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Tiger aircraft gets FAA approval

more jobs may follow

September 19, 2002

From staff and wire reports

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A local aircraft company could add dozens of jobs by the beginning of next year as a result of a production certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration - the first such certificate granted in West Virginia.

Tiger Aircraft, which produces four-seater, single-engine planes, employs 65 people. That could increase to more than 100 by next year, said Tiger Human Resources Director Randy Emery.

Hiring will begin soon, Emery said.

Tiger hopes to build 90 aircraft in 2003, Emery said. Since a groundbreaking ceremony 21/2 to three years ago, Tiger has produced 10 planes, each under close scrutiny by the FAA, Emery said.

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A production certificate means FAA officials no longer have to examine each plane produced at Tiger's plant at Eastern Regional Airport. Further FAA oversight is expected as the company grows, he said.

Future plans call for Tiger possibly producing a two-engine plane with retractable landing gear, Emery said. The company's current model has fixed landing gear. Each plane costs about $219,500.

The production certificate "means the FAA has confidence that Tiger can produce their aircraft parts with the quality that meets federal regulations," said FAA region director Stacy Ratliff

Tiger is the first to produce a plane in Martinsburg. The area's airport also is home to Sino-Swearingen Aircraft and Alliance Aircraft.

Tiger was on the verge of receiving a production certification last year, but aviation security concerns following the terrorist attacks delayed the process, Ratliff said.

The last production certificate awarded in the FAA's New England region - which runs from Maine to Virginia - was in 1970, Ratliff said.

Only 14 certificates have been awarded to aircraft companies in the region over the last 60 years.

Ten months ago, the first three Tiger planes were rolled out of the aircraft company's plant and handed over to their new owners, bringing to an end a long comeback tale.

The Tiger initially hit the market in 1965, said Bob Crowley, chairman and CEO of Tiger Aircraft.

After several decades of ownership changes and production stoppages, it wasn't until four investors decided to put their money together in 1994 to start the Martinsburg operation that Tigers became a reality again.

Three Taiwanese investors and the fourth investor - a Philadelphia-based company known as Teleflex - went in together to fund the local operation.

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