Monday, November 12, 2007

Tiger by the Tail -- Kevin Lancaster CEO, True Flight Aerospace

When Kevin Lancaster (right) was five years old, he swiped some
wood from his dad at home in Kentucky and built his first airplane
for a Father's day gift.

While the model might have been just a bit clunky, that entreprenurial spirit remained with Lancaster most of his life, peaking this past summer when he bought his own aircraft company.

He's now CEO of Valdosta, Georgia-based True Flight Aerospace, the company that plans to resurrect the Grumman American AA-5B Tiger in 2008, the rights to which were most recently the property of Tiger Aircraft in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Owned by Tiawanese investors, Tiger went bankrupt earlier this year despite having orders on the books. Lancaster says the issues were "political."

An aviation enthusiast since his youth, Lancaster, 40, previously worked in hotel management and real estate businesses, using private aircraft to crisscross the southern US on business trips. He says he bought his first Tiger two weeks before taking his private pilot’s license test in a Cessna 150 about 10 years ago. Later he bought a second Tiger when his wife learned to fly. He sold both in 2003.

"It's a chase of passions," he says of his journey.

The first chapter in the new book will play out in summer of 2008 when the first new Tiger is expected to roll off the new assembly line in Georgia.

Lancaster is pictured at the top with his consultant, Harry Eckert, one of the original builders of the two-seat Grumman American AA-1, the predecesor of the Tiger.