Foreign firms resuscitate old turboprop designs
Three popular unpressurized twin turboprops from the past have or will soon re-enter production.
British Columbia-based Viking Air Ltd. acquired the type certificate and production rights to the DHC-6 Twin Otter from Bombardier in 2006 and could start customer deliveries by next year. Viking already owns the type certificates for seven other deHavilland aircraft, including the DHC-3 Otter and the four-engine DHC-7 Dash 7.
The de Havilland Twin Otter was a staple of commuter and regional airlines during the 1960s and more than 800 were built between 1965 and 1988. An estimated 600 remain in service.
To date, the company has received 40 orders from a diverse list of global customers for the reincarnated Twin Otter dubbed the Viking 400. The aircraft currently has a base price of $3.9 million, according to Rob Mauracher, Viking vice president of business development. Power on the 400 will come from a pair of Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-34 engines. Honeywell Apex avionics will be standard. Four-blade propellers, wing de-ice, floats and amphibious landing gear will be offered as aftermarket options, as will a variety of interiors that will add anywhere from $150,000 to $500,000 to the price. These include “plush” executive and VIP configurations with club seating, an “RV-style” interior and commuter seating, said Mauracher. As of last month, three 400s have been ordered with VIP interiors. Mauracher also sees a role for the airplane as a search-and-rescue, maritime patrol, para-drop and reconnaissance platform and said the company had received customer requests to equip the airplane with night-vision goggle (NVG) and forward-looking infrared (FLIR) capabilities.
“The aircraft is so special and versatile that you can equip it to do pretty much anything you want to do,” Mauracher said.
Development on the 400 is proceeding well, according to Mauracher, who said that ground-testing with “power on” should have occurred by the end of last month. Viking has no plans to alter the 400’s original certification or flight envelope, but Mauracher said that there could be “cut-ins” later. Viking plans a gradual production ramp-up, with five aircraft to be delivered in 2009, 12 in 2010 and 18 annually thereafter.
Nomad To Be Resurrected
Another unpressurized twin-turboprop workhorse, the Nomad, is set for resurrection soon, although specific details remain sketchy. The Nomad carries 12 to 13 passengers in commuter configuration, has a range of 600 nm and cruises at 168 knots.
On June 16, Australia’s Gippsland Aeronautics Pty Ltd. acquired the type certificate for the Nomad from Boeing Australia Ltd. and plans to launch an updated version of the aircraft. The sale included technical and spares sales support.
The Australian Government Aircraft Factory, later renamed the Aerospace Technologies of Australia Ltd. (ASTA), designed the Rolls-Royce 250-powered Nomad in 1965. The first prototype flew in 1971 and production ended in 1984. Fifty-four Nomads remain in service. Boeing acquired the Nomad’s TC in 1996 when it purchased Rockwell’s aviation assets, including ASTA.
Gippsland employs 120 in Morwell, Victoria, and manufactures piston-powered utility aircraft including the GA-8 Airvan and the GA200 light agricultural aircraft. The company builds Airvans at a rate of two per month; more than 130 are in service.
A research study commissioned for Gippsland concluded that there is likely a limited, although steady demand for 200 Nomads over the next 10 years. Gippsland already claims to have letters of intent in hand for the Nomad from two Australian operators: Curry-Kenny Aviation and Airfreight Solutions.
Italy’s Vulcanair bought the TC for the Partenavia AP68-TP600 Viator in the 1980s and now has put an updated version of it back into very limited production. The first $1.9 million A-Viator twin-engine turboprop was delivered this summer, one of only three that Vulcanair plans to produce this year. The aircraft has been updated with Rolls-Royce 250 B17C engines and glass-cockpit displays. The cabin can be configured for commuter, cargo, combi, medevac and parachute jumping operations.