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Oklahoma company unveils new aircraft

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Quartz Mountain Aerospace Inc. unveiled a new single-engine airplane Monday that is to be manufactured in Oklahoma and sold to flight schools across the country.

John Daniel, president and chief operating officer of the Altus-based company, said he has 60 firm orders for the $200,000 Model 185-11E, an airplane geared toward flight training.

The privately held company plans to produce 68 airplanes during the 12 months beginning in September. It hopes to build 250 airplanes the year after and 300 more the following year.

Daniel said the four-seat, high-winged airplane is very stable and has advantages over other airplanes used for flight training. The airplane was on display Monday at Wiley Post Airport in Bethany.

``It is by design much easier for learning to fly and is also very fuel efficient,'' Daniel said. ``We've designed it with maintenance in mind, so it's very easy to take care of. We believe the cost of owning and operating this airplane will be lower than other airplanes on the market.''

He also said the airplane's ease of handling and good downward visibility led it to be selected for use by the Civil Air Patrol. He said it could also be used for border patrol and homeland security.

The airplane is a Federal Aviation Administration-certified revision of the Luscombe Model 11A, which was introduced in 1946. A major physical difference between the two airplanes is that the earlier model had a tail wheel, while the new model has the tricycle landing gear seen on many modern planes.

Daniel said the company has received $2.5 million in start-up money through the city of Altus' economic development fund and another $2 million from the Oklahoma Industrial Finance Authority. Investors in the company have also received state tax credits.

``We would never have been able to get this company off the ground if it weren't for very forward-looking and unique tax credit legislation in Oklahoma,'' Daniel said. ``Our ability to start manufacturing and to amass the financial resources we need to ramp up production over the next few years is the result of very smart legislation aimed at creating jobs in rural Oklahoma.''

The company employs 35 people and plans to eventually add another 300 employees.

The Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education has provided employees for the company through its Southwest Technology Center in Altus.

Altus Mayor T.L. Gramling said city officials hope the airplane company will provide a boost to a region that has had trouble attracting new industry. Altus Air Force Base, which survived the Pentagon's latest round of base closures, is the biggest employer in a largely rural area of the state that has lost population in recent years.

``We think this small aircraft company will be a big plus,'' he said. ``That's the reason we're participating in it. We want quality jobs.''
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