Viking Air is close to achieving European and Canadian certification of its new Twin Otter 400, having made a first flight with the revamped, 21-century version of the classic twin turboprop design in February. U.S. certification is due to follow by the end of this year.
The first production version of the Series 400 is due to be delivered to launch customer Zimex Aviation of Switzerland, which is to send the aircraft to North Africa to work on support contracts for the oil and gas industry. Currently the aircraft is undergoing post-production installation of options such as air conditioning and an avionics package requested by Zimex.
The Canadian company holds orders for 50 Twin Otter 400s with a collective value of some $200 million. Having acquired the original de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter type certificate from Bombardier in 2006, Viking says it is working on possible deals for the new version with almost 40 prospective clients.
“We’ve been lucky and have not been hit by any cancellations or delays,” said business development vice president Robert Mauracher, who noted that the values of existing Twin Otters have held strong even during the recent downturn. “Our biggest problem right now is that people don’t want to wait until 2013 to get a new airplane.”
The new aircraft’s engineers have made more than 400 changes from the legacy model, including the substitution of composite doors and nose to reduce weight and increase payload, the installation of LED lighting, improved airflow in the cabin and cockpit, and the creation of a modern glass cockpit designed around Honeywell’s Primus Apex avionics suite. Viking initially considered Garmin’s G1000, but the system’s primary flight displays did not meet the level-A software requirements needed for a transport-category aircraft with more than nine seats.
According to Mauracher, so far North American sales account for only eight of the aircraft in the order book, including three to the U.S. Army. “Our market is the rest of the world,” he said, “and we still haven’t tapped India and some other developing markets that we see as fertile ground for us in the future.” Based on its current sales, the company is also pursuing certification in Australia and Russia.
This year the company plans to deliver the 10 Twin Otters currently under construction in Calgary, and next year it wants to build 16 to 18 aircraft before deciding whether to ramp up to peak production of 24 in 2012. Mauracher noted that the newly opened manufacturing facility at the company’s headquarters in Victoria, British Columbia, could eventually produce enough part sets for nearly 50 aircraft a year, but the actual assembly of that many would require more investment in infrastructure.
Powered by a pair of Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-34s or optional PT6A-35s (tuned for hot-and-high operations) driving three-blade Hartzell propellers, the Series 400 has a top speed of 182 knots at 10,000 feet and a range of nearly 800 miles with standard fuel tanks. The unpressurized twin has a service ceiling of 26,700 feet (with crew/passenger oxygen), and STOL performance that allows the aircraft to clear a 50-foot obstacle in 1,200 feet. While Viking is still evaluating the final performance figures, the 400 series is lighter and faster than the legacy Twin Otter and has a “better than hoped-for fuel burn.”