Andrzej Jeziorski/MUNICH

THE GERMAN Aerospace Research Establishment (DLR), has terminated its contract with Burkhart Grob Aerospace for the development of the Strato 2C high-altitude research aircraft.

The cancellation comes after the German Government refused to release DM47 million ($31.3 million) for the completion of the development programme, despite approval of the funding by parliament and the DLR's continued interest (Flight International, 7-13 February). The Government is no longer insisting on the return of DM72 million already paid towards development, however.

The prototype had failed to achieve the high-altitude performance required by the original contract with the DLR, and has been grounded since August 1995 while the funding struggle went on. On its last flight, the aircraft set a world altitude record for a piston-engined aircraft of 68,867ft (21,000m).

Grob says that its release from the DLR contract means that the aircraft is its own property, and the company is now free to find a commercial partner to complete the development. Three potential partners, from the USA, the Middle East and the Far East are now in talks with the manufacturer. Grob says that a partnership could also include the GF200 tourer.

The DLR may yet decide to buy the prototype. The Establishment has secured the right of first purchase of the aircraft for an agreed DM41 million if Grob completes certification, and meets a revised performance requirement of 6h at 72,100ft within six years.

Source: Flight International