(Shreveport, LA) Shreveport News – Most evenings, this time of year, Shreveport’s dark skies are briefly illuminated with fireflies. And if the reader can remember back far enough, you’ll recall a time when you youthfully chased after their light, catching them in glass jars with holes punched in the lids – the closest thing to catching lightning in a bottle.
There is an awakening happening in the Shreveport-Bossier area, the likes of which we haven’t seen in many decades. Possibly brought by lingering hunger pangs of the recent “Great Recession”, a fire to succeed has been reignited in the hearts of local entrepreneurs. Like the fireflies of our youth, opportunity is once again illuminating Shreveport.
When lifelong Shreveport native Stewart Hamel looks to the sky above Shreveport, he sees a different potential than many. Hamel is launching SkyRunner, a revolutionary off-road vehicle that – get this – has the capability of flight. Essentially, it’s a flying dune buggy.
SkyRunner is designing their aircraft to be more affordable and easier use than a typical airplane. “On most planes, the amount of gauges and switches in the cockpits can be intimidating enough to scare a person out of trying to learn to fly,” says Hamel, a pilot himself. “We designed SkyRunner to be intuitive, to where flying one would come naturally to anyone who’s ever driven a car.” No runway is needed, just about 350 feet of grassy area or beach will do. The price of a new, fully-loaded SkyRunner is $119,000, or about $200,000 less than a new Cessna 172.
They will be built in Shreveport and sold throughout the Americas.
When Hamel discusses the reasoning behind basing SkyRunner in Shreveport, he brings up some very good points that many overlook . “Look at the facts: KPMG, Forbes, and others rank Shreveport as the most cost-effective place to do business,” Hamel says.
“From our facilities in Shreveport, we have rail lines that give us distribution abilities anywhere from Central Mexico all the way up to Canada. In terms of trucking, we have virtually the same logistical advantages of Wal-Mart’s Arkansas hubs. It’s also a great plus that we’re a day’s drive from the largest shipping port (by tonnage) in the Western Hemisphere. We plan to ship SkyRunners all over the world from right here in Shreveport.”
If the amount of attention SkyRunner has gained in the last few months is an indicator, Hamel’s plan will come to fruition. In just under 4 months, SkyRunner attracted 100,000 fans to their Facebook fan page, and a YouTube video of SkyRunner featured by CNN has over 2.5 million views from various parts of the globe. Interest has been coming in from ranchers in the US, defense departments in South America, border patrol, pipeline companies, and adventure enthusiasts from as far away as Dubai. “When the CNN video first went viral, we were getting over 300 inquiries a day on availability dates and deposit information. On an average day, we’ll get around 30. It’s definitely more attention than I’d thought we’d get, pre-production.”
SkyRunners are currently available for pre-order on their website, and the first for-market units are estimated to roll off the assembly line later this year.
For SkyRunner, the sky is the limit. Perhaps one clear evening at the end of this summer, residents of Shreveport will direct their gaze upward and see more than just fireflies.