Kestrel Branches Out

Kestrel Aircraft Company has branched out into the aircraft modifications business with a new division called Kestrel Aeroworks. Kestrel Aircraft Chairman and CEO Alan Klapmeier said the purpose of Kestrel Aeroworks is to "take existing aircraft and make them into more modern, more comfortable, more pilot-friendly aircraft."

Kestrel Aeroworks is focusing its efforts on the Piper Meridian. Klapmeier said the systems switches in the cockpit will be repositioned for easier access and the airplane's instrument panel will be completely transformed with Avidyne's R9 avionics. Klapmeier said the R9 "does a good job of making it easy" and that his goal is to make the avionics presentation and systems access streamlined so the pilot can "get back to the business of flying the airplane."

While the new program distracts from the development of the Kestrel turboprop, Klapmeier said the benefits outweigh the distraction since the Kestrel will most likely also be equipped with the Avidyne R9 avionics. The aircraft modification development is expected to be complete in six months and it will satisfy a commitment to a financier to bring in revenues to Kestrel in 2012.

Klapmeier admitted that the company does not have sufficient funding to bring the turboprop to certification at this time. While Kestrel Aircraft is not taking orders, they are compiling an “expression of interest” list of potential buyers who will get priority if and when the order book opens up, which Klapmeier says will happen in the next three to six months.

Klapmeier also announced it has selected Honeywell's TPE331-14GR to power the single-engine turboprop airplane. The engine is capable of delivering 1,650 shp, but it has been de-rated to 1,000 shp and will be capable of maintaining that power up to 20,000 feet, said Adrian Norris, who has been a part of the Kestrel airplane project since its Farnborough days. Norris also said Kestrel's performance targets include 320 knots, 1,300 nm range and the capability to comfortably operate out of 2,500-foot strips. Norris expects the next test airplane to fly in 2012.

Kestrel engineers have found a solution to make the cockpit floor flat, increase the window size by 25 percent and widen the space between the seats from the rear-entry door to the cockpit for easier access.

Klapmeier said certification of the Kestrel is expected to be complete in three years.

Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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