Xeriant Aerospace and XTI Aircraft this week confirmed the launch of a joint venture through which they aim to bring the hybrid-electric TriFan 600 VTOL aircraft to market by the end of 2024. However, during a June 14 press conference in Denver, the two companies did not provide details as to how the venture will be structured financially and what role Florida-based Xeriant will take in the program.
However, in an 8K Securities and Exchange Commission filing on June 4, Xeriant declared that the partners are forming a new company called Eco-Aero, in which they will each hold a 50 percent stake. Xeriant has committed to investing $10 million in the joint venture over the next 12 months, starting with a $1 million deposit.
In addition to the fresh capital, the statement says that Xeriant will contribute “technology and strategic business relationships.” XTI is mainly contributing the patented intellectual property for the TriFan program and aerospace engineering experience.
XTI CEO Robert LaBelle told an audience at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum that the formation of the joint venture “means that we’re finally launching the development of the full-scale aircraft, and [it] puts us on the road to certification.” The Colorado-based company is finalizing the design of the fixed-wing TriFan 600 and says it will have the first prototype built and flying by April 2023. Two more prototype aircraft will be built for the flight test campaign leading to certification under existing FAA Part 23 rules.
According to LaBelle, the TriFan 600 will provide an alternative to existing business aircraft and helicopters, which he said is a market potentially worth around $20 billion. He added that the new aircraft will also offer alternatives to existing airlines, trains, and car trips, adding a wider addressable market that he valued at $930 billion. “The price of a ride in our aircraft will be less than what it would cost someone to drive 500 miles in their own car,” he stated.
The VTOL will seat six passengers in standard configuration, rising to nine for “taxi” operations. XTI believes it could prove attractive to airlines looking to establish feeder services into major hub airports or serve "thinner" routes with low passenger numbers.
To date, the company says, it has received a total of 202 reservations for the $6.5 million TriFan 600. These include 40 firm orders and 40 options from one undisclosed customer, plus a further 122 commitments backed by cash reservations. XTI also intends to offer the aircraft under leases, as well as providing additional services such as insurance. LaBelle said that both companies and private individuals have placed commitments.
The TriFan 600 has three ducted fans, with two on the wing that tilt during the transition between hover and cruise flight, and a third position within the rear fuselage for vertical propulsion. Power will be generated by GE Aviation’s new Catalyst engine, feeding electric motors and batteries. XTI plans to install photovoltaic panels on the top of the fuselage to provide power while the aircraft is on the ground.
The projected range for the TriFan is 750 miles in VTOL mode, with the figure rising to around 1,380 miles when it takes off and lands conventionally on runways. It will have a cruise speed of around 345 mph and can operate at up to 29,000 feet. The 5,800-pound aircraft will have a full-airframe parachute, allowing it to land safely in an emergency.
XTI Aircraft’s management team includes aerospace veterans from companies including Cessna, Leonardo, Sikorsky, Bell, and Boeing. Between them, said Xeriant CEO Keith Duffy, they have been involved in certifying around 30 aircraft types.
Florida-based Xeriant is a holding company that says it is “focused on acquiring, developing, and commercializing revolutionary, eco-friendly technologies with applications in aerospace, including innovative aircraft concepts targeting emerging opportunities within the aviation industry.” The company formed back in August 2018 under the name American Aviation Technologies and changed its name when it started trading on the over-the-counter market (under the symbol XERI) following the acquisition of a public company called Banjo & Matilda.
Xeriant’s portfolio includes a small eVTOL aircraft developer called Halo Aircraft, which holds a number of patents. The group, which has subsidiaries involved in lubricants and fire- and heat- resistant technology, says it is also working on a patented personal aircraft.” It has a European subsidiary based in the Czech Republic.