EADS-PZL pulls the plug on Wilga

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Poland-based manufacturer in talks to transfer short take-off and landing aircraft programme to North America

EADS-PZL has halted production of the PZL-104MA Wilga 2000 short take-off and landing light aircraft, blaming its abrupt decision on lack of resources and high costs. The Warsaw, Poland-based company is evaluating proposals to transfer Wilga production to North America, where demand for the high-wing aircraft is strong.

Cessation of the programme has been greeted with surprise by many of the company's international dealers, which have reported strong demand for the four-seat aircraft, built at PZL's Warszawa-Okecie facility.

John Calderwood, sales manager for Canadian dealer Sealand Aviation, says: "We were told of PZL's decision in a one-line email. Up to this point we assumed everything was going well, with two successful shows in Alaska and Oshkosh and a growing orderbook, including a possible six aircraft for the Air Cadet League of Canada."

Calderwood says there was no indication that PZL was "about to pull the plug". The company says its decision to cease manufacture of the Wilga after more than 40 years did not come easily. Zbigniew Wasiucionek, trade and marketing director, says PZL was not producing enough Wilgas each year to sustain its $233,000 price tag.

"The price of the aircraft would have to have risen considerably to make production profitable," says Wasiucionek. PZL consulted its dealers about the price increase, "but many said the aircraft would become unsaleable", he adds. "We could not afford to take a gamble on production increasing to such a level over the next couple of years as to prevent this price increase."

PZL says its resources are focused on Airbus and EADS Casa CN-235 components, as well as manufacture of its PZL-106 Kruk agricultural aircraft and PZL 130 Orlik military trainer. Wasiucionek says PZL is already holding talks on transferring Wilga production to an undisclosed North American company. Its last aircraft, serial number 24, will roll off the production line on 15 December.