The fate of Epic Air, a Bend company that once boasted it would employ 4,000 people to manufacture sleek composite aircraft, appears uncertain after a series of events prompting questions about the company’s future.
A notice posted on the door of the company’s factory at Bend Municipal Airport says the building’s landlord — Delaware-registered ER1 LLC — “has taken possession of the premises” and “claimed a possessory lien on the personal property” inside due to Epic being in default on its lease for more than 20 days.
The building’s seizure has gotten the attention of the Federal Aviation Administration, which is looking into the matter but has not launched an official investigation, according to FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer.
In addition, ER1 filed suit in Deschutes County Circuit Court on July 31 against the company’s CEO, Rick Schramek, and others. The Bulletin learned of the case late Friday and was unable to find out the contents of the suit.
Attempts to reach Schramek and Epic’s general manager, Dave Hice, were unsuccessful Friday. Messages left for Epic’s attorney, Jeff Eager, were not returned.
ER1’s Bend attorney, Heather Hepburn, would not comment.
The recent developments involving Epic follow a separate lawsuit filed June 5 in U.S. District Court in Portland by Florida-based Blue Sky Avgroup LLC, which is asking the court for emergency receivership of the company. Information about Epic’s employment history and airplane order history are due to be submitted to the court Tuesday.
Rich Lucibella, a Florida man who owns Blue Sky Avgroup, said Friday he is seeking to take ownership of the company along with a number of other Epic customers who have planes at Epic’s facility in various forms of assembly.
Epic mostly manufacturers uncertified kit planes, which it helps its customers assemble. The FAA allows uncertified planes to fly if they are at least 51 percent assembled by the plane’s owner.
“Amongst us, our first efforts are going to be conserve the assets of this company because we believe the (Epic LT) is still a wonderful design, anyone in the general aviation community knows that, and after that, a way we can simultaneously keep this company going in Central Oregon and finish the planes,” Lucibella said.
Epic, which employed roughly 160 workers less than a year ago, laid off most of its employees in January and June, according to the federal suit. All but a handful of the remaining workers were furloughed in July, according to the company.
In the federal suit, the company admitted to cash-flow problems but said it expected to stay in business.
A startup, Epic landed in Bend in 2004 thanks to a number of public incentives, which included state loans and grants totaling $1.3 million, according to an April 2005 story in The Bulletin. The company promised to create 4,000 jobs in exchange for the loans and grants, The Bulletin reported.
The aviation industry has suffered during the recession. Cessna Aircraft Co. cited a decline of orders in its decision announced earlier this year to close its Bend plant and move production to Kansas in order to save money.