As more of the tooling for the well-regarded Tiger arrives in Georgia from the airplane’s most recent manufacturing plant in West Virginia, True Flight Aerospace – the new owner – is projecting that production there will start “early in 2008.”
True Flight’s chief executive, Kevin Lancaster, says the four-seat, single-engine Tiger will be manufactured “in earnest” as soon as his new production plant at Valdosta is up and running.
As of early November, about a fifth of the tooling and production equipment had been moved to Georgia, a company announcement stated. The new, 60,000-square-foot facility will be able to produce as many as 200 aircraft a year, according to Lancaster, who added that the break-even point is only three or four a month. He said that the first airplanes should roll off the line next summer.
In August, Lancaster bought the remnants of Tiger Aircraft, including the type certificates for the entire aircraft line, during bankruptcy proceedings. At that time he did not buy the manufacturing facilities, which he has acquired since then. He has brought in former Grumman American employee Harry Eckert as an advisor for production startup, he said. Eckert was one of the first employees to build the two-seat Grumman American AA-1 in Ohio, in the late 1960s. According to Lancaster, Eckert designed and built much of the Tiger tooling.
The new company is taking a fresh look at the manufacturing process with Eckert’s help and is planning some improvements to the aircraft itself, including offering a basic version without the Garmin G1000 panel, which was a standard feature on the $275,000 version offered by Tiger Aircraft.
“One of the things that hampered Tiger in Martinsburg was that its foreign ownership didn’t understand the market in the USA and how to position the aircraft,” Lancaster stated. “They went straight to the high-end market. Somewhere in between, there’s room for a new Tiger that doesn’t have a G1000.”
Taiwanese investors had operated the company since 1999 in West Virginia, but pulled funding for political reasons not related to the health of company, Lancaster said recently. Currently there are more than 5,000 two-seat and four-seat versions of the aircraft, originally built by Grumman, and Lancaster plans to support all of them, he said.
True Flight has not yet determined prices for its airplanes, Lancaster said, so is not yet selling production positions.
Although he is in the process of finding investors for a venture that has been self-funded to this point, “Our goal is to keep ownership not just in the USA but, as much as we can, local,” Lancaster has stated.
For more information: TrueFlightAerospace.com