Alan Klapmeier Takes Lead Position at Kestrel

Kestrel Aircraft’s new CEO, Alan Klapmeier Mark Phelps

A British turboprop aircraft project has taken center stage at EAA AirVenture, thanks to its new CEO. Last week, Alan Klapmeier, founder of Cirrus Aircraft, announced he was taking the reins of Kestrel Aircraft. Also, the company has signed a lease on a 170,000-square-foot building at the soon-to-close Brunswick Naval Air Station. Formerly known as the Farnborough F1, the Kestrel is a large-cabin composite single, powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A. It's been under development in the United Kingdom since 2002, and the prototype is on display here in Oshkosh. Besides industry wide credibility, Klapmeier brings some of his former colleagues from Cirrus to the table, including Steve Serfling, former director of product development. Serfling called the airplane at Oshkosh a good start, and outlined some of the planned changes to the current configuration, including redesigning the controls to lighten roll control, widening the passageway from cabin to cockpit, larger windows and a possible redesign of the landing gear.

Klapmeier said there could be other changes to facilitate production. For example, the elliptical leading edge of the wing could give way to a straighter configuration in the name of production simplicity and lighter weight. "We could save a few hundred pounds with a simpler front spar," said Klapmeier. He also said the team is starting the redesign with no commitment to previous certification timetables or performance targets. The previously announced 350-knot cruise speed could give way to other priorities, such as cabin space and engine choice. Asked if GE's recently announced developmental turboprop engine might factor into the future of the Kestrel, Klapmeier revealed a smile.

His relationship with the UK Kestrel team dates back to when they originally conferred with Cirrus on possible component manufacturing agreements. Klapmeier said he was always impressed, but didn't realize how far the project had progressed until he began detailed conversations. He said, "I'd ask what I thought were tough questions on engineering problems, and they'd say, 'Oh yeah, we have a paper on that that. We'll send it to you.' Eventually, I realized how serious they have been about the project. Much more than so many other concept aircraft of this type." Development is expected to cost a total of $100 million, of which about $20 million has already been spent. Incentives from the state of Maine and Brunswick Landing, which will administer the site after the Navy closes it later this year, leave about $25 million more needed in private investment funding. Also on the Kestrel management team is Edward Underwood, retired executive director of Arcapita, the Bahrain-based finance house that backs Cirrus.

Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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