The revived Dornier Seastar amphibious aircraft is on track to make its first flight by the end of next year, Simon Schell, chief of technical sales, told AIN yesterday at the MEBAA Show.
The first flight will be a significant milestone in one of history’s longest development programs. The 12-passenger Seastar was certified in Germany to Part 23 [general aviation] standards a quarter century ago, but never brought to market. In 2014 Dornier partnered with two Chinese state-owned companies to complete commercial development. The aircraft is being updated to incorporate a Honeywell Primus Epic avionics suite, stern hydro thruster for improved water maneuvering, new landing gear, and many other improvements. Powered by two in-line Pratt & Whitney Canada turboprop engines, the Seastar has a maximum cruise speed of 180 knots and a 900-nautical-mile (1,667-kilometer) range.
The fuselage, of fiberglass reinforced plastic, and most other airframe components will be manufactured in Canada. Final assembly will be at Dornier’s plant in Germany and at a new facility in Yixing, China, for which ground was broken in September.
Dornier Seawings (Stand 384) is aiming the versatile aircraft at the commuter, VIP, corporate and special missions markets. Meanwhile, though an amphibious aircraft may seem superfluous in the Middle East, Schell notes there’s a lot of water in the region, and the Seastar could be ideal for VIP and commuter transportation (“You can go directly from Abu Dhabi to Dubai, port-to-port,” Schell said by way of example), offering more capability and lower operating costs than a helicopter. The order book is open but Dornier hasn’t been actively marketing the Seastar, priced at $7.21 million in 2016 dollars, pending availability.