Business aircraft activity showed “tentative signs of recovery” last month, according to data from aviation services company Aviation Research Group/U.S. (ARG/US). “Shortly after the beginning of the global downturn, business aircraft activity has been hit by a slump in demand, but in recent weeks the trend suggests activity could meet 2008 levels in the near term,” the firm said.
An ATR 72-500 twin turboprop operated by Thailand’s Bangkok Airways crashed into a disused air traffic control tower on August 4, killing the captain and injuring the copilot and six passengers. According to the operator, the airliner had been landing on the resort island of Koh Samui in heavy rain and wind when it skidded off the 4,724-foot runway.
Rich Lucibella, the buyer and builder of an Epic Aircraft LT single-engine turboprop under the corporate name Blue Sky Avgroup, filed a lawsuit against Epic Aircraft, alleging that the kit manufacturer took his money and never delivered the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67A engine needed to complete the airplane.
As the larger fractional ownership operations lay off employees and/or reduce aircraft delivery rates, Clearwater, Fla.-based Avantair is watching its fleet of 53 Avantis and Avanti IIs grow as quickly as Italian manufacturer Piaggio can deliver them, with six more due before year-end.
As Franco-Italian turboprop maker ATR readies for the first flight of its new 600 Series this month, the company finds itself in a “comfortable position” by virtue of a backlog of 162 airplanes worth some $3 billion–“pretty much the largest [the company] has achieved in the program,” according to ATR senior vice president John Moore. Still, Moore didn’t deny the difficulty ATR has encountered selling airplanes in North America.
Royal Air Maroc is one of the most recent customers to sign up for the new 600 Series of ATR-42s and ATR-72s being developed by Avions de Transport Regional. The new aircraft is due to make its first flight next month as the French-Italian manufacturer heads for projected certification in the second half of 2010.
Bombardier Aerospace is continuing to define a further stretch of its 78-passenger Dash 8 Q-400 regional turboprop to create a possible 90-seat variant that could enter service before the middle of the next decade.
Epic Aircraft’s Escape all-composite turboprop single flew for the first time on April 9. Epic initially marketed the airplane as an experimental kitbuilt but plans eventually to seek FAA certification. The Escape is powered by a 940-shp Honeywell TPE331-10A. Cruise speed is 350 knots and range 1,510 nm.
Avions de Transport Régional (ATR) has quietly launched an executive version of its ATR 42 and 72 regional airliners. In fact, there are already seven corporate or VIP ATR operators.
Snecma launched the Silvercrest core-engine demonstrator program in 2006, built the engine in 2007 and successfully completed testing of it in March 2008. Now the company is continuing its talks with airframers to find a first application for the 9,500- to 12,000-pound-thrust engine. “The Silvercrest is being considered for many programs,” said Laurence Finet, general manager of the Silvercrest program.