When -- and they all assume it is when, not if -- they finally get the revolutionary Avtek 400 rolled on to the Camarillo, Calif., airport runway, there will be a handful of old men standing in the warm sunshine beside hangar #3, looking for vindication.
Sixty-one-year-old Dr. Leo Windecker should be there, eyes gleaming behind his polished bifocals. A former dentist turned materials expert, 14 years ago he launched the Eagle I -- the only all-composite airplane ever to win Federal Aviation Administration certification -- then watched as production was shut down by his investors after just seven planes were built.
Seventy-eight-year-old Al Mooney should be there, if his health permits. Creator of the only production aircraft in history to deliver a mile-per-hour of speed for each horsepower, he, too, once had his own company, Mooney Aircraft Corp., now a subsidiary of Republic Steel Corp.
Bill Taylor, the legendary 70-year-old test pilot originally scheduled to fly the 400, might drive up from Palm Springs. Sixty-nine-year-old John Carroll, a former international captain at Trans World Airlines Inc. who cme out of semiretirement to work on the plane, also should be there, if he is at work that day.
And 63-year-old Bob Adickes, a retired TWA pilot, will certainly be there, probably wearing the red, white, and blue striped tie he favors for symbolic occasions. Although his name isn't on the plane, Adickes is the driving force in Avtek Corp., the chairman, chief executive officer, and chief investor. He combined the people, technology, and money to launch the project, then kept the self-proclaimed "gerontology company" alive.
It will be a strange-looking plane that rolls past them, a futuristic, six-to-nine-passenger turboprop, white and red, with both Avtek's and Du Pont's logos emblazoned on the tail. Instead of propellers in front, to pull, they will be in the rear, to push. Instead of a stabilizer in the tail, there will be a small wing, known as a canard, over the cockpit. And there will be no rivets holding it all together; the body will be smooth and sleek, fluid-molded space-age plastic.
First flight provides only a moment of drama. The plane will taxi down and back the 9,000-foot runway, then increase its speed and lift off, two or three feet above the tarmac, flying 300 feet or so while the pilot gingerly tests the controls, before setting down to be rolled back into the duncolor hangar. But when it comes, first flight will mark a long-awaited milestone for Adickes and Avtek. It will bring the plane a little closer to FAA certification, the single largest hurdle facing any new aircraft. And it will mark one more step in Adickes's plan to turn an idea into a giant public corporation in just eight years.
Avtek is not alone. A new generation of aircraft is being born -- in Camarillo and Wichita; in Reno, Nev.; and Genoa, Italy. All four will be built of composite materials, all four with pusher engines, three with canards. But the race to market the plane of the future is an arduous and expensive marathon. Gates Learjet Corp. has the backing of Italy's Industrie Aeronautiche E Maccaniche Rinaldo Piaggio for its entry. Kansas's Beech Aircraft Corp., whose King Air is the best-selling business twin on the market today, has an estimated $250-million research and development budget to create its $2.7-million Beechcraft Starship 1. In Nevada, the $2.2-million Lear Fan, launched in 1978, has already cost its manufacturer about $200 million as it struggles for certification.
Avtek is different. The 400 isn't being built in a large-scale R&D or design-and-engineering department; it is being created in a skunkworks, by a pickup team of grayhaired aviation experts and veteran commercial and military pilots, most of whom work as part-time consultants. Although such well-heeled corporate giants as Dow Chemical, E.I. Du Pont de Nemours, Japan's Toray Industries, and the aircraft builder Aeronca are tied to the project with equity, Avtek is working on a shoestring. About $3 million has been spent for start-up. Another $32 million is budgeted to build and test the first plane, but only a fraction has been raised. And the company has guaranteed potential customers in writing that the Avtek 400 will be faster and more economical -- and, at $1.5 million, far cheaper -- than anything else in the sky or on the drawing board.
