By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - XTI Aircraft, a Denver, Colorado-based aerospace startup firm, launched an equity crowdfunding campaign on Tuesday to raise $50 million to fund the production of the TriFan 600, a six-seat fixed wing jet that can take off and land like a helicopter.
XTI was founded in 2009 by David Brody, the former chairman and chief executive officer of AVX Aircraft Co, who developed and patented the concept for the new business jet.
The company's leaders include Jeffrey Pino, the former president of Sikorsky Aircraft, a unit of United Technologies Corp that is being sold to Lockheed Martin Corp, and Charles Johnson, the former president of Cessna, the business jet maker owned by Textron Inc.
The group's chief engineer is Dennis Olcott, the former chief engineer at Adam Aircraft, and for the PiperJet program.
XTI launched the equity crowdfunding campaign under new rules approved by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in March 2015. Equity crowdfunding is when private investors fund startup companies in return for equity.
It is also seeking venture capital, private equity and high net worth investors for the project.
The company said its financing approach would allow both accredited and non-accredited investors to support XTI Aircraft by reserving non-binding equity in the company.
"We fully expect that investors, especially crowdfunders and those with an interest in aviation, will be drawn to the idea of having their own 'Kitty Hawk' moment by being part of a truly new aircraft program that will change flight as we know it," the company said.
In development for over two years, XTI is designing the TriFan 600 to become the first commercially certified high-speed, long-range vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) airplane.
The aircraft is designed to fly as fast and as high as current business jets, but able to land and take off from any paved, helipad-sized space, cutting out the need to travel to airports.
The jet uses three ducted fans for liftoff, and then rotates two wing fans forward to enable high-speed flight, XTI said. It said the new jet would have a maximum cruise speed of 400 mph (640 kph) and a range of 800 to 1,200 miles (1,300 to 1,900 km).
XTI said it reduced risk on the program by using existing, proven technologies in its design. It said the expected launch time of the new aircraft would be determined after it met certain financing milestones.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Frances Kerry)