Czech general aviation aircraft manufacturer Evektor has signed a memorandum of understanding with Russian company AeroGeo for the sale of 29 EV-55 Outback turboprops - nine orders and 20 options.
The $61 million deal with the geophysical exploration company and EV-55 launch customer, comes as the Kunovice-based airframer steps up its marketing effort for the twin-engined aircraft.
AeroGeo plans to use the nine-seat aircraft for passenger transportation in Siberia when the first aircraft enters service in 2015, says Evektor.
"The EV-55 has been developed to operate in extreme climatic conditions," says Jaroslav Růžička, Evektor chairman. Russia is a key market for Evektor because of its under-developed transportation infrastructure and vast terrain. In an effort to boost sales within the region, the airframer has established a Moscow-based subsidiary called Vektor, which is responsible for marketing the EV-55 within Russia, establishing a service centre network along with an EV-55 manufacturing facility.
The Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-powered, high-wing EV-55 is Evektor's first foray into the business and utility aircraft market. Until now, the company has focused on ultralights and light sport aircraft, of which it has sold more than 1,000 worldwide.
Evektor says its objective is to replace the huge fleets of "obsolete" six- to nine-seat piston twins, including the Cessna 402/404s, and be a "successful competitor" to its single-engined rivals such as the Pilatus PC-12 and the Cessna Caravan.
The EV-55 has logged 80 flight test hours during 115 sorties since making its inaugural flight in June 2011.
Evektor says the EV-55 has surpassed a number of programme milestones. "Aircraft serial number 1 has completed the first block of stall characteristic tests. Single-engine characteristic and critical engine assessment trials are also finished, and flutter testing is now under way,' it explains.
The second aircraft - a stress test article - has successfully completed wing stress testing and is set to undergo fuselage strength tests in two months, says Evektor.
Assembly of the third aircraft - the conforming prototype - is now under way at Evektor's headquarters. It is scheduled to make its first flight in 2013. The aircraft will be equipped with the CMC Electronics SmartDeck integrated flightdeck.