new Kestrel Aircraft at AirVenture Oshkosh 2010. Photo by Jim
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
Klapmeier appeared in Maine Friday
morning for a joint announcement of the company’s plans with Gov. John
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
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
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
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.