El Gavilan plans US assembly

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El Gavilan is looking for a strategic partner in the USA to manufacture and sell its single-engine utility aircraft in the region.

The company, which produces the piston-powered Gavilan 358 and is developing the 508T turboprop utility aircraft has already set up an office in Lockhaven, Pennsylvania, which is responsible for aircraft engineering, design and certification.

Aircraft production, however, is handled at the manufacturer's base in Bogota, Colombia.

El Gavilan's general manager, Eric Leaver, says the US market is potentially lucrative, and the company believes its production could almost double if it were allowed to sell directly into the region. This prospect is hindered by the lack of a bilateral agreement between the two countries.

"Because our production plant is in Colombia, the Federal Aviation Administration will not recognise our quality assurance and will therefore not allow us to sell the aircraft in the USA," says Leaver. "The solution is to find a strategic partner which will set up an assembly plant in the USA, or to build the aircraft in a country that does have this bilateral agreement."

If it finds such a partner, El Gavilan will continue to build labour-intensive components in Bogota, shipping them to the USA for final assembly. It is negotiating with several unnamed companies.

Meanwhile, El Gavilan has selected the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-34 turboprop to power its new Gavilan 508T, an enhanced variant of the piston-engined Gavilan 358, which offers an improved useful load - up from 770kg (1,700lb) to 1,180kg - and an increased rate of climb - up from 1,000ft/min (5m/s) to 2,000ft/min. Flight testing is to start in mid-1999, with FAA certification following soon afterwards.

"We hope to start deliveries in around 2000," says Leaver. El Gavilan plans to manufacture about 18 508Ts in the first year of production, stepping up to 24 a year from 2001.