A corporate jet with some assembly required

Imagine, if you can, an eight-place corporate jet kit plane. Imagine that it cruises at 400 mph, at nearly 30,000 feet, and will carry you 1,224 statute miles on its 480 gallons of Jet-A.

Steve Young and Ron Lueck of Aerocomp not only imagined such a plane, they built it, they’ve flown it and they’ll sell a kit to you today.

Two years ago at Sun ‘n Fun, the Comp Air Jet prototype was a composite shell. Last year it flew in, but it was unpainted and unfinished. This year it was a complete airplane, handsomely decked out in a red, white and blue paint scheme.

“It’s nice and stable. Doesn’t do anything exciting. That’s exactly what we intended,” said Young while introducing the airplane.

Looking somewhat like a scaled-down Citation, as Young likes to say, the sleek single-engine jet is a far cry from most people’s idea of a kit plane. Built using proprietary carbon fiber sandwich construction, it weighs in at 10,900 pounds maximum gross takeoff weight. Its empty weight of 5,900 pounds is exactly the same as its useful load, Lueck points out. Cabin altitude is 5,000 feet at the airplane’s 29,900-foot service ceiling. Speaking of ceilings, headroom is a generous 70 inches, barely shy of 6 feet. The sophisticated glass cockpit comes from OP Technologies.

The CompAir Jet – CA-J for short – is pushed along by a factory remanufactured, 3,000 hour TBO, Russian-built AI-25, the same engine that powers the popular Czech L-39 Albatross and other well-known Eastern-Bloc aircraft. Rated at 3,400 pounds thrust for takeoff and 2,500 pounds at cruise, it has plenty of oomph to give the CA-J competitive performance. Burning 160 gallons per hour at cruise, it doesn’t exactly sip fuel, but is easy to maintain and has a long history of reliability, which can more than make up the difference.

The CA-J is a kit, but not one you’d build at home. Instead, Comp Air is developing a comprehensive “builder-education-training” program, as Young calls it, at its Merritt Island, Fla., plant.

If all that tempts you, the price may be the clincher: $449,000 complete with the engine.

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