Can someone really apply the concepts and production approaches of the automobile industry to small planes in the General Aviation sector?
"Sure," says Paul Klahn, president/CEO of ComposiCraft, Inc. (dba “Nexaer”) in Colorado Springs, Colorado. And that is what he’s doing -- with some help from Colorado Springs SCORE.
Paul is an Aeronautical Engineer with a background in product design and composite manufacturing, but little experience creating and controlling a high tech business. He signed up for an eight week business planning course at the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in fall 2000.
Paul’s plan is to manufacture and sell a two-seat personal aircraft with a 54" wide cabin, side-by-side seating, and an automotive-style interior and instrument panel. It can take off in just 200 feet, cruise at 140 mph, and travel at least 600 miles. Sue Gardner, FAA program manager for the Sport Pilot Rule, said, "This is exactly what we hoped someone would do (with the changing regulations)".
Today, Nexaer is pushing forward with the creation of their first flying prototype aircraft. The company will debut the aircraft at the annual EAA Airventure Oshkosh, the largest air show in the world, hosting over 750,000 aviation enthusiasts in a single week. With a comfortable cabin, modern easy-to-use instruments, an autopilot, and an emergency parachute – all priced below $100,000 – Nexaer is about to set a new benchmark for personal air travel.
Two SCORE mentors, Don Hartung and Erv Simon, first met with Paul in Fall 2001 to review his progress on his business plan. Over the next two years, they worked monthly with Paul to flesh out, improve and expand the plan, with periodic reviews to confirm progress.
Lou Pritchett, former Executive Vice President of Procter & Gamble, stated, “I congratulate you on a masterpiece. The plan is articulate, clear, specific, thorough and convincing. Bottom line – it sells."
In late 2004, a venture capitalist interested in investing in the emerging technology and company said, "This document is complete. It tells me everything I need to know. It's time to implement the plan!"
“Changing FAA regulations for General Aviation opened up industry innovation opportunities. We are jumping into the lead, with the help of SCORE.” says Paul Klahn.