Dornier nears decision on Seastar final assembly base

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Dornier Seaplane will select by the end of January the home of its Seastar amphibian final assembly facility.

The privately owned US company decided to launch production of the 10-seat aircraft late in 2009 following strong customer demand for the twin-engined turboprop, which was originally unveiled in the early 1980s.

The Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-135A-powered aircraft had already gained European and US certification before production was halted in 1991 due to a lack of funding.

"The Seastar has been extremely well received by private companies and individuals, commercial operators and government agencies from around the world," says Dornier Seastar chief executive Joe Walker. "We have received more than 25 letters of intent that are fairly evenly split between the three market segments and we are now in the process of converting these into firm orders."

dornier seastar dornier
 © Dornier Seaplane

Walker says the Punta Gorda, Florida-based company is committed to selecting a final assembly plant before the end of January. The choice is between two sites in Canada - St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Montreal, Quebec or North Bay, Ontario.

"This year is dedicated to selection of the final assembly facility and our major suppliers," he says. The first production aircraft is scheduled for roll-out at the end of 2011 and will, Walker hopes, be sold to a customer on a sale/lease-back agreement.

"We would like to use this model as a demonstrator and as an engineering upgrade aircraft," he adds.

The first seven aircraft will be delivered in the Seastar's original configuration and subsequent aircraft will be upgraded with a glass cockpit, known icing, autopilot and air conditioning.

"Our customers are happy to take the round dial types with a view to retrofitting the aircraft at a later date," Walker says.

Delivery of the glass panel versions will begin in 2013. "We will deliver six aircraft in 2012, ramping up to one a month in 2013," says Walker.