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GROB spn Update

German manufacturer steadfast in getting the spn certified.

Despite the horrific crash of the GROB G.180 spn second prototype- and the loss of Chief Test Pilot Gérard Guillaumaud- last November- the German manufacturer is steadfastly building up certification hours for its SUV of the air using prototype 01. If anything- the accident has made GROB’s young team of professionals even more determined to make the aircraft a big success story. Niall Olver- CEO of GROB Aerospace- said that contractually customers could have legitimately cancelled their orders and had deposits refunded - but not a single one has.

Alongside the flight test program for the €5.8 million spn all-composite utility jet- the company is also putting in place all the necessary support services ready for the first customer delivery in mid-2008. Olver admits that the certification program is aggressive- but with EASA certification hoped for by April 2008- followed closely by the FAA approval three months later- he emphasized- “It is achievable”.

GROB is to be operational at its North American HQ at Portsmouth- New Hampshire- by fall this year- and will also open four regional sales offices at San Diego- Dallas- and two yet to be named eastern U.S. locations. Heading the U.S. HQ is Claude Chidiac- a veteran of the business aircraft industry who previously held senior positions at Bombardier Aerospace.

“The creation of GROB Aerospace Inc. demonstrates the company’s total commitment to providing a comprehensive- best-in-class customer experience-” explained Chidiac. Issues regarding maintenance- spare parts- warranty- sales- marketing- aircraft demonstration- and eventually completion design specification will all be handled there.

spn maintenance in the U.S. will be in conjunction with selected partners Landmark Aviation (at three sites) and Stevens Aviation (two sites). Northern Executive Aviation- based at Manchester Airport- England- will undertake spn maintenance in the UK- and ExecuJet Aviation Group (Niall Olver is also the CEO of this company) will look after maintenance at its Copenhagen base and its other bases in Dubai- Johannesburg and Sydney. GROB Aerospace will support the service center network from its facility at Tussenhausen-Mattsies near Munich- Germany.

The spn is being offered with a pay-by-the-hour maintenance cost assurance plan- guaranteeing the cost of scheduled and un-scheduled maintenance on airframe- engines and avionics- and the plan will be backed by Williams and Honeywell.

Sales continue apace
Meantime- sales are continuing apace with more than 60 aircraft ordered. Buyers must pay a $100-000 non-refundable deposit- and stage payments as the test aircraft get through certification. Olver regards this as a test of the sincerity of the buyers- who have so far come from Austria- the Benelux countries- Cyprus- Czech Republic- Germany- Italy- Switzerland- and the U.S. - but as yet- not from the UK. Buyers include private jets for sale individuals- pilot owners and corporates.

“It’s gaining a lot of interest from customers who currently fly business turboprops-” remarked Olver. “It combines the best of both worlds – the versatility of a turboprop and the ability to perform short take-offs and landings on unpaved runways- with the comfort- speed and range of a business jet.”

First delivery will be to a German customer- within a month or so of certification. Sales are roughly split 50 percent North America- 30 percent Europe and 20 percent the rest of the world. GROB’s ten year forecast shows demand for 200 aircraft for North America- 120 for Europe- and 80 for the rest of the world. The orders are from charter operations- corporations and private individuals. Two U.S. fractional operators are also expressing interest according to Olver- and more details will be announced at the NBAA Convention in September.

Flight testing
Speaking about last year’s accident- Olver said- “Parts of the elevators and of the horizontal stabilizer sheeting separated during airfield approach for a high-speed pass. The assumption is elevator flutter due to high speed. The focus of the investigation is on the speed prior to the crash versus the allowed speed envelope on test aircraft P02. This aircraft had not been cleared to the same speed as the first prototype P01.

“The German authorities agreed to the resuming of flight testing at the end of February. They do not have any concerns about the technology or workmanship. We are flying the first prototype with a new wing-fuselage fairing- which will also be on the third aircraft and be fully conforming to production aircraft. Prototype 01 does not have exactly the same type tail as the crashed aircraft- but it does have the rest of the updates. We don’t believe any further modification will be required.”

P01 is being used for performance testing and system development- while the third aircraft (P03) is due to fly in July- dedicated to aircraft systems testing. Aircraft P04 will fly in the fall- have an eight seat interior- and test the Honeywell Apex flight deck. The first series production aircraft- complete with Porsche Design Studio interior- is scheduled to fly at the end of this year.

The passenger cabin is the largest in this Light Jet category with a volume of 405 cu.ft.- and the spn can carry up to nine people including one pilot and will be certificated for single pilot operation. With six passengers and a single pilot- the aircraft has a range of around 1-800 nm. It will also be steep approach certificated.

“spn production could be doubled from the 40 per year currently quoted to 80 per year if another larger hangar was to be built at GROB’s HQ near Munich-” commented Olver. The spn has been designed with a future fuselage stretch in mind- but special mission versions will take precedence. GROB is bidding for a potential 20 aircraft order- from an undisclosed customer- to be used in the maritime/border patrol role. This could be easily achieved as composite aircraft are much easier to modify than conventional metal structured ones explained Olver.

The company’s HALE aircraft design- based on the standard spn fuselage- but with a long wing is also in for a batch bid. This high altitude spyplane/environmental monitoring aircraft would have a 31-hour endurance and be able to operate to 65-000 ft either manned or un-manned.

More information from www.grob-aerospace.com

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