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 LESSONS LEARNED - My experiences having an experimental airplane built by someone else 

I must first point out the purpose of this letter is NOT INTENDED to bash any particular individual or any company, but rather to relay my "true and factual" experiences, as they occurred from April 1999 to the present, and make everyone aware that having an experimental airplane built can be a very long and frustrating experience.  I never minded the long wait was not knowing what progress was being made.   In my case, I firmly believed that my airplane, when completed, would be everything I hoped it would be.   For the record, I was one of Airborne Innovations' (AI), LLC., Webster, TX, greatest fans, which were shown by my previous web pages on the Star Streak Shadow aircraft.   These airplane pages were archived in February 2002, preserved for posterity.   My web site had always been a personal web site and has never been affiliated with, or acted as an agent of any kit plane company.

These are only a few of my frustrations, observations, and suggestions:

1.  I ordered my Star Streak airplane in March 1999.  Building started in April 1999 and the airplane was originally scheduled for completion in July 1999.  Before I agreed to have AI build my airplane, I visited the factory in Houston, TX; met with the airplane builder, and even the aircraft's  British designer, and felt that these individuals were technically capable of building my airplane.  

Since AI always had a shell of a staff, airplane building was accomplished primarily by only one individual, the AI Pres./CEO.  (Mr. G.A.D.) Most of the building was done in the evenings and on weekends.   Because of this, the build time was much longer that was originally advertised by AI.  Continued schedule slippages due to technical parts difficulties, major rebuilds, and limited individual building times, caused the extremely long delay.  Unfortunately, this long delay does not have a happy ending.   When I ordered my airplane, I was going to have a Rotax 618 (2 cylinder - 2 stroke) engine installed.  In May 2001, I was advised that the Rotax 618 engine was discontinued by the manufacturer, but AI felt that the more powerful Rotax 912 engine (4 cylinder - 4 stroke) could be safely installed.  I was asked to send more money to cover the difference in engine prices.  It seemed like a reasonable request and I sent AI another payment (as it turns out the final payment).  Of course in 20/20 hindsight, it was another successful attempt by AI to get more of my money.   

-- My airplane was used to validate AI's aircraft kit parts.  This was not an initial concern, but frequently caused my plane to take last place in building priority.  Frequently other new kit orders took precedence over building my plane. 

  • Include in the Sales Contract a firm delivery date, with penalties if the delivery dates slip.  Insure that the company has a "First In - First Out" philosophy.  Since there was not a specified delivery date for my order, I was at the mercy of the manufacturer to complete my airplane in a reasonable timeframe.  Big Mistake!!

2.  Communication between AI and me had been very minimal, and at times almost non-existent.  Phone calls were not returned in a timely manner or at all.  Emails were rarely answered.  I'm sure that there are many others, around the world, who share my frustration concerning LACK OF  COMMUNICATION between a vendor and a consumer.  As if communication between AI and myself wasn't bad enough, all communication from AI  eventually stopped in July 2001.  All attempts to contact AI by email, phone, and registered mail failed!  I did have a surprise call the end of November 2001, but still no refund.

-- Businesses MUST communicate with their customers.  Communication between any company and their  customers is paramount.  Since I haven't received any new build pictures in eight months, I didn't even have a clue what state of build my airplane is in.  As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.  Since it was so difficult to get building progress pictures sent from AI, perhaps this should have been another "early warning" that all was not well? 

  • Include in the Sales Contract, specific communication procedures to keep the customer appraised of work accomplishment and technical problems, etc.  Make sure the customer is appraised of all technical deviations before they happen.

3.  I paid AI approximately 80% of the total cost of my airplane, from May 1999 to May 2001 and paid my last 20% payment in May 2001.

-- My money was spent well in advance of my initially expected aircraft delivery.   

  • Include in the Sales Contract, progress payments based on performance and reaching specific milestones.

Conclusion:  I will sure think twice before I ever consider having another experimental airplane built again!!! 


 Of course, I never did get my plane built and no money has ever been refunded to me. UPDATE: It is December 2003 and I am still out $35,000.
Mr. G. A. D. has disappeared again. Funny...he doesn't even think he ripped me off.

 You make the call, was I scammed ???