|In the 1980s, something happened that changed General Aviation forever. Aircraft manufacturers were forced to pay out millions of dollars in product liability suits. As a result, Cessna closed the doors on the production of their entire piston engine line of aircraft, Piper was forced to reorganize, and Beechcraft slowed production to a trickle.
It seemed General Aviation was destined to hit rock bottom. But as the major manufacturers drifted away from GA, another breed of planes surged in popularity. Built 51% by the owner and 49% by a kit manufacturer, X-Class (short for Experimental Class) airplanes sparked a renewed interest in General Aviation.
In 1991, the General Aviation Manufacturers Associationcomprising every company licensed to build and sell aircraft in North Americasold a total of only 600 aircraft. That same year, 2000 home-built aircraft were assembled and registered with the FAA. It has been said the the X-Class is a proving ground for tomorrows aviation. This has been largely shown to be true.
By 1998, the kit industry was host to over 400 available kits, which were made by almost as many different companies. The most popular kits have traditionally been the one- or two-place sport kits, though four-place sales have increased as this decade has gone on.
The first large body kit was the Cirrus, produced by the Cirrus Company. The plane was a pusher piston single and, shortly after its introduction, was bought by a company named Israviation Ltd., Kiryat Shemona, Israel.
Early in the 1990s, three different companies were designing three-surface twin engine piston pushers. We talked with the designers of two of these planes: The Sky Shark and the 600-6. The Sky Shark was designed by Mr. Jurg Sommerauer of Sedona, AZ, who stated he was still looking for funding. The 600-6, designed by Air Flow Composite Group of NM, built several plugs and tooling for their project, but also mentioned that lack of funding played a major role in shelving the project.
All these companies saw the need for a larger aircraft with twin engine reliability, and all their planes were planned as kit aircraft. Behind the scenes, the Angel Aircraft Corporation saw the same needs for a new aircraft to fill a market niche. In response, they have designed what may be the perfect replacement for the Small Arms Freight Hauler: The Angel Model 44.
Carl Mortenson, founder of Angel Corp., flew as a missionary pilot for many years and logged thousands of hours flying freight in cruel and unusual conditions throughout South and Central America. He envisioned an aircraft with the qualities that no present plane possessed, and in the 1970s embarked upon the Angel project.
Upon first glance, the Angel has an unusual appearance with its aft-set pusher engines, a large castering nose wheel, and doors wide enough to fit a large washing machine. Its not sleek and sexy like a Cessna 402. But sexy or not, the Angel appears to be heaven-sent for those who use their aircraft for heavy hauling.
Though only one Angel is currently flying, the company hopes to manufacture another 10 to 18 per year as interest grows. They have purchase orders in hand and plan to begin production on a second plane in July 99 with a delivery goal of November.
Angel Corp. presently makes their home in Orange City, Iowa, though they plan to relocate to Joplin, Missouri. They havent yet established a financing program, a lease program, or a pay-per-hour engine program.
The purchase price of an Angel aircraft will start at $640,000not bad for a freight hauler when compared to $2 Million for a Cessna Caravan. With a 2,000 lb. useful load, the Angel doesnt carry as much as the Caravan, TBM, or Pilatus. However, almost four Angels can be bought for the cost of one TBM. Angel Corp. believes that sometimes, its not how much you can carry, but how many places you can be at once.
Carl and his two sons, Evan and Ed, have made a dream come true and intend to fly into the 21st century on the wings of a certified FAR Part 23 Angel.
For more information on Angel Aircraft, contact Evan Mortenson at 712-737-3344. Their address is Municipal Airport, 1410 Arizona Place SW, Orange City, IA 51041-7458.