Sky’s the Limit for Bend’s Epic Aircraft

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(Epic Aircraft Team | Photo Courtesy of Epic Aircraft)

General Aviation Leader Takes Turboprop Tech to Next Level with New E1000 GX

Bend general aviation powerhouse Epic Aircraft is setting new standards for next-generation turboprop airplane innovation as the culmination of an often arduous multi-year journey toward regulatory approval, won through significant investment and passion for the product.

Since its founding in 2004 when it launched with an experimental aircraft — the Epic LT — the company has grown to be a major employer in Central Oregon with a workforce which has swelled to around 300.

CEO Doug King, a lifelong aviation enthusiast who took the helm in 2010, has resolutely guided the company’s certification efforts, resulting in a successful ‘Type’ certification (as in the approval to manufacture duplicate products under an FAA-approved type design) for the Epic E1000 industry-leading carbon fiber aircraft in November 2019.

Powered by the Pratt & Whitney 1,200-horsepower PT6A-67A engine, the plane delivers impressive cruise speeds over 333 knots, climbs at 4,000 feet per minute and operates up to 34,000 feet, with a maximum payload over 2,200 pounds and a full fuel payload of 1,100 pounds.

Achieving regulatory approval to sanction manufacture of such aircraft involves an exhaustive five-phase process spanning rigorous design and performance assessments. Increasingly stringent FAA regulations for aircraft design along with supply-chain issues were only a few of the issues that added complexity and time to the effort regarding greenlighting Epic’s six-place single-engine turboprop.

King said, “We had some opportunities to accelerate the [type-certification] schedule but were unwilling to do so if it compromised performance.”

The company originally chose to start marketing the LT experimental version of the turboprop to build capital for the certification effort and had hoped for approval of the E1000 by 2015.

But the process was hampered by a series of delays and if not for the backing of Russian owners S7/Engineering LLC — who took ownership in 2012 — and a boundless passion for the product from the company leadership, the journey might have ended in similarly unceremonious circumstances to other aircraft manufacturers who had to exit Deschutes County, such as Columbia and Cessna — though one upshot was the legacy of a pool of talented composite builders in the area.

Epic persevered as an innovative company that complements its exceptional engineering and technology with a highly personalized approach to doing business and, despite the recent pandemic-related setbacks, operations returned to full capacity and the company ramped up customer deliveries as swiftly as possible.

King said, “The challenges presented by COVID-19 have been unexpected and considerable. But never underestimate the skills and determination of our dedicated staff, who persevered, engineered and improvised in order to keep our production lines moving, so we could deliver planes and meet customer expectations.

“We have an incredible team, and I am honored to work with them.”

Epic received advance orders from customers from the U.S. to Canada, Mexico, Central/South America, Europe, Russia and South Africa for E1000’s built in its company-owned Bend-Airport based production facilities totaling over 300,000 square feet. The company doubled its composite fabrication capacity, invested heavily in tooling, equipment, curing ovens and refined workflows to accelerate the E1000 production ramp.

When it was officially launched, the Epic E1000 garnered universal praise, including receiving Flying Magazine’s 2020 Innovation Award, which recognizes the most innovative product to have reached the general aviation market in the previous year. It was also selected by Plane & Pilot Magazine as its 2020 Plane of the Year.

Epic Aircraft won widespread acclaim for redefining the rules of aviation with an artful combination of turbine power, composite technology, advanced avionics — and luxury — packaged in a sleek, all carbon fiber airframe, which caused the industry to sit up and take notice.

Following certification of the E1000, concluding a rigorous seven-year program that established a new industry standard for performance, price and ramp appeal in the personal aircraft marketplace, King hailed it as, “A remarkable accomplishment for our entire community,” adding, “I want to thank our employees, who have worked so diligently to deliver this exceptional design, as well as our partners, suppliers and customers, who have faithfully supported us each step of the way. It has been a true team effort, along with the fantastic support of the FAA.

