Tuesday, May 1, 2007
The Evolution Of Epic
Epic is planning a whole family of high-performance turboprops and jets, starting with the Dynasty and Elite
|At a time when very light jets are all the rage, turboprops might seem “old school” or out of step with the times. After all, the new VLJs will fly higher and faster for the same or less money.|
Epic’s Dynasty certification effort is also a little different in that it’s being launched in Canada. Just as motion pictures and television productions are finding Canada to be a friendly and economical environment, aircraft manufacturers are discovering that Canada is an easy place to work. Diamond Aircraft produces all its North American products from a plant in London, Ontario. Airplanes certified under Canadian regulations are automatically approved for U.S. operation under a reciprocal agreement.
Rick Schrameck emphasizes that’s not because of a lack of trying on the FAA’s part. “They have some very talented people at the FAA, but they’re simply overwhelmed,” says the CEO. “The extreme amount of time and money necessary to get an airplane certified in the United States isn’t a result of any malevolent government obstructionist plot. Those folks simply have far more work than they can handle.”
When Epic went shopping for a place to build the Dynasty a few years ago, they investigated a number of alternatives. “We looked at business possibilities in several European countries, Brazil and a number of Canadian provinces. In the end, Canada won out,” says Schrameck. “The Canadian government is eager to foster investment, and they offered us some major incentives to locate north of the border.”
As a result, the Canadian division of Epic Air is building a 100,000-square-foot manufacturing facility outside Calgary, Alberta. Additionally, Epic Air is working with the newly formed Canadian Centre for Aircraft Certification to build a 50,000-square-foot certification facility. Epic Air will be the first manufacturer to utilize the CCAC facility, but the CCAC hopes to attract other companies to certify aircraft north of the border. In two to three years, as the program spools up, Epic Air hopes to expand its Calgary production facility to 200,000 square feet, and Epic hopes to be building Dynasty propjets in Calgary with a workforce of between 500 and 600. According to Schrameck, the Dynasty is expected to be certified sometime in the fourth quarter of 2008 and should sell for about $2 million in early 2009.
When we talked to Schrameck in late February, he commented that there were “more than 20 orders” for the Dynasty. He strongly implied there were a lot more, but settled for 20 for now.
The Dynasty won’t be Epic Air’s only product. The company is currently flight-testing a twin jet based on the Dynasty. It’s called the Elite and will be introduced as a homebuilt in late 2007, then be certified and produced at the CCAC in Calgary starting in 2009. Preliminary specs include Williams FJ-33 engines rated for 1,550 pounds of thrust apiece. Max cruise will be more than 400 knots and max altitude will be 41,000 feet. With luck, we’ll be seeing the Elite prototype at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh.
As if all that wasn’t enough, Schrameck says the company will also be offering two 90%-scaled models based on the Epic fuselage and wing, project code name Mini-Me 1 and 2. One will be a slightly downsized version of the current turboprop, and the second will be a single-engine jet similar to the Diamond Jet, only stretched 14 inches to allow more cabin room.
If this program sounds aggressive, consider that Rick Schrameck, Mike Shealy and Jeff Sanders are very successful businessmen. This isn’t a lark for them. The Epic/Dynasty trio have studied the market, they understand exactly what they’re doing, and they’re convinced the models they’re planning will be well received.
If performance of the prototype Dynasty is any indication, they very well may be correct.