BRUNSWICK, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The head of the company that plans to build airplanes in Brunswick says they hope to start manufacturing in less than two years.
Atol Avion of Finland, which is building the Atol 650 amphibious airplane for Europe, is partnering with a new United States business to build planes for the North American market at Brunswick Landing.
Paul Richards, president of Atol USA, says the plane should be certified for sale in Europe this year, which he says will make it easier to then get it certified by the FAA in this country.
Richards says Brunswick Landing is an ideal location where they will begin with a few engineers and managers and add production staff once the federal certification has been granted. Richards says they believe that process should take no more than 18 months, and that they can begin building and selling planes by or before 2019.
The 650 is a two-seat plane, built for a recreational category Richards calls "light sport aircraft" – for recreational use only. He says many pilots find the planes appealing.
"There's a huge interest in the market for this type of aircraft," Richards said.
He said Atol unveiled the 650 to the U.S. market this week at a show in Florida and that the audience was enthusiastic. He said they have the financing in place to hire staff and obtain FAA certification, but will need to raise further money to start production. That process will be easier, he said, once they start getting orders for the planes and models are also being sold in Europe.
Brunswick Landing's executive director Steve Levesque says the new company is "a perfect fit" for Brunswick, and could help them attract more aviation businesses. That has been a key goal since the facility opened.
Brunswick Landing did attract Kestrel – another start-up airplane maker – seven years ago. But while Kestrel still has some employees in Brunswick who continue to work on designs, Levesque said they still do not have certification and no planes have been manufactured. He said the process can take a long time.
Both Levesque and Richards said the Atol situation is different because there is already a final design that is expected to be certified this year. Richards said the Finnish company already has customer orders and is preparing to build planes.
Atol Avion has a manufacturing facility in Finland, according to Richards, but needs one in Maine to service the U.S. market.
He said Finland is not part of a U.S.-European Union aviation agreement, and so Finnish-built aircraft can't be sold new in this country. Because the U.S. is the biggest potential market for the small plane, they want a manufacturing plant here to meet the expected demand.
The Atol 650 will sell for less than $200,000, Richards said.