraft of any kind. There are good reasons to be skeptical. Aircraft in this class get their best fuel efficiency at their ceiling, and no single-engine airplane has ever earned such a high certified ceiling. In fact, single-engine jet programs by Diamond Aircraft, Piper Aircraft and Cirrus Aircraft (the only one extant) all aimed for a ceiling of at least 5,000 feet lower, and the Cirrus SF50, which earned FAA certification last month after a difficult years-long process, has a maximum operating altitude of just 28,000 feet.
Stratos has announced that it will continue flight-testing the proof-of-concept, only afterward applying for FAA certification, a strategy designed to ease the path to certification by validating internally the flight characteristics of the design.
For more information, check out stratosaircraft.com.