In The Works: Maverick Jets Leader

 - January 30, 2007, 10:04 AM

At the Dubai Air Show last month, Tbilisi Aerospace Manufacturing (TAM) of Tbilisi, Georgia (the former Soviet Republic, not the Peachtree State), featured as part of its small stand a wall-size photograph of the twin-engine Maverick Jet kitplane. Although a manufacturer of military airplanes, such as the Sukhoi Su-25 ground-attack aircraft and the MiG-21 fighter, TAM is diversifying into civil aircraft and sees the Maverick spearheading this effort. TAM has worldwide distribution rights for the Maverick.

Melbourne, Fla.-based Maverick Jets shut down its assembly facility in Florida last May (laying off some 50 employees involved in manufacturing), packed up two U.S.-built Maverick kits and the composite fuselage molds and shipped the kits and molds to Tbilisi. In August, Sandy Scott, Maverick director of client development, said first flight of a TAM-assembled Maverick Jet powered by Williams FJ33 engines was expected as early as this month. In Dubai last month, TAM officials estimated flight tests would begin soon enough for Russian certification to be obtained within the first half of the year. Following Russian certification, TAM will pursue European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) approval and then FAA approval.

But officials are somewhat vague about how an FAR 21.191 kitplane, which requires the owner to build a minimum of 51 percent, will obtain Russian type and production certification, except to say that Russian regulations are not as exacting as the FAA’s. Maverick CFO Frank Hamley also told AIN that TAM senior execs have ties with the Russian government.

But EASA and the FAA are not likely to relax their certification requirements just because Russia grants certification. And the Russian authority may not be as much of a pushover as Maverick officials hope. In the last few years it has been cooperating with the FAA to get Russian aircraft FAA certified, most recently the Beriev Be-103 amphibious piston twin. Certified last year after a more than two-year process, this airplane was awarded its certificate directly from FAA Administrator Marion Blakey at EAA AirVenture in August. For obvious reasons, the Russians would like more of their home-team aircraft to get EASA’s and the FAA’s stamp of approval. To do this, they must continue to bring their standards into closer harmonization with these agencies.