Adam, ATG Making Small Craft that Could Transform Industry

But both Adam Aircraft and ATG face regulatory and competitive hurdles, and some doubt that the jets they and other companies are making will usher in a new age of flying.

Boyd and others say the new planes will open the door for more businesses to buy corporate jets or participate in fractional ownership plans because they have a much lower price point than current business jets.

VLJs also will serve as the backbone of several upstart air taxi companies, which plan to use them to ferry people between cities.

The jets also are expected to find a sizable market among pilots looking to replace their older airplanes or upgrade to the latest and greatest.

SUV, Ferrari

Adam Aircraft and ATG are not directly competing against each other. Rather, the two companies are targeting different segments of the market.

Adam Aircraft's A700 is targeting small businesses, executives and other travelers who want to bypass the hassles of flying on commercial airlines.

ATG is developing its fighterlike Javelin jets for wealthy individuals who want the flash factor, while also working on a version for the military to train pilots.

One way to look at it: Adam Aircraft's VLJ is a roomy SUV, while ATG's is a sports car.

"The typical business jet has five or six seats like an SUV," said George Bye, ATG's founder and chairman and a former Air Force pilot. "The Javelin is a red Ferrari."

ATG's plane is modeled after a fighter jet, and it has the performance characteristics to match. The $2.8 million, two-seat, twin-engine Javelin can fly as fast as commercial aircraft and reach the same altitude.

Adam Aircraft - which already has developed a twin-piston plane - is expecting big things from its first very light jet.

The aircraft features seating for up to six passengers and two pilots and can reach speeds of 390 miles per hour. It weighs in at just 4,000 pounds, lighter than some large SUVs, and can be configured with a bathroom.

On the runway

The companies have spent years developing their planes and navigating the time-consuming approval process required by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Now, they're nearly ready for takeoff, although they could still face setbacks on the certification front.

Adam Aircraft is the closest of the two. The company landed big money recently - $93 million in venture capital - and cemented a deal with a company to provide maintenance and repairs in Asia. It hopes to receive final FAA approval of its A700 this year or in early 2008 and begin delivering planes shortly thereafter.

And it says an initial public offering is a "strong possibility," perhaps even next year.

ATG is looking about two years out. But it has made significant progress lately, having cemented several key distribution deals. The company also is testing its prototype jet and recently set up manufacturing and testing operations at Front Range Airport.

If initial interest is any indication, both ATG and Adam are primed for success.

Adam Aircraft has 325 orders for its A700 from business owners, private pilots and air taxi companies, totaling $700 million in sales. ATG has orders for 150 jets from such high-profile executives as Oracle CEO Larry Ellison.

The initial orders "obviously are a huge endorsement of our product," Bye said.

Along the way, the companies have pumped millions of dollars into the Denver-area economy. Combined, Adam Aircraft and ATG employ more than 700 workers in Colorado. And both are committed to growing their presence here for the foreseeable future.

Another upstart company with a presence in Colorado, Maverick Jets, is developing VLJs as well and could bring more jobs here down the road.

Competition, congestion

Even if Adam Aircraft and ATG win FAA approval, carving a niche in the VLJ market won't be easy.

There are roughly a dozen companies developing VLJs, ranging from well-known names such as Embraer and Cessna to newcomers Eclipse and Diamond Aircraft.

ATG insists it has no direct competitors and says its market is among current aircraft owners who want to add a sportier plane. At the Javelin's price point, there's nothing else out there like it, the company says.

Perhaps its biggest hurdles will come on the military side, where the company will have to cut through plenty of red tape.

Adam Aircraft competes in a more crowded field, in which one company, Eclipse Aviation, already has started delivering VLJs to customers.

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