New Tigers should be rolling down the production line by the end of the year.
That’s the plan of Tiger’s new owner, True Flight Aerospace of Valdosta, Georgia, formed two years ago to buy the Tiger assets from bankrupt Tiger Aircraft LLC after that company’s major investor, a Taiwanese consortium, decided to “defund” the project, said Kevin Lancaster, president.
Learning that his offer for the company had been accepted at Oshkosh 2007, he began raising money to restart production. A Tiger owner, he was not only interested in saving the brand, but also in bringing new business to south Georgia. Some friends joined the venture and they began looking for outside investors.
“It’s all domestic money,” he said. “We tried to stay away from foreign money, although we had quite a few foreign concerns show interest. Aviation is very tempting to them.”
With the purchase of the assets of the bankrupt company, True Flight got the type certificates for the Grumman American AA-1 line and AA-5 line, tooling, equipment, intellectual property rights, inventories of existing parts and raw materials.
The next priority was finding the proper manufacturing facility. The company is completing the move into its new 50,000-square-foot facility, a process that began right before this summer’s Oshkosh, Lancaster said. The facility sits on 18 acres near the Georgia-Florida border. “We’re building a 3,000-foot runway with room for additional hangars,” he noted.
The company moved about $2 million worth of inventory, as well as tooling and fixtures, from the former Martinsburg, W.Va., plant to Georgia.
“We’ve got about 80% of what we needed for the first aircraft,” Lancaster said, adding the first fuselage is “ready to go. We hope to get the FAA nod to start production by the end of the year,” he said.
He also noted that the company’s first year production is nearly filled up.
The company is taking $5,000 deposits for those who want a delivery position. The VFR airplane, which comes with a Garmin GPS/Com and transponder, is priced at about $215,000. Fully loaded, including a G1000 SVS, is about $300,000. The Tiger also will be a launch customer for Garmin’s G500, Lancaster said.
The current economic woes have slowed the company’s plans, he acknowledged.
“We planned to ramp up faster,” he said. “We’ve had some delays, but we’ve kept everything lean and small.”
In fact, he anticipates the company will begin hiring additional staff soon as production ramps up. He noted a handful of “key” people from the former company’s Martinsburg and Greenville, Miss., plants joined the new venture.
Retaining those employees shows the enduring popularity of the Tiger, he said. “It has quite a following,” he said. “Everybody has a Tiger story.”
For more information: TrueFlightAerospace.com