When you spend a lifetime in one industry, it can be very difficult to retire. It certainly was for Horst Bergmann, who spent approximately 40 years at Jeppesen. He’s now capping off his career at Aviation Technology Group, Inc. (ATG), developers of the Javelin Executive Jet.
Bergmann joined Jeppesen in 1963, right after he finished business school. “Mostly I was a paper pusher,” he jokes. He held many titles at Jeppesen before being named CEO in 1988. He retired in May 2003. Ostensibly he was looking forward to the change, but before he could even get his briefcase unpacked, he started getting telephone calls from other aviation companies that wanted him to come to work for them.
“Several aircraft manufacturers wanted me to join their boards of directors,” he recalled, “including ATG.”
George Bye founded ATG in 1998. Bye, who serves as chairman and CEO, is doing what no one has done before — building a certified, two-place personal jet that has both civilian and military applications.
Bergmann, who liked the Javelin concept and business model, was intrigued.
“But I really wanted to try retirement,” he said. “So I decided to try it for six months.”
During that time he learned more about ATG. Bergmann was particularly interested in the use of the Javelin as a military trainer.
“The jet trainer designs that are being used today are 30 years old or older,” he explained. “And they are expensive. We anticipate the Javelin to be a jet trainer available at a turboprop price.”
Bergmann was impressed enough to invest in the company.
ATG was very persistent, he noted. “At the end of my six months, I was offered a position on the board as well as in management at ATG,” he said. “As they say in Germany, I am sitting between two chairs.”
Bergmann joined ATG in November 2004 as executive vice chairman. He oversees marketing, sales, risk management, legal and human resources. His office is located at ATG’s facilities in Englewood, Colo.
It’s exciting, he says, to be working with a new design.
“The Javelin is a very interesting airplane for a very small niche market,” he said. “There are lots of people out there who have experience flying jets and who want a faster airplane. Since the Javelin only has two seats, it really isn’t in competition with the other business jets. The Javelin is like a sports car, whereas a normal business jet is a Mercedes sedan.”
This year will be a busy one for the company, says Bergmann. All facets of aircraft production, from design to development of a test flight program, are being refined. The number of employees is growing as the company moves forward.
“Since I came here, we have added 40 people, which gives us 67 people,” Bergmann said. “This month we will add an additional 10.”
One of the first things Bergmann did when he joined ATG was look for someone who had expertise in all facets of aircraft manufacturing, from machining parts to interiors. That someone is Charlie Johnson, who spent the past seven years as president and chief operating officer at Cessna.
Johnson began his aviation career in 1961. His resume includes flight testing in the Air Force as well as decades overseeing the quality control and manufacturing of Cessna aircraft. Johnson retired from Cessna in 2003.
Like Bergmann, Johnson found himself not quite ready for retirement.
“I retired and moved to Colorado, but I felt like I had more to give to aviation,” Johnson explained.
At Bergmann’s invitation, Johnson joined ATG in December 2004 as executive vice president of operations.
“It has been a wonderful transition,” Johnson said. “I liked that ATG was taking a clean sheet of paper and applying all the lessons learned in aviation over a long period of time. We are using state-of-the-art technology and manufacturing techniques and procedures. When we talk in two years, we will show you a company that is a showcase of doing things the right way.”
FIRST FLIGHT IN 2005
The first flight of the Javelin prototype will be made by spring of 2005, according to Johnson.
“We are working on a very busy and very tight schedule,” he explained. “As I speak, the aircraft is getting a coat of primer on the tail feathers. We are finalizing the final design parameters.”
The civilian version of the aircraft will be produced first. ATG began taking orders for the civilian Javelin in October 2003. As this issue was going to press, there were 90 orders on the books. The military version of the Javelin will follow.
The company has not yet determined where the manufacturing facilities will be, although it is likely there will be one factory for the military version and another for the civilian version.
Certification is expected in 2007 with first deliveries soon after.
As the aircraft is going together, the parameters for the pilot training program are being developed.
“We want to team up with other companies to market a training package so that you are not just buying a jet, you are also getting the training,” said Bergmann. “The pilots will have to have some experience with jets and if you can’t fly it, you need to find a pilot who is qualified to do so.”
Both Johnson and Bergmann expect civilian buyers to come from a military background where they flew jets, or from pilots who have flown business jets in the past.
“This aircraft is designed for pilots who are used to doing things very fast and very professionally,” said Johnson. “This is a highly specialized airplane built for a specialized pilot. The aircraft is very comfortable, but it is not for day-to-day travel. It is designed for specialized missions that value a rapid response.”
WANT TO KNOW MORE?303-799-4197 or AvTechGroup.com.