EBACE Convention News

Grob claims more than 60 firm orders for its SPn

 - May 21, 2007, 6:23 PM

Grob Aerospace (Booth No. 1277) is showcasing a six-passenger fuselage mockup of the Grob SPn light business jet with a new cabin interior from the Porsche Design Studio. The mockup includes the aft lavatory configuration and the SPn cockpit, similarly created by Porsche Design. Materials used in the interior include high-gloss wood veneer, finished metal, soft leather, luxury carpeting and Alcantara, a suede-like material often used for interiors in luxury automobiles.

Here in Geneva yesterday, Grob CEO Niall Olver revealed that the company has firm orders for more than 60 SPn jets, equivalent to the first two years’ production. Grob requires what Olver said are “robust progress payments scheduled to known firm orders” (more than $100,000 is required for a non-refundable deposit). He added that Grob has options on some of the existing orders, but he did not say how many because it only announces firm orders.

During the first 10 years of production, Olver expects to deliver 400 SPn jets, including 200 in the Americas, 120 in Europe and 80 in the rest of the world. According to the manufacturer, China and India should be promising markets, due to the SPn design’s rough-field capability.

Grob now has two prototypes engaged in flight testing. The first conforming prototype should fly by July, followed by the fourth prototype later next year and the first series production SPn by the end of the year in preparation for European certification next April. U.S. certification should take place three months later.

Olver acknowledged that the certification program’s timetable is fairly aggressive. “The plan is not to have any exceptions at certification,” he said. This includes flight-into-known-icing certification. De-icing of the aircraft is provided by bleed air on the wings and engine inlets and by specially designed de-icer boots that are integrated into the empennage leading edges.

The first SPn is being used for stall testing and is now equipped with a series-production conforming wing-fuselage fairing and pitot-static system. The second SPn will be used for systems testing.

Initial results of the accident investigation of the crash of the second SPn last November indicate that the failure of the horizontal stabilizer was caused by high-speed elevator flutter. “The investigation to date is focusing on the speed of the aircraft prior to the crash,” said a Grob statement, “versus the allowed speed envelope of test aircraft No. 2, which was not fully opened at the time of the accident.” The German Federal Bureau of Accidents Investigation report should be released before the end of November.

Now that certification and entry into service are approaching, Grob has opened a new facility in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to provide product support, parts warehousing and a delivery center. Olver said that completions may eventually be done in Portsmouth. Meanwhile, the manufacturer has also appointed Northern Executive Aviation, Manchester, UK, as an SPn service center. A parts warehouse is also planned in Germany so that orders can be shipped within four hours of an AOG call.

Grob will reveal details of a tip-to-tail maintenance cost-per-hour program, including engine maintenance, at this year’s NBAA convention. Direct operating costs will be lower than those of a King Air 200, according to Olver, and he expects the market for the SPn to include many turboprop owners looking to move up to a light jet.

Grob also announced that it has selected Honeywell’s Ovation C Series cabin management system for passenger service and entertainment. The C Series manages cabin, galley and lavatory systems and offers DVD/CD players, switch panels, XM satellite radio, MP3 connections and LCD monitors, either a 10.4-inch master cabin monitor or 8.4-inch individual seat displays. Honeywell’s JetMap II will provide worldwide mapping, safety briefings, live news and weather content. Honeywell is also supplying the SPn’s Apex avionics suite and APU.

The $7.8 million SPn can carry six passengers and one pilot 1,800 nm. Balanced field length is 3,000 feet at maximum takeoff weight, and the aircraft is designed to operate from gravel or grass runways–rendering it suitable for various utility roles. The all-carbon-fiber SPn is designed for an initial lifetime of 28,000 cycles, according to Olver, but this can be extended as the jet adds more cycles of operation leading up to certification. The non-corroding composite airframe could eventually have an unlimited lifetime, when post-certification operating experience is taken into account.

The jet is powered by a pair of Williams FJ44-3A engines. The cockpit features Honeywell’s new Primus Apex avionics suite. This is based on the Primus Epic suite found in the Dassault Falcon 7X jet and has improved displays.

The SPn is comparable in size to the Cessna Citation Excel rather than to the CJ3 with which it is often compared in terms of price. “It is about 90 percent the size of an Excel cabin at 65 percent of the price, and it is also very close in terms of payload and range,” said Olver.