Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No — it’s SkyRunner, a power sports aircraft invented and manufactured right here in Shreveport. SkyRunner is a mix between a recreational all-terrain vehicle and a light-sport aircraft, which can reach speeds of 40 mph (70 mph on the ground) and is restricted to reaching an altitude of 10,000 feet.

According to Stewart Hamel, founder and CEO of SkyRunner, the market wanted it but he and his team had to figure out the best way of making it happen.

“Is it going to be on the recreational side, for people who have a lot of land? Ranchers that like cool toys? Or is it going to be used for commercial applications? Chesapeake first identified that. They saw it as a substitute for short-range transportation for when they have to use helicopters to do emergency response and emergency maintenance,” Hamel said.

“Then there is the government side… of 18,000 police agencies in the country, only 300 can afford to get in the air. That’s only a fraction and now it becomes affordable. You can turn any police officer into a pilot in a week.”

That’s right. It only takes one week of training to become licensed to operate SkyRunner and it doesn’t require an airport to launch — only 500 feet or less of open space can serve as a runway. As for landing, well that’s pretty simple too. The driver only needs about 400 feet to land, and with an attached parachute the aircraft glides safely to the ground.

SkyRunner’s lead engineer, Brian Nallin, refers to it as an adventure vehicle and said the scope for usage of the aircraft is broad.

“There’s so many firsts with SkyRunner,” he said. “It really has a lot of historical value because for 90 years people and different firms have tried to develop the ‘flying vehicle.’ Several have done a good job at attempting it but they never got it to full circle.”

Four countries have contacted SkyRunner requesting to purchase the vehicle, but with Shreveport in close proximity to ports in south Louisiana and Houston, international shipping hasn’t been an issue. Hamel said that’s just one of the advantages of it being made in Shreveport.

As for those who are afraid of heights, SkyRunner might be the trick in conquering that fear. Hamel admits he has had a fear of heights but that flying in SkyRunner is unlike any other experience.
“It’s like your childhood dream of flight,” he said.

Owner: Stewart Hamel