|Cleared For Takeoff
Start-up aircraft company at SS Airport finds far more interest than expected
|Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor|
March 20, 2005 -- American Legend Aircraft Company, based at Sulphur Springs Airport, flew its all-new Legend Cub for the first time Friday, the first aircraft to be produced by the start-up company with roots in corporate aviation.
The Legend Cub, using new guidelines set out by the Federal Aviation Administration last year, is designed to appeal to recreational flyers of all ages all around the world, according to company founders Tim Elliott and Darin Hart.
"With the new light sport aircraft rule, we thought we would see initially a lot of new pilots come in," said Elliott, who is president of the company. "What the rule also allows is for some of these older guys that haven't flown in a while to fly again."
Pilots, under the new rule, are given more latitude with respect to older, retired pilots, as well as those wanting to get a pilot's license.
That new rule also allows an airplane to be certified under American Standards for Testing and Materials [ASTM] standards.
"This allows us to do it and bring you the airplane at a cost of a lot less than it would be if it were a regular certified plane," Elliott said.
The first flight of the Legend Cub Friday embodied more than 70 years of aviation history, as the aircraft design was inspired by the legendary Piper J-3 Cub. Similar in appearance to the J-3, the Legend Cub represents an evolution in design and fabrication. Many enhancements make the Legend Cub a thoroughly modern airplane that retains the appearance and flyability of the original Cub.
"Darin Hart and I have always loved Cubs, and what we wanted to do was to bring the Cub back," Elliott said. "We wanted an airplane that was very docile and flew well," he said. "We now have that."
The Legend Cub is built on the proven Cub airframe with a number of improvements and modifications that were thought to be appropriate.
"We had an idea of what the performance would be, but what is really exciting is the airplane has exceeded our expectations," Elliott said. "When I first flew the airplane, I noticed two things. First was how well it was able to get up and perform. The next thing, and probably the most exciting, was how the airplane lands."
Elliott has many hours flying time in the Piper Cub and said the Legend Cub lands better than any other "tail dragger" he has ever flown.
"We took the best of all the Cubs and brought them all together in one airplane," Elliott said. "We have an airplane that people will love to fly, we have made all the modifications to it that people have been wanting and put into one airplane and people can come right in to Sulphur Springs and purchase and fly out."
The legend Cub is a two-place airplane powered by the proven Teledyne-Continental 100-horsepower engine. Although the Legend Cub is not on the market for sale yet -- that is only a few weeks away -- initial response is prompting the company to look for a larger plant facility.
Legend has advertised the Cub in two different aircraft publications, and Elliott said he was averaging about 175 e-mails and about 50 phone calls a day from people wanting to get more information on the airplane.
"I have a list of people wanting to put deposits down on the airplane," he said. "We are probably going to open the deposit gate in about two weeks."
Interest in the new airplane has been about 10 times what the company had expected, and that type of interest and potential demand far exceeds the plant's capability to assemble the airplane.
"Production-wise, we are in trouble," Elliott said. "We expected demand to be about 25 to 30 airplanes a year, and we think if we could build 300 airplanes this year, we could sell them all."
Production of the airplane will be limited to about 100 in the coming year in order to be able to keep up with demand.
"Really, our problem went from how do we sell these to how do we build enough of them." he said. "This is always a great problem to have, but it is still a problem."
The new airplane manufacturer is already having an impact on the local economy with the creation of a number of new job positions to build the new aircraft, but founders said the city of Sulphur Springs has not been receptive to the plant, and that may force Legend to move to another city.
"We are looking for a building we can purchase, preferably in Sulphur Springs, but we have not had a whole lot of luck with that so we may wind up moving manufacture either to another city or somewhere out in the county," Elliott said.
For further information on development and availability of the Legend Cub, contact American Legend Aircraft Company, 1810 Piper Lane, Sulphur Springs, TX, 75482 or call 903-885-7000, or on the Internet at www.LegendAircraftCompany.com.