Australian general aviation manufacturer GippsAero and US aircraft float manufacturer Wipaire aim to bring to market a float programme for the turbocharged GA8TC Airvan in 2012. The move follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the two companies late in 2010.
GippsAero says the partners will work together on the design, construction, flight-testing and certification of the GA9TC fitted with Wipaire's 345OS 3450 seaplane and amphibious floats. Float-equipped versions of the aircraft will feature the 350hp (260kW) Lycoming TIO-540-AE2A engine.
GippsAero believes the GA8's large square section cabin, with easy access, large payload, docile handling characteristics and low operating costs will make it an attractive and commercially viable floatplane.
In the 1970s, Wipaire worked on a project to add floats to the Nomad, now also part of GippsAero's stable after its purchase from Boeing of the twin turboprop's type certificate in June 2008. Following its acquisition by Indian group Mahindra in late 2009, GippsAero aims to bring the relaunched Nomad - the 18-seat GA18 - to market within the next two years.
The GA18 launch will be preceded by the introduction of a 10-seat stretch of the GA8 Airvan, dubbed the GA10. About $20 million is being invested by Mahindra in GippsAero over the next two years for product development.
The GA10 Turbine will be powered by a Rolls-Royce 250 B17F2 and will have room for a minimum of eight occupants for at least 5h endurance, or up to 10 occupants. It will have a maximum all-up weight of 2,075kg (4,750lb) and an estimated empty weight of 1,065kg.
GippsAero says the GA10 will maintain the concept of the GA8 - simplicity at low operating costs. The aim is to use the aerodynamic design of the GA8 and current production parts as far as possible to minimise development and production costs, says GippsAero.
First flight of the GA10 is scheduled for November, with Australian type certification planned for February 2013. The aircraft's public debut is scheduled for the Australian International Airshow at Avalon in Victoria in March 2013.
Through GippsAero, Mahindra Aerospace aims to become "globally recognised as a manufacturer of cost-effective, efficient, robust utility aircraft, producing and supporting a portfolio of four to six models".
More models could follow, says Arvind Mehra, executive director and chief executive of Mahindra Aerospace. "While we are starting with utility aircraft in the two- to 20-seat class, we are also watching developments in applying new technologies to the next class of civilian aircraft," he says. "If the right combination of market demand, technology enablers and partnerships become possible, then who can tell?"