Ole Hartmann combines his love of flying and his engineering skills to create versatile working aeroplanes for the Australian bush.
Story By Kathy Mexted
The Hornet Stol is airborne in two to four seconds. It gathers speed a few feet above the runway and before you can say, “That was bloody quick!” The award-winning aircraft is up and gone. Ole Hartmann, owner of Australian Aircraft Kits (AAK), rests his elbow casually on one knee and controls the aeroplane with his forefinger and thumb, effortlessly wheeling it around on a wingtip to check out the scenery. The turbo-charged engine makes it feel more like a ‘launch’ than a departure and, as Taree Regional Airport falls away, the azure blue ocean off the New South Wales Mid-North Coast offers up a whale and a thunderstorm.
After an adventurous childhood in Kenya, Ole arrived in Australia via his native Germany in 1996. He brought with him an engineering degree and a broad-ranging passion for aviation, which began with many types of gliding and light planes. After building imported kit planes here, he was soon motivated to design his own. “The European and American designs just didn’t work in the harsh Australian conditions so I wanted to design something that would,” Ole says. And he did. Beginning in 2003 out of his shed at home, Ole designed and built his first Hornet. In 2004 he took it to Natfly, the large annual event for recreational aircraft held at Narromine, NSW. He won the award for Most Innovative Ultralight Design, and then set up AAK, based at Taree Regional Airport. In seven short years of operation, growth has been steady, and AAK’s range has grown to include the Wasp, Hornet STOL, Hornet AG/Utility and the more recent Bushman 750.
As managing director and chief designer, Ole quickly employed Brian Wood, a past employee of British Aerospace, as operations manager. Together with a third engineer, they form a close-knit team sharing design ideas, working on construction, test flying, training, liaising with clients, and assisting with kit builds. As is typical of small businesses, they pretty much do it all. Over lunch in the hangar, Ole and Brian are relaxed and articulate. They chat about the journey of the business in general, and the product in detail, calling each aeroplane by its number. “When we did a maintenance trip to Queensland to see No 29 …” Brian says, as if referring to a long-lost friend.
This story excerpt is from Issue #75
Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2011