NBAA Convention News

Second Grob SPn prototype takes to skies over Germany

 - November 7, 2006, 4:58 AM

Less than a year from its planned service entry next September, the all-composite Grob SPn light jet is preparing to make a serious push on the North American marketplace with new sales and product support initiatives being announced this week.

A full-scale cabin mockup is on display here at the NBAA show (Booth No. 4257), and back in the program’s German home, two prototypes are busy with the flight test program. Another airplane, now under construction, will join them in the air early next year.

Grob, which has come to Orlando under new ownership of a small private group of Swiss investors, is preparing to incorporate a new North American subsidiary, most likely located somewhere in the northeast U.S. or in Dallas.

Yesterday Grob announced the appointment of Stevens Aviation and Landmark Aviation as service partners for the SPn twinjet. Stevens’ facilities in Greenville, S.C., and Denver; along with the Landmark bases in Springfield, Ill.; Los Angeles; and Houston will be the initial authorized service centers for North America.

The SPn is being certified initially for a service life of 28,000 hours. The composite airframe is covered by a seven-year warranty. The use of light carbon fiber throughout the fuselage has meant that it has just 110 parts, versus some 14,000 for an equivalent-size light jet made of aluminum. The ability to refine the composite material in three dimensions has optimized the aerodynamics.

Grob is negotiating with a flight training provider and intends to have level-D simulators available soon after certification. The manufacturer will also be offering preferential insurance packages to customers, many of whom will likely be owner-pilots.

Initial North American deliveries are set for early in 2008. Certification by the European Aviation Safety Agency should be achieved in the third quarter of next year. FAA approval would then follow during next year’s fourth quarter.

The second SPn prototype took off for the first time from Grob’s Tussenhausen-Mattsies base in southern Germany on September 29. This marked the first-ever flight of Honeywell’s enhanced Primus Apex avionics suite, which incorporates many features of the more advanced Primus Epic cockpit. The Apex suite features two 15-inch primary flight displays and a 10-inch multifunction display.

As of press time, the prototypes had logged around 300 one-hour test flights, and extensive static testing has already been completed, including tests to the composite structures to temperatures as high as 161 degrees Fahrenheit. All target numbers have so far been met or exceeded.

Grob has appointed the Austria-based Porsche Design Studio to develop a selection of cabin interiors for the SPn. The work of the sports car designers is not exemplified by the cabin mockup on display here this week, but the company is working on standard six-seat “executive” and eight-seat “business” configurations.

Powered by a pair of 2,820-pound-thrust Williams International FJ44-3A turbofans, the SPn will offer 1,800-nm maximum range for one pilot and six passengers (ISA, 41,000 feet, NBAA IFR reserves). The engines will also be covered by power-by-the-hour support.

But it is airfield performance that is the SPn’s real standout characteristic. Speed (at just 407 knots cruise) has been compromised for the sake of a minimum landing distance that is just 2,670 feet. The 3,000-feet balanced field length for takeoffs may be further reduced toward 2,800 feet during the certification program.

The current list price of the SPn is approximately $7.3 million. Grob is not expected to disclose detailed sales figures, but has indicated that it has sold its first two years of production–probably amounting to around 50 aircraft.