"We're going to teach the big airplane companies the same lessons Datsun taught Detroit," Adickes promises. By this spring, even before first flight, 102 planes had been sold, destined for corporate aviation departments and owner/operators, each secured with a $100,000 escrow deposit. But Avtek guaranteed more than price and performance in its contracts; it also guaranteed that the plane could win FAA certification by the end of 1985.
It is a race to the deadline, and Avtek has had to scramble. Adickes runs a bootstrap operation, and last summer, when the company should have been gearing up, the money temporarily ran dry. When the airplane was first exhibited by Du Pont -- as a radio-controlled one-fifth scale model at the May 1983 Paris Air Show -- Avtek had plans for first flight in August. By October, the predicted date had been pushed to November. Then December. Then January 1984. Then April.
In April, Adickes was predicting they would finally fly the plane in July. Or later in the summer. It all depends on when the money comes in.
When, Bob Adickes insists. Not if.
An autographed picture of Charles A. Lindbergh, a hero of Bob Adickes's Texas boyhood, hangs on the wall of his modest office, facing a signed portrait of Dwight D. Eisenhower, an Adickes passenger during the war. A small red and white model TWA 747, a memento of 35,000 flying hours, sits on the corner of his desk, across from his model of the Avtek 400. A bright red poster over the door proclaims the wisdom of Chin Ho, a Honolulu industrialist: "Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome."
"Adickes was the least typical airline pilot I ever knew," says Avtek's director of international operations, John Carroll, a close friend since the two met at TWA in 1942. "He doesn't want to make a million dollars, he wants to make $100 million. He's bright, brash, and multitalented. Opportunist is too shallow a word. He creates his own opportunities. He's driven."
Adickes was always more than just a pilot. "I've had the same dream ever since I was a boy," he muses, "maybe because I grew up in the Depression. I've been working since I was 14, but I still have the nightmare that I'll wake up and I won't have a job." Flying international, he would use his spare time out of the cockpit to mingle with the VIPs in first class. He parlayed his role as the first line pilot to test the 707 prototype into a meeting with Howard Hughes, and went on to do acquisitions negotiations for TWA's celebrated principal stockholder. "Flying was just a front for me," he admits. "Using the guise of a TWA pilot, I'd scout deals." In 1952, he founded Aviation Consultants Inc., an investment and market research firm with offices in California, Switzerland, Panama, and Texas. After his "premature retirement" from TWA in 1981, he kept Aviation Consultants going. He also founded Composit-Air Inc., a Newbury Park, Calif., manufacturer of composite components for commercial airplanes.
A brass model of the projected Lear Fan sits on the credenza behind Adickes's desk, and therein lies a tale, the story of how a competitor gave birth to the Avtek 400.
Bill Lear, best known for the Learjet and the first commercial eight-track auto tape player, had one last aviation dream before he died: to build a twin-engine turboprop that would combine all the latest technologies, a plane that would be faster and cheaper than anything aloft. After Lear's death in 1978 his widow, Moya, struggled to keep the idea alive. With funds running out, she turned to Adickes, a longtime associate of her husband and a family friend, for help in getting the plane built.
"She didn't think I could get the money," Adickes says. "But I remembered something I'd read by Somerset Maugham when I was 15. He said if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it."
So Adickes flew to London for tea with Margaret Thatcher. On February 10, 1980, the deal was announced. The British government would provide open-ended financing to bring the Lear Fan into production in Northern Ireland.
Adickes's finder's fee was to be $2.2 million. With that, he planned to start Avtek.
Like Bill Lear, Adickes had been conscious of the need for a new generation of turboprop planes ever since the oil embargo of 1973 sent fuel prices up. Although the market was about to slump, Adickes still saw opportunity: With deregulation allowing scheduled airlines to cut back service to all but the largest cities, time-saving corporate aircraft would become ever more important to the business executive -- if they were affordable.
His first step was market research. He hired consultants to run a computerized study of the opportunities in business aviation for the next 20 years. By 1990, he projected, 1,800 business planes would be sold each year, 1,200 of them turboprops in the $1-million to $14-million range. Then Adickes ran the performance specification parameters of every airplane that he he found his niche.
