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Rocketplane contract awarded

Published by Robin on Fri Sep 10, 2004 3:59 pm
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Fri September 10, 2004, By Adam Wilmoth, The Oklahoman

A Guthrie (Oklahoma) aviation company stole the focus of an airport dedication Thursday when it said it has won a “large” contract to help the state’s first commercial space-flight company take off.

Spirit Wing Aviation LTD said it will manufacture and assemble some of the parts needed to modify the Lear Jet 24 into Rocketplane XP, an aircraft designers hope soon will fly passengers into orbit more than 60 miles above Earth for about $100,000 a flight.

The plane will be built and operated by Burns Flat-based Rocketplane Ltd. Inc., but Spirit Wing’s manufacturing and testing will take place at the Guthrie-Edmond Regional Airport.

“This is a very prestigious recognition. There’s nobody else who’s built a plane like this,” said Calvin Burgess, Spirit Wing’s chief executive officer. “It brings a kind of high-tech industry to Guthrie that hasn’t been here before. This will bring recognition to the community. Not many communities can say they have a company that’s literally building something out of this world.”

Burgess declined to disclose how much the contract is worth except to say it is a “large” contract and that it initially will create at least 25 to 30 jobs.

Kathy Montgomery, president and chief executive officer of the Guthrie Chamber of Commerce, said the project could lead to investment and more jobs in the community’s aerospace industry.

“I think these kinds of things can do nothing but good as far as leading other industries of that type to our area, especially spin-off industries that have to do with aviation,” she said. “If nothing else, it’s going to get our name out there and our facility out there. It will give us a boost to people about the update and the longer runways. It can be nothing but positive.

Spirit Wing has been working with Lear jets for more than five years and is considered an expert on the type of Lear jet to be modified into the Rocketplane. “The quality of what Spirit Wing does as well as what we saw in the Guthrie-Edmond Regional Airportis what brought us not only to Spirit Wing but also to Guthrie,” said Mitchell Clapp, Rocketplane founder and director of flight systems.

Rocketplane President George French said the company has tried to use as many Oklahoma companies as possible.

“It’s Oklahoma money that was given to us to do this project. Therefore, we want to spend that money in Oklahoma,” French said. “And we believe Oklahoma has a heritage of aviation and is one of the biggest states in the U.S. on aftermarket aviation and that there are several state of the art aerospace facilities in Oklahoma.”

The Legislature granted Rocketplane $15 million in tax credits over five years to help the company become successful. Rocketplane began testing on the aircraft’s body earlier this year, and the plane’s first test launch is scheduled for January 2007.


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