US engineers are preparing a test fuselage for the development of a new Combi Reliever freighter conversion of the Fokker 100, using a ex-Air France Regional airframe.

Colorado-based Phoenix Aero Solutions is working on pre-order contracts for three converted aircraft with options on another six, although the company is not identifying the customer until the contract has been completed.

The company is undertaking preparatory work on the aircraft, a 20-year old example with serial number 11344, formerly in service with Deutsche BA and Air Liberté.

Under the test programme, the main structural components - including the wings, empennage and landing gear - are being removed from the airframe. The Rolls-Royce Tay 650 engines have also been taken off, and sold to powerplant overhaul company Dallas Airmotive. The test fuselage will be transported to a facility at Front Range airport near Denver where it will be developed with a 2.44m (96in) large freight door and E-class cargo interior.

It will also be subjected to pressure and stress tests to meet US and European regulatory requirements, after which Phoenix will own the supplemental type certificate and manufacture all modification parts.

Phoenix manager Stan Mounce says the process is similar to that carried out during development of the Fokker 50 freighter for Dutch firm Aircraft Conversions.

"We have had more than 18 additional countries take heavy interest in our programme, especially for the [Fokker 100] combi conversions for use in remote countries like Africa, Brazil and Australia," says Mounce. "These requests come from mining and oil companies."

The Fokker 100 Combi Reliever's door will be set in the left fuselage - with a future option for right-hand installation - and positioned to allow bulk cargo and containers to be located forward and aft. Its interior will include 9g cargo attachment points and an optional roller-floor.

It will have the capability to accommodate 11 LD3 containers, a cargo payload of 12-14t, or seat 20-50 passengers at the rear in combi configuration. The combi would include an aft service door with a 68cm (27in) upper clamshell modification to increase its height and provide comfortable passenger entry.

Phoenix says its design team is also planning an internal optional cargo-lifting mechanism for service to remote regions.

Source: Flight International