German aircraft manufacturer Extra Flugzeugbau is investigating a turboprop version of its six-seat EA 400 tourer machine.

According to Extra, the idea has attracted strong interest from potential customers, particularly in the light of the US Federal Aviation Administration's forthcoming repeal of the ban on commercial, instrument-flight-rules (IFR), operations for single-engined aircraft (Flight International, 18-31 December, 1996).

The company says that it has already ordered an engine from an unspecified manufacturer, which will be fitted to an EA 400 for initial ground tests.

The basic EA 400, powered by a 260kW (350hp) Teledyne Continental Voyager TSIOL-550-A piston engine, is expected to receive preliminary certification by the end of April. This will not yet cover the aircraft's pressurised cabin, IFR operations, or flight in known icing conditions.

To date, the company has four firm orders for pre-series aircraft, all from within Germany. The first of these will be delivered soon after preliminary certification.

These early customers are buying their aircraft at a DM300,000 ($178,000) discount from the aircraft's DM1.3 million list price, and will provide Extra with feedback from their operational experience.

Extra is now holding discussions with other potential customers, mainly in the key North American market. Interest has also come from potential buyers in Australia, Indonesia and Japan, as well as other markets.

Extra plans to produce five EA 400s this year, and expects this to increase to ten or 12 in 1998. If current talks bear fruit, this figure could increase still further. While production capacity is limited at the company's Dinslaken base, Extra says that its preferred strategy is to keep EA400 manufacture centralised there, and expand its production line as necessary.

The all-composite aircraft, with a 2,000kg maximum take-off weight, was designed in co-operation with the University of Delft in the Netherlands. The first prototype had its maiden flight on 4 April, 1996. Extra said after initial flight-testing that the aircraft's low-speed performance was better than expected.

Extra has doubled its production of the single-seat Extra 200 and 300 sports aircraft to four a month since January 1996.

Source: Flight International