Epic AIR’s Elite twinjet is trapped in a hangar in the outskirts of Tbilisi, Georgia, after Russian aircraft bombed the airfield in the recent clash.
The prototype flew in the second week of June to Tbilisi Aerospace Manufacturing Company (TAM), Georgia’s leading exporter and the joint venture partner behind the Elite’s development. Russia apparently broke a truce and have entered the city of Gori after pushing Georgian forces back from separatist positions in South Ossetia. Epic CEO Rick Schrameck says they’ll wait for normalcy to be restored and the runway to be repaired before flying out. “At this point we do not have an option. We will not jeopardize a pilot or the aircraft,” he says. “If we were to disassemble the aircraft, the only way out would be helicopter airlift.”
The eight-seat, 1.7 million EUR jet had just come from a tour of western and eastern Europe before stopping in Tbilisi. Originally, the aircraft was to have visited Farnborough and Oshkosh. “Stay tuned for Elite certification news at NBAA,” says Schrameck, referring to the October convention in Orlando. “Experimental Elites will enter production this year,” he says, and will be built through the program that brings buyers into the Bend facility to perform 51 percent or more of the work. The FAA’s re-interpretation of homebuilding guidelines will not affect that program, he says.
The certified version will not be built in Calgary, as previously thought, after the weakened dollar and other factors led price projections there to double. “It just did not make economic sense. Our factory will probably be more in the central or eastern part of Canada just because of the government and the assistance that´s available in the workforce,” he says. “We can produce multiple hundreds of aircraft within a year, including 40 Elites. However, this is dictated by market demand.”
Production will also take place in India in factories of by Epic’s majority owner Vijay Mallya, owner of Kingfischer Airlines.
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