SPn light business jet nearer to resurrection

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Attempts to resurrect the Grob Aerospace SPn light business jet have taken a step a closer with the creation of a business plan for the programme drawn up by Niall Olver, Grob's former chief executive. Olver has been appointed by the aircraft's main creditor to assemble new investors to buy the SPn assets.

Development of the SPn was halted last year when the company's major investor pulled out of the venture - subsequent attempts to raise investment for the programme failed and Grob was declared insolvent in November. Germany's H3 Aerospace relaunched the old Grob Aerospace training aircraft business under the name Grob Aircraft while the largest creditor retains the assets to the SPn, which it holds in an unnamed company.

grob spn
 © Grob

"The sooner we get this project going the better," says Olver, who is also chief executive of business aircraft services company ExecuJet. "We hope to have a way forward by June, but there are still many things to consider."

Olver says the SPn is "still phenomenally well placed in the market and there is still a great deal of interest in the product".

Before Grob's collapse the company secured around 100 orders for the €5.9 million ($8.7 million) aircraft. "Of these, 65 are still willing to go forward if we get the programme back on the road," he says. Olver says there are also a number of people who have expressed a willingness to invest in the SPn. "The question is: 'is someone prepared to put their money where there mouth is?'"

A number of key steps have to be taken before the programme can resume, including reinstating the design authority approval, establishing a certification schedule, a manufacturing base and a sales and support network. "Around 60% of the key engineers who worked on the SPn at Tussenhausen-Mattsies - where the SPn is parked - have expressed a willingness to return to the programme once we have set up operation, which is likely to be at one of two sites that we have already identified in Germany," says Olver. He adds that the venture "may seek third party expert help" with the certification process, probably through an existing OEM. "We many also decide to outsource aircraft manufacture, but we haven't decided if this is the best way forward. Clearly a key concern is making a meaningful return for the investor."

With the financial crisis pummelling the business aviation sector, Olver admits these are tough times to restart a business.

"Timing is key. We have the engineers ready to go and a number of willing customers standing by. Of course we don't know when the market is going to come back, but it should take around three years [from relaunch] to bring the aircraft to market, during which time our competitors aren't as active and we can sell the aircraft," he says.