Ayres is to assemble its LM200 Loadmaster cargo aircraft in Dothan, Alabama.

The aircraft manufacturer, which is based in Albany, Georgia, selected Dothan over another Georgian town, Americus, as the site for fuselage manufacture and final assembly of the aircraft. The decision was influenced by a combination of $4 million in economic incentives and the availability of a skilled workforce.

The first three Loadmasters, which will be used for certification flight testing, will be built atAyres' Albany plant. Fairchild Dornier is designing the fuselage, says president Fred Ayres, while an unnamed subcontractor is designing and will manufacture the wing.

A first flight is planned "at the end of 1998, or early 1999", says Ayres. There have been delays, but the company remains on schedule to deliver the first of 50 aircraft on firm order for FedEx in December 1999, he says.

Ayres is planning to build 50 aircraft a year - half of them for FedEx - and has orders in hand for some 30 Loadmasters from customers other than the US package carrier.

Ayres says that a floatplane version will be the first Loadmaster derivative to be certificated following approval of the basic freighter aircraft. "There is a lot of interest in the floatplane," he says, particularly from operators of de Havilland Twin Otters equipped with floats.

The company is in talks with float manufacturer Whipline, "but there's no contract yet", Ayres says.

Source: Flight International