In the Works: Maverick Jets Leader

 - March 30, 2007, 7:31 AM

Tbilisi Aircraft Manufacturing (TAM) of Tbilisi, Georgia, in the CIS, in early January terminated its agreement with Maverick Jets of Melbourne, Fla., to certify and manufacture the Maverick Jets Leader, a twin-engine, kit-built very light jet. As recently as the Dubai Air Show in early December, TAM displayed a photograph of the Leader and included it in its sales material. Dr. Zurab Seskuria, TAM international economic relations director, told AIN that the company had worldwide distribution rights for the Leader and that it would seek Russian certification for the twinjet, followed by European and U.S. approvals. Flight tests with Williams FJ33-4 turbofans were to begin early this year, with Russian certification expected in the first half of the year.

But apparently after some 10 months of tests, TAM officials decided the Leader would be too difficult to certify and summarily ended the contract.

“TAM was in breach of agreement and owed us a lot of money,” said Frank Hamelly, Maverick Jets COO. “They had a lot of problems and as we came to discover cash was certainly one of them. Their economic poverty is beyond what we, or most in the Western world, could imagine. Their political instability and upheaval, even recent revolution, certainly did not help.  As we were considering our options, they appropriately terminated, giving us our full rights back. Of course, no kit airplane is certifiable until design and production process changes are made, which we are now doing. Thankfully at this point we do not have to depend on TAM in any way, though we wish them well.”

In a news release, the U.S. company stated: “A new manufacturer with even greater capabilities will soon be disclosed. Maverick Jets is excited that this new relationship will further extend its lead in the personal jet world. Maverick Jets is still the only personal jet company in the world that has had three of its personal jets flying with several hundred hours.”

However, of these three aircraft, all of which were built from kits and powered by Maverick MC-750 turbojets, one crashed in January last year, killing company chief pilot Jack Reed. (The NTSB’s final report listed the probable cause as “the pilot-in-command failed to obtain sufficient altitude to clear obstacles at the approach end of the airport, which resulted in an in-flight collision with trees.” In the report, the airplane was identified as a Bornhofen Twinjet 1500.) The other two Leaders are based in the Denver area, according to Hamelly. Total time on the fleet is more than 400 hours, he said.

Meanwhile, company CEO Jim McCotter is leading the effort to find another manufacturer. Maverick is not disclosing its certification process at this time, but “is moving forward in that area as well.” Hamelly said the company had not yet received the FJ33-4 engines, expected to be certified within the month, for testing purposes. The molds for the Leader’s composite fuselage, shipped to TAM late last year, are still in TAM’s possession, he said.

TAM is reportedly developing its own very light jet called the TAMJet. Also to be powered by FJ33 engines, the six-seat twinjet would be priced at $1.5 million.