UK aircraft design house Farnborough Aircraft (FACL) has found a manufacturing base in the Middle East for a modified version of its F1 single-engine turboprop business aircraft.

FACL signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) at last month’s Dubai air show with United Arab Emirates maintenance shop Gulf Aircraft Maintenance (Gamco) to co-produce the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-60A-powered Kestrel air taxi, a development of the F1, which was launched as a concept by the ill-fated in 1999. The MoU foresees Gamco carrying out final assembly and much of the parts manufacture.

FACL has been working on a non-conforming prototype for 18 months at an undisclosed US location, and intends to fly the aircraft in the first quarter of next year. After about 40h of basic tests, the aircraft will be ferried to Abu Dhabi to undergo further tests at Gamco’s facilities, says FACL commercial director Richard Blain.

The six- to seven-seat Kestrel would fly at a top speed of 352kt (650km/h) and have a largely composite wing and fuselage, Blain adds. He says the aircraft is a “further evolution of the F1 design” with a stretched fuselage to incorporate a lavatory. The Kestrel will sell for about $2.5 million in 2005 dollars and be targeted at the Middle East’s air-taxi market.

Gamco and FACL will form a joint venture called Gulf Aircraft Partnership to produce the aircraft, although the UAE company will not finance the project development, says Blain. Gamco has no previous experience in manufacturing aircraft, but Blain says composite and sheet metal parts produced by Gamco for the prototype prove its competence.


Source: Flight International