A profitable Epic eyes the international market

October 6, 2008

Epic Aircraft is profitable despite the lackluster economy and high-profile failures among other start-up very light jet manufacturers, said Rick Schrameck, chairman and chief executive of the Bend, Ore., company.

Schrameck said Epic has formed several new divisions that focus on delivering experimental aircraft, certified aircraft, and composite design and prototype construction for other manufacturers. A privately owned parent company, Aircraft Investor Resources, oversees the separate divisions.

“We’re still here—and we’re profitable,” Schrameck said during a press conference at the National Business Aviation Association convention on Oct. 5.

Last year Epic announced that Vijay Mallya, an India-born billionaire, planned to invest $200 million in the company and form an alliance with Airbus Industrie. But Schrameck said those plans “have not come to fruition.”

“We detrimentally relied on Vijay to make his investment,” Scrameck said, “and he hasn’t done that yet.”

Airbus owner EADS has sent representatives on multiple trips to Epic’s facilities, and Schrameck said European officials have been favorably impressed with the Oregon company that specializes in designing and building composite aircraft. Epic also is exploring potential partnerships with investors in Asia and the Middle East.

Separately, an Epic demonstrator aircraft remains stuck in Georgia. The plane was on a sales mission there when Russia invaded and bombed the airfield where the Epic was kept. The plane itself is undamaged but will have to be moved by helicopter to a civilian airbase before it can fly out of the country.

“Our plane is still hostage,” Schrameck said. “It’s protected and safe. But the airfield was bombed, and removing the airplane became pretty much impossible.”

Epic plans to continue selling kits for its single-engine, turboprop design and certifying its twin-engine “Elite” jet in Canada. The company will likely decide in the next few weeks whether to seek FAA certification of its single-engine, turboprop “Escape” and single-engine “Victory” jet. The company would pursue Part 23, Category Two, certification.

“We’re very pleased with the way things are going in Canada,” Schrameck said. “But we’re an American company, and we’ll decide very soon whether to try for FAA certification.”