Naples-based manufacturer and refurbisher Vulcanair aims to bring two new general-aviation aircraft to market in the next 12 months. The company's goal is to certificate its VF600 single-turboprop cargo aircraft and a diesel-powered version of the P68C piston twin by year-end.
Getting new aircraft to the market is the main priority for the company, which purchased the assets of bankrupt Italian aircraft manufacturer Partenavia in 1998. "The challenge is to sell more aircraft," says marketing director Remo De Feo. Vulcanair will not begin selling its new aircraft until they are approved, however, as it regards taking orders before certification as high risk.
The cargo version of the Mission will be followed by an 11-seat passenger variant scheduled for certification in 2005. This in turn will be followed in 2006-7 by floatplane, VIP and cargo/passenger combi versions. For now, Vulcanair is selling the P68C piston twin. Boosted by an Italian police order for 18 P68 Observer versions, the company is seeking sales to the Italian coastguard and border patrol, for which it has pushed its manufacturing capacity up to 20 aircraft a year.
Vulcanair can make rapid changes in production capacity, while keeping its workforce small and stable, through its use of subcontractors, De Feo says. The Naples facility is essentially an assembly operation.
De Feo is confident of beginning sales of the P68 Diesel in 2005. Certification is expected to take just 40h of flight testing as the original P68C airframe and SMA SR-305 diesel-cycle engines are already approved. The aircraft will be aimed at markets where aviation gasoline is in scarce supply, which is much of the world except the USA. In North America, the aircraft will be marketed as a feeder airliner, emphasising the high reliability and low operating cost of the diesel engines.
While two-thirds of Vulcanair's revenues are from aircraft sales, the remainder comes from its maintenance, repair and overhaul operations, The company has refurbished ATRs and updated avionics on an Alitalia BoeingMD-80. With two bays allowing work on two aircraft simultaneously, Vulcanair completed six aircraft in 2003, but De Feo plans to expand the facilities if market conditions permit. In a move to widen its revenue base, Vulcanair has also started offering flight training.
ROB COPPINGER / NAPLES
Source: Flight International