Renaissance wins lawsuit to make planes

Tuesday, January 8, 2002

An Arizona arbitrator has awarded fledging Renaissance Aircraft $2.7 million in compensatory and punitive damages from the foundation that had claimed it had terminated the company's license to build its aircraft.

But Renaissance president John Dearden says that money could be a long time coming and that his company is looking for $2 million from investors to keep the Cape Girardeau-based business afloat.

"We got the award, but sometimes it takes a long time to get here," Dearden said.

Court documents provided by Renaissance show that the arbitration process ended with the Don Luscombe Aviation History Foundation being deemed unjustified in its attempt to terminate the license with Renaissance.

Exclusive rights

The document also says that the license is still in full effect, meaning that Renaissance will continue to have exclusive rights to build the Luscombe 8F, a 1930s-style two-seat, recreational plane.

The damages come from Renaissance's counterclaim that Renaissance has lost money because the foundation's communications with the Federal Aviation Administration and others interfered with the aircraft company's ability to make money.

"The FAA did not want to assume we had a right to proceed if we didn't have the license," Dearden said. "So it delayed us and we lost money."

Foundation representatives could not be reached for comment Monday night.

The only other significant court matter is in Georgia where the company was located before relocating to Cape Girardeau. In that suit, the foundation claims that Renaissance wrongly took $8 million in equipment -- machinery, tooling jigs and dies -- needed to build the Luscombe.

That suit is still ongoing, although, Dearden said, the foundation is grasping at straws.

"They keep amending their claims so much they have no real argument," Dearden said. "That has no real effect on our ability to do business."

Costly battle

But the fight has "financially exhausted" Renaissance, Dearden said, leaving the company in a mode of trying to raise capital. While the company is very close to finishing three planes, it is now slowing down production until it gets more money.

"Once we raise the money to support our operation, we can produce 50 aircraft in the first year," he said. "Eventually, we could plateau at 500 or more aircraft per year."

The company is looking coast to coast for investors, but Dearden said he hopes to get some local investors.

Despite its recent troubles, he said, the company is solid and would be a good investment.

"The future of the company is solid, assuming we can raise the funds to get going," he said. "Quite candidly, it would be a very good investment for somebody, because so much of the groundwork has been done."

Cape Girardeau Regional Airport manager Bruce Loy said the announcement was good news. "Of course we were glad to hear it," Loy said.

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