South African designed Pegasus vertical takeoff jet demonstrator planned for 2020


South Africa’s Pegasus Universal Aerospace is developing a vertical takeoff and landing jet and has started work building a full-scale demonstrator to display in Europe in 2020.

The vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) jet is called the Pegasus One and is intended to combine the convenience of helicopters with the benefits of jet travel. It is aimed at travellers looking for transportation between busy urban airports, small and unpaved landing areas, yachts and regular helipads, amongst others. Other applications include serving the oil and gas industry and medevac. One of its key selling points is that it does away with the need for transport to and from airports – potentially cutting journey times 45% when driving at each end of a flight is taken into account.

Pegasus is targeting a 4 400 km range from runway take-off or 2 124 km with vertical takeoff and landing with a planned cruise speed of 796 km/h. The aircraft will feature six to eight seats with power provided by two 2 300 shp turboshaft engines (most likely GE CT7-8s) – these provide power to rear thrust fans for horizontal flight and will also power four lift fans in the wings. Depending on take-off option – VTOL or runway – Pegasus One will be able to fly for three and a half to six hours, supporting direct, point-to-point travel. Pegasus One will weigh around 5 700 kg.

The company says operational costs are competitive when compared with jets of similar range, with lower fuel burn and less CO2 emissions, thanks to its necessarily light-weight composite material construction.

Dr Reza Mia, who founded Pegasus in 2012, believes the aircraft will be ready for certification and deliveries in five to seven years’ time. Pegasus estimates it will spend around $500 million to bring the aircraft to market. The aircraft will be developed at the Pegasus facility in Gauteng, but options to establish alternate full production facilities are also being explored in the USA and/or Europe.

Work is underway on a full-scale demonstrator which will be brought to London in 2020 to start a demonstration tour of Europe. India and China are also key markets. A one-eighth scale model has undergone testing to validate its flight characteristics and patents have been taken out for the design.

Although the business has largely been self-funded, Pegasus is looking for outside investment to bring the aircraft to market. To this end, it will carry out a series of prospective investor evenings between September and November this year, initially in Johannesburg. Further opportunities to invest in the programme, online, will be available for potential investors based nationally within South Africa and internationally.