'She Knows The Whole Deal' -- an Interview With Lancair's Kim Lorentzen (Part 1) | Aero-News Network
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Wed, May 25, 2005

'She Knows The Whole Deal' -- an Interview With Lancair's Kim Lorentzen (Part 1)

Customer Service Manager Discusses What Lancair Customers Are Building And How (Part One)

A few weeks back, Jim Campbell visited Lancair Kit Aircraft in Redmond, Oregon, where he got a tour of the company's sophisticated builder-assistance program just before closing time, and took most of the photos that you see here. But in the little time he had, he knew he didn't get the full story.

Most everybody knows that Lancair kits build into fast, sleek airplanes, with irresistible ramp appeal. Many of the readers of this news service know that Lancair has won the Sport Class at Reno for six straight years. But Lancairs have always been fast, sleek and sexy; what's changed is that they used to have a fearsome reputation as a lot of work to build (compounded by the sort of builder the Lancair line attracts: visually oriented perfectionists). The company always backed builders well, but a high-performance plane is a demanding kit project.

But not as demanding as it was. A combination of fast-build product improvements in the kits, and a world-class builders' assistance program, might not have turned the build-difficulty tiger into a pussycat, but the word in the field is that the tiger is tamed. Builders' Assistance gets a lot of the credit.

What was the best way to get the story on Lancair Builders' Assistance? Turned out that Lancair managers, Lancair builders, and Jim all had the same idea: talk to Lancair's veteran Customer Service Manager, Kim Lorentzen (right)... "she knows the whole deal."

And it's a darned interesting story: Lancair will help you build a solid, safe airplane, providing anything from one week's builder assistance, to a ten-week completion program. She even has a suggestion for completion-program participants that should ease their strain a bit. And Lancair follows up with insurance-friendly training through their contractor, High Performance Flight Training. So while building and flying a Lancair is not a trivial undertaking, it doesn't have to be a solitary one.

What all the folks who said, "you have to talk to Kim," didn't mention was how easy she was to interview, even in the carambolage of a major trade show. We snuck off into a trailer, started recording, and... well, let's let Kim take it from there.

Kim Lorentzen: We started the program, I think it was, in 1997. And we started it with a one-week builder assist program, and with that, the customer can come in, in one week, and close out his wings, his horizontal stabilizer and elevator. And that was, back then, for the Lancair IV.

We then integrated it into the ES, and then when the Legacy was developed, we did the same; and the first week's always been the wings and the tail.

Aero-News: So... when the Legacy was developed, was this always in mind? Was it part of the design process, how the building would go?

KL: Well, what we wanted, especially with the Legacy, [was] to make it an easier kit to build. Fewer parts, fewer options, a reasonable build time -- a more realistic project.

Aero-News: Unfortunately the only Lancair builders I've known were Lancair IVP builders, and they have horror stories about doors....

KL: Well, when we started the builder assist program, we started the one-week, it was about the same time, about '97, that we came out with a fast-build door, and a fast-build tail, vertical stabilizer and rudder for a Lancair IV and ES.

Aero-News: Which are two critical parts of the aircraft --

KL: Very. Especially the pressurized door which could take someone 300 hours to build.

Aero-News: I spoke to two guys at North County in Florida (F45) who had 800 man-hours in their door. And these guys had built a Lancair IV before; they were very good builders.

KL: OK. Well, this door now is installed in a day.

Aero-News (awestruck): Wow.

KL: I mean, it's all prebuilt, it's on the frame, latches are in. Everything is ready to go.

Aero-News: I better not tell those two guys in Florida... they'll hang themselves.

KL: It used to be an option, and now we've just incorporated it into the kit price. It was just one of those things; we want everybody to have this fastbuild door.

And then, we started doing a second week builder-assist program, which has the customer coming in -- first week, do the wings and the tail, and second week, they install all the windows, the windshield, and the fastbuild door. So they pre-fit the top fuselage, they cleco it on, and then install the windows and the door. And that's done in week number two.

Aero-News: So that's a couple of big projects, there.

KL: And it varies. The Legacy program is going to be a little bit different because it doesn't have a door. The Legacy has a canopy, though, which is done in the second week. Do you want to talk about the Legacy as well?

Aero-News: I do, I do. I think the Legacy is an interesting addition to the line -- especially the fixed gear. That's something new; I suppose it follows on the success of the ES?

KL: I think what we were looking at for the Legacy fixed-gear was trying to get an inexpensive two-place airplane. It's fiberglass, not carbon; four cylinder engine; we're trying to get it back down to an affordable airplane -- affordable to most, I guess.

Aero-News: It's all relative, isn't it?

KL: Yeah. And just recently, the Legacy fixed gear interest has picked up a lot. Just in the recent, probably, four or five months.

Aero-News (amused): Has anybody asked you if it's Sport Pilot legal?

KL (laughing): Yeah, I get that email a lot! NO.

Aero-News: Not remotely close, sorry about that....

KL: I don't know, what is the horsepower limit on Sport Pilot?

Aero-News: I don't know that there's a horsepower limit, but there's a speed limit. (120kt) There are also stall speed limits (45kt) -- there's a bunch of reasons Lancair won't be building a light sport aircraft.

KL: Don't have it in our plans, but....

KL: When Joe [Bartels] bought the company two and a half years ago, he just wanted to offer more help, more assistance. So with that, we started doing a third week and a fourth week. So then, people were putting their fairings on, they were setting their vertical stabilizer, they were doing side-stick controls.

If you're building a turbine, the belly tank goes on in Week #3, the fairings go on in Week #4, and you can ask any of the Lancair IB and ES customers about fairings. That's another one of those "door jobs." (laughs).

[At this point we had a long digression about a mutual acquaintance who was once in the Lancair building community. In the spirit of, "if you can't find anything good to say about a fellow..." that portion of the interview is redacted.]

To Be Continued...
FMI: www.lancair-kits.com

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