Stratos Aircraft has returned to EAA AirVenture with its in-development 716X in tow, as flight testing of the single-engine very light jet (VLJ) kitplane nears completion. The lastest version of the jet made its first flight on July 2, 2020 and it has since logged 150 hours.
“We expect to wrap up testing for the amateur-built jet in another 50 hours and start delivering aircraft parts to our first customers at the end of the year,” said Stratos president and CEO Carsten Sundin. N716X has flown “repeatedly” to 41,000 feet in May, Sundin noted. Since then, the VLJ has completed flight envelope expansion, flutter testing, and RVSM precision altitude holding tests, he added. The test aircraft has also reached a speed of 380 knots “and verified that the aircraft is free of Mach buffet in wind-up turns at the highest cruise altitudes,” he said.
Launched in 2018, the six-seat 716X is a longer and wider version of Stratos Aircraft's first jet, the 714, which it replaces.
Priced at $3 million, the 716X is the forerunner to a Part 23 version of the carbon-fiber aircraft, which Stratos plans to bring to market in the coming years. The dozen or so kits that will be produced will help the company refine the product, Sundin said, lower development costs for the 716, and help attract investors to help bring the certified version to market.
While structurally both aircraft are identical, the 716X is powered by an overhauled 2,965-pound thrust Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D-5 engine—the same powerplant as the 714—and features Garmin G3X avionics. The certified variant could use a 3,400-pound-thrust PW535E or a Williams FJ44-3AP engine and G3000 or G5000 avionics “or their equivalent” Sundin said. The 716 will cost “around $1 million more” than its experimental stablemate, he predicted.
“When we introduced the proof-of-concept 714 publicly [in 2017], the marketplace interest was tremendous,” said Sundin. “It was clear that the market is looking for the performance and comfort we were offering, but in a true six-place aircraft. We have achieved this with the 716X. With a cabin width of 4.8 feet, height of 4.6 feet, and length of 15 feet, there is plenty of room for passengers to relax on long flights.” The 716X will have a range of 1,500 nm with four people and 1,200 nm carrying six. “There is simply nothing like it on the market today,” he said.
Stratos has invested significantly in the infrastructure to support 716X buyers and said it will “guide them through the entire build process” which is expected to take between 12 and 15 months for earlier serial number aircraft.
“We’ve invested in building precision construction and assembly fixtures, most with ±0.003-inch tolerances, about as thick as a human hair,” said Stratos production manager Matthew Collier. “This will give builders the confidence that their aircraft will deliver on Stratos’s promises for construction quality, aircraft durability, and performance fidelity."
The 716X kit will be delivered as five groups of components and assemblies through the firm’s Stratos Fusion subsidiary, in Redmond, Oregon. “Builders complete each of the first three groups under the close supervision of Stratos Fusion. The fourth and fifth groups are finished at one of Stratos’s authorized completion centers,” said Sundin.