August 19, 2008
By Thomas A. Horne
Epic Aircraft of Bend, Ore., is experiencing firsthand the effects of the Russian incursion into Georgia.
Epic had formed a partnership with Tblisi Aircraft Manufacturing (TAM) with the idea of selling the 412-knot, eight-seat Epic Elite twinjet to the Russian market. The sole Epic Elite prototype is based at Tblisi International Airport in Georgia where it was intended to be used as a demonstrator.
Last week, Russian attack aircraft bombed the runways at the Tblisi airport. The TAM facility was spared, but the Elite Jet is trapped on the field. Epic President Rick Schrameck says that the strategy for the near term is to keep the Elite at Tblisi until “things settle down, because if we tried to fly out now I think a red-and-white business jet would be pretty easy for a Russian fighter to hit.”
Soon, however, the Elite should leave Tblisi for western Europe, then fly back to the United States.
Schrameck said in an interview, “Let’s just say that our plans to sell the jet with Russian certification to the eastern European market are pretty much over. TAM will remain as a partner and supplier, but we’ll pursue Transport Canada certification for the North American market first.”
The goal is for the besieged Elite to be on display at this October’s NBAA convention in Orlando, Fla., and at November’s AOPA Expo in San Jose, Calif. “We should have a big announcement to make at Expo,” Schrameck said.
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Tom Horne has worked at AOPA since the early 1980s. He began flying in 1975 and has an airline transport pilot and flight instructor certificates. He’s flown everything from ultralights to Gulfstreams and ferried numerous piston airplanes across the Atlantic.
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