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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedKestrel Aircraft nesting in Maine
By Dave Higdon
 

Alan Klapmeier’s new Kestrel Aircraft at AirVenture Oshkosh 2010. Photo by Jim Koepnick

This week at AirVenture you’ll see a familiar face with an unfamiliar aircraft project. The person: Alan Klapmeier. The project: the Kestrel, a revival of a long-pursued single-engine propjet program.

Klapmeier, of course, helped make Minnesota a landmark in the aviation firmament when, with his brother Dale, he launched Cirrus Design Corp. Cirrus succeeded, despite all predictions to the contrary, by certificating an innovative new line of piston singles built with composite airframes, electronic panels and their signature safety feature—an airframe parachute.

Now Alan Klapmeier wants to bring some of the same magic to the turboprop market as Chairman and CEO of Kestrel Aircraft Co., a new venture preparing to land in facilities at Brunswick, Maine.

Klapmeier appeared in Maine Friday morning for a joint announcement of the company’s plans with Gov. John E. Baldacci.
A six-to-seven-seat propjet single, the Kestrel cruises at 350 knots while offering operating costs significantly below a VLJ (very light jet) or a light jet of similar capacity and speed.

A spokesperson for Klapmeier confirmed to AirVenture Today that the Kestrel single-engine turboprop is the same product briefly worked on under a joint venture between Aircraft Investor Resources (AIR), developer of the Epic LT kit plane, and Farnborough Aircraft in the United Kingdom.

In the fourth quarter, Kestrel plans to move into a 160,000-square-foot hangar at the newly minted Brunswick Landing, which Maine bills as its Center for Innovation. The facility is on Naval Air Station Brunswick, slated for decommissioning later this year.
Kestrel plans to produce test articles and begin flight-test and certification efforts before year’s end.

Farnborough Aircraft initially began developing its single-engine turboprop in England as the F1 before the brief partnership with AIR to certificate the F1 and market a kit for the Epic LT. The venture went under amid a legal dispute over costs and manufacturing of the F1 and Epic.

Then earlier this year Farnborough Aircraft returned to the aviation arena at Sun ’n Fun showing what is now dubbed the Kestrel, an all-composite turboprop single with performance in the 350-knot range.

While similar in appearance to the Epic LT, the Kestrel’s cabin offers about 27 percent more volume than that experimental-market design, although they reportedly share the same wing.

The prototype Kestrel that’s been flying uses a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67A turboprop making 1,200 shp; the production versions reportedly would use the 1,000-shp PT6A-67B variant swinging a four-blade Hartzell prop with reverse-pitch capability.

Klapmeier’s appearance at another aircraft company resolves expectations and anticipation about what sort of aviation project he would next tackle after departing from Cirrus last year during AirVenture 2009.

According to Klapmeier’s spokesperson and information from Gov. Baldacci’s office, a new company incorporating Farnborough Aircraft plans to invest more than $100 million to develop the Kestrel.

Kestrel Aircraft expects to employ about 300 people once the aircraft enters full production.

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