A brand-new light sport aircraft being built in Texas by a startup with Brazilian roots sports clean lines and state-of-the-art safety features including an airframe parachute and a passenger safety cell similar to a modern race car cockpit.
The Colt is also similar to a line of Brazilian aircraft that number in the hundreds, as it is largely based on the INPAER Conquest 180. The Colt’s lead designer, Caio Jordão, led that Brazilian airplane maker for more than a decade, according to a March 19 news release announcing the Colt’s arrival.
Powered by the popular, 100-horsepower Rotax 912 ULS, the Colt will be all-American in its manufacturing. Grande and his team set up shop at South Texas Regional Airport in Hondo, Texas, and hosted a ribbon cutting in February attended by Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association President Dan Johnson, a longtime industry advocate who posted photos and video from the event in March. Company spokesman Dale Smith explained that the plan had been to hold off unveiling the Colt until EAA AirVenture in July, by which time the firm hopes to have light sport (ASTM) approval and three aircraft to display and demo, but local media published pictures that prompted a hurried rush to announce the Colt. Smith noted that the 35-day federal government shutdown that began in December has delayed the regulatory approval timeline, but the firm hopes to catch up quickly.
While pricing will not be made public until AirVenture, Smith said the firm is working on financing options and incentives to further enhance the Colt’s appeal. It will be offered with Dynon avionics, including a 10-inch multifunction display and a two-axis autopilot, along with four-point safety harnesses, airframe parachute, and a welded chromoly steel survival cell that further protects pilot and passengers. The Colt achieved a 110-knot cruise speed at 75 percent power in early testing, along with a 38-knot stall speed with flaps, though the final performance numbers remain subject to further validation.
“My son, Diego, our Chief Test Pilot, just loves flying the Colt,” designer Jordão stated in the press release. “He said it is the most fun and easy to fly airplane of all of our designs. And with over 400 INPAER aircraft flying and accumulating more than 150,000 hours of flight time in Brazil, that is saying quite a lot about what an amazing airplane the new Colt really is.”
Smith said the company is hiring many U.S. military veterans to build the Colt, drawing on a local workforce with aviation experience to meet ambitious production goals. The firm hopes to complete as many as nine aircraft by year’s end, ramping up to 20 a year or more in 2020. Smith said the business partners opted to set up shop in Texas in part because of that workforce, and in part because they have high hopes for being a major player on the global stage.
“In my opinion … They just felt to be a real player in the global LSA market, they needed to be an American company,” Smith said. “They love the independent spirit of Texas, the ‘do it’ attitude.”