Czech aircraft manufacturer Evektor flew its EV-55 for the first time late last month, and is gearing up to complete certification of the civilian version of the 14-seat twin-engine turboprop by early 2014.
The Pratt & Whitney PT6A-21-powered EV-55 was rolled out from Evektor's Kunovice base a year ago but the airframer has been waiting to get the go-ahead from the Czech army and the country's ministry of defence, which are supervising initial testing.
The military will account for a number of sales, Evektor says, but the commercial market is the primary target for the high-wing aircraft, including VIP, charter, commuter and cargo operators.
"The EV-55M has performed five flights and logged four flight hours since its first flight on the 24 June," says Petr Grebeníček, Evektor's marketing manager.
Production of the second and third aircraft - which is likely to be the first civil version - is already under way in Kunovice, he adds. The EV-55 is pitched against ageing piston-twin utility aircraft, including the Cessna 402 and Piper PA-31 Navajo or Chieftain, of which there are large fleets in Africa, Asia, Australia, Latin America, North America and Russia; Evektor is planning to set up a second EV-55 production facility in Russia's Ulyanovsk region.
Evektor says the aircraft has the edge on its competitors in take-off and landing capabilities - 420m (1,380ft) even in hot and high conditions - its 12.7m3 (450ft3) cabin and baggage compartment and its 220kt (410km/h) top speed.