It was slightly surreal to see executives from a US kitplane maker, European airliner manufacturer and an Indian airline seated side-by-side on the podium in a press conference room at a business-aviation show. But this can be an odd industry at times.
The catalyst bringing the three together was not there – Indian brewery billionaire Dr Vijay Mallya. He and Epic Aircraft founder Rick Schramek share a love of aeroplanes and racecars and, after meeting at Oshkosh earlier this year, Mallya agreed to invest in Epic, enabling Schramek to realise his dream of certificating a family of very light turboprops and jets.
So where does Airbus come in? Well Mallya’s UB group owns Kingfisher Airlines, which is a major Airbus customer, and Kingfisher has asked Airbus to take a look at Epic to see if it can help certificate the aircraft and maybe benefit from Epic’s composites technology.
Airbus’s involvement may give Mallya more confidence Epic will make good use of his $120 million personal investment, but it’s hard to see how the builder of the 590t A380 mega-liner could help with, or benefit from, certification of the 2.5t Victory personal jet.
It probably couldn’t say no, but Airbus isn’t committing itself. “We have opened the door, but not yet walked through,” said the Airbus exec with a Gallic shrug.