"I needed a plane that could fly 400 mph, get 10 mpg, go coast to coast, and cost about $1.5 million," he says. If it could be built, he estimated, the plane would sell 1,644 units in the first seven years, capturing 10% to 15% of the market by 1990. So he asked Mooney if it could be done.
"[He] told me it could, but that it would have to look funny," Adickes remembers. "It would have no horizontal stabilizers, for low drag; no tractor propellers, for smooth airflow over the wings; and no metal."
The answers Mooney came up with were the answers Avtek's competitors would come up with as well. Back in the era of cheap fuel, more powerful engines were the only weapon a designer needed in the battle against gravity and wind resistance. Today, the designer has to trim weight.
It is a bit surprising that the plane of the future looks somewhat like the plane of the past: The fragile craft the Wright brothers flew at Kitty Hawk 81 years ago had a canard and twin fan pushers, too. Tractor engines create turbulence; pushers, which don't have that turbulence to fly through, are more efficient. The wing on the tail, a novelty when it was introduced in 1910, merely stabilizes a plane. Rather than lifting, it pulls downward, requiring the main wing to lift 110% of the total weight. A canard, on the other hand, lifts as well as stabilizes; on the Avtek 400 the main wing need only lift 76% of the weight. In addition, a canard makes a plane virtually stallproof. If it didn't, the Wrights might never have lived long enough to learn to fly.
The idea behind composite structures reflects an even more basic design. "All structures are composites," Leo Windecker points out. "Bones, for example, are cellular cores wrapped with elastic fibers." As a practicing dentist in Lake Jackson, Tex., then home of a Du Pont research facility, Windecker treated many of the research chemists; conversations and curiosity led him to a new career in materials research. "The dental degree is half in engineering and half in medicine anyway," he says. "In those days, the dentist needed to know more about materials fatigue than the engineer, because the mouth is such a harsh environment."
Windecker left his practice in 1959 to do consulting R&D, beginning a 25-year association with Dow Chemical Co. that would lead to 41 patents and the title "The Father of Composite Aircraft." The skin of the Avtek 400 represents the furthest advance of his work: pound for pound, it is 5 times stronger than steel, 15 times stronger than aluminum. The surface consists of an outer skin, an unwoven unidirectional Du Pont Kevlar embedded in a Dow epoxy-resin matrix cured at 250 degrees F. and bonded to a core of Du Pont aramid Nomex honeycomb, which is bonded to an inner skin identical in construction to the outer skin. The Avtek 400's body, like an eggshell, is a monocoque, using composites to spread the weight and stress throughout the skin itself. That makes it lighter than a conventionally built plane, which has sections of the skin attached to metal structs and bulkheads, and in which the rivets alone can add 15% to the weight.
The Avtek 400 wasn't designed to be revolutionary, but its combination of evolutionary steps in design, materials, and construction would make it so. The new Beechcraft Starship 1 will weigh 12,500 pounds, gross weight; the Lear Fan 2100, 7,350 pounds. The Avtek 400, when it is built, will weigh just 5,500 pounds.
"I have a philosophy I learned from Mr. Hughes," Adickes explains. "Mr. Hughes always said, if you're going to build something, get the best experts in the world. I'm not very smart myself, so I went out and hired smart people."
Adickes broke the project down into 23 different disciplines, then looked for experts around the world, hiring from a pool of friends and associates from a lifetime in aviation. Leo Windecker. Al Mooney. Bill Taylor. Paul MacCready, who designed the pedal-powered Gossamer Condor and the Gossamer Albatross. Malcolm E. "Mac" Pruitt, former vice-president for research at Dow Chemical. Edgar Schmued, father of the P-51 Mustang. Kigen Kawai, the Japanese polymer chemistry master. An expert for the electrical system. An expert on propeller design. An expert to build the model for the wind tunnel. Most were fliers. Most were friends. John Carroll called them "the gerontology company," and the name stuck.
