Higher than expected demand may prompt manufacturer to add China facility to planned Portuguese assembly line

French general aviation manu- facturer GECI International is considering opening a second production line, in China, to meet higher than expected demand for its Skylander twin turboprop.
Chief executive Serge Bitboul sees strong market potential for the aircraft from operators seeking to "harmonise disparate fleets" as well as from "emerging countries with limited infrastructure". The twin turboprop is capable of taking off and landing on rough ground and can be used to transport passengers in various configurations, as well as cargo.
GECI is also finalising financing for a factory at Evora, near Lisbon, in Portugal that will house the final assembly line for the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-65B-powered unpressurised, all-metal short take-off and landing Skylander. Bitboul says GECI is in the final stages of negotiations for funding the facility with the Portuguese authorities. He is confident of having this in place in the second quarter of this year, and work will begin on building the facility soon after. Meanwhile, subcontractors will also make the first metal cut for the aircraft at their own facilities in the second quarter.
The company already intends to produce eight aircraft - which will have a basic list price of $4 million - each month at the facility in Portugal - two more each month than it initially predicted. The company chose Portugal for assembly because of its competitive costs, and because it is a European Union state with no real aerospace industry, but the ambition to develop one, Bitboul says.
Now it is considering adding assembly capability further afield. "We are in contact with a very large Chinese organisation that has expressed a strong interest in having a second assembly line," Bitboul says, adding that up to 300 aircraft could be produced in China for the local market.
The company has around 130 "letters of intent subject to respect of specification" in place for the Skylander. Operators have not yet signed firm orders, but will do so once the Evora assembly facility is up and running, Bitboul says. The Skylander is due for certification and first deliveries in the first quarter of 2010.
Bitboul is hoping to tap into a total market he estimates at around 4,000 aircraft in the 2-3t payload range between 2010 and 2030.

© GECI International
 Initial deliveries of the Skylander are due in the first quarter of 2010

Source: Flight International