Mergers and acquisitions are the way of the world in big business, but they can be the kiss of death in our tidy kitbuilt nation. Often, though certainly not always, the new investors, owners or caretakers come in with expectations of volume generally not attainable or sustainable-or an unrealistically optimistic perception of builder independence. In short, they buy into a program thats harder to keep running than it should be.
When, shortly after Sun n Fun, Velocity aircraft announced it had been purchased and would become a subsidiary of the Rocket Racing Group, I among others let out a low whistle followed by a “well, there goes that company” observation. In the great tradition of hangar gossip, this summation came without a shred of evidence or even a syllable from the company itself.
I was delighted to hear from Velocitys Ken Baker with details of the acquisition and a look forward to how life is supposed to unfold in Sebastian, Florida. “Well, its been no secret that the company principals-Duane Swing and Scott Baker-have been trying to find a buyer for Velocity. Duane, for one, simply wants to retire,” Baker told me. Velocity had an interested buyer who, through a convoluted chain of events, led to the Rocket Racing Group gaining interest in the company. Already, Velocity had been tagged as the airframe supplier to this innovative air-racing series-scheduled to have its first demonstration at Oshkosh this year-and so, as Baker tells it, RRG decided that Velocity would be a good investment.
The deal was completed the day after Sun n Fun closed. “I was really biting my lip,” said Baker. “I wanted to get the word out but we didn’t quite have everything ready until after the show.”
Great, fine. So whats the upshot for Velocity owners, current builders and prospective customers? “Rocket Racing approached [the purchase] like a smart person; they know what they don’t know. So we have long-term employment contracts for the whole upper management.” These contracts will keep the brain trust in place for at least the next three years. Velocity also has the benefit of a new, full-time Executive VP of Sales, Don Hauck. “Hes been great. We have had to juggle sales activities with other things like giving demo rides. Now he can concentrate,” said Baker. “Our sales have been good, not horrible, but they could always be better.”
Looking ahead, Baker sees good things. “The Velocity, like a lot of homebuilts, is based on artisan craftsmanship-one airplane built and then molds taken off that. Rocket Racing is going to bring in a whole laser scanning crew so we can digitize the airplane, render it in 3-D. That will help us create new documentation and develop future models from CAD.” Baker also thinks the company has the fiscal wherewithal to develop entirely new models, even to consider certifying them. But thats well out on the horizon, he said.
The viability of Rocket Racing as an entertainment device remains to be seen, but the future of Velocity seems to be considerably rosier than I first thought. Im rarely upset to be proven wrong in this regard.
Those Crazy Fokkers
Dick Starks will have a new collection of his work on sale at Oshkosh this year. Ive had a peek at the manuscript and can only say that Starks officially owes me a new computer keyboard. And maybe something for the pain and suffering caused by coffee expelled through the nose. Fokkers At Six O’Clock is a made up of new material as well as features that have appeared on these pages, and continues his delightfully meandering retellings of vintage events, flying these charismatic WW-I replica fighters and tomfoolery in general. Dicks manuscript not only forced me to Windex my poor iMacs screen, but helped remind me why we fly in the first place. Check out www.kcdawnpatrol.org for more info.