Kestrel Collecting Resumes

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Production may be about two years off and the facility has yet to be built, but Kestrel Aircraft Co. hopes to create 600 jobs in Superior, Wisc., over the next few years, and resumes are already coming in. The company currently employs about 50 engineers who are working to transform the Kestrel prototype single-engine six- to eight-seat turboprop into an FAA-certified production aircraft. Successful completion of that task precludes any mass hiring. New hires will also need a physical workplace and Kestrel will break ground on a 35,000-square-foot production facility this spring, likely by April. Wisconsin's Indianhead Technical College of Superior hopes to work with Kestrel to develop training courses that would address specific needs at Kestrel.

Kestrel hopes its turboprop will be a game-changer, carrying with it the clout of Cirrus founder Alan Klapmeier. While that Klapmeier is no longer associated with Cirrus (his brother Dale currently acts as Cirrus CEO), Kestrel's plans for a new home would make it the two companies neighbors, at least in a geographic sense. Under some financial strain, Cirrus merged with China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Co. Ltd. in June 2011, but remains headquartered in Duluth. Kestrel's development plan so far provides some time for the general aviation market to recover. GAMA reported a decline in the sales of general aviation aircraft through the first nine months of last year, but turboprops fared better than most other classes. As a whole, turboprop shipments fell 5.9 percent for the first nine months of 2011, year over year, but some popular manufacturers showed increases over the 2010 report.