Adam Aircraft: If Only They'd Listened...

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The last time I certified an airplane was, well, never, but something nags at me about the whole Adam collapse that makes so much sense to me I'm sure someone will set me straight.

You see, I was there when Adam, which had been toiling away on its push/pull A500 twin for years with only lukewarm interest, absolutely stole the show at Oshkosh by flying its very cool and very capable A700 very light jet to EAA AirVenture.

Steven Spielberg could not have produced a better entrance.

Adam A700

With a crashing thunderstorm as a backdrop and the National Geographic light that rainbows and sun slanting through the deluge creates, the A700 tracked smartly through Aeroshell Square on its way to the Adam exhibit.

Not only was it the first VLJ to fly to Oshkosh, it was great to look at and had features (like a potty) that the others didn't. Sure, it was just a shell at that time but you could see it was going places. From the time it arrived, the Adam exhibit was always the most crowded and the buzz from an otherwise lackluster show was all about the A700. In sports and politics, they call that momentum.

I said to my AVweb colleagues (although I'm sure they'll claim not to remember) that Adam should push the A500 to the back of the hangar and pour all of it resources into getting the A700 certified and on the market. Often the difference between success and failure in a new market is getting there first. Cessna was just stirring on the VLJ market, Eclipse was stalled by its engine problems and all the rest were either playing with paper airplanes or feeling out the market. Adam had the chance to grab first place in the VLJ sweepstakes.

Instead, it said that while the A700 was a lot of fun, it had to finish the A500 before it could commit big resources to the jet. Well, the excrutiating A500 certification dragged on and on and the same old A700 shell kept turning up at the shows. Still, hardly anyone paid attention to the piston aircraft, which, at more than $1 million, looked pretty lame against its turbine stablemate. Well, you know the story. Soon there were other VLJs to get excited about. When Adam closed on Monday, it still hadn't certified the A700 (for which it had hundreds of orders) and the A500 had sold just 17 copies, only seven of which had been delivered.

There's a slim chance that an eleventh-hour deal to save the company will happen. Miracles happen, right? What's more likely is that the company will be liquidated and an existing company will get it for pennies on the dollar.

That has me wondering if maybe Cirrus saw this coming and bailed on the Columbia deal in favour of picking up Adam. The two have been working on composite technology together (Cirrus needs pressurization in its new jet and Adam knows how) and the cultures of the two companies seem to fit.

If the Klapmeiers do make that play, I hope they learn from Adam's error and put that push/pull twin on the backburner while they concentrate on the jet. The push/pull has no place in the Cirrus lineup but the A700 would make a nice capper to the progressive ownership model that drives Cirrus's business plan.

We can hope.

Comments (26)

Good idea to nix the A500. My 340 has better performance for less than 1/4 the capital cost. However, the market currently underserved is the turboprop single. Only two competitors, both charging high prices. Hang a big turboprop pusher on the back of the A700 instead of two jets and the operating economics get better, it gets easier to certify, and fills a niche that is not currently flooded. How about it Adam/Cirrus?

Posted by: JON CARLSON | February 13, 2008 11:37 AM    Report this comment

A & P mechanic

Posted by: Sean Smith | February 13, 2008 6:28 PM    Report this comment

Hang a turboprop on the front or rear of a plane, and sure, the performance and fuel efficiency are outstanding. Factor in the initial cost, and the overhaul cost, and it may no longer seem so appealing. Adam Aircraft did at one point have a design for a single engine turboprop pusher, but it was determined not to be a viable product, so it never left the drawing board. The second engine on the A500 isn't there just for speed. It was there for safety. How many other twins can you kill one engine during flight, without worrying which pedal you are about to press? No adverse yaw whatsoever. I've accrued a substantial amount of flight time in both A500 and A700 models, and have to say, the flight characteristics and performance are superb. Nix the A500 and what have you got? A weird looking jet called the A700.

