NBAA Convention News

Kingfisher’s ties could give Epic boost from Airbus

 - September 26, 2007, 3:42 PM

Flush with a $200 million cash infusion from Indian billionaire Vijay Mallya and a $170 million order book, turboprop and VLJ maker Epic Aircraft announced that it is in initial talks with Airbus on a technology- and knowledge-sharing agreement. However, Epic CEO Rick Schrameck backed away from a statement he made on Tuesday that the value of the Airbus alliance would equal or exceed Mallya’s investment in the company. Arnaud Martin, Airbus vice president of corporate and VIP jet programs, characterized the discussions as “very preliminary” and declined to further elaborate.

Schrameck said that a delegation from Airbus was expected to visit the Epic factory in Bend, Ore., next month. He added that Epic would benefit from an Airbus alliance in terms of better understanding European aircraft certification requirements and that Airbus could be interested in Epic’s composites technology.

Mallya owns 60 businesses, including the United Beverage Group, Kingfisher Airlines and Air Deccan. Kingfisher has 127 new aircraft on order, mostly Airbuses. His investment in Epic is being made with personal funds and his ownership stake in Epic was valued at “50 percent,” according to Schrameck. However, Mallya’s investment in Epic is apparently being managed by Hitesh Patel, Kingfisher’s executive vice president.

Patel said he planned to hold talks with the Indian government to explore the possibility of building Epic aircraft in India at a government-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. facility rather than building a separate aircraft plant. HAL is controlled by India’s Ministry of Defense and builds both indigenous and licensed foreign military and civilian aircraft, aircraft engines, avionics and systems.
Epic already has an agreement with Tbilisi Aerospace Manufacturing to build its aircraft in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.

Schrameck said Epic also is proceeding with plans to have its aircraft certified and built in Canada. Currently, its aircraft are available only in kit form and must be flown under the Experimental category. Epic’s latest aircraft, the single-engine jet Victory, made its first flight on July 5.