Small Aircraft Builders Optimistic

Article excerpt

By Michael Tarsala

The Arizona Republic

PHOENIX _ Small-aircraft manufacturers are hoping that recent legislation will free them from the decade-old yoke of liability litigation and allow the industry to take flight once again.

About 250 manufacturing representatives from around the country, Federal Aviation Administration officials and aviation enthusiasts are in Phoenix today for the fifth annual General Aviation Forecast Conference, sponsored by the FAA.

After years of limited single-engine aircraft production, manufacturers are starting to produce planes again, said Lynn Kusy, executive director of Williams Gateway Airport Authority in nearby Mesa.

For more than a decade, product-liability claims against manufacturers of single-engine planes crippled the industry, Kusy said.

"They were held responsible for virtually anything that went wrong during the aircraft's entire life," said Hank Verbais, spokesman for the FAA's Western-Pacific region. "Eventually, manufacturers like Cessna, Piper and Beechcraft got out of the industry altogether."

But several small-aircraft manufacturers have expressed interest in producing new single-engine planes after Congress passed a bill last August aimed at preventing them from being named as defendants in crashes of small planes 18 years old or older.

Passage of the bill has opened up new opportunities for manufacturers, said Shelley Snyder, spokeswoman for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, a trade group representing Cessna Aircraft Co. …