Nothing, Adickes vowed, would be done by committee. He would keep the staff lean. One expert, one job.
Research had shown him the market. His experts had brought him the technology. His job was to come up with the money.
Bob Adickes works best on his feet, mesmerizing his audience with a flow of words and ideas, feigning dispassionate reason with just a touch of down-home.
"Business is a form of warfare," he explains, "and the enemy is the competition." He turns to his big board and picks up a marking pen. "Von Clausewitz," he writes in bold blue letters.
"Do you know the first question the Prussian military strategist von Clausewitz asks a commander?" he asks. "It's, 'Do you want to win?' If you don't want to win, don't fight.
"To win I need a mass of force. And I need to come in to the market in 1986. I have great faith in my competitors' ability to spend money. I don't have the money they have, so my mass will have to be in brains."
No matter how tired he is at the end of a day, Adickes loves to talk tactics. He will let the words flow, quietly at first, as if he were an outsider admiring his strategy for its sheer grace of structure. Then his enthusiasm bubbles up. "I'm a deal maker," he will say, jumping to his feet with sudden passion. "I love making deals."
Although his immediate target is to bring to market the best and the cheapest among a generation of state-of-the-art turboprops, merely building a plane was never his major objective. He wanted to create a growth company over eight years. He would build sales steadily and dramatically for three years, then take the company public, bootstrapping his capital and keeping tight equity control.
The plan spills out, step by step. "I started out in 1980 with $650,000 of H.E.M." he says, turning to his board. "You know what H.E.M. means, don't you?" he asks, underlining each letter. "That's Helen's Egg Money -- phase one." He used the loan from his wife for preliminary design, market analysis, and first hires.
"Phase two -- start-up -- 1982 -- $3 million." Avtek incorporates. Adickes bought $2 million of founder's stock at 10? a share, 66% of the equity. Kigen Kawai, his polymer chemist, bought 12% for $400,000 and set up Avtek Far East. Aeronca Inc., the airplane builder, and Dow Chemical Co. bought $200,000 and $100,000 worth, respectively, with the rest going to employees and friends.
To keep control of the growth he expected, and to reassure potential investors, he established large-scale systems from the start. Deloitte Haskins & Sells, the Big Eight accountants, consulted on his business plan and pro forma and agreed to do yearly audits. He hired Dorothy Sholer, the Deloitte associate on his account, as his vice-president/controller, with a mandate to develop and improve all accounting systems.
Then came "phase three -- R&D -- $2 million." This is where Avtek stands now, a few months away from first flight. The goal at present is to build a single "proof of concept" plane, a critical step toward certification, to prove that what works on the drawing board will work in the air. Adickes has $1.2 million from a limited partnership, which includes Du Pont among its members. The remainder of his R&D money was raised in Japan.
The next step is the hardest: "phase four -- certification." The FAA's approval to begin selling can be a stumbling block: Lear has been stalled there for about two years and has already spent from $70 million to $100 million on certification. Adickes has guaranteed that he can complete the process by the end of 1985. "$20 million," Adickes writes confidently. That is five times what he has been able to raise so far.
"That's a lot of money," he admits. Although it pains him, he is willing to give up some shares to raise it, selling stock at $6.60 a share, half in Japan and half in the United States, by private placement, two-thirds straight and one-third as subordinated debentures with warrants. His holdings will then have dropped from 65% to 32%, but the paper value of each share will have soared 6,500%.
Then, assuming he can win certification and meet his guarantee, the plan gets elegant. Think of an oversize Revell model, pieces of molded plastic that can be joined at the seams. "Manufacturing -- phase five" and "assembly -- phase six" of the Avtek 400 work in much the same way.
