NBAA Convention News

Dornier’s Seastar taking off

 - October 20, 2009, 8:49 AM

When Dornier Seaplane (Static Display) debuted its amphibious Seastar at last year’s NBAA Convention, CEO Joe Walker outlined a number of goals, including the need to select a production location, develop a production plan, upgrade the demonstrator airplane and garner at least 25 orders to launch the program. At a press conference here on Monday, Seastar v-p of sales and marketing Jim Holcombe said most of those goals have been met, so well in some cases that the next delivery slot for an all-composite Seastar is early 2013.

The company’s principal investors–the Dornier family– have added $150 million to the project and will remain the majority shareholders as it continues to build cash reserves from a number of minor investors over the next 12 months.

Dornier announced that the final selection of a production facility is expected in the next three months and is down to just two choices. The first is a location in St. Jean-sur Richelieu, Quebec, while the other is in North Bay, Ontario. Both possibilities are focused around the local talent needed to build the Seastar’s composite fuselage. Winter flight operations and pilot training will be located in Punta Gorda, Fla.

The company has segmented its customers into four distinct groups: private owners, such as those who own floatplanes or companies with offshore operations, commercial operators with water requirements, government agencies with surveillance or maritime patrol needs and non-governmental organizations expected to use the aircraft in humanitarian-relief projects.

Holcombe believes that with a worldwide floatplane fleet of 4,500 aircraft, the company will be able to sell 10 to 15 aircraft per year to private owners and 20 to 30 per year to other customers.

Dornier expects the first production aircraft to roll out of the factory in 2011 with rates ramping up significantly in 2012 to 2014. The first six aircraft will be equipped with steam gauges, like the demonstrator, but by number seven, the airplane should be glass-cockpit equipped.

Powered by two centerline-thrust-mounted Pratt & Whitney Canada PT-6A 135 engines generating 650 shp each, the 10,000-pound FAA-certified Seastar can carry as many as 12 passengers. The $6 million airplane will fly 700 nm at speeds up to 170 knots.