Kestrel Aircraft updates council on progressIn a fully funded world, Kestrel Aircraft Co. could have its K350 certified in another 2½ years.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
In a fully funded world, Kestrel Aircraft Co. could have its K350 certified in another 2½ years.
However, the company isn’t fully funded. Still, the airplane manufacturer that announced plans to build its single-engine turboprop, carbon composite airplane in Superior last year is making progress in that direction, said Steve Serfling, Kestrel Aircraft chief operating officer.
Certification of the plane is necessary before manufacturing can begin.
Serfling presented the Superior City Council with an update on the company’s progress Tuesday night.
“Our goal is to have our aircraft priced around $3.2 million,” less expensive, faster and with a larger cabin than its more expensive competitors in the market, Serfling said.
He said a very experienced staff of engineers and designers is working to make that happen.
“When we announced we were coming to Superior, we had 50 employees in the whole company,” most in New Brunswick, Maine, Serfling said. After moving to the Old Post Office a year ago June, he said the company is now up to 110 employees, most of them in Superior. He said about 60 percent of them are in Superior.
“We’ve got 40 engineers and 20-some designers,” Serfling said. “Every time I turn around there’s new designs going out. That part’s going really, really well.”
Serfling said the company’s designers and engineers are working on the second of three phases of development on the fuselage for the plane.
And the company is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to gain certification of the plane, he said.
During a recent meeting with the FAA, Serfling said staff was able to provide necessary information and answer questions. He said the FAA commended company staff for their professionalism. He said staff identified issues in advance for the aviation administration.
Councilor Mike Herrick questioned when the company would begin building its first planes and manufacturing facilities in Superior.
Under the original timeline, construction of the Winter Street Industrial Park should have begun already.
Serfling said that would happen about the time the plane is certified by the FAA.
Former Duluth City Councilor Ken Hogg told the council he sat on the council across the bay when Cirrus was going through the same issues.
“It takes longer to do some of these things than we would hope that it would,” Hogg said. “It takes some patience and some time and things went slowly it seemed like, but they were going as fast as they could.”
Hogg said patience will be worth the wait.
“This is important not just to the people of Superior and the area, but Duluth as well, when we have two fully functioning aircraft companies in our area,” Hogg said. “ ... It’s going to be a plus.”