Four-fifths of the Avtek 400 will consist of components purchased from other companies, from Pratt & Whitney engines to B. F. Goodrich tires; Avtek will need to provide only an airframe to carry them. Adickes already has his eye on an abandoned textile factory in Japan's Osaka area, where Avtek Far East and Toray Industries will make the 52 molded pieces he will need. He likes the high-quality, low-cost work provided by robotics and the highly motivated Japanese work force, and he likes the fact that the Japanese will arrange the financing. Once molded, the parts will be put into sets and shipped to Texas to be assembled by Aeronca. There he will need a new, 96,000-square-foot plant; he plans to build it with $8 million in industrial revenue bonds.
At the same time, he will finally be making some money. "Heavy Metal -- phase seven." Made of plastics, an Avtek could be made to be invisible on radar; its predecessor, the Windecker Eagle, was the precursor to the Stealth bomber. Adickes expects to do defense work, too. "$6 million," he writes on the board.
In 1986, the real money starts coming in. That year, according to Adickes's calculations, Avtek Far East will manufacture, Aeronca will assemble, and Avtek will deliver 50 planes. In 1987, 150 planes.In 1988, 200.
"Then I'll go public," Adickes says in triumph. "Everything has been calculated toward phase eight -- I.P.O." He writes in large capital letters on his board. With three straight years of sales growth -- $157 million, $240 million, and $315 million -- he hopes for a valuation of more than $400 million for the company. He will still own 32% at the offering, and he expects to see each 10? founder's share fetch about $60.
The prospect clearly delights him.In the abstract, with the numbers and letters in bold blue relief on the board, it looks inevitable, and he is convinced that he has the energy and the assembled brains to make it concrete.
Going public is not the end, however. Companies, like airplanes, evolve over time, and Adickes expects Avtek to capture 15% of the market by 1990 and more later: "I've always said that what I'd like is to have 5% of a $1-billion company."
Not that he will want to be working by then, not on a day-to-day basis at least. He is already in negotiations to hire his replacement as president, to leave him the time to work on his deals. "The only reason I'm president now is that I said I'd work for free."
Things began smoothly enough. Dubbing his creation Avtek Inc. -- the name a fractured acronym for Advanced Technology -- Adickes set up offices in a low-slung stucco industrial park one mile from the Camarillo airport, an hour and a half northwest of Los Angeles, among the cabbage patches and strawberry fields not yet converted into condominium villages for young marrieds and retirees.
A seven-foot wingspan model of the Avtek 400 flew in the spring of 1983 at the Paris Air Show, courtesy of Du Pont. At the time, CEO Adickes confidently predicted that his company would fly the plane within a year.
Privately, however, he didn't know how he would do it. Neither the Lear Fan financing fee nor the money from the limited partnership was coming through. He didn't have the $2 million he needed for his R&D, and the clock was ticking toward the 1985 certification deadline, guaranteed in his sales contracts, the linchpin of his whole edifice.
Lear Fan Ltd. had its own problems: With the company hemorrhaging cash, Moya Lear had sold it to a mysterious investment consortium, rumored to be Saudi Arabian. Although Adickes had closed the deal with Great Britain in February 1980, by the fall of 1983, when he was ready to start building, he still hadn't gotten his fee. He swapped shots in the press with Denver oilman Robert Burch, Lear's board chairman. But rather than putting $2.2 million in the company coffers, he was contemplating attorneys' fees.
There were problems with the limited R&D partnership funding as well. To avoid the baleful eye of the Internal Revenue Service, the Avtek package would eventually be set up as conservatively as possible, with the company and the partnership at arm's length, with an independent tax attorney and an independent auditor holding the majority of the general partnership, and with Avtek represented only by Adickes's daughter. The limited partners would get a 300% return on their investment, and the partnership would own the technology, leasing it to Avtek with no guaranteed buy-back. To produce a document incorporating all those provisions would take Adickes through the fall and winter, six months, two law firms, and thousands upon thousands of dollars.
"It was a terrible, terrible time," controller Sholer remembers."We were on a tightrope for week after week. We couldn't buy components. We couldn't afford an electrical system. We had to put the consultants on hold." While Adickes scrambled to borrow from private sources, Sholer ran two budgets, one realistic, the other optimistic, and spent her days working on risk analysis and cash flow.
