Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Plane Needs a Home; Bryceville Native Wants to Begin Building Surveillance Aircraft on the First Coast

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Plane Needs a Home; Bryceville Native Wants to Begin Building Surveillance Aircraft on the First Coast

Article excerpt

Byline: Roger Bull

George Bryce Jr. is the kind of 79-year-old who declines help pulling his airplane out of the hangar.

"I got it," he said. And he did. One-handed, actually.

Of course, it's only 850 pounds, less than half that of the popular Cessna 172.

The plane that Bryce is about to start producing is made for one purpose: surveillance. It can be equipped with all kinds of cameras and computers. A bullet-proof shield can be installed on the bottom. It can be flown without a pilot.

He's going to start building it somewhere in North Florida, Bryce said, but he's not sure where. And he said he's not getting much interest from Jacksonville officials, even though he's already got an office at Herlong Airport.

Bryce is the owner of Eastman Aviation, which has been building aircraft since 1998 in Eastman, Ga., about 60 miles southeast of Macon.

But Bryce bought the company three years ago and he's kept his office here in Jacksonville. After all, his roots go deep in Northeast Florida. He's part of the Bryce family that settled the Bryceville area in the 1800s and gave the town its name.

He's done a lot of things over his 79 years, including owning a tractor distributorship. But he's always flown. He talked about riding his pony down from Bryceville to hang around Herlong Airport when he was a kid. He's been flying out of there for 60 years, he said.

The last 2 1/2 years, he and General Manager Frank Woodward have been doing the R&D work on the Guardian, the plane that he is targeting primarily at law enforcement.

He's downsized the Eastman plant and Bryce said he intends to reopen it in North Florida. There's more qualified tech workers down here than in central Georgia.

He'd start with 25-30 workers at first, but grow to 40-50 within a year or two.

But he's not sure exactly where. He said he's talked to the airports in Fernadina Beach, Lake City and Green Cove Springs, and they've all shown interest.

He'd really like to be in Jacksonville, he said. …

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