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GROB SPn PROFILE (2005)

Grob Aerospace has designed and built its first flight test prototype in the light business jet market and debuted it at the Paris Air Show in June. Thus- it seems that Embraer’s identification of a ‘sweet spot’ in this market was spotted by GROB at least a year ago.

Rumors had been rife that GROB was to launch a new aircraft- but observers were taken totally off guard when the top secret G180 SPn Utility Jet prototype turned-up in Le Bourget’s static aircraft park.

Mike Vines   |   1st August 2005
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GROB enters market with a business jet workhorse.

GROB Aerospace has designed and built its first flight test prototype in the light business jet market and debuted it at the Paris Air Show in June. Thus- it seems that Embraer’s identification of a ‘sweet spot’ in this market was spotted by GROB at least a year ago.

Rumors had been rife that GROB was to launch a new aircraft- but observers were taken totally off guard when the top secret G180 SPn Utility Jet prototype turned-up in Le Bourget’s static aircraft park.

Most thought the aircraft was a full sized carbon fiber mock-up- particularly as GROB has had the reputation as the general aviation carbon fiber kings for many years. Then executives told a packed press conference that the aircraft outside their chalet was a fully conforming flight test aircraft which had only been rolled out a week before the show started. In fact by the time this article hits print the aircraft should have made its maiden flight.

The projected cost of the aircraft- ‘equipped for operation-’ will be around €5.8 million euros ($7 million at time of writing)- with first deliveries planned for the second quarter of 2007 following EASA and FAA certification.

A full sized SPn mock-up with fully furnished interior was positioned right by the prototype and gave potential buyers a chance to view the two-by-four club seating arrangement- and to sample the cabin’s LED lighting system. The five foot- four inch headroom is gained by employing a three inch drop aisle for most of the cabin’s 16.9 ft length. Rucker AG is designing the interior and the generous full width forward lavatory compartment.

GROB says that its SPn (short for single pilot- superior payload- supreme practicality- … - SP to the nth degree) has great flexibility as a super light jet workhorse designed to operate in passenger- freight and air ambulance roles. It is fitted with an exceptionally large forward door measuring 54 inches high by 33 inches wide- while its cabin is designed to have a quick-change capability to accommodate cargo- passengers or both. It will be interesting to monitor other new aircraft designs in this category and see if manufacturers build-in larger passenger/loading doors to literally widen the sales potential of their business aircraft.

The SPn is actually designed to compete with the likes of Beech’s popular King Air (the King Air B200 is priced at just over $5 million fully equipped) and large single engined turboprops.

GROB explained- 'The SPn will offer jet-performance and comfort with the operating flexibility of turboprops'. To underline the point the company claims that the aircraft will have a balanced field length (BFL) of 3-000 ft from ‘un-improved’ runways.

'The aircraft’s large wheels and re-enforced landing gear will permit hassle free regular operations from such surfaces-' GROB outlined. In fact GROB claims it offers- 'a superior range payload capability- robust short field performance- exceptional cabin volume and cargo conversion capability never seen before in an aircraft of this size'.

The company is very shy about its advance orders- but a spokesperson confirmed they do have orders but don’t want to release this information yet. The spokesperson would not confirm or deny that the aircraft’s interior design was inspired by a potential overnight parcels fleet customer. But confirmed that the SPn interior design caters for the carriage of 47 x 31.50 inch Euro Pallets.

GROB has wasted little time in appointing Swiss-based ExecuJet Aviation Group as the exclusive worldwide sales distributor and maintenance support partner for the SPn. An aircraft sales- service and maintenance provider- ExecuJet has facilities in Europe- the Middle East- Africa- Australia and Mexico- and forecasts sales of approximately 400 SPns over a ten-year period.

Niall Oliver- ExecuJet’s CEO- commented; 'The SPn is an exciting new offering with strong potential to tap previously undeveloped markets. We look forward to adding this aircraft to our existing portfolio'.

GROB plans to certify the aircraft for single pilot operation- and if successful the aircraft could carry a total of nine passengers. With one pilot and six passengers aboard GROB claims its light jet will have a range of 1-800 nm- and with eight (and single pilot) a very useful 1-670 nm with reserves.

To attain potential single pilot operation the cockpit will be high tech- reliable and simple to operate according to GROB. Central to its design is Honeywell’s APEX integrated cockpit. High-resolution LCD monitors each with two 15-inch PFD screens - one for each pilot - plus two shared 10-inch MFD monitors display all relevant flight data and management information. The cockpit will also have as standard TCAS and EGWPS.

The SPn is powered by a pair of FADEC controlled Williams FJ44-3A turbofan engines- each rated at 2-800lbs at SL ISA. The aircraft is slated to have a maximum operating altitude of 41-000 ft; cabin pressurization will be 8.4 psi giving a comfortable maximum cabin altitude of 8-000 feet. Maximum Take Off Weight is estimated at 13-889 lbs and maximum payload estimated as 2-491 lbs.

Then there’s the spin-offs

Also disclosed at Paris was GROB’s intension to investigate building a SPn HALE G600 ‘Spyplane’ spin-off.

Essentially- the HALE G600 is GROB’s concept to extend the basic SPn fuselage and wingspan for development of a High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) machine- which could be piloted with a crew of two pilots and four observers- or as a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle).

GROB says that lessons learnt from its past high altitude turboprop powered G520 Egrett (built in 1988) and its Strato 1 and 2C research aircraft have already been applied to the HALE.

Initial design specifications for a HALE derivative would be a 61.20 ft fuselage with a wingspan of 116.8ft and a payload of 2-650 lbs. The range is estimated at 5-540 nm- operating at a max altitude of 65-000ft with an endurance of 17 hours and 20 minutes.

And if that’s not enough- an even longer range derivative has been investigated and is known within the company as the GROB G600 HALE ER. GROB foresees this aircraft as having a range of 11-340 nm- an endurance of 33 hours and operational up to 60-000 ft for over 18.6 hours. The company says that these aircraft could be used for telecommunications research- surveying - mapping and military surveillance.


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