The SubSonex Jet, one very, very light jet powered by a Czech-built PBS TJ-100 turbine engine, took off for its first flight in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, last week, bringing the prospect of a recreational jet for private pilots one step closer to reality.
Renowned airshow pilot Bob Carlton, famous for his performances in a modified Salto sailplane also powered by the PBS TJ-100, was behind the controls of the SubSonex as it completed its maiden flight.
“It was great – flies like an airplane,” Carlton was quoted as saying in a press release. “The faster I went, the better it felt.”
The SubSonex, which has an empty weight of just 330 pounds, remained in the air for a total of 14 minutes as Carlton tested the jet’s handling at lower ends of the speed envelope.
Made by aircraft kit manufacturer Sonex Aircraft, the SubSonex is an experimental airplane that aims to bring the thrill of a jet within reach of a wider range of the pilot pool. While it does fit within the weight limits of the LSA category with room to spare, it isn’t and can’t be a light sport model: LSAs are prohibited from having turbine engines.
The SubSonex was initially unveiled at Oshkosh in 2009 with a Heward engine and a Vne goal of 360 mph. Since then, it has undergone a variety of design changes, including the switch to the more powerful PBS TJ-100 engine, which can provide up to 240 pounds of thrust.
According to the company, “The SubSonex is designed to capitalize on new generation small turbine engines, possibly using alternative biofuels, to give pilots of more average means the title of Jet Jock.”
Sonex says the jet, if approved, can be flown by private pilots with minimal additional training because Experimental-Amateur Built Aircraft under 12,500 pounds don’t require type ratings.