New Adam owner mulling production options

 - August 26, 2009, 7:44 AM

Moribund Adam Aircraft has a new owner. Thomas Hsueh says he plans to decide by year-end whether to place a modified version of the piston-powered A500 push-pull twin into production. He has hired very light jet designer Luc Van Bavel, a veteran of the Safire Jet and Diamond D-Jet programs, to evaluate changes required to make the 500 commercially viable.

Hsueh is also scouting possible manufacturing sites, including the old Columbia Aircraft plant in Bend, Ore. (Cessna had acquired the plant from Columbia and was using it for Corvalis production. Production of that airplane has since moved to Independence, Kan.) He said he has no plans to continue development of the A700 VLJ.

Hsueh purchased the assets of Adam Aircraft earlier this spring from its latest owners, a Russian partnership of Industrial Investors and Kaskol, which operated the company under the banner of AAI Acquisition. The price was not disclosed. A court-ordered inventory had recently valued the assets at $27 million. AAI had acquired bankrupt Adam for $10 million in 2008 but abandoned its efforts to continue development of the A700 last November and ceased operations altogether this April after failing to attract additional investment capital.

An aerospace engineer who worked on a variety of sophisticated programs including North American’s B-58 Hustler supersonic bomber, Hsueh said he bought the Adam assets mainly to apply them to his existing businesses–Triton America and Bayfield Edison–which manufacture tooling, wind turbine blades and yachts. He said he recently moved all of the Adam assets–120 cargo containers of computers, milling centers, machine tools, jigs and aircraft parts–from Adam’s plant at Denver’s Centennial airport to his base in Anacortes, Wash.

Reviving the A500

Changes required to address the A500’s load, range and ergonomic deficiencies would not be difficult from an engineering standpoint, according to Hsueh and Van Bavel. Modifications include moving the mid-cabin spar to under the fuselage and increasing the aircraft’s range and useful load. The current A500 cannot carry even a 160-pound pilot with the full 230 gallons of fuel on board. The engineer also said the aircraft would likely be a turboprop.

Adam was founded in 1998 to develop and manufacture the A500 six-seat push-pull piston twin based loosely on the M-309 CarbonAero technology demonstrator developed for the company by Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites. However, the company soon realized that there was a limited market for the aircraft and launched a VLJ variant called the A700.