Paul Phelan/CAIRNS

Australian ultra-light aircraft manufacturer Austflight has signed a joint venture agreement with the Shanghai Aircraft Manufacturing Factory to build the Australian-designed Drifter SB582 two-seat ultralight aircraft in Shanghai.

Under the agreement, the joint venture also plans to offer to supply components, to two other Australian general aviation aircraft manufacturers and one US builder.

The Drifters will be built to the Australian certificate of approval, extended to the Shanghai factory. This will be subject to, an Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority, quality assurance audit.

The agreement, still to be finalised, is based on Chinese acceptance of the Australian airworthiness standard and ongoing quality control.

The strut-braced Drifter ultra-light is an Australian redevelopment of a US kit-built aircraft introduced in 1985. It is now approved for some phases of ab initio pilot training in Australia, where it is used by flying schools alongside conventional general aviation trainers.

The joint venture will target Chinese ab initio pilot training schools, as well as the sports aviation market in the US and elsewhere. Austflight managing director Jim Fenton says the joint venture company, Shanghai Fenton Light Aircraft, expects to build 100 Drifters in the first year and 200 in the second. Manufacture will continue in Australia.

Fenton says that although the venture will initially concentrate on exports to the USA and other recreational markets, current negotiations will lead to a regulatory regime under which the Chinese Civil Aviation Authority will accommodate the use of the aircraft as a primary flight trainer.

Source: Flight International