I have the privilege, joy, and responsibility of owning and flying a Grumman Tiger originally manufactured in 1977 by Grumman American. But my Tiger–just like every piston aircraft manufactured by American Aviation, Grumman American, Gulfstream American, American General, and Tiger Aircraft–is an orphan.
These companies are no longer in existence, either liquidated or morphed into other companies no longer in the piston aircraft business. So today my Tiger is an orphan, relying on the ongoing support of the American Yankee Association, and companies like Fletchair for continued service expertise and parts availability. But that is about to change.
Enter True Flight Aerospace. This new company, owned and led by Kevin Lancaster, a prior owner of two Tigers, acquired the assets (parts, tooling, etc), and type certificate for the Tiger and the other 2-place and 4-place piston singles in this line from now-defunct Tiger Aircraft.
So far, Kevin seems to be starting strong, with an aggressive schedule to get his plant in Valdosta, Georgia up and running, and producing AG5B Tigers by the middle of 2008. Although Kevin does not have aircraft manufacturing experience, his management team includes guys with many years experience manufacturing our bonded aluminum honeycomb aircraft. And Kevin’s experience as a past owner gives him the first-hand knowledge of how the Grumman line (although manufactured by a succession of companies, most people just use the tag “Grumman” when referring to these planes) are class leaders in performance. No other fixed gear, fixed-pitch prop aircraft can match the combination of speed, maneuverability, fuel economy, and real-world hauling capability of our Grumman birds. With avgas prices topping five dollars a gallon in the US, class-leading efficiency and fuel economy becomes a competitive advantage.
The most impressive thing from my perspective is Kevin’s earnest efforts to reach out to the existing Grumman owner and pilot community for support and suggestions for how True Flight can improve on past manufacturers. Equally impressive (because I’m the owner of a 30-year-old plane) is Kevin’s commitment to embrace and support the existing fleet. This is a big change from Tiger Aircraft, who virtually ignored the existing fleet and owners. It’s still early and there are many hurtles ahead for True Flight as they re-start production of aircraft and parts, but the first steps look like they are in the right direction. I, for one, am really rooting for Kevin and his company. I hope they have found the elusive formula of financing, product knowledge, manufacturing efficiency, marketing acumen, competitive pricing, and leveraging the legacy fleet, to succeed.