Epic forges ahead on certification process

 - June 2, 2008, 7:26 AM

Epic Aircraft continues development of its all-composite turboprop singles and very light jets, though without the $200 million in funding pledged by Indian billionaire Dr. Vijay Mallya last September at the NBAA Con- vention. The deal with Mallya isn’t dead, Epic CEO Rick Schra-meck told AIN, but has become “more complicated due to other outside partners.”

Schrameck’s carefully chosen words refer to Airbus, which Mallya–the CEO of Kingfisher Airlines, one of the European aircraft manufacturer’s best customers–got involved in the deal to help Epic with FAA certification. The problem isn’t so much with Airbus as it is with parent company EADS and, more specifically, its subsidiary Socata, which happens to manufacture a turboprop single–the TBM 850–that would compete with the to-be-certified Epic Dynasty turboprop single.

The fact that the deal hasn’t been consummated almost eight months after it was announced at NBAA underscores the number of wrinkles that need to be ironed out with EADS Socata. Still, Schrameck remains convinced that these issues will be resolved soon, resulting in the release of Mallya’s $200 million investment to Bend, Ore.-based Epic Aircraft.

In the meantime, Epic Aircraft is “delivering” (for lack of a better term) kitbuilt Epic LT turboprop singles at a rate of one every three weeks, according to Schrameck. Owners build their LTs with assistance in Epic’s factory in Bend under the so-called FAA 51-percent rule, and so far 22 are in the field. (The $1.2 million LT is essentially the same design as the $1.95 million Dynasty; the only exception is that the latter is a certified version of the former.)

An aerodynamically conforming Dynasty has logged “a couple of hundred flight hours,” though it is currently on the ground being fitted with larger-capacity fuel tanks and de-ice boots. Schra- meck said the six-seat, 340-knot airplane’s fuel capacity will be increased from 288 gallons to 350 gallons, boosting its NBAA IFR range from 1,200 nm to 1,874 nm. The Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-67A-powered Dynasty is slated for certification late next year or in early 2010.

Epic is also flying prototypes of its Victory jet single and Elite Jet twin, logging “multiple hundreds of hours” on these two airframes, neither of which is fully conforming aerodynamically. In fact, Schrameck said the Victory has more than 250 hours under its belt.

The Williams FJ33-4A-powered Epic Victory will have a top cruise speed of 320 knots and a 28,000-foot service ceiling, while the eight-seat Elite Jet will be powered by a pair of FJ33-4s and top out at 412 knots and 41,000 feet. A certified version of the Victory will cost about $1.5 million, Schrameck said, while the kitbuilt version hovers at around $1 million. The certified copy of the Elite Jet is priced at $2.35 million, with the uncertified version going for about $1.5 million. Both of the very light jets were publicly revealed last July at EAA Air-Venture in Oshkosh, Wis.

At present, Schrameck said both of the jets are scheduled to be certified in the late 2011/ early 2012 time frame, though this could slip to the right if the $200 million in funding from Mallya isn’t made available by year-end. However, Schrameck plans to start delivering uncertified kitbuilt versions of both the Victory single and Elite Jet twin later this year.