Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Italico Aviation USA: Despite delay, plane maker hopes to start assembly at Kissimmee Gateway Airport next summer

Italico Aviation USA's plans to build light sport aircraft at Kissimmee Gateway Airport are still on the runway, almost a year after the company's announcement.

Executives for the company had hoped to start assembly in March, but Sonny Buoncervello, marketing and sales executive for the Italian plane-maker, said getting certified by the Federal Aviation Administration was more complicated than he had realized.

So the company decided to wait until 2014 before applying to the FAA. For now, it's working on tweaking its plane design, establishing a U.S. dealer network and seeking approval for sales in Europe from the European Aviation Safety Agency. Italico's new goal is to start assembling planes in Kissimmee next summer.

Light sport aircraft are the newest type of federally approved planes, recognized in 2004. The planes, which have weight and speed restrictions, are intended for recreational use. Flying them requires only a sport pilot certificate, attainable through a 20-hour training class.

As a manufacturer of light sport aircraft, Italico must have its production facility audited by FAA officials to ensure quality control. But budget cuts in Washington, known as "sequestration," have hindered the agency, experts said.

"The FAA had announced long before sequestration that they could only audit two companies per month," said Dan Johnson, vice president and executive director for the Light Sport Aircraft Association. "It partly depends on Italico and it partly depends on things out of the FAA's control."

In the meantime, Italico will build three planes in Italy. After they're approved by the European agency, they'll be shipped to Kissimmee for reassembly and display at Lakeland's annual aviation event, Sun 'n Fun International Fly-in and Expo, in April.

"Once we reassemble the planes, we'll apply for the LSA status," said John Long, dealer liaison and test pilot for Italico.

Italico's soon-to-come signature model, the FX-1, will cost $118,000 for the standard version and $138,000 for the amphibious type. The company hopes to build at least six planes a month in Kissimmee.

The company will receive $550,000 in tax refunds from the state for the creation of 55 high-paying jobs over four years, with 22 of those to be created during the first year of operation. The company has 18 employees and has reached the 80-percent hiring goal required to receive the incentives for this year.

Italico is also the anchor of the airport's planned World Preview Center, a $14 million corporate-expo facility that will market various products and services.

Despite the delay, executives say they are confident the company will continue hiring.

"Our dealer network process needs more people," Buoncervello said.

Source:   http://www.orlandosentinel.com

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