Grob Aerospace hopes to announce by the end of the third quarter significant orders for the SPn light business jet from two US fractional ownership operators.

The move comes as the eight-seat, all-composite aircraft, which made its first public appearance last month after the fatal crash of the second prototype in November, continues its aggressive certification schedule. Grob chief executive Niall Olver says fractional programmes have expressed an interest, but declines to name the operators. "We will probably make an announcement at NBAA [the National Business Aviation Association convention] in September," he says.

He says fractional ownership will be a great way for new customers to experience the SPn without the greater financial commitment of whole aircraft ownership. Grob is also evaluating the air taxi market. "We are conducting a business analysis of the air taxi market to find out if there is a role for the SPn within the existing structure," Olver says.

Olver says there is a lot of potential for point-to-point travel. "This is a promising area given that NetJets has done a great job highlighting its effectiveness."

Meanwhile, Olver says the third prototype, being built to the same aerodynamic standard as the second test aircraft, is poised to join the flight-test programme. A fourth - which will be fully conforming - is under construction and will be followed into flight testing by the first series production aircraft. European and US certification are earmarked for the first and second quarter of 2008 respectively.

Source: Flight International