Sino delivers first customer SJ30, awaits production OK

 - December 7, 2006, 10:10 AM

One year after receiving FAA type certification for its SJ30 light jet, Sino Swearingen delivered the first customer airplane to Doug Jaffe of San Antonio, one of the early investors in the SJ30 program. The “J” in the model name stands for Jaffe, while the “S” is for designer Ed Swearingen, who began designing the jet in 1982 and launched the program in the late 1980s.

Jaffe’s SJ30, S/N 006, was ready for delivery on October 27, exactly one year after certification. Jaffe was unable to attend a delivery ceremony then, according to Steve Crawford, Sino Swearingen vice president of operations, so it was delayed until November 1.

Until the FAA awards a production certificate (PC) to Sino Swearingen, each SJ30 rolling off the assembly line has to be inspected by FAA personnel before receiving an airworthiness certificate. Once the company receives its PC, Sino Swearingen’s inspectors can sign off on the airworthiness certificates, which should speed the delivery process. The company expects to receive a production certificate early next year, according to Crawford.

Sino Swearingen has already applied for its approved production inspection system (APIS) certification and has had a successful audit of its facilities in San Antonio, and Martinsburg, W.Va.; the company expects to receive APIS approval by year-end. After APIS approval, Crawford said, the FAA will have to observe another five or so deliveries, then issue the production certificate.

At delivery time, Jaffe’s SJ30 still needed paint and interior. This might be done at Stevens Aviation, the Sino Swearingen-approved North American completion facility, but at press time no information about the completion location for Jaffe’s airplane was available. Stevens Aviation’s Greenville, S.C. facility did the paint and interior completion of S/N005, the last preproduction SJ30-2, which was on display at this year’s NBAA Convention in Orlando, Fla.

Customers Await Delivery
SJ30 dealer Action Aviation in the UK has 159 SJ30s on order and has sold 35 since the jet received FAA certification last year, according to managing director Mike Creed, who expects his company’s first SJ30 to be delivered in April. According to Creed, Sino Swearingen has told Action Aviation that the SJ30 delivery schedule for the next three years includes 13 next year, 25 in 2008 and 45 in 2009. “That’s what the company is going to be building,” he said, “that’s the total. We’ve been advised that soon the factory will advise us what is going to be allocated to us.”

Delays in initial deliveries, he said, were in part due to problems with one of the wing construction jigs, which resulted in a slight out-of-trim condition that manifested itself above Mach .80, requiring more rudder trim than normal to keep the wings level. “They’ve been very open about it,” Creed said. “It put back delivery of the first aircraft by a good three or four months.” [Gulfstream Aerospace had a similar wing twist problem with the GV and had to replace wings on some early serial number GVs.–Ed.]

“With a new manufacturer,” Creed said, “there are always problems, things that need to be sorted out. There certainly has been discussion from owners in the past year worrying whether it will get into production. Those who genuinely want the fastest little pocket rocket going, they’ll stick with the program. It’s my belief that this aircraft is going to be a world beater. That’s why we have ordered 159 and why we’re maintaining that order. Production of Serial Number 6 is a huge leap. The proof of the pudding is the next few production aircraft, to ensure reliability and serviceability.”

Torrance, Calif.-based SJ30 dealer Next Jet Group has firm positions for more than 50 SJ30s, according to president Mark Dessy, and has signed sales contracts for 14. Next Jet expects to receive its first aircraft during the second quarter of next year, he told AIN, followed by “regular deliveries each quarter on an increasing frequency. We are expecting to deliver three or four aircraft into our region next year and at least a half dozen in 2008.”

Sino Swearingen has kept Next Jet well informed about production progress, said Dessy. “Yes, we have had to accept delays. However, we are very confident, following several recent visits to the factory, meetings with Sino Swearingen’s senior team and having seen the first production aircraft, that quality and performance of the new SJ30 will be well worth the wait.”

Next Jet has had two requests for return of deposits. “In both cases,” Dessy explained, “the reason given has been the delay in production and not any lack of belief in the utility or value or quality of the final product. These clients have said they would be more than willing to return for a later slot, when the aircraft is available.” Both slots were taken by new clients, he said.

First-delivery customer Jaffe’s pilots began the SJ30 flight-training program early last month.