The region around Kunovice, near the border with Slovakia – home to Aircraft Industries and Zlin Aircraft (the former Moravan) – has since before the Second World War been one of the heartlands of the Czech aviation industry. One of its leading lights today is Evektor, a privately owned company that has ambitions to step up from being one of Europe’s most successful light recreational aircraft manufacturers to breaking into the larger utility turboprop segment.
The company was established in 1991 as a design and engineering consultancy for both the aviation and automotive industries. It worked with Aero Vodochody on the design of the L159 light combat aircraft and collaborates with Czech car maker Škoda on the styling of a number of its models. However, it was in 1996 that it established a foothold in aircraft manufacturing through its acquisition of Aerotechnik, which had been producing aircraft since the 1970s.
Since the acquisition, it has become a prolific manufacturer of light aircraft, delivering in excess of 1,200 models to owner pilots, training schools, and flying clubs worldwide. Its in-production line-up includes six designs from the ultralight EuroStar SL to the four-seat VUT100 Cobra piston single.
The privately owned company has also been working for the last decade on a utility, twin-engined turboprop called EV-55 Outback. The prototype made its first flight in 2013 and has since clocked up over 140h in flight testing. The Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-21-powered aircraft is Evektor’s answer to the ageing but potentially lucrative piston-twin market, for which there are few new-generation alternatives.
The $2.1 million aircraft seats nine passengers, or carries 1.8t of cargo. With a 16.1m (53ft) wingspan and length of 14.4m, and a top speed of 220kt (407km/h), the EV-55 is promoted by Evektor as a versatile workhorse able to access remote airfields but comfortable and modern enough to be a corporate aircraft. One of its biggest advantages, says Evektor, is the twin baggage compartments offering 0.5m3 (17.7ft3) and 2.7m3 of space. The cockpit is fitted with CMC Electronics’ SmartDeck avionics suite.
Despite some market interest – in 2102, a Russian company called AeroGeo signed a memorandum of understanding for nine EV-55s with options for another 20 – the biggest challenge for Evektor is going to be raising the remaining funds to complete its development. The programme has so far been funded by Evektor's shareholders, with a grant also provided by the Czech government. The company says it is now working hard to “secure sufficient funding from other sources”, but it admits that the sluggish business and general aviation market has hampered its efforts.
Nonetheless, Evektor is hopeful it can bring the EV-55 to market in 2016. The first production prototype is being assembled at its Kunovice factory and is scheduled to begin flight testing at the end of the year.