To the tiny Bavarian rural community of Tussenhausen-Mattsies last week for my third or fourth visit to Grob, but my first since the light aircraft manufacturer was rescued from insolvency in 2009 by H3, the vehicle for three Munich-based siblings who wanted to create an aerospace venture. Headed by co-chief executive Andre Hiebeler, the new owners are taking Grob back to its roots as an innovative developer of training and other concept composite aircraft. The Grob SPn light jet, the development costs of which forced the previous Grob Aerospace into insolvency, was not included in the deal. Instead, Hiebeler is betting on a radically improved version of the G120 light trainer, which - re-equipped with a turbine engine, Elbit glass cockpit and Martin-Baker ejection seats - he is pitching against more expensive and sophisticated trainers in a number of contests including India's.
We never show favouritism on Flight International, of course, but I have always had a soft spot for somewhat eccentric but driven independent airframers like Grob. There aren't many others left. Diamond and and Pilatus are the closest you get in Europe. Visiting businesses like Grob must be similar to the experience of calling in on the aviation innovators of the early 20th century...when they might conspiratorially have ushered you into the hanger where half a dozen men in overalls were putting the final touches on the aircraft in which the designer planned to fly the Channel. In a world dominated by a handful of mega manufacturers holding sway over a multi-tiered global infrastructure of suppliers, good luck I say to these vertically-integrated, give-it-a-go innovators looking to stamp their name on aviation.