A Polish aerospace company, Metal Master, is currently developing the only non-American manufactured single-engine Very Light Jet (VLJ). Metal Master states the goal was to produce the Flaris LAR01 (sometimes referred to as the LAR-1) as an affordable short-haul jet aircraft for corporate and private owners who desire to move up, down or sideways from their current piston or turboprop aircraft, as well as commercial operators looking for an affordable point-to-point solution. While the manufacturer’s name implies otherwise, their VLJ will be constructed largely of carbon fiber.
The prototype of this five-seat VLJ had its inaugural flight on April 5, 2019. The program originally launched in 2013 when a prototype of the aircraft was made available at the Paris Air Show. By May of 2014, the company was already establishing an assembly line for the aircraft, as well as beginning the build of additional prototypes.
However, delays were prominent, with Aviation Week attributing those delays to uncertainties about the original choice of the powerplant, the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW610, which was powering the second prototype at that time. The LAR-1 will now be fitted with the Williams FJ33-5A, a proven design destined for the production aircraft.
The manufacturer also states that they have optimized the design for use by owner-pilots, creating a cockpit that looks more like a modern automobile than that of an airplane.
Additional safety features have been integrated into the design, including the manufacturer’s claims that the LAR-1 can safely operate from unimproved/unpaved runways and grass strips. Ballistic parachutes (as in plural) are also part of the plan, with one potentially placed in the tail and another within the nose.
Lofty performance numbers from Metal Master include climb rates up to 6,000 feet per minute, economy cruise speed of 325 knots, a very respectable stall speed of 59 knots with takeoff and landing distances of around 500 feet, a figure that stretches believability for an aircraft that fast. If the company is able to pull off those numbers, it is safe to say that this aircraft will appeal to a lot of operators, both private and commercial. Of course, results may vary with the production aircraft, so we will just have to wait and see.
The manufacturer is aiming for a base price of $2 million including a Garmin G600 TXi flight deck. Direct operating cost including fuel, maintenance and insurance is touted to be about $450/hour, which would be a low, unheard-of rate for a jet airplane. Maximum takeoff weight is 3,300 lbs. We’ll keep you updated on its progress.