Adam Aircraft CarbonAero
By Don Mickey
Photos by James A. Sugar
Startup aircraft company for many, the phrase conjures images of a dirty hangar occupied by a tinkering aviation enthusiast who has big ideas, but who lacks either the money, experience or commitment to make it work. Back in the early nineties, companies sprouted up regularly threatening to revolutionize the aviation industry. While some startups, such as Cirrus and Lancair have managed to survive and actually produce the "revolutionary" aircraft they promised, most others have failed dismally remembered only by a scale model on a bookshelf gathering dust.
That was then. This is now. Welcome Adam Aircraft Industries. Founded in 1998 by George F. (Rick) Adam, the company is poised for success with an all-star management team and a flying proof of concept aircraft designed by Burt Rutan and Scaled Composites.
Adam Aircraft Industries' new headquarters and manufacturing facility are located on the grounds of metro Denvers Centennial Airport. Phase I includes 55,000 square feet of office and manufacturing space. Adam Aircraft Industries has 72 employees, and is currently working on the second aircraft, with completion of the conforming prototype scheduled for summer of 2002 and first deliveries anticipated deliveries in 2003.
A West Point graduate, former Air Force Captain, and entrepreneur, company George F. Adam is the vision behind the company and the CarbonAero, as well as the financial backer of the entire project. Before founding Adam Aircraft, he was a general partner in charge of information technology with Goldman Sachs and Co, and the founder of a Colorado based technology company, New Era of Networks. He as an avid aviator and holds a commercial certificate with a multi-engine rating, as well as type rating for the Citation 525 and 650.
Adam's management team is headed by President and General Counsel John C. Knudsen. He was an attorney specializing in Aviation Law, and spent five years as Trial Counsel with the FAA. As a U.S. Navy pilot, Naval Reserve patrol plane commander, and as a captain for a commuter airline, Mr. Knudsen has logged over 4000 flight hours.
Cecil Miller is Adam Aircraft Industries' Chief Operating Officer. He has over 35 years management experience in general aviation manufacturing. He was COO for Cirrus Design Corp., VP of Operations for Raytheon Air Corp., and VP of Manufacturing at Beech Aircraft Corp. In addition to his 18 years at Beech, Mr. Miller held positions with Cessna and Grumman American Aviation Corp.
Rounding out Adam's management team is Tom Wiesner, VP of Marketing and Sales. Prior to joining Adam Aircraft, Tom was president of Rocky Mountain ExecJets, A Denver-based fractional jet ownership company. As a Major in the U.S. Army, he commanded two different aircraft companies, overseeing a staff of 85, 18 aircraft and associated assets. Tom holds an ATP certificate and has logged over 3500 hours in airplanes, helicopters, and jets.
At first glance, the obvious parallel between the CarbonAero and the Cessna 337 comes to mind: both are centerline-thrust, twin-engine designs. The comparison stops there. Adam Aircraft, while inspired in part by the 337, has taken the idea, improved upon it, updated it, and created a completely new, modern aircraft. The CarbonAero's carbon fiber composite construction allows for sleek, smooth surfaces, giving the plane the futuristic look that designer Burt Rutan and Scaled Composites Group are known for. In addition, the lightweight strength and solid structure inherent in this type of construction allow for a higher useful load than metal construction, as well as improved noise dampening characteristics.
The sleek look of the CarbonAero is the result of aerodynamics and overall functionality, not just aesthetics. Besides the engine configuration, the next most obvious characteristics are the twin tail booms, joined by an elevated horizontal stabilizer. The result is undisturbed airflow over the entire tail section. At the rear of the fuselage are two large air ducts, providing an efficient cooling system for the rear engine. Functionality is further demonstrated with trailing link landing gear, with mains retracting into the tail booms.
The proof-of-concept aircraft has an over wing door on the left side. The CarbonAero, however, will have an additional 18 inches in length, replacing the over wing door with an airstair door in front of the wing. This extra 18 inches, combined with the already generous width of the CarbonAero, promise to make it the roomiest aircraft in its class.
The interior is just what one would expect leather club seating, in-flight access to baggage, and options for an entertainment center, refreshment center, or closet. Pressurized to 8,000' at 25,000', the cabin will offer a comfortable ride most would expect from a light jet, not a piston-engine twin.
The Gold Package, the CarbonAero's base package, includes dual GNS 530 IFR certified GPS/NAV/COMM/ILS systems, a GMA 340 audio panel, a GTX 327 digital transponder, dual engine and oil fuel management displays, and dual attitude systems. In addition, full authority digital engine control (FADEC) turbocharged Continental TSIO-550 engines are standard. The FADEC system significantly reduces pilot workload by eliminating mixture levers, enhancing reliability, economy, and performance.
While the CarbonAero continues to be flight tested and modified, all indications point to an aircraft that will deliver nearly everything a pilot/owner could expect from a light twin. The background of Adam Aircraft Industries' management team, combined with Rutan's attractive and efficient design, may just revolutionize the aircraft industry.
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