Posted by: j c | February 13, 2008 8:07 PM    Report this comment

As an airline pilot who maintains a distant glance on GA, I hate to say it but "told you so." I've said from the beginning the only players to worry about in this game are Cessna, Embraer, and maybe Eclipse. Although these airplanes perform poorly compared to 121 equipment (I've already had to take vectors to get around these guys) they are still high performance aircraft slated to be flown by piston pilots. The insurance companies know this and therefore only enough airplanes that can be manned (i.e. insured) will likely ever be built. Why build 6,000 go-karts when only 1,000 drivers can race them. This is exactly why Cessna will rule the roost, as they already know all this, and will produce enough airplanes for the market. Not the tens of thousands as originally proclaimed. Meanwhile, wait for more of these fly by night outfits to bite the dust because they can't raise the capital to build their go-kart.

Posted by: Clint Tolbert | February 14, 2008 7:22 AM    Report this comment

Out of work.

Posted by: Sivart Nosir | February 15, 2008 8:36 AM    Report this comment

"(I've already had to take vectors to get around these guys)"

Typical arrogant airline pilot comment. We pay taxes, too, fella, and the sky belongs to all of us.

Posted by: Linda Pendleton | February 21, 2008 9:33 AM    Report this comment

"...they are still high performance aircraft slated to be flown by piston pilots."

You're obviously still laboring under the myth that jets take that "special something" to fly or are somehow harder to fly than piston aircraft. Nothing could be further from the truth. Eclipse's insurers have already commited that pilots successfully completing the training program and required mentoring will,/i> be insured. Please get your facts straight.

Posted by: Linda Pendleton | February 21, 2008 9:36 AM    Report this comment

Wow don't take my comments so personally. All I was trying to say is that sure some of these guys will be able to get insurance on these pocket rockets but does mean every joe pilot who can afford one should buy and fly one. Until you can operate as professionally as us "arrogant airline pilots" (which some can and do) don't expect to get any respect from the crowd that does it everyday. That being said, I do not expect 10,000 VLJs crowding the already crowded skies as originally predicted. Jets are serious equipment jetlinda, they are not your dad's little Cessna buzzing around and yes they REQUIRE a much more proficient, professional pilot. That's certainly how "arrogant airline pilots" see it and until we hear you on the radio sounding as such I certainly don't want my family on one. Please get your facts straight.

Posted by: Clint Tolbert | February 21, 2008 9:44 PM    Report this comment

And furthermore if you want some more facts check the GA accident record vs. Part 121...the facts speak for themselves jettie. So yeah jets are "something special" I rest my case.

Posted by: Clint Tolbert | February 22, 2008 12:00 AM    Report this comment

"Jets are serious equipment jetlinda"

Yes, having over 7,000 hours PIC in jets and being a professial pilot over these past 33 years, I'm quite aware of what it takes to operate jets. I've introduced MANY of the folks you look down on to fly jets and I'm proud to say that my students and I have an unsullied safety record. Yes, there is a difference between the GA accident record and 121, but part of that has to do with all the support (dispatchers, gate agents, mechanics, etc.) you folks have at your immediate beck and call that GA doesn't. You probabaly HAVE heard me on the radio, but you probably didn't know it because I sound like any other pilot out there earning a living.

"Professional" is an attitude and it's an attitude, not a paycheck. You took umbrage to what I said about airline pilots -- lumping them all together and acting like they're all alike -- but take a look at what you've said. You've lumped all non-airline pilots together and said we're not as good. And I particularly find your demeaning comments to me offensive. Comments like "they are not your dad's little Cessna buzzing around" and "until we hear you on the radio sounding as such" tell me that you have no respect for anyone who does not fly for an airline. Oh, and by the way, my name is NOT "jettie."

