XTI Aircraft has received a firm purchase order for 40 of its hybrid-electric TriFan 600 aircraft, CEO Bob LaBelle revealed this week at the Vertical Flight Society’s Forum 77.
XTI is not yet revealing the identity of the customer, although LaBelle indicated it is a U.S.-based operator with a recognizable brand. In addition to the $260 million order, secured with a non-refundable deposit, the operator has an option for an additional 40 aircraft.
“This has been a great stimulus to the company here recently,” LaBelle told the online Forum 77 audience on May 12, noting that the order and option join another 122 global reservations secured with refundable deposits. With the base TriFan 600 model priced at $6.5 million, the company’s backlog could be worth over $1.3 billion if all reservations are converted to firm sales orders.
Capable of both conventional and vertical take-offs and landings using three ducted fans, the six-seat TriFan 600 is targeting a range of 650 nautical miles (1,200 kilometers) for VTOL operations, or 1,200 nm (2,200 km) if the aircraft takes off and lands like an airplane. XTI envisions its base model serving as a business aircraft, but the company also plans to offer a version of the TriFan 600 for emergency medical services missions, as well as a nine-seat “utilitarian” version with about half the range.
The six-seat TriFan 600 concept was first revealed in 2015, but development has been “paced by available capital. Today, we’re looking really strong and have a good position,” LaBelle said.
XTI has been conducting subscale demonstrator testing and expects to take another 20 months to build and fly its first full-scale test aircraft. From the fourth quarter of 2022, the company plans to conduct a two-year ground and flight test campaign with the goal of achieving Federal Aviation Administration certification by late 2024 or early 2025, according to LaBelle.
The company has partnered with GE Aviation to use GE’s Catalyst turboprop engine as the core of the TriFan 600’s series hybrid architecture. LaBelle noted that the Catalyst has “really good power, really good efficiency and maintains that power at altitude which is the key discriminator for us because we want to fly fast and high and far” — up to 300 knots true airspeed at altitudes up to 29,000 feet to serve the business market.
Although the acquisition cost of the TriFan 600 will be comparable to many business turboprops and medium helicopters, LaBelle projects that the hybrid propulsion system will offer significant savings in operating costs.
“There’s just a lot less maintenance, and in our case, we think that if an operator uses it 1,000 hours a year, they’re going to see $1 million difference in costs of operating over traditional aircraft,” he said.