Canton Repository

April 12, 2006

Aircraft developers provide details on Massillon project

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON - Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles Jones can tell you how he came up with the idea for the new military turboprop that Stark County businessman Ray Williams has developed for sale to Third World allies.

Williams, president of U.S. Technology Corp., a company that specializes in removing coatings from airplane bodies, is asking Massillon City Council to approve the use of a former steel plant site for an Indian casino and aircraft manufacturing plant.

After retiring from the Air Force in 1986, Jones said he started receiving calls from less-developed nations that were looking for spare parts for past-generation U.S. military aircraft they had purchased.

“I found there were no spare parts,” said Jones, who is a partner in Williams’ project to build and sell the new airplane they are calling the A-67 to allied nations and the U.S. military.

The fighters that were in use in those nations, including A-37s, F-5s and OV-10s, are no longer built, and spare parts are hard to find, he said.

Jones said the countries started looking for “excess military jets” but found them prohibitively expensive to purchase and operate.

“So it led me to believe that there was a need for a small, relatively inexpensive close air support fighter for these countries,” Jones said in a phone interview from his Las Vegas home.

“From that we came up with the fact that it should be a turboprop single engine (aircraft). It’s an airplane they could afford to maintain and do the job that was required for their countries.”

Providing fresh details on what he describes as the most innovative airplane of its kind, Jones said it is similar to existing military training turboprops such as the Raytheon T-6 and the Brazilian-made Embraer Tucano.

But he said it has the advantage of being more versatile, with the ability to land on unimproved runways and an extended range that allows it to fly 2,000 miles without refueling.

The all-metal aircraft has a 35-foot wingspan and a 1,200 horsepower Pratt and Whitney turboprop jet engine. It can fly with one or two pilots who sit side by side or can be adapted for unmanned use.

Jones said he expects the top speed to come in around 425 knots — 489 mph.

The aircraft also uses a ballistic parachute system, allowing it to descend to the ground relatively undamaged if it is shot down or has mechanical problems, Jones said.

Williams said the aircraft has been under development for several years at an undisclosed site in Missouri, where he employs 20 workers, including designers and retired Air Force officers. The effort has resulted in the construction of a prototype, which is to be tested in May.

The aircraft is being developed under the label of U.S. Aircraft Corp., a privately held corporation that Williams registered in Nevada in August 2004. Williams serves as president of the firm.

“The primary focus of the aircraft is in support of our allies that cannot operate or maintain our high-tech hardware as it becomes available,” Williams said.

He cited Afghanistan, Colombia and the Philippines as examples of the types of countries that could use the airplane.

But he added that it also could be of use to the U.S. military for border patrol, drug interdiction, surveillance and other activities.

“Since the world has changed in the last few years and the enemy, if you will, of the country has changed to a low-tech enemy, it creates an opportunity for a less sophisticated, less expensive but high-durability, high-proficiency aircraft like this,” he said.

The airplane is adaptable, he added.

Guns and rockets that attach to the wings can be replaced with cameras, sensors used to detect chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and other surveillance equipment.

Jones, a native of Perry, Ohio, said in the 1970s he had commanded an A-37 tactical fighter wing based at Grissom Air Force Base, Ind. Like Williams, he’s never designed an aircraft before.

After retiring from the Air Force, he said he started a business to design and build a patrol boat that he hoped to sell to the military.

“I thought I was going to get a contract from the Navy, but politics beat me out of it, so I just closed the company down,” he said.

Copley Pentagon Correspondent Otto Kreisher contributed to this story.