Gippsland preparing for G18 market entry within two years

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India's Mahindra Group, the new owner of Australian general aviation manufacturer Gippsland Aeronautics, aims to bring a 10-seat stretch of the popular GA8 Airvan and the relaunched Nomad to market within the next two years.

The Mahindra Group, better known for automotive production than aircraft manufacture, announced plans to purchase a majority stake in Latrobe Valley, Victoria-based Gippsland at the end of last year. Mahindra plans to invest $20 million in the manufacturer over the next two years. An initial $2 million has been invested to grow the company's business in Australia. This initial investment will be used to fund the new 18-seat GA18 - the relaunched Nomad - and the new 10-seat GA10 Airvan and related production operations, says Arvind Mehra, executive director and chief executive officer, Mahindra Aerospace - the group's aircraft and aerostructures manufacturing division.

"Our plan is to bring the GA10 to market first, closely followed by the GA18, both of which will occur in the coming two years," he says.

g8 airvan gippsland
 © Gippsland
Gippsland Aeronautics aims to bring a 10-seat stretch of the popular GA8 Airvan (above) and the relaunched Nomad to market within the next two years

Gippsland has been considering developing a 10-seat stretch of its popular eight-seat GA8 utility turboprop for some time in response to customer demand, while it has been seeking funding to launch the GA18 programme since it acquired the certificate of type for the Nomad from Boeing in June 2008. The GA18 will feature new engines and propellers, a glass cockpit and weight-saving measures. Mehra declines to comment on how many commitments Gippsland has for the GA18, but last year the company had letters of intent for nine aircraft.

Gippsland is not Mahindra's first foray into aircraft design and production, with the company already developing the five-seat NM5 in conjunction with India's National Aerospace Laboratories. "The design phase is complete and we have already started to make the tooling from which we will build the prototype aircraft," says Mehra, adding that a prototype will be produced in Australia at Gippsland.

"Mahindra Aerospace is committed to consolidating and expanding Gippsland's business in Australia. The Airvan GA8 has already proved its airworthiness and is in great demand among buyers in both Australia and overseas," he says.

The latest version of the GA8, the turbocharged variant, has been selling well despite the global financial crisis, says Mehra. Some 15 of the type are now in service in a variety of roles, including with long-term Airvan customer the Mission Aviation Fellowship, which has added three turbocharged Airvans to its 14-strong GA8 fleet for operation in Papua New Guinea.

In addition, Bathurst, New South Wales-based Air Freight Solutions has added two turbocharged Airvans to its freighter fleet, while in Western Australia tourist operator Alligator Airways has replaced its entire Airvan fleet with five new turbocharged variants. New Zealand-based tour operator Air Safaris has boosted its Airvan fleet to four with the addition of a turbocharged aircraft.