Catching up with the Javelin Jet

The Javelin, the two-place jet designed and manufactured by Aviation Technology Group Inc., eventually will be one of the fastest, most technologically advanced aircraft on the market – but the distance between the drawing board and the assembly line is taking time to cover.

“We have an extremely conservative program because this is a high performance airplane,” says ATG President Charlie Johnson, adding that the Javelin is on schedule for certification in 2007. The prototype made its first gear-up flight in March.

The Javelin, which started as a clean sheet design by George Bye, has been under development since 1998. Bye has aptly described the Javelin as the sports car of the personal jet world.

“It was wonderful to see that first flight,” Johnson enthused. “It involved a tremendous amount of mental energy and enthusiasm,” he continued, adding that every minute in the air represents hundreds of hours of production design and wind tunnel testing. “We have about five hours on the airframe now. We are just at the beginning of the flight envelope.”

Johnson describes the Javelin as “a highly specialized airplane built for a specialized pilot. The aircraft is very comfortable, but it is not for day-to-day travel. It is designed for specialized missions that value a rapid response.” The aircraft is also designed to be used as an advanced jet trainer for the military, but the civilian version will be produced first.

Johnson notes that there have not been any unwelcome surprises so far, but ATG engineers have found areas of performance that, while good, can be improved upon. For example, after the most recent flight the decision was made to enhance low-speed handling characteristics.

“We increased the wing area and added Fowler flaps and leading edge flaps,” he said. “We did that to give the aircraft a lower stall speed and improve handling characteristics at the low end of the speed envelope. The changes were not predicated by adverse handling characteristics of the aircraft.”

The changes increase the wing span by 1.85 feet and, and according to ATG’s design team, will yield a 5- to 7-knot decrease in stall speed, lowering it to 90 knots. In addition, the engineers plan to improve on the jet’s canopy by replacing the side opening arrangement in favor of an aft-hinge canopy. Designers say removal of the side hinges gives the new canopy a more aerodynamic profile and will enable ground operations with an open canopy in winds up to 40 knots. The new canopy also features a gas spring and electric motor combination, which allows pilots to open and close it with the push of a button.

The change in the canopy design has reduced cruise speed slightly, noted Johnson, but it will still be in the neighborhood of 500 knots.

The first aircraft with these design changes will fly in 2007.

“The next major milestone for us will be transitioning to the production facility,” said Johnson. “Later this year we will have tooling for production going together. The first production fuselage will be ready by the middle of next year and you will start to see a lot of meat going onto the bones of the production airplane.”

As this issue of General Aviation News was going to press the interior of the jet was also being refined.

“We have what we call a Pilot-Vehicle Interface Group, which is basically a cockpit review committee that meets three times a week to refine the cockpit layout,” Johnson explained. “Today, for example, we are going to review the throttle position. We also look at the placement of switches and instruments. We are going for optimum placement so that the jet will fit a wide range of pilots. We have designed it to be totally user friendly and as straightforward as possible.”

As the Javelin evolves the number of employees at ATG continues to grow. “We currently have just over 100 people and we are adding more staff as we refine the production drawings,” said Johnson. “Toward the end of this year we intend to add more production people.”

So far, all test flights have been conducted at Centennial Airport (APA) near Denver. Johnson noted that ATG is in the process of setting up production facilities at Front Range Airport (FTG), also in Colorado.

ATG has approximately 100 orders on the books for the Javelin, Johnson says.

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