Reims Aviation is aiming to fly a certificated version of its new F406 Mk2 at next year's Paris air show following receipt of preliminary design approval for the twin-engined turboprop. The French manufacturer is expected to start assembly in the new year, with certification to follow in the first quarter.

Gildas Illien, vice-president for sales and marketing, says the Mk2, which is powered by two 473kW (635hp) Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-135 engines driving a four-bladed propeller - an increase of 100kW on the original F406's PT6A-112 - is on schedule again after suffering delays.

The aircraft, which is developed from the Cessna 406 Caravan II, is 200kg heavier at take-off at 4,700kg (10,350lb) and also features updated avionics. The aircraft is based on the US company's 400 Series twins and uses wings supplied by Cessna.

Reims says that it is promoting the commuter version of the aircraft, as interest in entry-level business aviation is growing in France. Illien says the company is "looking for maximum opportunities in the light aircraft market".

He predicts the company will be working at close to full capacity of around 12 aircraft a year for 2003 and 2004, with "several more" orders predicted from coastguards for the F406S Vigilant maritime surveillance variant. Reims is expected to announce government orders before year-end.

The company says it has been badly hit by the loss of Fairchild Dornier subcontracts, but is working on details of its Airbus A380 work as well as aerostructures work for EADS and ATR.

Source: Flight International