Posted by: Linda Pendleton | February 22, 2008 8:14 AM    Report this comment

"your posts are spoken like a true Eclipse executive, thin skinned and very impressed with yourself"

Nope. I'm not an Eclipse executive -- don't work for them. I just get really tired of all the jet jocks out there looking down their nose on a group of folks they really know nothing about. The VLJs are designed to go into smaller airports to relieve the major hubs. Jets ARE easier to fly than piston aircraft, and I've been doing it long enough to know. I don't think I came across as very impressed with myself -- I never mentioned my jet time until it was suggested that I only knew about "dad's little Cessna." I've flown freight in BE18s and DC3s also, and been around this industry for more than a day or two. I just get really tired of folks thinking that only airline pilots really have the "right stuff" to fly jets. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Posted by: Linda Pendleton | February 22, 2008 8:22 AM    Report this comment

"sorry jetlinda, "(dispatchers, gate agents mechanics, etc.)" do not enter the safety equation in a statisticly significant percentage"

Well, when you take into consideration that GA pilots do not have that support -- they have to do most of those functions for themselves (get the passengers organized, the luggage loaded, pick up the catering, order the fuel, find a mechanic) and that adds to the duty day and the fatigue factor. Add to that the fact that non-121 folks never know where they're gonna be asked to go, unlike the 121 pilot's realtively fewer known destinations, and yes, it does all have an effect. Then you have the higher reliability and redundancy in jet systems. That all makes a difference. And why don't we look at the JET GA safety records and not lump in all the pistons? Maybe that would keep folks from trying to compare apples with oranges.

Doing it every day and night all over the world -- been there, done that, wore out the T-shirt. After you've landed a jet on a gravel road north of Mogadishu -- on purpose -- on a humanitarian mission, come see me about every day and night all over the world. (Still have a perfect safety record, by the way.)

Posted by: Linda Pendleton | February 22, 2008 8:48 AM    Report this comment

"stay away from any air base/air station officer's club on Friday nights and squadron ready rooms in general."

Yeah, the government pretty much made me do that. Back in the day when I was young enough, the military didn't let women fly, so I never sat around in those testosterone-laced places. You guys sure get testy when you feel threatened. Thought we were talking about civilian pilots?

Posted by: Linda Pendleton | February 22, 2008 9:19 AM    Report this comment

Join the 121 world and you won't have load bags & fly fatigued.

Posted by: Clint Tolbert | February 22, 2008 9:27 AM    Report this comment

"Join the 121 world and you won't have load bags & fly fatigued."

Too late. And I'm not so sure I wouldn't have to fly fatigued.

Posted by: Linda Pendleton | February 22, 2008 9:32 AM    Report this comment

Well I certainly don' can thank my union for that protection.

Posted by: Clint Tolbert | February 22, 2008 10:05 AM    Report this comment

"We pay taxes, too, fella, and the sky belongs to all of us"...and we all know who ACTUALLY pays most the bills. But airlines use the system the most because the system was built FOR the airlines. You just get to use it...your welcome and thank you for your small contribution.

Posted by: Clint Tolbert | February 23, 2008 1:24 PM    Report this comment

The comments here are illuminating -- not about aircraft operations but about those working in the industry.

Posted by: Richard Hough | February 24, 2008 9:16 PM    Report this comment

BlueDun is was a joke...relax

Posted by: Clint Tolbert | February 25, 2008 5:11 PM    Report this comment

The winner by a TKO...jetlinda! Misters cgtpilot and ranger01, hit the showers. You've been outclassed. And BlueDun is QUITE correct.

Posted by: Scott Evans | February 26, 2008 9:09 AM    Report this comment

"BlueDun it was a joke...relax"

My remark was not particular and was regarding the comments of those in the industry. Now that you mention it, jokes are funny because they exaggerate a perspective shared by the teller and shared by the audience. They tend to give light to thoughts one wouldn't otherwise express publicly. When the audience doesn't share a similar perspective, it's not so funny.

