Customers offering financial help to Grob: chief executive

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Several customers who have ordered the Grob SPn have offered to help bale the airframer out of its financial crisis after repeated delays to the light business jet's flight-testing programme forced Grob Aerospace to file for insolvency on 18 August.

Chief executive Niall Olver - who led a buyout of the specialist aerobatic aircraft manufacturer two years ago - is "very optimistic" a new source of funding can be found shortly following the decision by Grob's loan provider to discontinue support.

"I have been in touch with most of our customers and we've only had one cancellation. In fact, half of the ones I spoke to have offered to invest in the company. It is quite remarkable the support that we have received," he told Flight International, Flightglobal.com's print edition.

Earlier in a message to staff, Olver said: "I am very confident this disruption can be overcome. I am sure that 37 years of pioneering composite aircraft manufacturing will survive."

Alpha Flying, the biggest customer for the SPn with 25 aircraft on order for its PlaneSense fractional programme, is among the customers which have given their backing to the company. "We continue to stand by our fleet purchase order," says chief executive George Antoniadis. "We look forward to hearing news of a prompt reorganisation of Grob Aerospace."

Under the terms of the insolvency, Grob's affairs will be overseen by an administrator for 90 days, during which all of the company's employees will continue to be paid and efforts will be made to refloat the business.

Although the SPn has received positive feedback in the industry and has an orderbook of around 120 aircraft, the all-composite light jet has been dogged by problems during its certification process. The second prototype crashed in November 2006, killing the test pilot.

However, with a fourth prototype taking to the air on 7 August and the Tussenhausen-Mattsies factory near Munich gearing up for series production, it looked recently as if the programme was back on track and heading for certification later this year.

Bombardier says plans for Grob to design the structure and build the first three prototypes of the new mid-size all-composite Learjet 85 remain unaffected. "Everything is moving ahead as scheduled," says the Canadian company.

Bombardier has in the past been mooted as a prospective suitor for the business.