By Charles Alcock

The company says hybrid-electric propulsion does not deliver sufficient payload and range

101055 xtiaircraft3 722649XTI Aerospace says its turbine-powered TriFan 600 VTOL aircraft will be more versatile than current fixed-wing models in business and regional aviation.

The leadership team of XTI Aerospace on Monday updated investors on plans to bring the TriFan 600 VTOL aircraft to market, almost two weeks after the company’s March 13 listing on the Nasdaq stock exchange following the merger between XTI Aircraft and tech group Inpixon. New CEO Scott Pomeroy said his Colorado-based engineering team is now working to complete the critical design review for the turbine-powered six-passenger model, which the company is pitching as an alternative to current business and regional aircraft.

The merger and share flotation process has taken more than six months to complete since being approved by Inpixon shareholders on Sept. 8, 2023. Company officials did not spell out a timeline for certifying the TriFan 600 but have indicated they expect to start flight testing a full-scale aircraft in the next two years. The aircraft is expected to be certified to operate under instrument flight rules (IFR) and in known icing conditions.

XTI describes the TriFan 600 as a “vertical lift crossover airplane,” indicating it will have a range of 600 nm, which could increase if conventional takeoff from a runway is available. The design features a pair of tilting ducted fans on the wing and another fan integrated into the rear fuselage.

The company, which started work on the program in 2017, abandoned earlier plans for a hybrid-electric propulsion system combining a turbogenerator with electric motors and batteries. The TriFan 600 will have a pressurized cabin and is expected to operate up to 25,000 feet.

“The numbers didn’t add up,” chief commercial officer Saleem Zaheer told the webcast. “So we’ve said, ‘Let’s start first by certifying with certified turboshaft engines, then keep watching the technology develop and switch to hybrid-electric when that is feasible.'”

XTI has not said which manufacturer will supply the turboshaft engines but has indicated that these will operate on sustainable aviation fuel. Still to be confirmed, as well, is the location of production facilities, although Pomeroy did indicate that some manufacturing could be conducted outside the U.S. The company said it is in discussions with Tier 1 suppliers for structural sections of the aircraft as well as systems.

According to XTI, it holds more than 700 conditional pre-orders for the TriFan 600, which—based on a list price of $10 million—have a combined value of around $7 billion. Pomeroy, who was previously the company’s CFO, told investors that these undisclosed commitments have come from operators from multiple countries, including regional airliners, air taxi services, and aero-medical service providers.

Shares in XTI started trading under the ticker “XTIA” on March 13. Details of the merger transaction were shown in the company’s March 11 8K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

XTI has not said how much funding is available to support work to bring the TriFan 600 to market or how much will be needed. Zaheer told AIN that becoming a public company "will  make XTIA attractive to a broader range of investors and investment structures that can help meet our capital needs."

The company has not said how much working capital it now has to advance plans for the TriFan 600. XTI Aerospace encompasses XTI Aircraft, which will be led by CEO Mike Hinderberger, who was a former program director for Aerion’s supersonic business jet design and has held management positions with Rolls-Royce, Piper, Hawker Beechcraft, and Gulfstream. The group also includes Inpixon’s RTLS business unit, which produces real-time locator systems for manufacturing and industrial applications.

In briefings last year, Hinderberger said the TriFan 600 will have direct operating costs of around $733 per hour, which will be markedly less than those of helicopters. With a higher cruise speed of around 300 knots (345 mph), it is expected to increase revenue potential by flying more missions each day.

XTI has estimated that the five-year cost of ownership for the TriFan 600 will be relatively close to that of business jets and turboprops including the Embraer Phenom 300E, the HondaJet Elite II, the Pilatus PC-24, and the Beechcraft King Air 260. It maintains that the VTOL mode will offer a better return on investment because its operations will not be limited by the need for runways and airports.

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