Posted by: Richard Hough | February 26, 2008 9:55 AM    Report this comment

Whatever floats your boat. As long as there are pilots there will always be a "rift" if you will between professional crews and weekend warriors. I've been both and I know each side of that story. Flying in the system day in and day out I see and hear alot that gives me the viewpoint that I have (along with my fellow crewmembers). Nothing you say on this blog will change that. So maybe a joke does tend to mask in a humorous manner what you really believe. Obviously this blog flew way off course but its a blog and thats what blogs tend to do. So I repeat, I never believe that the majority of the Adams, ATGs, etc will ever come to a certified conclusion. Money, insurability, and experience will be the dominating factors in who succeeds and who will be able to fly these little jets around the system. Personally I believe thats a good thing...flying is a serious business and if you can't dedicate the time to be a professional aviator be it in a Cessna 172 or a B777 then you're in the wrong business. Even if you can afford to buy a (insert your Eclipse/Mustang/or whatever else here) don't unless you can/will professionally fly it. Many times I don't see that so I'm entitled to my opinion. Rant over...I spoke my peace and I'm done.

Posted by: Clint Tolbert | February 26, 2008 4:18 PM    Report this comment

Now we're getting somewhere. I happen agree with you on every point, including the certification and sales of certain type of aircraft. As a weekend warrior, I see the same things that concern you as a professional pilot, because they should concern any competent pilot. Regardless, I see no reason for a rift. The only one that should exist should be between those who operate aircraft "professionally" (whether paid or not) and those who do not. I'm a realist and know it doesn't always work that way. It is a two-way street: there are the "professional" pilots who come bombing into a small airport without regard for a pattern who deserve their share of approbation. And you yourself commented that there are those GA pilots who can and do operate professionally. The bar should be much higher for the higher performance aircraft companies are trying to bring to market.

Posted by: Richard Hough | February 26, 2008 8:40 PM    Report this comment

back on tack here people - the basic premise was that Adam Aircraft didn't/refused to recognize the reality of the market, and failed to exploit a lucrative pocket . They died.

Posted by: Mark Janis | March 3, 2008 10:43 AM    Report this comment

The real reason Adam Air is where they are: 1. Rick Adam and most of his staff had never manufactured anything before (software is not the same as a flying machine). 2. He and most of his staff had an arrogance that was above and beyond. Many of the few experienced staff were so intimidated by Rick they were afraid to go to far in trying to implement change for fear of losing their jobs.3. To give you an example, when a suggestion from a seasoned aircraft design engineer was made regarding weight savings Rick said I donít need to worry about weight, with 2 engines I have plenty of power. This was pretty much the attitude with any suggestions in ways to save time and money.
4. They had no idea as to the real cost of the plane. They had no WBS or Cost Centers set up; all new engineering, liaison rework, repair etc., was charged to the same budget.
There is a lot more, but I think you all get the point.
The A500 was the first new general aviation aircraft to be certified in many years and and there were several hundred orders for the A700 which had already passed some of the certification requirements.
What a shame that the single mindedness of a man with a good idea but no experience in manufacturing along with not listening to people with that experience cost so many so much.
From some one who was there.

Posted by: Maggie Mae | March 18, 2008 1:02 PM    Report this comment

As a former "flight test and Maintenance manager" for Adam Aircraft, I have to vent my frustration in this venue. You might have heard the phrase "A house divided against itself will fall". During my tenure with Adam Aircraft, there were decisions being made, and management at my level was not included. This set a precedent and in my opinion wound up setting the company up for eventual failure. Flight test is very fluid in it's nature, as you have to be able to make things available for the FAA when requested. However, flight test, has a set of procedures that is to be followed to get an aircraft ready for certification, in a timely matter. Adam Aircraft had at it's disposal a wealth of experience from industry experts and personell that had the experience and know how to get this program (A700)completed. There were numerous things that could have taken place to help expedite the process, but the process would take one step forward and three steps back. I could give specific examples but will not do so in this forum. I think it is time for a wake up call to be had in the general aviation industry for "Senior" management to not turn a deaf ear on it's experienced people. I have since, left the aviation community after 20+ years in the maintenance side of aviation. I believe the start of this thread has hit the nail on the proverbial head. "If they had only listened."


Posted by: Glenn Williams | May 25, 2009 11:28 PM    Report this comment

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