VisionAire plans stalled for now

Melissa Berg

The VisionAire plant finished construction in Ames last summer, but the company located in the Iowa State Research Park has not made much progress since then.

Steve Goodhue, vice president of public relations for VisionAire, said the world’s first single-engine business jet will be in full production in Ames at the VisionAire Corporation by early 2000.

“We are in our 10th year as a developmental program to certify a single-engine business jet,” said Steve Goodhue, vice president of public relations for VisionAire.

VisionAire is based out of St. Louis, Mo., with a total of 140 employees in both St. Louis and Ames.

The Ames location has an assembly facility in a 160-square-foot building at the Ames Airport. VisionAire came to Ames in 1995 and was located in the ISU Research Park until the assembly facility was completed in May 1998. The Ames location will eventually employ 153 people for the assembly of the VisionAire Vantage.

Goodhue said Chairman Jim Rice began ideas for VisionAire in 1988, and the design for the single-engine jet emerged in 1991. A Vantage prototype has been flying since November 1996, he said.

The VisionAire Vantage will have several advantages over the current business jets used today, Goodhue said.

He said the Vantage costs $1.8 million while most business jets sell for around $3.6 million.

“It operates at 40 percent less the cost than any other business jet,” Goodhue said.

He said the cabin is just as large as other jets, and it flies just as fast.

VisionAire has already pre-sold over 150 Vantage jets. Goodhue said those sales were in 39 states and nine foreign countries, including four sales in Iowa.

By next fall, the company should be ready to start building two flight test models at the new Ames plant. The models will be used towards FAA certification of the Vantage.

Goodhue said VisionAire chose Ames for the assembly of the Vantage for several reasons.

“There are around 130 shareholders of VisionAire in Ames,” he said. “There were also some grant and loan incentives in the city and community.”

The interface with Iowa State’s aerospace engineering program was another reason the corporation chose Ames, Goodhue said.

“We wanted to start fresh and build our industry,” he said, “and Iowa is a good place to do that.”