PARIS AIR SHOW: Maritime, SAR markets face Viking invasion

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Canadian-based Viking Air will attempt to exploit the world's growing demand for search and rescue and maritime patrol aircraft with a new version of its Twin Otter Series 400 aircraft.

The Guardian 400, unveiled at the Paris air show, will integrate a modern sensor package on an updated Twin Otter airframe and propulsion system, says Robert Mauracher, Viking Air's vice-president of business development. "We're targeting a bit of a marketing hole," he says.

The goal is to provide a 360° track-while-scan radar, spotter camera, laser range finder and laser illuminator on a new airframe, all costing less than $10 million, he says. The wings also offer four currently unused hard points for adding capability.

The Guardian 400 also would incorporate an internal fuel tank, extending mission sorties to more than 10h. The change will mean increasing the maximum take-off weight compared with the baseline Twin Otter Series 400. An electro-optical and infrared imaging turret will be designed to display on the Honeywell Primus Apex multifunction display on the flightdeck, or on a mission system console in the cabin.

viking twin otter viking air 
 © Viking Air

With long-range patrol and rescue missions in mind, Viking Air is equipping the Guardian 400 cabin with four crew observation stations, a rescue equipment drop hatch, air operable cargo door, search light and galley with an adjacent lavatory.

Moreover, says Mauracher, the Guardian 400 will also be equipped with floats, skis or wheels for landing in a variety of different environments. The Guardian 400's baseline model - the Twin Otter Series 400 - remains in certification testing, but first deliveries are planned in September, he adds.

The Series 400 update includes more than 400 design improvements, including uprated Pratt & Whitney PT6A-34/35 engines, composite structures and the Honeywell integrated avionics suite.

Viking Air completed the first flight for the civilian version of the updated Twin Otter in late 2008. The improved version of the short-take-off-capable and highly rugged aircraft has already attracted an estimated $160 million in sales.

The first four production aircraft are already in assembly at Viking Air's factory in western Canada. The Guardian 400 will enter a rapidly growing market for maritime patrol aircraft, with the EADS Casa CN-235, ATR 42 and Beechcraft King Air 350 among the entrenched competitors.