Soaring Seabird looks for space

King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau's light surveillance aircraft manufacturing joint venture Seabird Aviation Jordan believes that it will need to quadruple the size of its production facility at Amman's Marka airport next year, as it bids to raise production of its single-engined Seeker SB7-360 observation platform.

Seabird started new part production lines for the Seeker earlier this year. It has already supplied Seekers to the Iraqi defence forces and a customer in South Africa, and expects to deliver the latest aircraft during the Dubai air show.

Aimed to be an inexpensive alternative to helicopters, the Seeker has a taildragger design with a rear-mounted propeller enabling it to offer wide-angle visibility from the two-seat cockpit. It has a maximum take-off weight of just 925kg (2,040lb), can land in less than 200m (655ft), and could stay airborne - at its minimum patrol speed of 65kt (120km/h) - for more than 7h.

Seabird says the aircraft has a wide range of applications, from military observation to border patrol and surveying. "It's a fraction of the cost of a helicopter," according to the company's management.

The Marka facility has two production lines for aircraft components and a central assembly line and Seabird is hoping to raise Seeker production rate to around 48 a year in Jordan. "It needs to be four times the size by 2008," says Seabird. "We have plans already to expand. We're working on empowering Jordan to produce aircraft components not only for Seabird but other aviation companies."

Seabird believes it could ultimately turn out 200 aircraft annually, through a strategy of partnership agreements with other countries.

Earlier this year India's Mahindra Defence Systems landed an exclusive marketing and support agreement with Seabird to supply the aircraft into the country. The agreement is aimed at enabling the Seeker to be assembled in India - with some components manufactured within the country - and supplied to the local market, for security and training roles.

Seabird's specialised research and development team is working on a number of development projects for the Jordanian armed forces. The company says: "Improving this product is key to competing in a highly competitive aviation industry."

Source: Flight International