“Transitioning the original experimental design into a certified version was the chance to offer a truly compelling product to the industry, a ‘no compromises’ aircraft that customers would really want. And they do.

“Completing the deliveries has been a tremendous milestone for our company and our customers. The E1000 is a remarkable aircraft and seeing the enthusiasm of our owners as they take delivery is extremely gratifying.

“This is the successful culmination of eight years of hard work, extensive investment and a passionate belief in our product.”

Prior to joining Epic Aircraft, King owned several highly successful transaction processing and computer services businesses in Southern California. He was instrumental in revitalizing the operations of Syncro Aircraft in Van Nuys, California, a premier business jet refurbishment center on the west coast that specializes in Gulfstream, Learjet, Hawker, Boeing and Dassault Falcon aircraft.

Initially involved with Epic Aircraft as an LT aircraft owner, King said of the company’s newest upgraded flagship product, “The Epic E1000 GX is an amazing plane. I just went up to Coeur d’Alene. It’s about 280 nautical miles — a pretty short flight.

“But the thing climbs so great. I went ahead and went all the way up to flight level 330 [33,000 feet] on the way up and 340 [34,000 feet] on the way back, sipping fuel at less than 50 gallons an hour and going over 300 knots [345 mph].

“It’s just one of the most efficient machines. It’s a joy to fly. So smooth and quiet. It’s really fantastic, as an aircraft where performance, function and form are the cornerstone of our pilot-driven design process.

“This summer, I actually jumped in one of the airplanes and flew around the world. I had a great trip, bringing some interesting pilots along with me at various stages.

“It was a chance to show off the airplane and go all the way across Russia, and back through Alaska and down back to Bend, Oregon. It was a complete lap involving 48 flights and ten countries!

“I’ve made flying part of my business. Whether I was working in software in computers, or doing something in the aviation business, flying airplanes — general aviation — has always been a part of it.

“I still own a Cessna 182 that I let the employees here fly. We have a little flying club and our engineers and technicians love to fly.

“Epic is all about the passion of aviation and the people in it are super passionate about what we do. It’s a fun place.

“It’s all done right here. We build 587 composite parts that make up the airplane and they are all made right here in this building in Bend. It comes in as a roll of fabric at one end and rolls out as an airplane at the other.

“For the future, we’ll keep making improvements and adding features and growing the E1000 GX into more destinations, more features, more benefits and more performance — all of that. So we intend to be at this for a long, long time…”

Epic Aircraft also announced that it is hosting an onsite manufacturing job fair on Saturday, Dec. 4 from 9 a.m. to noon at its south campus location at 22550 Nelson Road, near the Bend Airport.

Epic Manufacturing Manager Don Hawkins said, “We’re growing to meet the demand for our industry-leading Epic E1000 GX, and we have a number of exciting opportunities available in our manufacturing division

“Our team members take so much pride in building our planes. This isn’t about punching a time clock, but rather working together to deliver the best airplane in the industry.”

Job seekers can explore a number of entry-level manufacturing positions at the fair, including composite layup, assembly, trim and drill and paint. Epic Aircraft offers competitive wages, a comprehensive benefits packages and on-the-job training.

“We have a number of manufacturing positions where we’ll be able to hire on-the-spot at the job fair,” added Epic Recruiting Manager Kelly Strunk. “It’s a great opportunity for anyone interested in a manufacturing job, working within a growing industry and company as well as joining a team of passionate aviation enthusiasts.”

For more information, visit epicaircraft.com/careers.

About Epic Aircraft
Epic Aircraft, LLC specializes in the design and manufacture of high performance, all composite, six-seat single-engine, turboprop aircraft. Epic is a privately held, design-driven aviation company that conducts all of its engineering, manufacturing and administrative operations at its Bend, Oregon headquarters.

epicaircraft.com

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Simon Mather — CBN Feature Writer

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