XTI Aircraft and Xeriant Aerospace this week announced they aim to merge in a transaction that the companies say could raise $100 million to support plans to bring the TriFan 600 hybrid-electric VTOL to market by the first quarter of 2025. The two parties are now negotiating the details of the merger, which they say will culminate in an equity uplift to the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq.
Under the terms of a letter of intent signed on September 22, Xeriant would acquire all the issued and outstanding shares in Colorado-based XTI. The goal is to reach a definitive merger agreement by October 22. Florida-based Xeriant’s stock is currently listed on the over-the-counter (OTC) market.
In June, Xeriant announced a joint venture with XTI to collaborate in the development of the TriFan 600, for which they aim to complete type certification under FAA Part 23. A prototype is expected to make its first flight by April 2023, with the construction of this aircraft due to begin in 2022.
Xeriant chairman and CEO Keith Duffy told FutureFlight that reaching the $100 million fundraising goal would allow for the completion of the next stage of the TriFan’s development. The planned merger, initial public offering, and uplift to NYSE or Nasdaq would happen in quick succession once the deal is finalized. The Maxim Group investment bank is helping to arrange the transaction.
In an 8K Securities and Exchange Commission filing on June 4, Xeriant declared that the partners are forming a company called Eco-Aero, in which they will each hold a 50 percent stake, apparently as a precursor to the merger. At that time, Xeriant committed to investing $10 million in the joint venture over the following 12 months, starting with a $1 million deposit.
According to XTI CEO Robert LaBelle, the TriFan 600 will provide an alternative to existing business aircraft and helicopters, which he said represent a market potentially worth around $20 billion. He added that the new aircraft will also offer alternatives to trips via airline, train, and car, adding a wider addressable market that he valued at $930 billion. “The price of a ride in our aircraft will be less than what it would cost someone to drive 500 miles in their own car,” he stated.
The TriFan 600, which has three ducted fans, with two on the wing that tilt during the transition between hover and cruise flight, and a third position within the rear fuselage for vertical propulsion, will seat six passengers in standard configuration and nine for air taxi operations. XTI believes it could prove attractive to airlines looking to establish feeder services into major hub airports or serve routes with low passenger numbers. It says the design is scalable up to 16 passenger seats.
The company says it has received 204 reservations for the $6.5 million TriFan 600, representing potential revenues on delivery of $1.3 billion. These include 40 firm orders and 40 options from one undisclosed customer, plus a further 124 commitments backed by cash reservations. XTI also intends to offer the aircraft under leases, as well as to provide additional services such as insurance.
According to Duffy, the prospective customers are all qualified buyers. “They include companies already working with corporate clients, and some are considering fleet purchases where the TriFan would be a substitute for a business jet,” he explained, pointing to the 62-inch ceiling height and 63-inch width of the cabin, which he said will offer greater space and comfort than many new eVTOL models and also many existing light business jets.
Xeriant and XTI maintain that the approach they are taking with the TriFan represents a lower technology risk for investors than many other new eVTOL aircraft designs. Duffy said that XTI’s management team collectively has experience of certifying around 40 aircraft with companies including Cessna, Sikorsky, Bell, Boeing, and AgustaWestland (now Leonardo).
Power will be generated by GE Aviation’s new Catalyst engine, feeding electric motors and batteries. XTI plans to install photovoltaic panels on the top of the fuselage to provide power while the aircraft is on the ground. The aircraft, which has a maximum vertical takeoff weight of 5,800 pounds, will have a full-airframe parachute, allowing it to land safely in an emergency.
The projected range for the TriFan is 750 miles in VTOL mode, with the figure rising to around 1,380 miles when it takes off and lands conventionally on runways. It will have a cruise speed of around 345 mph and can operate at up to 29,000 feet, after an 11-minute climb from takeoff. As such, the aircraft promises markedly superior range and speed compared with most of the leading eVTOL designs now in development.
According to XTI, the hourly operating cost for the TriFan is expected to be just $350. This is around a half to one-third of the cost of many very light jets and small jets currently being used by business aviation operators.
Xeriant was formed in August 2018 under the name American Aviation Technologies and rebranded when it started trading on the OTC market. Its portfolio includes a small eVTOL aircraft developer called Halo Aircraft, which holds several patents. The group, which has other subsidiaries involved in lubricants and fire- and heat-resistant technology, says it is also working on a patented personal aircraft.
Duffy said that Xeriant also intends to be involved in developing infrastructure for advanced air mobility (AAM) operations, including arrangements for servicing aircraft and licensing operations in other countries. The partners intend to partner with airlines and other commercial operators, as well as airports and support companies.
“This AAM market is definitely a hot area and the next big sector in aviation,” he concluded, predicting a shakeout among the many new companies scrambling to establish competitive positions.