This blog post has been quite some time coming, and much anticipated by those that have been avid followers of the website. The blog postings have been sparse- primarily related to our responsibilities as authors to the Sport Aviation / Experimenter magazine articles, Repairman Workshop Instructors and Owners of a local FBO. Rather than lament the nuances that befallen our two companies, let’s just suffice it to say that the last six months has been pretty rough. However: Be assured, the EMG-6 is our passion and we are still excited about the project. The series of unfortunate events which have delayed our progress has been difficult for us at best.
Since there are a wide diversity of readers to the blog, we will try and provide a chronological recap:
1. Where we were, what our plans were, and what we had accomplished
2. What actually happened including a series of unfortunate events
3. Where we are today
4. And what our new plans are
The five year long project with the EMG-6 was moving at a fairly frenetic pace in order to keep up with the demand from the existing builders. We have to date built three different EMG-6 aircraft. Two of them have been through testing with multiple landing gear configurations as well as powerplant configurations. All of the drawings for the aircraft were online and were in a continuous state of upgrade. The amount of money being spent on the aircraft was rather unbelievable. I often joked at the air shows that, “this project was like having a firehose with hundred dollar bills squirting out the end”.
The original project was started as a collaboration with Quicksilver aircraft utilizing some of their existing tooling and technology to reduce the cost of the initial design. Two years into the project Quicksilver announced their bankruptcy leaving us high and dry with no notice and a design that we could no longer produce without a significant investment in tooling. We did retool and redesign the aircraft and invest in the tooling necessary to be able to produce the majority of the aircraft in house. This redesign and investment cost more than the original design of the EMG-6. This set the project back by nearly 2 years and well over $100,000. Undeterred, we persevered and completed, prototype #2. In the bankruptcy of Quicksilver we lost the templates for building the Dacron sailcloth covers, Prototype #2 was configured with poly fiber covering system as a test and substitute for the original system using the Dacron sailcloth covers. The flight test results were mixed. Although the redesign of prototype #2 were very promising and drag reduction incredible, the initial design of the poly fiber covering system utilizing ribs was in adequate and would require, at a minimum, a leading edge cover to mitigate the sagging associated with the fabric between each of the ribs. In addition the weight of the poly fiber covered wing system was nearly double that of the original Dacron sailcloth covers.
As a result, we started the process of building a new set of templates for the Dacron sailcloth covered wing and the new aircraft design. (Ultralight sails of Canada has been working on the templates and we now have that new completed set of sails in a box in the shop) Unfortunately they showed up several weeks after the first disaster. Prototype #3 was being configured for the new Dacron sailcloth covered wings as well as the new MGM Compro motor system. It took nearly 6 months to finally obtain the majority of components or the Rex 30 powerplant system being developed by MGM Compro. When that system arrived, there was extensive damage from shipping. In the process of repairing that damage our project manager “managed” to short out the BMS (battery management system) and fried both of the BMS modules. To date, we have still not replaced these two modules, however they are on order.
Now for the bad news. In November 2017 we had a break-in and robbery, the initial estimates of equipment missing was in the range of $40,000 but subsequent to that we have found that a lot more stuff was missing, probably closer to $60,000. It looks as though they may have used our trailer (stolen also) to empty out Hangar 7. This was devastating on many fronts. Absolutely no help from the police department whatsoever, our insurance company found a loophole and were absolved from any responsibility. The sense of being violated still haunts us today. New rules at the office, no one leaves even for lunch without completely locking every door in the facility. A new security camera set up with 32 cameras monitoring the airport 24/7. And the sense that someone could completely take away all of your dreams overnight leaves you questioning everything you do. Should you just get back on the horse, invest another five years, and another $100,000 just to have that yanked out from under you again? Not being quitters, we started into emergency mode figuring out how to proceed. As it turned out this was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. The stress on everyone after the break-in was quite high. Within the same timeframe – our main hard drive was corrupt and the entire computer system disabled. = It was devastating. The loss of data coupled with the inability to even access our computer programs increased all of our stress levels.
It never rains, but it pours: on the tail of all of this our key employees decided to leave for personal reasons, without any notice. This left us with computer systems that were disabled, electric motor/controller system in pieces, three EMG-6 airplanes in different states of assembly, and 10 years’ worth of specific training for the employees of the EMG-6 project and Rainbow Aviation Maintenance Classes gone! We also had certificated aircraft in the main hangar for annual inspections and one which required fabric replacement. On top of all of this, we are dealing with a (totally frivolous) lawsuit because our 1950s vintage office (old military barracks) which we lease from the city, alleging the building is not ADA compliant for 2018. I don’t know about you, but I think all of this qualifies as an unmitigated disaster and too many stressful event – just too close together. We actually purchased one of those blood pressure monitors. . .
So, where are we today? The good news is, we’re not quitters. We have simply been taking it day by day and coming up with plans to get us back into the game. The light sport maintenance classes are our bread-and-butter. It’s what we do really well, and where all of our focus is currently being directed. The Adventure Aircraft company which was the subsidiary of Rainbow Aviation started primarily to focus directly on the EMG-6 is in the process of being disbanded. All of the assets from Adventure Aircraft are being transferred to Rainbow Aviation. The goal was to have Adventure Aircraft eventually become self-sufficient and possibly even make a profit in the future. As of today, less than 4% of the cost for the EMG-6 project has come from registration and part sales.
The original plan, which was negotiated in the structuring of the company, was to charge a $500 fee for a serial number and customer support. I was personally opposed to this plan, and was vocal and animated about it. However, I capitulated and agreed to the fee. This was supposed to subsidize the development costs. Boy were we wrong! To date, the “average” cost for customer support for each aircraft is a little over $4000. This is primarily labor costs. In all fairness, we initially expected to incur additional costs while the development of the aircraft continued. And perhaps, without all of the significant setbacks we could have absorbed these costs better. We are currently undergoing a complete re-thought of the business plan.
What’s next? Currently the EMG-6 project is on hold. With plans to return our focus to the project in the fall. We will be at Oshkosh this year with a booth for the Rainbow Aviation maintenance classes. We will be able to talk about the EMG-6 plans if you stop by our booth, hangar A; booth 1139. We will be focusing primarily on the Rainbow Aviation maintenance classes as we train new employees for the support functions involved therein. This training will be ongoing until the October 8, 2018 Light Sport Repairman Maintenance class. This class will be finished up by the end of October.
Therefore, November 1, 2018 is our new startup date for the EMG-6. Our initial focus will be to start dealing with all of the support issues required by the existing builders of the aircraft. In the interim, we have placed orders for new BMS modules, and are evaluating requirements necessary to dive back into the EMG-6 project. The website and YouTube channel are in the process of being modified to more accurately reflect our current conditions. We will no longer be accepting new builder registrations. The goal is to have a more balanced process going forward which can simultaneously address the needs of the existing builders while allowing some time and money spent towards the completion of prototype #3. Until November, while we are managing this series of unfortunate events, we will still not be able to deal with any EMG-6 related projects or part orders. Our resources and energy are significantly limited at this time.
However, as we said: Be assured, the EMG-6 project will survive.