April 3, 2014
By Alton K. Marsh
It's back to the search for investors in Sherpa Aircraft for company owner Glen Gordon, 81, and partner Byron Root, if they are to certify their giant Sherpa 650T turboprop tailwheel utility aircraft. An agreement with a Chinese investor has failed. Sherpa isn't the only company to experience disappointment after hope of winning Chinese dollars.
While Chinese investment has served Cirrus Aircraft and Continental Motors well, it ended badly for Liberty Aircraft after a deal was signed to build the two-seat trainer, designed by the same engineer who built the British Europa kitplane, in China. A source indicated the Liberty deal may have gotten tangled in a deal that was more focused on winning real estate in China than it was on building an airplane factory.
"Despite all the energy spent, we were not able to complete a total agreement," Gordon said from his Scappoose, Ore., factory 45 minutes from Portland. He noted a nearby aircraft company he declined to name also won and then lost a Chinese investment.
There are other indications that China is no longer seen as a growing aerospace juggernaut. Business analyst Brian Foley said the growth of the business jet fleet in China, now numbering 198 aircraft, is slowing. The majority of purchases seem to be for larger jets and there are indications that smaller jets may never grow in percentage. That's because China is a large country whose businessmen require international travel, favoring the largest, fastest jets. While the country has a large population, only a small percentage is able to purchase business jets, and that group has been thinned by the worldwide recession, he said.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
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