October 20, 2010
By Alton K. Marsh
Investors who purchased Sino Swearingen and rights to produce the SJ30 business jet, renaming it Emivest Aerospace, ran into financial trouble almost as soon as the deal was completed and have placed the struggling company back on the market. Four of the aircraft, one of them owned by the factory, are in customers’ hands, including one flown by actor Morgan Freeman and another used by Déjà Vu, an entertainment company with a presence in Las Vegas.
The investors purchased the company in 2008. The Dubai-based owners had a great deal of money at two large investment firms in the United States that were among the first to fail as the current recession began with explosive impact.
At first the Emivest officials hoped to find new investment, but retain control. Now, the owners are willing to give up control if necessary. There are reportedly three investors who are interested in resuming production. However, the aircraft and the company are not to be found at the current National Business Aviation Association convention that ends Oct. 21 in Atlanta. The convention would have offered another chance to attract investors.
The four aircraft now flying are doing well. The aircraft owned by Morgan Freeman has been to Europe several times and has between 350 and 400 hours on it. So far, it has not needed any spare parts. The aircraft flown by Déjà Vu is also proving itself and performing well. There are an additional four aircraft in the factory awaiting completion, and wing sets for two, plus a fuselage, in the SJ30 plant at Martinsburg, W.Va.
Freeman’s pilot, Jimmy Hobson, said the aircraft has performed exceptionally well and has been “around the world” several times.
“Maintenance is not an issue at all. We have had some minor warranty work done, but mostly that was avionics and not the airframe. It is ‘green’ friendly and economical,” Hobson said. He said the factory “…is not working, but the new investment will be good for the company.”
Hobson said he and Freeman, currently in Clarksdale, Miss., to campaign for a friend of Freeman who is running for governor, are “very happy with the airplane.” They took delivery “literally off the showroom floor” in South Africa, flew it to several countries and the United States, then back to Europe. It flew extensively throughout Europe, including Sicily, Rome, Zurich, and Madrid. Since Freeman lives in Clarksdale, frequent trips include Clarksdale to Los Angeles nonstop, “…reliably,” Hobson said.
While it is performing well, the aircraft has had difficulty getting into production. There was a new model announced—the SJ30-2, later becoming just the SJ30—before the first one was ever produced in 2000. Updates on the company’s struggle to find financing and produce airplanes were a staple of NBAA conventions in the 1990s. Now, it seems, a good idea struggles on.
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