Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Business

Agreement will bring production of two-person flying saucers to Hernando airport

BROOKSVILLE — Science fiction could soon become reality at Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport.

Aircraft maintenance company Corporate Jet Solutions has signed a joint venture agreement with California-based Aerobat Aviation Inc. to begin constructing two-person flying saucers at the airport early next year.

Aerobat officials have visited Hernando County several times in recent weeks to test smaller, 6-foot-wide unmanned scale models of the aircraft. Last week, they tested the craft at Florida Classic Park, east of Brooksville, and the flights have gone well, according to Bradley Dye, vice president of Corporate Jet Solutions.

Dye learned of Aerobat through retired local executive Jimmy Lodato, who has contacts in aviation who were looking for a manufacturing and testing area. Manufacturing would take place at the airport, although a site has not yet been selected. Testing is not allowed there, but Dye said there are plenty of isolated areas nearby that would work.

"Aerobat has been courted by a number of states,'' Dye said. But he noted that the Brooksville airport has multiple advantages, including more clear days each year to fly under visual flight rules.

The plan is to bring a mock-up model of the saucer craft to the Experimental Aircraft Association's Airventure show in Oshkosh, Wis., later this summer. Then, the company will begin production of the two-seat craft. Initially, several would be built to send off for more rigorous testing by the Federal Aviation Administration; others would be produced as light sport aircraft, which do not require such testing, but include restrictions such as daytime flight and visual flight rules.

Pilot training would also be part of the plans.

Eventually four-seat and larger models of the Aerobat will be constructed, Dye said.

"Because this is unique for general aviation, the basic design could be used clear through to commercial aviation,'' Dye said.

The partnership also opens up new manufacturing opportunities for the airport.

"What we have is an introduction to aerospace manufacturing at (the airport) and the ability to lead to complementary businesses such as suppliers,'' he said.

The details of the two-seater are listed on the Aerobat website.

The craft would have a maximum takeoff weight of 1,320 pounds, a fuel capacity of 20 gallons, a range of 300 nautical miles and a wingspan of 7.6 meters; it would be constructed of carbon fiber and fiberglass.

The price tag for the standard version is an estimated $198,000.

Aerobat's CEO Travis Shannon said advantages to the round craft, as opposed to a traditional small airplane, include more stability, better handling in crosswinds and the ability to carry a larger payload.

Shannon said he was excited about Brooksville, taking note of the airport's long runways, rail for shipping, fuel availability, lack of congestion and areas for testing outside the 5-mile radius around the airport.

Dennis Wilfong, chairman of the Hernando County Aviation Authority, called the saucer-shaped craft "the wave of the future," which will "revolutionize aviation.'' He attended the last test flights last week.

"I was amazed at the thing,'' he said. "It's totally awesome.''

"I'm very impressed with the engineering of the craft itself. It's a pretty impressive scale model,'' said county Commissioner Dave Russell, a pilot himself and the commission's liaison to the Aviation Authority.

Russell, who once built and flew his own aircraft, said he was excited about the possibilities of the technology.

"I'd love to see the full-size model,'' he said.

Would he fly one if he got the chance?

"Hell, yeah,'' he replied.

Comments
Three things to watch for at the Federal Reserve meeting today

Three things to watch for at the Federal Reserve meeting today

WASHINGTON — On the day when Janet Yellen will hold her final news conference as Federal Reserve chair, the Fed has left little doubt what it plans to do Wednesday: Raise its benchmark interest rate for the third time this year. The increase would be...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Picturing something different: St. Petersburg man finds second career as photographer

Picturing something different: St. Petersburg man finds second career as photographer

A chance meeting during a really tough time in Rossie Newson’s life resulted in him finding a talent he never knew he had. After leaving his job as an illustrator at the Tampa Bay Times in 2009, Newson devoted most of his time and energy to his fathe...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Flipping homes for big profits is getting harder in Tampa Bay

Flipping homes for big profits is getting harder in Tampa Bay

Michael Sadeghpour was just 18 when he did his first flip.Using money saved from a job and borrowed from his grandmother, he bought a foreclosed condo in north Pinellas County for $67,000. He did some inexpensive renovations and flipped it for $125,0...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Wee Gallery entrepreneurs turned black-and-white baby mural into thriving business

Wee Gallery entrepreneurs turned black-and-white baby mural into thriving business

When Surya Sajnani and Dave Pinto were expecting their first child in 2002, she painted a mural with black and white zebras on one wall of the nursery. The couple had read that a baby’s eyes are stimulated by repeating patterns of black and white. "I...
Published: 12/13/17
Vendors and shoppers pack Airport Farmers & Flea Market for holiday season

Vendors and shoppers pack Airport Farmers & Flea Market for holiday season

BROOKSVILLE — With 300 to 400 vendors packing the Airport Farmers & Flea Market on recent weekends, controlled chaos has been the order of the day for Dorri Spoto, who manages the 16-acre site with her husband, Joe Spoto."It’s quite hustle and bustle...
Published: 12/13/17
Career Q&A: Two bosses who don’t care for each other

Career Q&A: Two bosses who don’t care for each other

Q: I seem to be caught between two high-level managers who really don’t like each other. One is a director, the other is a vice president, and I am an assistant to both. Whenever the director stops by my desk to chat, she makes critical remarks about...
Published: 12/12/17
Nicko’s Fine Foods, classic diner and Seminole Heights icon, closes after six decades

Nicko’s Fine Foods, classic diner and Seminole Heights icon, closes after six decades

Nicko’s Fine Foods, known as the place Elvis Presley ate following a 1956 concert and Tampa’s last classic prefabricated diner, has shut down after more than 60 years in business.Owners Karen and Nicholas Liakos could not be reached for comment, but ...
Published: 12/12/17
Ex-Facebook VP: Social media destroying society with ‘dopamine-driven feedback loops’

Ex-Facebook VP: Social media destroying society with ‘dopamine-driven feedback loops’

Washington PostA former Facebook executive is making waves after he spoke out about his "tremendous guilt" over growing the social network, which he feels has eroded "the core foundations of how people behave by and between each other."Chamath Paliha...
Published: 12/12/17
Illegal card skimmer discoveries in Tampa Bay double in 2017

Illegal card skimmer discoveries in Tampa Bay double in 2017

State investigators have discovered more than double the number of credit card skimmers in the Tampa Bay area in 2017 than in 2016 — with still a few weeks left in the year. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services found 54 skimmer...
Published: 12/12/17
French group to take over Westfield malls for $15.7 billion

French group to take over Westfield malls for $15.7 billion

Three Tampa Bay malls may soon be under new management. French real estate company Unibail-Rodamco has agreed to buy Australia-based shopping mall operator Westfield Corp. for $15.7 billion in cash and shares."Westfield would arguably be the best or ...
Published: 12/12/17