The SubSonex is a small, single-seat jet designed to provide high performance in an airplane that fits in your garage. Of course, there is some assembly required. But that, and the $60, 000 price tag, is a small price to pay for the thrill of a lifetime.
“Every pilot wants to fly a jet someday, ” says Mark Schaible.
Schaible works for Sonex Aircraft, which has been making airplanes since 1998. Actually, it’s been making kits for the home-built aircraft community, those rabid pilots and tinkerers who take do-it-yourself a step beyond an Altoid USB charger.
So far the company’s only performed ground testing, so it doesn’t have any official performance figures yet. But Schaible expects the SubSonex to cruise at more than 240 mph and climb at well over 2, 000 feet per minute. It’s no F-15, but those kinds of numbers from an aerobatic airplane that fits in your garage should provide plenty of smiles for those of us who don’t have access to the neighborhood fighter jet.
Schaible says a small jet has been on the drawing boards for many years at Sonex. The company is well-known for making fun to fly airplanes that are relatively inexpensive and it didn’t want to sacrifice that when building a jet.
“It always hinged on an affordable engine of high enough quality, ” Schaible says.
Last month Sonex tested an engine it thinks fits the bill perfectly. The tiny jet engine is a Czech-made PBS-TJ100. It’s a single stage turbine producing around 240 pounds of thrust. It was designed as an auxiliary power unit and for use in drones. But in recent years the light weight power plant has caught the attention of several aviation tinkerers who have been attaching it to gliders and other small airplanes.
For Sonex, it came down to the engine’s simplicity.
“We really like the TJ100, it’s a plug-and-play solution, ” says Schaible.
The normally complex parts of a jet aircraft engine are contained within the engine package. The controller unit and pumps are built right into the motor and the small throttle quadrant contains all of the electronics needed for the start sequence.
“It’s very straightforward, a bit of a higher price, but still very reasonable, ” Schaible says.
Sonex prides itself on offering airplane kits for the price of a new car. Depending upon the engine size and whether you want a plane with one or two seats, a kit will run you around $30, 000 to $40, 000. Schaible says if all goes according to plan and they can offer the jet as a kit, he expects it to be closer to the cost of an upscale German sedan, around $60, 000. That makes it the most affordable jet since the BD-5 roared into the skies.
Before that can happen, the company has a lot of work to do. So far it has only run the jet engine on the ground. It ran some basic tests and made sure the engine won’t melt the tail, though Schaible says it did melt a lot of snow, as the video below shows. Now it’s waiting for better weather in Oshkosh and Federal Aviation Administration approval to start flight testing.
If the SubSonex sees production, it no doubt will require some extra training for pilots not used to flying small, high-performance jets. But the good news for the non-fighter pilots among us is it should retain the same slow-speed handling qualities of the airplane designs it is based on. That should make the SubSonex safer and easier to take off and land for those of us who don’t answer to Iceman or Maverick.