This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.
Like the rest of the aviation business, Australian aircraft manufacturer GippsAero (formerly Gippsland Aeronautics) has been impacted by the downturn following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The company, a subsidiary of India’s Mahindra Aerospace since 2009, builds the single-engine utility piston-powered Airvan GA8 and employed about 80 people at Latrobe Regional Airport in the state of Victoria, although news reports suggest that some layoffs have occurred. The turboprop GA10 Airvan was certified in 2017 but serial production does not appear to have commenced.
GippsAero may pause its operations for a few months until economies start to bounce back. In a statement, Mahindra said, “The duration of the crisis and the degree to which demand recovers versus pre-crisis levels is still yet unclear. General aviation operators have been hit hard by the crisis, and it has brought many operations to a halt.”
“Aviation, in general, has been severely impacted due to lockdowns across the world,” said Arvind Mehra, executive director and CEO for global operations at Mahindra Aerospace. “Every industry, including GippsAero, is in the process of determining the impact. Since [it is] part of a large corporation, we have enough support in hand.”
Mehra refused to comment on the number of aircraft in production in Australia but said that the company's Mahindra Aerostructures facility “is doing well.”
One business with orders for GA8s pending told AIN that it is scheduled to receive some of those this year, but it doesn’t expect the remainder to ever be delivered. However, a Mahindra spokesman said that the company plans to complete all outstanding orders. Last year, Mahindra sold 10 GA8s to China, mainly for skydiving operations.
During 2019, Mahindra reported deliveries of 12 GA8s, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. There were no reported deliveries during the first quarter of 2020.
According to a July 23 article in Australian Flying magazine, GippsAero CEO Keith Douglas has confirmed that the company "shed 25 percent of its employees at the beginning of June but attributed [the layoffs] to the impacts of the pandemic.”
Two years ago, Botswana's Major Blue Air was announced as the first customer for the GA10 turboprop, but it appears the delivery never took place as Major Blue Air does not list the GA10 in its fleet.
A GA10 crashed during spin testing with an under-development cargo pod in June 2018 at Mohave, California. Both pilots were able to eject after they were unable to recover from a spin with full landing flaps selected, a configuration not authorized by GippsAero’s chief design engineer for the testing.
Mahindra had also planned to resurrect the Australian twin-turboprop Government Aircraft Factories Nomad as the GA18, but those plans never came to fruition.