Plane and simple: Quartz Mountain Aerospace introduces new aircraft and
plan for hundreds of new jobs in Altus
Journal Record, March 28, 2006
Kevan Goff-Parker

BETHANY - An Oklahoma-based aircraft manufacturer unveiled its newest aircraft Monday during a media conference at Wiley Post Airport in Bethany .

Quartz Mountain Aerospace, formerly known as Luscombe Aircraft Corp., unveiled the Model 11E - a new four-seat, high-winged airplane designed for trainers and light-aircraft pilots.

John S. Daniel, president and chief operating officer of Quartz Mountain Aerospace, said the company's manufacturing facility in Altus will eventually be supported by 300 employees after the single-engine Model 11E begins its first production cycle on 68 airplanes in September.

"We decided it was time for a new airplane, a new look and a new name," Daniel said. "We're just now getting into production, and we wanted the name of our company to be much more Oklahoma-ish. We are scheduled to have 100 employees by the end of 2006, and we should have 300 by the end of 2007, plus we will have another 100 people around the s tate working to support our production."

The plant currently employs 35 people but will ramp up its work force as orders for the airplane increase. The average starting salary at Quartz Mountain Aerospace is $32,000 annually.

Priced between $189,000 for a basic model and $200,000 for a more powerful aircraft with an upscale interior, the Model 11E is a Federal Aviation Administration-certified, modern-day modification of the Luscombe Model 11A. Certified in 1946, the Model 11A was designed as a combined family-business aircraft and was produced by the Luscombe Aircraft Co., which closed its doors in 1950.

Daniel said Luscombe Aircraft Corp. moved to Altus in 1996, purchased the 11A-type certification style and incorporated it into the Model 11E.

"We retained the basic design of the airframe, but it's a very modern airplane with classic design," Daniel said. "We still refer to the Luscombe heritage because it's a good design and solid in flight. We renamed it the Model 11E and put on tricycle-landing gear (replacing the tail wheel) so it is easier to take off and land. It has a new fuel-injected engine, navigation gear and radios."

The Model 11E is designed to be comparable to certain Cessna and Piper models. Daniel said the all-metal aircraft has a spacious utility interior, its new nose wheel steering aids the sturdiness of the craft and helps pilots establish a superior level of ground directional control.

Designed primarily as a trainer or for people who wish to own their own private aircraft, Quartz Mountain Aerospace already has 60 orders for 185-horsepower Model 11Es, the plane specialized for flight training. Daniel said the company anticipates 20-percent annual sales growth after its second year in production.

"By year four of production, beginning in September 2009, we would be manufacturing up to 360 aircraft in a 12-month period, which translates into about $72 million in sales," he said.

Daniel, who formerly worked for Cessna and has a 30-year history of work in aviation manufacturing, credits the city of Altus, the Oklahoma Quality Jobs Program, private investors, the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education's CareerTech system, especially the Southwest Technology Center in Altus, the Oklahoma Industrial Finance Authority and rural small business programs for providing support for Quartz Mountain Aerospace.

"The FAA-certification process started in 1996, but the company didn't have a lot of success for various reasons," he said. "I came in during 2001 with team members who had been through the certification process, and we finished in December 2002. During the interim, we put together all our production plans and got funding.

"That's one thing that is attractive about Oklahoma ," Daniel said. "The state initially gives up some tax money, and we put that back through the creation of jobs and by using as many Oklahoma-based suppliers that we can."

Quartz Mountain Aerospace received $2.5 million in startup money through the city of Altus ' economic development fund and another $2 million from the Oklahoma Industrial Finance Authority. Investors in the company have also received state tax credits. Daniel said the company's first $10 million came from private investors - some who are Oklahomans.

"As for jobs, Altus is the real reason we wanted the company here," he said. "We wanted to support economic development, get some industry here in this corner of the state. We hope to create a sizable job pool in this part of the country.

"The city of Altus built our facility for us in 1997, and we leased it using Quality Jobs Program money," Daniel said. "We have a very good relationship with the city of Altus . The Oklahoma Industrial Authority loaned us money to buy equipment and tooling."

The company is paying off debt and interest and hopes the state of Oklahoma will continue to support the manufacturing facility as Quartz Mountain Aerospace gets up and running. Daniel said the city of Altus ' and the state's tax incentives and other programs have made Oklahoma easy to work with.

"Usually it can cost $40 million to $100 million to get to a position where you have profitability," he said. "All in all, it will be relatively inexpensive to put Quartz Mountain Aerospace into business."

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