Ayres, the US cargo and agricultural aircraft manufacturer, expects to complete its acquisition of a 93% controlling stake in Czech aircraft builder Let Kunovice from Aero Holdings by the end of July.

"We have signed everything and are only waiting on US Government technicalities," says company president Fred Ayres. The deal was approved by the Czech Government in late April.

Let is already building the prototype wings and empennage for Ayres' LM-200 Loadmaster utility aircraft, as well as parts of the aft fuselage. Fred Ayres says that plans to use parts of the Let L-410 design in the Loadmaster are at an advanced stage, and the company has "completed detailed design" incorporating "parts such as control wheels, rudders and a good bit of the cockpit, engine inlets and some of the exhaust system". He adds that Kunovice will supply "about 50% of the aircraft" by value.

Orders for the $4.25-4.75 million Loadmaster have reached 75, with deliveries of 50 to launch customer FedEx to begin in 2000. Ayres says a further 25 orders have been taken, including five from a Dutch operator, four from South Africa, three for Corporate Air of Billings, Montana, and two for WestAir of Fresno, California.

The company is now "starting to put parts in the shop" at its plant in Albany, Georgia, says Ayres, with a large fuselage section now undergoing structural tests. Let will deliver the first wings and empennage "by the end of December" and the Allison/AlliedSignal LHTEC company will deliver the first 2,000kW (2,700shp) CTP800-4T engine in December. First flight is due by the "end of the first quarter of 1999". It is available in freighter, combi and passenger versions.

Let also produces the L-420, a Westernised L-410 that received US certification in May, and the General Electric CT-7-powered L-610G, of which Ayres says: "We expect to develop the 610 and get it US certification within the year."

Source: Flight International