Aerostar Aircraft Corporation showed up on Tuesday at AirVenture with a Pratt & Whitney PW615-powered 601P Aerostar modification. It was the first public showing of the airplane, which is undergoing early flight test and configuration.
The airplane is a work in progress in many respects. There are no boots on it yet. The pressurization system has yet to be fully tested above the Aerostar’s ceiling. The avionics are a mix of old, new and and not ready for prime-time devices. The fuel system is not yet finished.
But the airplane is flying and it is, Aerostar president Jim Christy told me, already putting up great numbers, even through he can’t fly the airplane above 28,000 feet, as it is not yet RVSM approved.
Even at that too-low-for-jets altitude, Christy is seeing around 380 knots true while putting a lot of fuel through the Pratts. At 35,000 feet, which he figures will be the airplane’s sweet spot, he fully expects to see better than 400 knots true at respectably low fuel flows.
The evolution of the Aerostar into a jet hasn’t been a quick process; Ted Smith, who designed the original airplane with the idea of a jet in mind, envisioned just such a thing and overbuilt the airframe to accommodate the addition of jet engines. Christy’s team at Aerostar rebuilds the wing where the nacelles used to be in order to accommodate the jet engines and adds fuel in the fuselage.
The modification is still in the testing phases, and where it goes exactly is hard to say. Christy says that it might wind up as a TC at a price that would likely start at around $1.5 million plus an airframe. It might also become a certified product, though that would likely require a serious equity partner to produce.