In the spring of last year, cash flow was almost down to the interest on the $100,000 escrow deposits. By June, it wasn't enough. On Friday, June 10, "with Bob out of town, in Texas or New York or both, looking for money," Sholer called the staff together in the shop and announced that the company couldn't meet a payroll. The full-time engineering staff, already small, was trimmed from three and a half to two. The shop team was cut back to Adickes' brother-in-law and one helper. Adickes himself refused to get discouraged, but there was some muttered talk that he was slowing things down by being so stingy with stock.
"Just when we should have been gearing up for the proof of concept, we had to cut back," Niels Andersen, vice-president of engineering, recalls "There was a loss of continuity in personnel. And you lose track of details -- where things are filed, what has or has not been done. We were so tight on funds that ordering office stationery might take away money for a bolt.
"Psychologically, it was tough. I had left corporate perks and a very secure position. Then you ask yourself, 'Am I wasting my time?"
But Andersen didn't leave. He liked being a "hands-on" engineer again, and, he says, "I never had any doubts about the viability of the plane, just about the finance." Carl Roberts, one of the engineers laid off in June, wouldn't even file for unemployment. "I didn't want to look for another job," he explains. "I like working on this. It's small, it's new, and I get a kick out of working to put it in the air."
Adickes was indefatigable, rallying the disheartened around his vision of the future while he looked for cash for the present. "He's a master at pursuing four options at the same time -- a preferred plan and three alternatives," Sholer marvels. "A magician," Windecker says. "He kept this thing afloat when no one else could have." After months of courting investors and explaining the plan to due-diligence teams, Adickes closed the R&D partnership last September. But it was for only $1.2 million, not the $2 million he had hoped for, short $400,000 he needed to fly his proof-of-concept plane and short another $400,000 he had wanted to gear up for certification, to begin making production molds, and to record a small profit on the deal. While The Nomura Securities Co., the Japanese investment house, looked good to put up the other $800,000, coming to terms would take time.
There were management problems brewing as well. Bill Taylor, who had been expected not only to be the test pilot of the plane but also to run the day-to-day operation while Adickes juggled the financing, had retired to his home on a Palm Springs golf course after the board of directors decided they needed someone with more formal engineering experience. So while the CEO was away, the necessary decisions -- whether to buy bolts for the shop or stationery for the office -- were made by the vice-presidents. Three vice-presidents, three decisions.
But Adickes kept scrambling, and by this past spring his persistence was paying off. Besides the funds coming in from the limited partnership, the dispute with Lear Fan was settled by court order for an undisclosed amount in October 1983, and in March the negotiations with Nomura Securities were completed. It wasn't all that Adickes had hoped for -- the Japanese invested $400,000, not $800,000, and insisted on buying equity for their investment -- but Avtek had enough money to begin again. The consultants went back to work. The engineering staff climbed to five, including Carl Roberts. Management problems were solved when Leo Windecker agreed to oversee operations, and Windecker recruited Jerry Redman, a colleague from the old days at Windecker Industries, to oversee the shop.
They are now gearing up to finish and fly the plane. Even gearing up, however, the shop looks like an oversize hobbyist's garage. The blue molds sit at the back of the workroom gathering dust, sheaves of drawings are stacked against the wall; paper ice buckets, filled with screws and bolts, are scattered across the concrete floor. The plane, or what has been built so far, sits in the center, resting on carpet patches on a makeshift wooden stand, with two of the shop crew putting in the windows. It has no wings yet, and no canard; the engine mount sits in the corner. Adickes brought his 29-year-old son, Robert Jr., a bearded, long-haired bush pilot in a Harley-Davidson T-shirt, from Alaska to lend a hand; a master extemporaneous machinist, he is at work on the door.
Although incomplete, the Avtek 400 has kept drawing rave reviews. Du Pont called it a "pioneering effort." The program director of advanced composites at Boeing Commercial Airplane Co. labeled it "a remarkable aircraft." Flight International magazine predicted "it could overturn conventional business twin design." Air Progress magazine called it "the bold, new contender."
