Quartz Mountain Aerospace rolls out first 11E production aircraft
The Altus Times, May 30, 2007
Rose Fischer

Quartz Mountain Aerospace officials introduced the first 11E production aircraft to a large crowd of supporters Friday, including city officials and local bankers who provided many years of financial backing to help get the new endeavor off the ground.

John Daniel, QMA director and president, thanked the many people involved in the aircraft's production, "Besides thank you, we say to all of you, today you're going to see something that a lot of people said would never happen. This is the first of thousands of airplanes that will be built right here in Altus, America. Thank you for your support and for sticking with us."

Mayor T.L. Gramling and First State Bank President Paul Doughty sat in the cockpit, while others--including Philip McMahan, First National Bank president; Jeff Greenlee, NBC president; and Don Anderson with Altus Venture--helped QMA personnel roll out the new conformed airplane from behind a partition in the QMA production facility north of Altus.

"We'd like them to help us roll this first airplane out, for doing the heavy lifting and getting the funds needed to get us going," Daniel said.

According to Mayor Gramling, "We've waited a long time for this day and we've had lots of thoughts about whether we would ever roll out the first airplane. The monetary risks taken by the City of Altus were all to provide jobs; QMA employs 90 to 100 now and will hire more in the future. As a gentleman just said, ‘It couldn't have been a better day; we have a new plane and a good rain for Southwest Oklahoma. The future looks very bright."

Daniel said he understood that some of the early Altus City Council meetings, before he came to Altus, were quite exciting. "I'm sorry I missed all those; but during my tenure, the meetings have all had unanimous votes to keep QMA going, and we thank you. The mayor and the Altus City Council have been our faithful and steadfast partners," Daniel said. "Mayor Gramling, you have been one of our biggest supporters, and you should feel gratified that the city was around to help us make it this far."

QMA sold the first aircraft to Altus Venture; after delivery, QMA will lease the airplane from Altus Venture and use it as a company demonstrator until other aircraft become available. The new aircraft's last two tail numbers, "NM," stand for North Main, the location of Altus Venture and First State Bank. According to Daniel, Altus Venture supplied the final funding needed to get QMA into production and at the same time established a new investment banking industry in Altus that also provides jobs.

The first QMA 11E rolled out in green condition-without the interior and unpainted--to facilitate checks for water leaks, fuel and brakes and to provide easy access to the working parts inside the cabins. The Federal Aviation Administration agreed to do the production flight test in green condition. Before the aircraft flies, QMA must complete a conformity inspection and certify that the aircraft is built to engineering type data.

QMA's type certificate concerns all the type data giving the engineering configuration to which the airplane is built. The FAA next issues a flight certificate, allowing the beginning of complete flight testing. Then the FAA flight tests the aircraft and all subsequent aircraft until issuing a production certificate. "We are currently building and certifying under what is called a type certificate only, meaning that once QMA has signed off the aircraft, the FFA must conduct their own conformity inspection of the aircraft to type data," Daniel said. "When the FAA signs off on flight testing and completes the conformity inspection of the first airplane, they will issue a standard airworthiness certificate; and at that point, we will paint the airplane, install the interior and deliver it to our customer."

Daniel introduced the elected officials present: Jeff Wilson, representing U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe; Selby Bush, representing U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn; State Sen. Mike Schulz of Altus; State Sen. Don Barrington of Lawton; State Rep. David Braddock of Altus. Also on hand was Robbie Kerr, wife of the late State Sen. Robert Kerr, and Lynn Pinson of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission.

QMA Board of Directors members are: Chairman Bill Grissom, Vice Chairman Dr. Bill Newland, Keith Dodson, retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Billy G. McCoy, Jerry Neilson, Gerald Smith, Jeff Wilmes and Daniel.

Daniel thanked Supt. June Knight, Rodger Kerr, Junior Rowland and the Southwest Technology Center staff for training 80 sheet metal assemblers (most now working or will be working at QMA), President Randy Cumby of Western Oklahoma State College for help with the company's internet system and the Altus Chamber and Chamber Ambassadors for support when needed. He thanked his wife, Patricia, for giving up several careers of her own to follow him wherever airplanes needed building.

Others recognized for contributions included the designated engineering representatives and designated airworthiness representatives, required by the FAA, and the QMA staff: Joe Courtney, vice president of administration; Terry Durham, director of operations; Dick Southard, director of quality and engineering and a DER; Gary Pakhlevanyan, manager of engineering and a DER; Jan Rose, human resource; Miles Hoover, sales and contract manager; Dale Cunningham, manager of accounting; Brenda McCombs, executive assistant; Robin Blevins, manager of shop floor and configuration control; J.D. Daniel, manager of material; Wendell McClellon, manufacturing technical services manager; Craig Bradberry, IT manager; Jeff Garrison, manager of quality assurance; and shop supervisors--Jake Reynolds, Eric Mann, Jake Hoover and Steve Boyd.

Jerry McCluskey, among the first employees in 1994, holds the most seniority and has served QMA in every capacity--manager, plant manager, designer, painter, machinist, assembler, chief test pilot and "test dummy."

The wife, children, brothers and mother of the late Bob Tooley, former QMA vice president, attended the ceremony. Tooley and Terry Durham accompanied Daniel to QMA from Cessna in Independence, Kansas. Daniel credited Tooley with planning the facility, positions, assembly sequence, functional test procedures and flight and post-flight procedures.

"To all the QMA team members here today, you are the real asset and strength of this company," Daniel said. "Thank you for your hard work, your willingness to learn a new career in an unproven start-up company. Other than the original team, our highest-seniority sheet metal assembler has just over 6 months' experience. Even with that, I can tell you that the first 11E production airplane has better sheet metal work on it that the 500 or 600 Cessna 172s produced in Independence, Kan. These kids are doing a great job."

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