Grob - a niche maker of motor gliders and light aircraft based in Bavaria – surprised the industry when it unveiled at the Paris air show in 2005 its all-composite SPn light jet. Run for years as a bit of an indulgent sideline by the family behind German industrial machine company Grob, the aerospace arm was later bought by investors headed by Niall Olver, the South African owner of ExecuJet.
Like its Austrian counterpart Diamond, the innovative SPn showed that a small European company could still hack it in the world of business aviation manufacturing – dominated by giants such as Bombardier, Cessna, Dassault, Hawker Beechcraft and Gulfstream.
But at the end of last year, just about the worst thing that could happen happened – the second prototype crashed on a demonstration flight at the company’s airfield at Tussenhausen-Mattsies, killing the chief test pilot.
It set the programme back months, but Olver and his team have got it back on tracks. Flying of the first test aircraft resumed on 23 February – although the investigation into the crash has not concluded, the authorities have cleared the construction of the aircraft itself – and Grob has more than 60 orders for the $7 million jet, representing two years’ of production backlog. A third SPn will fly in July and Grob is aiming for European certification in April.