Paris Air Show

Paris 2011: GECI gets delayed Skylander back on track

 - June 20, 2011, 2:45 AM

Final assembly of GECI Aviation’s multi-purpose twin-turboprop SK-105 Skylander is to begin in the second half of this year, with a first flight scheduled for the second half of 2012 leading to type certification expected during the first half of 2013. This is six to nine months later than the original plan outlined by the French company.

Four prototypes of the 19-passenger or 2.7-metric-ton freight capacity Skylander will be built, with first deliveries going to ACT Airlines of Turkey. ACT currently holds agreements to buy 17 SK-105s.

According to GECI chairman Serge Bitboul, the new timetable for the SK-105 is based on revised commitments from suppliers and partners for parts and equipment deliveries. He claimed that major design changes, based on customer requirements, have considerably improved the SK-105’s performance to increase speed, improve takeoff and landing performance and provide more range with maximum payload. The high-wing, unpressurized SK-105 is powered by two 1,100-shp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-65B turboprops driving five-blade Hartzell propellers. It is designed for operations on basic runways, at up to 50-degrees C and as cold as minus 40-degrees C, and at altitudes as high as 10,000 feet in Nepal.

GECI has chosen around a dozen equipment manufacturers and half a dozen small aerostructures suppliers that between them provide about 80 percent of the aircraft, with GECI itself performing final assembly at its eastern France facility. The supply chain includes companies such as Cobham (avionics), Heggemann (landing gear), Béringer (wheels and brakes), PPG and SGS (windows and windshields), Meggitt (environmental control system), Secondo Mona and Intertechnique (fuel distribution and indication) and Leach (primary electrical circuit).

The company expects to produce and market 1,500 Skylanders between 2013 and 2030. Eight aircraft are expected to be produced during the 2013-14 financial year, 50 in 2015-16 and 110 by 2019-20.

GECI confirmed that a study for a Skylander equipped with floats and intended for operators involved in surveillance roles mainly in the Asia-Pacific region and North America was started in March. Both a VIP Skylander and a version equipped with skis are under consideration with anticipated entry into service around 2014 and 2015, respectively.

Meanwhile, in April, fellow GECI subsidiary Reims Aviation delivered its 97th multipurpose twin turboprop F406 to the Office of Tourism and Cartography of Tunisia. The twin turboprop F406–an updated version of Cessna’s Caravan II–is suited to surveillance, mapping, pollution control, passenger and freight transport, air drops, medical evacuation and humanitarian missions. Production has started on the 100th F406–the first aircraft entirely produced since the restructuring of GECI International’s aviation division in 2010.

The company’s backlog includes 17 orders for the F406–not all of them firm–and, among other potential deals, a memorandum of understanding with an unnamed Chinese charter operator for three aircraft. The aircraft’s production rate increased from two last year to six this year, and is set to rise to 10 in 2012 and reach 14 by 2015-16 onward.