July 31, 2013
By Dave Hirschman
Kestrel Aircraft CEO Alan Klapmeier gave a good news/bad news update on the company’s single-engine turboprop now under development.
Good news: Detailed engineering work is moving rapidly, many production processes are in place, progress towards FAA certification is substantial, and Garmin’s G3000 integrated avionics suite will be a customer option.
Bad news: Raising capital has been frustratingly slow, and uncertainty over future financing has put development behind schedule.
“The project is behind schedule,” Klapmeier said. “We haven’t raised the rest of the money we need to.”
Kestrel is using a combination of government grants and tax incentives, strategic partnerships, and investors to raise the $175 million Klapmeier estimates it will cost to certify the 300-knot turboprop, put it into production, and establish a positive cash flow.
Meeting the company’s original goal of delivering the first customer aircraft in 2015 is still possible but “incredibly unlikely,” Klapmeier said.
The company’s next major milestone is producing a conforming prototype, and Klapmeier’s goal is to have that aircraft fly to EAA AirVenture in 2014.
Kestrel isn’t taking customer deposits, and Klapmeier said the company won’t do that until its conforming prototype is finished or long-term financing is in place.
Klapmeier said he has no doubt that customer demand for the aircraft is real both domestically and internationally.
“The market, we think, is going to be very robust,” he said. “There’s demand for an aircraft that carries a large load over a long distance at reasonably high speed, can use short runways, and is easy to operate. We will grow the market.”
Kestrel has spent about $50 million since the firm was founded in 1998, and Klapmeier is focused on raising additional capital while a team of about 110 employees concentrates on the technical aspects.
“In the short term,” he said, “we’ve got to raise some money.”
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Dave Hirschman joined AOPA in 2008. He has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates. Dave flies vintage, historical, and Experimental airplanes and specializes in tailwheel and aerobatic instruction.
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