Sky Arrow builder struggling to revive

July 6, 2009

Bids to purchase the bankrupt Italian firm that builds the light sport aircraft Sky Arrow, Iniziative Industriali Italiane (3I), could occur as early as this fall or early 2010, but for now the company is living contract to contract. 3I, manufacturer of the high-wing, tandem-seat aircraft, entered bankruptcy May 21, 2008. The company’s assets are worth $6 million. Before declaring bankruptcy, the firm had explored moving manufacturing to the United States.

Since that time, the Court of Rome has granted the company’s bankruptcy a four-month extension three times to allow the firm to fill existing contracts. A fourth extension is near approval. The company can continue that way only for as long as new contracts are found. Of the original 120 employees, 60 are used to fill contracts as needed. When working for the company they are paid by 3I, and when they are not needed they receive unemployment benefits. The company is not allowed to make new investments while in bankruptcy.

One of the current contracts is to equip a Sky Arrow for use as a surveillance platform. A pilot rides aboard the aircraft to operate infrared and television cameras while a pilot on the ground takes over flying duties. It is called a remotely assisted working aerial system. The company has made four sales in Russia, three still in negotiation, and two in France. It has overhauled three additional aircraft, returning them to like-new status, and added experimental fuel tanks to a Sky Arrow for seven-hour endurance. Parts are made as ordered by existing customers or to complete aircraft on order.

The Sky Arrow is certified in the United States under both Part 23 and light sport aircraft rules, and is certified under European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) rules in Europe.

To date the company has entertained lots of tire-kickers who claimed interest in buying the firm, but so far no investor has stepped forward with the money. In the United States, the firm has been represented by a San Diego dealer who has since died and John Hansen of Hansen Air Group of Kennesaw, Ga., and El Cajon, Calif. Hansen has been with the company the longest and is, the company said, “…our historical distributor.” Hansen is equipping a Sky Arrow for use in training handicapped pilots. Carlo Treves of San Jose, Calif., has visited the plant in Italy several times and is interested in purchasing the firm.