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TAM ends Maverick contract over 'uncertifiable' Leader
Georgian firm returns manufacturing rights to USA and begins development of own jet

JUSTIN WASTNAGE / LONDON

Georgian manufacturer Tbilaviamsheni (TAM) has ended its contract with US kitplane supplier Maverick Jets to produce a certificated version of the twin-engined Leader personal jet, and now plans to launch its own business aircraft.

Tblisi-based TAM terminated its agreement with Maverick Jets last year and is returning production rights to the US company. Business development manager George Beradze says TAM's engineers have declared the Leader "uncertifiable" after 10 months of tests.

"Not a single element of the aircraft, from airframe, wings, landing gear and system, conforms to US Federal Aviation Regulations standards," he says.

Melbourne, Florida-based Maverick Jets admits the airframe outsourcing agreement with TAM has "been discontinued", but says the Leader is a certificatable product.

"There are three Leaders flying that have already flown hundreds of combined hours," says Maverick Jets. It adds: "As a kitplane it was always understood to need additional work to bring it to full FAR 23 certification standards."

TAM says Maverick Jets engaged the Georgian company to re-engine and test the Leader for eventual certification as a factory-built personal jet in the USA. TAM is uncertain as to the legal ramifications of ending its partnership with Maverick Jets.

Beradze says: "Maybe they knew the aircraft was unsuitable for certification, but we are left with a product that is not certificatable."

Maverick Jets says: "The intent has been, and is, to do what is necessary to bring the aircraft to full certification and we are working toward this end. We have no interest in trying to discredit TAM."

Meanwhile, TAM has been designing its own personal jet family in tandem with work on the Leader, and plans to unveil a prototype during various air shows in the second and third quarter.

The five-seat, single-pilot TAMJet will be powered by two Williams FJ33 turbofans and will be priced at around $1.5 million. TAM aims to receive European Joint Aviation Authorities design approval by the end of the month and unveil a prototype by the middle of the year.

Flight International, February 24th, 2004