Battle Creek, Michigan-based Waco Aircraft is increasing the production of its open cockpit biplanes. Waco’s CEO Sven Lepschy said at a press conference at EAA’s AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, that the company has traditionally produced four to five airplanes per year. But since the company was bought by German investor Dieter Morszeck, in 2018, changes have been made to grow the business. While the manufacturing process for Waco’s lineup of antique-style airplanes is still very much hands on, the production has been streamlined and modernized. As a result, Waco will produce eight airplanes this year and 10 in 2022. Lepschy said the 2022 production slots are nearly sold out.
In 2019, a major factory expansion started at the headquarters, and it is expected to be fully completed this fall with 115,000 square feet of hangar and office space at the Battle Creek Executive Airport (KBTL). The staffing has also increased, from 22 in 2018 to 90 employees this year, Lepschy said.
The company is also focusing on expanding in Europe. Four airplanes were recently sold to European customers, and a demo flight program has been established in Switzerland.
The Waco production line is flexible, enabling the company to produce whichever airplane the customer orders, whether a Great Lakes, the YMF-5 or the amphibious version of the YMF-5, which recently achieved IFR certification. Pricing starts at $268,000 for the Great Lakes, $489,000 for the YMF-5 and $648,000 for the amphib.
Lepschy also announced that the company will launch three new models next year. Very few details were shared, but Lepschy said the airplanes will be clean-sheet designs ranging from a two-seat light sport model to an eight-seat airplane. One airplane will be designed with carbon fiber materials.
Lepschy also excitedly announced a completely new concept for an aircraft manufacturer—Waco Kitchen—which he and Morszeck conceived. The project started as a kitchen to feed Waco’s employees healthy food. But it soon morphed into a public airport restaurant focusing on local, farm-fresh produce and meats paired with Portuguese wines. The restaurant has been a huge success and Waco plans to expand Waco Kitchen to other airports.