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Giving Australia wings

AFTER signing a more than $5 million deal with the US, Eagle Aircraft is chasing its dream of making aeroplanes an Australian way of life again.

Its $180,000 two-seater offering, built from a composite of kevlar and carbon fibre, has both Australian and US certification.

The company targeted the US, which has 70 per cent to 80 per cent of the world’s general aviation market and secured orders for 25 aircraft this year and another 25 next year.

Eagle marketing manager Ron Scherpenzeel said the company was struggling to meet the first order. It has delivered nine planes.

Its three production facilities – two in Henderson and one in Malaysia – should produce 45 aircraft a year by the end of 2001.

Mr Scherpenzeel said the Eagle was popular with flying schools and the public because of its sporty feel, good visibility, high speed for its class and very low stall speed.

The planes are becoming “runabouts” for people looking to fly short distances, such as Perth to Margaret River.

“We sold one to a guy in Maroochydore who wants to fly between Brisbane and Sydney on business,” Mr Scherpenzeel said.

“We’re finding a lot of businessmen are looking for a plane fast enough and comfortable enough for business trips. It’s a good way to entertain prospective business partners too.

“In Australia in the 1960s flying was a way of life, particularly for people on remote farming properties. With the time pressures we’re facing I think flying is going to come back in again.”

It costs about $8,000 to gain a pilot’s licence.

The Eagle’s concept was born in 1983 to create a plane for farmers that cost about the same as a new car.

That plane was dogged by powerplant problems but still earned a place in Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum.

The next design created the two-seater Eagles flying today.

A Malaysian syndicate was offered a share in the business to cover a funding shortfall.

The Malaysians were more interested in the composite technology used to construct the Eagles.

Malaysia has since formed Composite Technology Research Malaysia – a technical “city” in Melaka making parts for the Eagle and Boeing and Airbus planes.

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