"For the first time, we can fly four passengers at airline speed with lower-than-airline ticket prices and have the flexibility of selecting our own schedules and destinations," marvels Captain Howard Holland, director of flight operations for Congoleum Corp.
Adickes, warmed by the praise, professes to be unperturbed by the delays. The postponements, he insists, were unfortunate but hardly fatal. "If I had had $100 million, I could have spent it, but it would have been wrong, because I would have had to amortize it. Besides, I'm just naturally cheap." He dismisses, too, the notion that he could have moved faster by spreading his equity around. "This project is going to win," he says. "If there's something that won't win, let's change it.
"I've still got a dozen alternatives. The board of directors put $2 million on my life. If things go badly, they can shoot me."
Although Adickes discourages his staff members from continually predicting when they will finally fly the plane, he guesses it will come later this summer. "But so what if I don't fly then -- do I turn into a pumpkin?" he asks.He finally has the money for the test flight in hand; now he is focused on raising the cash he will need for certification, his biggest hurdle.
Outside observers rate his chances as excellent. "The design looks good," Christopher Demisch, aviation analyst for First Boston Corp. in New York City, says. "If the prototype looks good, there will be enough money for the boys at Avtek to go on. I don't think money will be the problem; the plane will fly on its own merits."
And Adickes has a plan for the certification campaign, a strategy that would do both von Clausewitz and Mr. Hughes proud. He worked it out, researching and graphing the cost and time of each of the more than 1,700 tests the plane will have to pass. Next he came up with a schedule and a $15.6-million cost estimate. Then, once again, he went to the experts: Besides Leo Windecker, the only man in history ever to certify a composite airplane, and Jerry Redman, who spent the past nine years as an aviation safety inspector for the FAA, Avtek has nine "designated engineering representatives," six on staff and three consultants, engineers licensed to sign off on work for the FAA.
Adickes's job, once again, is cash: $20-million worth, he figures. That will give him a $4.4-million cushion. Nomura Securities has agreed to raise half of the total in Japan, and Adickes is negotiating with major Wall Street investment bankers for the balance. Of course it will be a battle -- but the Avtek 400 has been a battle every step of the way.
It is a challenge Adickes relishes. Today he works the phones, one call to coax the owner of the hangar to drop his price a bit, another to cajole California's aviation secretary to lend him $350,000 to fix it up.He has almost closed the Japanese textile factory manufacturing angle, but he has some European bankers interested as well; manufacturing in Europe would triple his labor costs, but at least it is an option. Although it looks like he will need a replacement for Aeronca for assembling, Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas are all vying for the honor of building the IRB-financed assembly plant, "so I can play them against each other." He is talking with Washington about military applications, possibly for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
But Adickes still has to fly the plane. More importantly, he has to prove that he can meet the guarantees, deliver the performance he promised, and win certification by the last quarter of 1985. Vindication will come in small steps, phase by phase, as he works to his 1985 deadline and beyond, to building his growth company, and to the pot of gold he expects to find at the end of the campaign.
It is as close to immortality as he expects to come. "In my 47 years of aviation there have been only two significant technological improvements -- composite airplanes and jet engines," he muses. "And I'm building the first composite turbojet. Airplanes are evolutionary. This airplane will be in production long after my lifetime."
The thought makes him, for a single moment, silent -- then propels him up from his chair.
"You know why I won't put my name on the airplane?" he asks, reaching for his pen. "Look at the guys who started airplane companies. Northrop. Boeing. Lear." He prints the names in capital letters. "How much money did they die with?
"Jack Northrop died with a very small estate. Bill Boeing died broke. Bill Lear died broke.
"None of those people made any substantial money, because their egos got in the way. They got wrapped up in seeing their name on their plane.
"You'll never see my name on an airplane. No way, Jack. I don't get romantic about airplanes. I get romantic about money."