Daniel Preston, CEO of Luminati Aerospace, at the leased Building Six hangar in April 2017, with equipment creditor Hexcel is now seeking to seize. File photo: Denise Civiletti

Luminati Aerospace, an owner of the company in contract to buy 1,643 acres of vacant land at the Calverton Enterprise Park, is facing eviction from the manufacturing building it leased at the enterprise park and is being sued by a principal investor for alleged default on a $10 million promissory note and mortgage in its real property and equipment at the industrial park.

Stamford, Connecticut-based Hexcel Corporation, a publicly traded industrial materials company, made a $10 million loan to Luminati Aerospace in 2016, about six months after Luminati purchased the Skydive Long Island site and signed a 10-year runway use agreement with the Riverhead Community Development Agency granting the company exclusive rights over the 10,000-foot runway at the enterprise park.

At an October 2015 public hearing on Luminati’s qualified and eligible sponsor application — required before the town could sign a runway use agreement with the company — Luminati founder Daniel Preston said his company had recently purchased the former Skydive site for $3.4 million and would develop next-generation, solar-electric unmanned aerial vehicles there. The aircraft would be capable of perpetual high-altitude flight and would bring wireless internet to portions of the globe that lacked access. According to Preston, Luminati had a contract with “a Fortune 250 company” that was funding the research and development project, which he said he expected to take about two years to complete.

The following June, Preston announced Luminati would be leasing part of the Building Six facility at EPCAL, where it would undertake its research and development project and, he said, would be in full production of the amphibious “SeaMax” aircraft by November 2016.

At the time, he predicted Luminati would employ a workforce of about 800 people within three years. Production on the SeaMax aircraft never got underway, as a dispute ensued between Luminati and the owner of SeaMax. Preston also parted ways with key players of the “dream team” he introduced to the town at the October 2015 public hearing.

Hexcel’s $10 million loan to Luminati is convertible for up to 17.24-percent stake in the company, at Hexcel’s option.

Luminati executed a promissory note, mortgage, guarantee and security agreement and financing statements granting Hexcel liens on its real property — the former Skydive site — and all its equipment and other personal property (the collateral for the loan), including equipment worth some $7 million located in Building Six. The note, mortgage, guaranty and security agreement covered the equipment Preston said he would use to manufacture the ultralight unmanned aircraft — carbon fiber layup machines he likened to “a jillion-dollar 3D printer of airplanes.”

Daniel Preston, founder of Luminati Aerospace at his plant in April 2017. File photo: Denise Civiletti

In a complaint filed March 18 by Hexcel in State Supreme Court, Suffolk County, Hexcel alleges that Luminati Aerospace and/or its wholly owned subsidiary, 400 David Court LLC, defaulted on its obligations under the May 12, 2016 promissory note, guaranty and security agreement and June 2016 mortgage.

According to the complaint, Luminati failed to maintain insurance policies insuring the collateral and real property, failed to pay property taxes on the mortgaged property, and failed to pay rent due to Laoudis of Calverton LLC, the landlord of Building Six.

Laoudis of Calverton has an eviction proceeding pending against Luminati in Riverhead Justice Court. It is next on the court calendar April 3.

Hexcel is seeking a court order accelerating the $10 million debt to become immediately due and payable in full and an order authorizing the sheriff to enter both the former Skydive hanger and the Building Six facility to seize Luminati’s equipment and personal property which Hexcel says is subject to liens in its favor. The parties are due in State Supreme Court on April 24.

Preston, meanwhile, told the website InnovateLI.com last fall that he relocated Luminati’s VTOL (“vertical takeoff and landing”) division to upstate Little Falls. He blamed delays by the Town of Riverhead for his decision to relocate.

“I could not wait forever to decide where to locate the business and jobs,” Preston told InnovateLI.com. “I hope the town’s approval is obtained before I have to decide where to locate the other helicopter-related businesses we have acquired.”

Neither of Luminati’s facilities in the Calverton Enterprise Park are part of the 1,600-plus acre sale to Calverton Aviation and Technology. The land under contract between the Riverhead Community Development Agency is vacant land that Calverton Aviation and Technology — a company owned by Triple Five Group and Luminati — plans to develop as an industrial park with Luminati and other aviation businesses as principal tenants, according to the contract of sale between the town and CAT.

Luminati leased part of Building Six at EPCAL, where CEO Daniel Preston in 2016 said his company would manufacture aircraft and employ 800 people within three years. Photo: Denise Civiletti

The Town of Riverhead issued stop-work orders for Luminati’s sites at EPCAL, ordering the company to cease work that was being conducted without permits. A stop-work order was in effect at the Building Six site when Luminati hosted a “grand reopening” of the facility in June 2017. It had no certificate of occupancy at the time of the ceremony and reception attended by elected officials, business and community leaders, military brass and a former NASA astronaut.

At that point, Luminati and the town had already signed a letter of intent for the sale of the town’s remaining vacant acreage to Luminati for $40 million. The April 2017 letter of intent called for the parties to reach a “definitive agreement” within 30 days, but no agreement was reached until late 2017, when the outgoing town board in December 2017 approved a $40 million sale of 1,643 acres to Calverton Aviation and Technology. Luminati Aerospace is a 25-percent owner of Calverton Aviation and Technology, with a Triple Five Group affiliate owning 75 percent and having exclusive authority over management in the company.

Riverhead building department records indicate that no certificate of occupancy has since been issued for either of Luminati’s facilities at EPCAL and stop-work orders remain in effect.

Preston’s attorney, Robert Hasday, did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

Triple Five was unaware of the litigation against Luminati, regarding both the property it owns and the property it occupies, Triple Five attorney Chris Kent said tonight. “We’re going to take a look at it what impact, if any, this has on our ability to go forward,” he said. 

Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith, who was an opponent of the sale to Luminati and its successor CAT and voted against finding CAT “qualified and eligible” to purchase and develop the site — a board majority approved CAT’s application in November 2018 — said today she wanted to consult with the town’s legal counsel on the revelations about Luminati’s legal woes, to determine what, if any, impacts they would have on the sale of the property to CAT.

“This news is disturbing,” Jens-Smith said, “but not surprising.”

Hexcel Corporation v Luminati Aerospace Summons and Complaint by RiverheadLOCAL on Scribd

Affidavit of Brett Schneider, Hexcel Corporation by RiverheadLOCAL on Scribd

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.