AVIC General Aircraft is the front-runner to buy bankrupt US aircraft-maker Epic Air, a move that helps the Chinese aerospace company's ambition to build a business jet.
Epic Air's bankruptcy trustee, lawyer Ken Eiler, has chosen AVIC General Aircraft's $4.3 million cash bid, which beat offers from LT Builders Group and Wichita-based Harlow Aerostructures.
Epic manufactured the Epic LT, a five-passenger seat aircraft sold in kit form and powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-67A turboprop engine.
The US aircraft-maker was attempting to achieve certification for the LT to allow it to be sold it as a finished product.
It was also working to develop a very light jet called the Epic Victory.
The company built one Epic Victory test aircraft. This seats four passengers and is powered by a Williams International FJ33 turbofan. Epic planned to use P&WC PW600 engines for the production models.
An AVIC source says Epic's "technology and products would be a good platform" for AVIC General Aircraft to develop future products.
The LT is of particular interest because there are few turboprop aircraft that have a composite fuselage, says the source, who also reveals that a decision on whether the LT is to be certificated has yet to be made.
It has also yet to decide whether to use the Epic Victory as a platform for developing a VLJ, adds the source.
AVIC General Aircraft announced last September that it wants to develop a small business jet aircraft and was likely to achieve that objective by buying an established business jet manufacturer.
In 2008 AVIC General Aircraft looked at buying Germany's Grob Aerospace, which was then in administration. It also looked at buying Piper Aircraft but that company was sold Imprimis, an investment company linked to the Brunei government.