There were two major developments in the business turboprop sector this year and neither involved new aircraft. However, they did show where potentially the next growth area is for the turboprop market: downstream. Turboprops historically have been a useful vehicle for introducing new customers into the corporate aircraft market, provided operators can maintain price discipline. If not, bad things can happen. Case in point: after several years of public struggle, Piaggio Avanti fractional provider Avantair ceased operations in June.
ACEA (Beijing) Aviation Investment, the Piaggio Avanti distributor in Mainland China, signed a contract yesterday at NBAA 2013 with SR Jet, a division of Beijing-based Sparkle Roll Investment Holdings, for the purchase of two extended-range Avanti IIs with options for eight more. The aircraft will incorporate an additional tank with a 400-pound capacity, increasing the maximum fuel on board to 3,226 pounds from 2,826 and extending the maximum range by 250 nm, to 1,720 nm with IFR reserves.
Piaggio Aero Industries, Italian manufacturer of the P.180 Avanti II twin turboprop, and ACEA (Beijing) Aviation Investment Co., exclusive distributor for the aircraft in Mainland China, signed a contract here at NBAA 2013 yesterday with SR Jet, a division of Beijing-based Sparkle Roll Investment Holdings, for the purchase of two Avanti IIs with options for an additional eight.
Late last week, Romanian defense minister Mircea Dusa signed the contract for a €600 million ($817 million) deal to acquire 12 Lockheed Martin F-16AM/BM fighters from Portugal. An initial installment was paid at the same time. The acquisition of F-16s will finally allow Romania to operate NATO-compatible aircraft, and also brings to an end a long-running saga to provide a replacement for the dwindling LanceR fleet of upgraded MiG-21s.
During a ceremony to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Thales facility at Brest, French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian signed the contract that launches a major upgrade for the Marine Nationale’s Dassault Atlantique 2 maritime patrol aircraft. The upgrade equips the Atlantique 2 for service to at least its current planned out-of-service date of 2030, and beyond if its career is extended.
The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) state-owned and -operated Aviation Industry Corporation of China (Avic) presented a full line of its products and plans for further expansion of its export markets at last month’s Aviation Expo China exhibition, which was held in the Chinese capital, Beijing. The centerpiece of the Avic display was a line-up of models of those military aircraft programs that the conglomerate has been permitted to make public.
Lockheed Martin’s F-35A Joint Strike Fighter and the Eurofighter Typhoon are back in play for South Korea’s F-X III fighter requirement after that country made a sudden decision to reject the last remaining contender, Boeing’s F-15SE Silent Eagle, and restart the procurement process.
There is no shortage of uncertainty about the future of Russia’s Sukhoi Perspektivniy Aviatsonnoi Kompleks-Frontovoi Aviatsii (PAK-FA)/T-50 fifth-generation fighter project. These doubts are driven by problems with major subsystems, delays with the aircraft’s introduction into service, and plans to defray some of the R&D cost by making India a developmental partner on the aircraft.
Russia’s Tactical Missile Corporation is negotiating with Dassault Aviation for the possible use of its missiles on the Rafale combat jets that have been selected by the Indian Air Force (IAF). The corporation, whose Russian acronym is TRV, told journalists attending last week’s Maks air show in Moscow that the Indian air force has large stocks of Russian air-launched weapons, which drives its interest in adapting them to the French warplane.
The Republic of Korea seems set to launch the F-15SE Silent Eagle, by confirming Boeing as winner of the F-X III contest for 60 more combat aircraft. The Yonhap news agency reported that the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Lockheed Martin F-35A have been eliminated. Boeing, Eurofighter and Lockheed Martin all said this week that they had received no official notification on the outcome of the F-X III contest. Yonhap said that “a final decision on whether to accept or reject the sole (remaining) candidate” will be made in mid-September.