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
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
KL: OK. Well, this door now is installed in a
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,
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
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!
Aero-News: Not remotely close, sorry about
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
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...