- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 20, 2016

An American entrepreneur from Louisiana wanted to make an all-terrain vehicle for his family to enjoy, but ended up catching the attention of the U.S. military’s elite warfighters.

Skyrunner co-founder and test pilot Stewart Hamel recently succeeded in getting the Federal Aviation Administration’s approval for his “off-road aircraft,” the MMK 3.2 an advanced ultra-light tactical vehicle. Its versatility was featured on Fox News’ Happening Now and an earned an audience with military officials.

Mr. Hamel’s website for the Shreveport, Louisiana, company says its vehicle can fly up to 10,000 feet and reach ground speeds up to 70 miles per hour. The cost: $139,000, which he says is a bargain when compared to the resources needed to operate helicopters.

“[Military officials have] actually come to Shreveport multiple times and helped us think through the design,” Mr. Hamel told Fox News Thursday. “We redesigned this on probably 80 percent of their feedback. Whether we got the contracts or not, look, it’s a very patriotic place for us to play. Look, the military, if we can save American soldiers’ lives, they’ve got all of our resources behind it.”

The 3-year-old company told Business Insider Tuesday that he has a “verbal commitment” from the U.S. special operations forces community.

“The shocks [are what] won this particular group over,” SkyRunner consultant Mike Mitchell told the website. “Going off of a loading dock four to five feet tall … with such a soft landing was a big plus in their eyes.”

The company said its vehicle would likely be used for surveillance or recovery missions, but would not give specifics on its commitment from the U.S. military.

“It’s very intuitive. It can be piloted in 12 hours of flight training,” Mr. Hamel told Fox. “I’ve landed it in 150 [feet]. … You don’t need a special license. You take a police officer, a fireman, or someone who is working in the field, and turn them into a pilot in a week.”

• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

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