Building Comp Air Turbines Overseas

Nestled quietly along the eastern shores of the Black Sea, the Republic of Georgia (former Soviet republic) is a picturesque land of diverse geography  (relief map). Beautiful mountains, large forests, deserts, small villages, and a few big cities characterize this fascinating country. With a history that dates back thousands of years, the city of Batumi is a colorful Georgian port city on the Black Sea, just a few miles from the Turkish border. At the Batumi port, large oil tankers fill their holds with oil transported by train from Azerbaijan, and then ship it to customers around the world.

Batumi is also known as a resort town, with beautiful beaches, warm water, and a semi-tropical climate. Batumi is also the largest city in the proudly independent "Autonomous Republic of Ajara". The president of Ajara, the Honorable Aslan Abashidze, has earned a reputation as a leader with vision and foresight. Since assuming the presidency in 1991, President Abashidze has worked hard to provide his people with greater opportunities for international participation. The border with Turkey has only been open to travelers for ten years, but already the residents of Batumi have been able to import many top-of-the-line European cars. Each day, numerous new Mercedes, BMW's, Audi's, etc. battle fiercely with sleeping cattle and wary pedestrians for domination of Batumi's crowded streets.

Building and flying a modern turbine-powered custom plane is an impressive accomplishment. But the hard-working people of Batumi didn't just build one airplane. They simultaneously built and are now flying two (2) Comp Air Turbines, and a Rotorway helicopter. And these aircraft are just the beginning for this forward-thinking community. Orders have already been placed for more kits. The sight of custom-built aircraft flying over the cities, beaches, and mountains of Georgia will soon be commonplace.

A strong Russian influence is still apparent in the daily lives of Georgians. Local residents are fluent in both Georgian and Russian, speaking either language with ease. English, however, is spoken by only a few people.

This impressive effort to introduce modern aviation to the region is being coordinated on behalf of President Abashidze by his close friend and advisor, Mr. Harry Thiemicke of Germany, along with local Batumi residents Mr. Joseb "Soso" Didebeli and Mr. Zurab Beselia. Operations are conducted by a well-staffed, privately-held company (called DGJR & GI Airconstrucktion Co. Ltd.). under the leadership of Ms. Diana Abashidze, President. Aircraft assemblies, maintenance, and shop foreman duties are handled by experienced aviation technician Temur Kakabadze (Russian-trained) and his long-time associate Levan. Together, they oversee an energetic young team of aviation technician interns from the Batumi State University.

The Batumi team took delivery of two Aerocomp Inc. kits (a Comp Air 8 Turbine and a Comp Air 10XL Turbine) in January of 2001. Both airplanes were completed and flying in just 8 short months. Since this was the team's first experience assembling an airplane, they hired experienced Comp Air builder Jorge Pereyra of Argentina and his son to guide them through the process. The Pereyras spent 5 months in Georgia, providing valuable technical guidance and instruction to the team members. Installation of the 657 hp Walter turboprop engines was overseen by American technicians Charlie Gray and Chuck Downing of Florida, during a brief visit to Georgia in May.

In mid-August 2001, both airplanes were test-flown by Aerocomp Inc. co-owner and Comp Air designer Ron Lueck of Florida. Lueck was accompanied by Aerocomp factory flight instructor Al Pike. Together, the two men spent 10 days in Batumi, assisting with preflight preparations, initial turbine engine starts, fuel system tests, taxi testing, and comprehensive test-flying of the two new airplanes. Both men expressed high praise for the accomplishments of the Batumi team. The quality of workmanship in the airplanes is very good. It was obvious that the Pereyra father-and-son team had done an outstanding job. Kakabadze was intimately acquainted with every detail of the airplanes, and he and his team of young workers are fully capable of maintaining them and building additional aircraft.

The Americans were very impressed with the Georgians' dedication to quality. One way that this was evident was during fuelling of the airplanes. Fuelling airplanes in Batumi is a slow, time-consuming process, as numerous quality checks are performed throughout the process to prevent any chance of  fuel contamination. Although the Russian-built fuelling truck at Batumi is old, it works well, and its operators spare no effort to ensure that only clean fuel is delivered to the airplanes.

The Georgians opted to configure both Comp Air planes with seating for six. Initial upholstery packages were done in cloth, using automotive seats obtained locally. Plans are underway, however, to reupholster both airplanes with custom leather packages from Turkey. Quality of the new upholstery, the Georgians promise, will be on a par with a new Mercedes. Aerocomp is considering importation of the custom upholstery package for its North American customers.

Custom pre-wired instrument panels purchased from Sebastian Communications of Merritt Island, Florida were installed in both airplanes by the Batumi technicians. During type transition training provided by Pike, the Russian pilot hired by the Georgians (Ura Pivnehko) thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to explore the capabilities of the Garmin 430 Color Moving Map GPS/Comm.

Pivnehko is a highly experienced pilot, with over 8000 hours total time. Most of his experience is airline-type flying, on Russian aircraft like the 130-passenger YAK 42D (which bears a striking resemblance to a Boeing 727). Unfortunately, Pivnehko had never had an opportunity to fly a tailwheel airplane before. His first few attempts to land the big 5600 lb. gross weight Comp Air 8 Turbine taildragger were really entertaining. Trying to learn how to land a turbine-powered taildragger while dodging Russian soldiers using the runway for marching practice was a real challenge for Pivnehko. Throw in a few children who were playing "chicken" by lying on the runway, and big piles of cow manure lining the sides of the runway, and poor Pivnehko really had his hands full. To the astonishment of Aerocomp instructor Pike (who speaks no Russian), Pivnehko quickly mastered the finer points of tailwheel flying. After only a couple runway excursions, the Russian soldiers abandoned their runway marching grounds in favor of safer territory elsewhere. And in just a few short hours, Pivnehko (who speaks no English) was proudly soloing in the big taildragger. Pike was amazed at what could be accomplished by two dedicated pilots using only hand signals to communicate across giant language barriers. Pivnehko obviously enjoys flying the new Comp Air planes, and was soon proudly offering rides to his 15 year old son and to the energetic young university students who had worked so hard to build the airplanes.


Wet Runway...

Building and flying your own custom-built airplane is a tremendous accomplishment. Doing so in a land with no hardware stores and few of the industrial resources that we take for granted in North America is truly impressive. The Batumi aircraft technicians are now available to assist others in both the Republic of Georgia and in Turkey who would like to own and operate their own custom-built airplane.  

For more information contact:

  1. AEROCOMP INC. - 800 Kemp St. - Merritt Island, FL 32952 USA
    Tel/fax: 1-321-453-6641 http://AEROCOMPinc.com

  2. DGJR & GI Airconstrucktion Co. Ltd. - Batumi Airport - Batumi, Rep. of Georgia
    Contact: Mr. Harry Thiemicke - INTEC Engineering, Essen, Germany
                  Phone: +49 2054 871 761; Fax: +49 2054 871763; Mobile: +49 171 211 9275



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Email: info@compairinc.com

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