The long-delayed Farnborough F1 utility turboprop single appears to have found new life through an agreement between its UK developer, Farnborough Aircraft, and Abu Dhabi-based Gulf Aircraft Maintenance (Gamco). Under a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed at November’s Dubai Air Show, Gamco will manufacture the aircraft, which will be marketed under the name Kestrel JP100 by a new joint venture called the Gulf Aircraft Partnership. A model of the aircraft was unveiled at the Dubai Air Show.
Farnborough Aircraft commercial director Richard Blain would not comment on when the MoU might be firmed up as a full-blown contract. However, he did say that Gamco has already made some composite and metal structures for the first prototype Kestrel.
The aircraft, now being assembled at an undisclosed U.S. location under U.S. experimental aircraft rules, is due to make its first flight early this year with a view to achieving certification and first deliveries before the end of 2008. A second prototype will join the flight-test program next year.
The six-seat aircraft will be powered by a 1,000-shp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67B and is expected to deliver speeds of around 350 knots and a range of up to 1,500 nm, challenging the new-generation very light jets. It promises impressive short-field takeoff performance.
Farnborough Aircraft took over the Farnborough F1 program in 2002, after Thrust SSC rocket car backer Richard Noble had struggled to raise sufficient capital from small private investors. The company has diversified its business plan away from Noble’s original goal of providing an affordable and versatile new aircraft that would vastly increase the market for air-taxi services in Europe. This concept was always dependent on European authorities’ finally granting approval for single-pilot commercial operations in IMC, which, at press time, had not yet happened.
The $2.5 million aircraft, which will feature a glass cockpit, is expected to offer operating costs of “significantly” less than $1 per nm. The Gulf Aircraft Partnership will market the airplane worldwide and to a wide variety of prospective operators, including owner-pilots. It intends to start taking firm orders for the Kestrel this year.
Gamco is not expected to make a direct cash injection into the program. However, it is likely to have a risk-sharing stake through its investment in a new 100,000-sq-ft composites manufacturing facility.
Kestrel Preliminary Performance and Specifications
Cabin length–17.6 feet
Cabin height–4.6 feet
Cabin width–5 feet
Useful load–2,243 pounds
Takeoff sea level at 59 degrees F–1,612 feet
Takeoff 5,000 feet at 77-degrees F–2,100 feet
Stall speed–61 knots
Time to climb–9 minutes to FL250
High-speed cruise–352 ktas
Long-range cruise–249 ktas
Max-fuel range–1,618 nm
NBAA IFR range with four passengers–1,427 nm