Certification by the Czech civil aviation authorities of the Ae270 turboprop single has slipped once again, from the second quarter of this year to late August, with FAA certification now anticipated for late September or October (from June), according to Jeff Conrad, v-p of marketing. Expected to join ship number five in the flight-test program soon is aircraft number seven. Ship five, the first production-conforming Ae270, has been flying since February last year. Ship six, which Ibis displayed at the 2003 NBAA Convention with a “green” interior, is now undergoing interior completion at Southstar Aircraft Interiors in Uvalde, Texas. That aircraft is expected to return to Prague next month to be reconfigured to the latest production standards. Certification flight testing with Czech authorities is also expected to begin next month. The Ae270 fleet (including ships one and three, which are not production-conforming) has flown more than 1,000 hours to date on more than 885 validation flights.
Under development since 1989 and announced by Aero Vodochody of the Czech Republic as the L-270 in 1990, the Ae270 was originally envisioned as a medium-range utility airplane in two versions: a Czech version powered by a Walter M601E turboprop and a Western version powered by a Pratt &Whitney Canada PT6A-42. First flight of the Czech version was planned for 1993, but development was slowed due to lack of funds. In 1997 Aero Vodochody and AIDC of China created Ibis Aerospace as a 50-50 joint venture to develop, manufacture and market the Ae270. Rollout and first flight of Ae270 ship one, powered by a PT6A-42, took place in December 1999 and July 2000, respectively. At that time certification was expected in July 2001. In October 2000, Ibis announced the introduction of a high-performance version of the model, dubbed the Ae270HP, to be powered by a PT6-66A turboprop. At that time the company planned to offer three versions of the aircraft: the Ae270W (with the Walter engine); Ae270P (with the PT6-42); and Ae270HP (with the PT6-66A and pressurized).
But market demand later convinced Ibis to focus on the high-performance, PT6-66A-powered version, which the company now calls the Ae270 Propjet. Aircraft with executive interiors are branded the Ae270 Spirit. Of the 80 to 85 aircraft in the order book, Conrad said all will have executive interiors (two crew plus five cabin seats), except for two or three aircraft that are planned for commuter service (one pilot plus nine passengers, including one in the copilot seat).
Predictably, the additional features of the executive version, compared with earlier versions, raised empty weight. To avoid reducing useful load, Ibis plans to announce shortly an increase in mtow from 8,360 pounds to 8,800 pounds. Maximum cruise speed will drop from slightly more than 270 knots to the previously published 270 knots, said Conrad. Takeoff and landing distances will increase by about 125 feet over previously published specifications, he said.
Ibis expects to deliver 15 aircraft next year, 25 in 2006 and 35 in 2007. All deliveries are to Ibis distributors, with about seven aircraft already designated for end users, so a buyer could still get delivery of an aircraft next year. Base price for an Ae270 commuter is $2.195 million. A typically equipped executive Ae270 Spirit with weather radar, air conditioning and executive interior lists for just under $2.5 million, said Conrad.
In related news, Aero Vodochody last year laid off some 200 administrative and production workers from its workforce of 2,124, due in part to reduced orders for its L-159, a military jet trainer. Boeing, which acquired 34 percent of Aero Vodochody for $32 million in 1998 and has managerial control of the company, announced last month that it is prepared to begin talks regarding changing the Czech company’s ownership structure. The Czech government has a 36-percent share in Aero Vodochody via the National Property Fund and a 29-percent share through the Czech consolidation agency.