In The Works

 - July 7, 2010, 6:51 AM

Dornier Seaplane - Seastar

Dornier Seaplane has selected Montreal suburb Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu as the location to build a new facility for final assembly of the all-composite, twin-turboprop Seastar amphibian. The site is near Lake Champlain, ideal for production test flights and demonstrations of the Seastar’s amphibious capability.

The Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-135A-powered Seastar is already FAA and EASA certified, but only three examples have been built–one proof-of-concept prototype and two conforming versions. The Seastar’s composite airframe is made using the e-glass process, by which parts are cured in a low-pressure, low-temperature oven instead of a high-pressure, high-temperature and much more expensive autoclave. Seastar plans to begin production using a supplier in either Germany or Canada to manufacture the airframe components, said Dornier Seaplane CEO Joe Walker, “then gradually migrate that to Quebec. We want first to go to the lowest production-risk environment, then as we get confidence, migrate it to as close to the final assembly plant as possible.” Dornier Seaplane is now evaluating fabrication vendors.

“Our next order of business is to begin recruiting immediately for senior production management positions with the intention of eventually hiring a total of 250 final assembly [workers] over the next five years,” said Walker. “In addition, we expect there to be 200 fabrication jobs to support the final assembly plant, and 75 jobs at Pratt & Whitney Canada will also be created over the next five years.”

The timeline calls for re-establishing the supply chain for the Seastar components during the coming year, then one more year to produce the first new Seastar, which will be serial number three. Dornier Seaplane intends to deliver that airplane in 2012. To keep the production process as simple as possible, serial numbers three through nine will retain the original avionics and instrument package. In 2014, the Seastar will be upgraded with a glass cockpit, retrofittable to earlier models. Dornier is currently evaluating avionics options for the glass cockpit.
Dornier Seaplane has orders for 25 Seastars from “a handful of customers,” Walker said. “I’m excited that we’ve got a home for the company and all the financing is completed and we can now turn our attention toward building airplanes and getting them into customers’ hands. It’s a nice next step in the maturity of the company.”

Gulfstream Aerospace - G650

Gulfstream’s fourth large-cabin G650 joined the flight-test program on June 6, and as of June 10 the four flying G650s had logged more than 80 flights and 222 hours. Serial number four is the first production G650. The third G650 flew for the first time on June 3. This airplane is being used as the primary avionics testbed for the Honeywell-based Gulfstream PlaneView system, including the backup instrument display that doubles as a control panel. G650 number three is also instrumented for aerodynamic load measurement and ice-protection system testing. Five G650s are slated for the 1,800-hour flight test program, and serial numbers four and five are slated for evaluation of interior systems and RVSM equipment. Gulfstream has ramped up G650 flight testing quickly, in an effort to meet the goal of FAA and EASA certification next year, followed by entry into service in 2012.

The first G650 made its maiden flight on November 25 last year, and during testing, the new design has flown at its Mach 0.925 maximum operating speed and maximum takeoff weight of 99,600 pounds. The Rolls-Royce BR725-powered aircraft can fly 7,000 nm at Mach 0.85. “Gulfstream Product Support is engaged in the engineering development and test-aircraft operations to ensure a smooth entry into service for our customers,” said Pres Henne, senior vice president of programs, engineering and test. “There are a variety of internal organizations and suppliers directly involved in the development of the G650, and their support is instrumental in the success of the program.”

Extra Aircraft - Extra 500 Spirit

Deliveries of Extra Aircraft’s EASA-certified all-composite EA-500 Spirit single-engine turbo- prop will begin in the U.S. in the first quarter of next year.
The Spirit’s airframe is made of carbon-fiber composites, and the cabin is pressurized to a 5.5 psi differential, providing a cabin altitude of 8,000 feet at the aircraft’s 25,000-foot certified ceiling. The engine is a 450-shp Rolls-Royce 250-B17F driving a five-blade composite MT reversible propeller. The EA-500 seats six people and carries 172 gallons of jet-A for a maximum range of nearly 1,600 nm with IFR reserves. High-speed cruise is 205 ktas and long-range cruise 195 ktas. Maximum takeoff weight is 4,696 pounds and useful load 1,600 pounds. Avionics are Avidyne’s Entegra II Release 9 with FMS and enhanced-vision system.

Extra Aircraft, based in Hünxe, Germany, plans to obtain FAA validation of the EA-500’s EASA certification and eventually shift final assembly to a U.S. location. Extra has selected three companies for North American sales and support: Mid Island Air Service in Shirley, N.Y.; Premier Aircraft Sales, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and USAero, Denver.