Aerobatic airplane manufacturer Game Composites of Bentonville recently received a production certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), with plans to increase the production of its GB1 GameBird aerobatic airplane.
The certificate allows the company to determine whether the airplanes it manufactures are airworthy, CEO Philipp Steinbach said. It’s the first time in 23 years such a certificate has been issued to a general aviation manufacturer, according to a news release. Previously, the FAA certified each airplane individually.
“This document is the result of two years of work,” Steinbach said. “The FAA has been here for the last two years, every two weeks for two days plus to check everything we do along the way — the way we handle things that go well and not so well. Now, they decided our quality system is good enough to give airplanes to people.”
The company makes the GB1 GameBird at its 40,000-square-foot building at Bentonville Municipal Airport, and the first airplane that was built at the Bentonville facility flew for the first time in November, he said. The second took flight in January. So far, seven have been delivered to their owners.
Game Composites has sold 30 airplanes and was recently working to finish building the 12th of those. The company’s 34 employees can make one airplane about every month, and by the end of the year, Steinbach hopes to have 40 employees and the capacity to build two per month.
Steuart Walton, grandson of Walmart founder Sam Walton, is Steinbach’s business partner.
“The GB1 GameBird is truly innovation at its best, and I couldn’t be happier for the team and what they’ve accomplished in reaching this major milestone,” Walton said. “It’s so exciting to think about their path forward as a real contributor to the aviation community and Bentonville at-large.”
Scott Kagebein, aircraft safety inspector for the FAA, has been working on the certification project for the past two years and presented the certificate to Steinbach and Game Composites employees. Before receiving the certificate, the company was building the aircraft under a type certificate, and each airplane was FAA certified individually.
“Now, they are all built per their drawings, and they are good to go as soon as they get built,” Kagebein said. “It’s a big accomplishment for them.”
In 2017, Game Composites received the type certificate, which defined the airplane. The production certificate defines the company and how it builds the airplane, Steinbach said. Since the previous certificate, very little has changed with the airplane, but it has been updated to include the newest electronics.
The $400,000 airplane can fly up to 300 mph and travel 1,000 nautical miles, or about 1,150 miles. The company is pre-revenue. “Before we can talk revenue, that’s probably a year out,” Steinbach said.