American Utilicraft (AUC) is negotiating with Metalcraft Technologies for the manufacture of the fuselage for its FF-1080 feeder freighter. Cedar City, Utah-based subassembly specialist Metalcraft would take over as supplier from Aerostructures, which severed its links with the stalled programme some time ago.

AUC hopes to reach a definitive agreement to begin construction of the fuselage for the pre-production prototype by mid-July. Under the agreement, Metalcraft would manufacture all the fuselage, assemble the forward and aft sections, including horizontal and vertical stabilisers, and assist with assembly of the centre section at AUC's Lawrenceville, Georgia plant. Final assembly of the prototype FF-1080 is planned to take place in New Mexico.

Metalcraft was assembling the fuselage for the Safire Jet prototype until Safire Aircraft suspended work on the very light jet last month while it secures additional funding. The company has also produced parts for the Sino Swearingen SJ30-2 light business jet, which has yet to achieve certification, but was replaced as a supplier of parts for the Eclipse 500 very light jet.

AUC, which has been working to launch the FF-1080 since 1998, also says it is in "final negotiations" with Brisbane, Australia-based Global Air Group for a 50-firm, 50-option order and distributorship agreement. Charter carrier Global operates a Boeing 747-200F, with two more due to be introduced over the next 12 months.

Airline chief executive Luke Butler says the FF-1080 will be an ideal feeder freighter serving the African and European markets because it can operate carrying loads directly from 747 freighters without having to rebuild pallets.

In March, AUC announced a 300-aircraft distributorship agreement with WSI Hong Kong. The deal included a purchase agreement for 36 aircraft, with progress payments to begin once the prototype flies. In February, AUC announced a memorandum of understanding with Native American casino and construction firm TSAY for an $11 million equity investment to fund construction of the final assembly plant at San Juan Pueblo airport, near Santa Fe, New Mexico.



Source: Flight International