Icon Aircraft has partnered with Cirrus Aircraft to produce composite airframe components for the A5 amphibious sport aircraft, and perhaps pave the way for collaboration on other technologies.
The agreement bolsters start-up Icon's plan to ramp up production to more than 100 units within a year of delivering the first A5 in mid-2013.
Cirrus already makes similar airframes using composite-sandwich production techniques for the SR20 and SR22 at its Grand Forks, North Dakota factory. However, the factory's output has been reduced since the global recession in 2008. Cirrus briefly assembled 16 aircraft per week in Grand Forks, but now builds between six and eight aircraft per week.
"In terms of physical capacity [in Grand Forks] we have the ability to add quite a bit," Cirrus says.
Cirrus will deliver the composite airframes to Icon's final assembly plant in Tehachapi, California.
The agreement does not address other possible contributions by Cirrus to the A5 programme, such as avionics or the airframe parachute system. But both companies are open to broadening the partnership.
"The core capabilities of Icon and Cirrus are highly complementary, and this new pairing creates extraordinary potential for the future of aviation," Kirk Hawkins, founder and chief executive of Icon, said in a statement.
Cirrus agrees that the relationship on the A5 could be expanded over time.
"As the partnership matures there are other areas that can be explored by both companies, but we need to walk before we run," Cirrus says. "We share a point of view about aviation growth, advancing materials and innovation."
Icon expects to begin building the first production airframe by the end of the year - more than three years behind the original schedule. The same global recession that struck Cirrus affected sources of start-up financing for Icon.
The company started to climb out of its financial hole last year, closing a round of financing worth up to $25 million.