An Italian maker of small, relatively inexpensive airplanes is bringing the bulk of its manufacturing to Kissimmee, where it hopes that proximity to its largest potential markets will boost sales. Italigo Aviation LSA builds light sport aircraft that cost less than $300,000 apiece, run on regular gasoline and cost about $24 per hour to fly. Only 20 hours of flight time are required to earn a license to pilot the planes. “It’s sort of what the Vespa scooter brought to motorcycles when it was first invented,” says Sonny Buoncervello, managing partner of Italico Aviation USA.
Italigo believes its largest market potential lies in the U.S. and the Caribbean basin. It opened its headquarters at Kissimmee Gateway Airport earlier this year and expects to begin manufacturing a new version of its planes, called the FX1 Fredo Light Sport Aircraft, next year. When it does, it will be the only one of the three light sport aircraft makers in the world that manufactures in the U.S. As it ramps up production to about 40 planes a month during the next five years, the company plans to invest $3.2 million and hire 55, Buoncervello says. It will benefit from about $842,000 in state and local incentives.
To grow to mass production in Kissimmee, the company will need to establish 72 dealers in the Western Hemisphere. As of now, it has dealership agreements in Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Trinidad and seven Florida counties. Powered by the same motor as a personal watercraft (and limited to speeds of 130 mph or less) and able to go 550 miles on one tank of gas, the Fredo will be suitable for everything from inter-Florida commuting to Caribbean island hopping and trips to the Keys, Buoncervello says. “Just imagine,” he adds, “You could leave Orlando, land in the water in South Beach, pull up to a marina, tie the plane up and go for lunch.”