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Friday, October 23, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Airplane Conversion Triggers Lawsuit

Grayden Jones Staff writer

A Seattle attorney and pilot is suing a Spokane company that converts private airplanes into high-performance jets, claiming it has failed to take responsibility for a stalled engine and other troubles.

In his suit, filed in Spokane County Superior Court, Bruce Hilyer of Seattle names Rocket Engineering Co., located at Felts Field, company President Darwin Conrad and employee Ed Quist. The suit alleges misrepresentation, fraud, breach of warranty, breach of contract and violation of the Washington Consumer Protection Act and seeks $100,000 damages.

Hilyer claims that after Rocket Engineering replaced the Mooney engine and other parts in 1995, the aircraft stalled the following winter while flying at 23,000 feet over Western Montana. Hilyer, who made it safely to the ground, said the airplane had logged 300 hours after the engine conversion and before the incident.

Hilyer bought the aircraft from a Pennsylvania man who hired Rocket Engineering to make the turbo-charge conversion. Hilyer also claims Rocket Engineering failed to complete a federally mandated inspection as promised and to replace some corroded parts.

Conrad said all claims are unfounded. Hilyer’s engine, Conrad said, stalled over Montana because water had contaminated the fuel supply, not because of a defect in Rocket Engineering’s workmanship.

Rocket Engineering recently launched a new venture for converting hundreds of Piper Malibus. The company hopes this year to win approval from the Federal Aviation Administration for commercial use of the airplanes.

Conrad and his partners last year announced the project, saying they would convert two Malibus per month and increase Rocket Engineering’s staff from 30 to 50 people.

Conrad said the Malibu project is going “full bore” and is building on the company’s successful history of converting 150 Mooney planes and other aircraft.

, DataTimes

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