Epic Elite Jet Is Hostage to Georgia Conflict

 - August 12, 2008, 10:57 AM

The conflict between Russia and Georgia is reverberating at Bend, Ore.-based Epic Aircraft, which in late June temporarily moved its sole Epic Elite Jet prototype to partner Tbilisi Aircraft Manufacturing’s (TAM) facility in Georgia for demonstration and marketing purposes. The two companies formed a joint venture several years ago to develop the eight-seat Tam-Air Elite Jet for the Russian and CIS markets. However, the fighting that started late last week between the two countries over South Ossetia has made the twinjet prototype a war hostage. According to Epic Aircraft CEO Rick Schrameck, Russian forces bombed the runways at TAM’s facilities over the weekend, imprisoning the prototype in a hangar at the airfield. “Never in my wildest dreams would I ever expect this to happen,” he told AIN. “The Elite Jet is OK, but it’s stuck at the field. And even if we could fly it out of Georgia right now, I’m afraid that it would make for really good target practice for the Russians.” Russian president Dmitry Medvedev ordered a stop to military action in Georgia today, according to Air Security International, though “the potential for the conflict to reignite into widespread violence remains.”