Fred Ayres models his latest development

Agricultural-aircraft maker Ayres of Albany, Georgia, has launched its Loadmaster LM200 cargo aircraft with an order for 50 from FedEx. The parcel carrier also has options for 200 additional aircraft over 15 years from first delivery in December 1999.

The single-pilot Loadmaster LM200 is powered by two LHTEC CTP800 turbo-shaft engines driving a single propeller through a common gearbox. It is an all-new aircraft, although the wing is based on that of Ayres' Thrush "cropduster". The LM200 is designed to carry a 3,400kg payload, or three FedEx LD3 containers.

A 30-month certification programme is expected to start in mid-1997, with the first flight planned for the end of 1998. FedEx vice-president supplemental air operations, Mark Blair, says: "This aircraft complements our feeder network-it is a natural fit between the Cessna Caravan and the Fokker F27, with the added benefit that the freight can be containerised".

Ayres president Fred Ayres says that, beyond the FedEx deal, he expects to see interest in the aircraft coming from emerging countries looking for a low-cost maritime-patrol aircraft or fire bomber. "We have not started talking to other customers yet," he says, "but the world is our market."

FedEx plans to use the LM200 initially in USA operations, although it would introduce the aircraft into Europe if rules governing single-turboprop regulations were to be relaxed.

Source: Flight International