While the SJ30 light jet received FAA certification in late October last year, the production certificate has still eluded San Antonio-based Sino Swearingen. At press time, the company was furloughing 130 production workers–100 in San Antonio and 30 in Martinsburg, W.Va.–because of ramp-up problems.
According to v-p of sales and marketing Bob Kromer, the biggest hurdle to mass production is “getting the tooling set up.” He admitted that hiring “got ahead” of its current manufacturing capability, prompting what Kromer termed as temporary layoffs. “We hope to have the assembly line up and running next year,” he said. “Right now we’re handbuilding customer aircraft one at a time.
“The first customer SJ30–S/N 006–recently came off the production line and has flown two production flight tests,” Kromer added. “Obviously, the FAA watched closely how this aircraft was built and is going over it with a fine-tooth comb.”
Next up for this twinjet is a coat of paint and installation of the interior. Once that is done and the FAA gives its stamp of approval, the airplane will be handed over to Doug Jaffe (the “J” in SJ30), “hopefully before the NBAA Convention” next month, said Kromer. S/N 006 is also expected to appear at the business aviation show’s static display.
Despite the layoffs, Sino Swearingen hopes to secure the production certificate by year-end, which would allow it to mass produce the aircraft. “We have a production plan in place and intend to expand our manufacturing facilities in San Antonio and Martinsburg,” Kromer said. Reports from San Antonio newspapers indicate that Sino Swearingen has selected a manufacturing site in the area, but Kromer told AIN that the company is still considering several sites.
“The market demand for the SJ30 is phenomenal,” Kromer said. “It’s the right airplane at the right time; we just need to start building them and getting them into customers’ hands.” Sino Swearingen says it has firm orders for 302 SJ30s from customers and distributors, for a backlog worth some $1.8 billion, he noted. A fully equipped SJ30 now costs $6.195 million.
UK-based SJ30 distributor Action Aviation placed orders for 159 aircraft and has sold 33 of them to end users since last November, director of new aircraft sales Mike Creed told AIN late last month. Action Aviation, whose territory spans 66 countries through the Middle East, the CIS and Europe, anticipates taking delivery of the second production SJ30 in January and will base the aircraft at London Luton Airport as a demonstrator. In the U.S., sales territories are divided between the factory and Torrance, Calif.-based Next Jet Group, which has California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii. Of the 50 SJ30s it has on order, about 16 are sold, CEO Mark Dessy told AIN.