Composite aircraft specialist eyes sales strategy as eight-seater continues testing

German composites specialist Grob Aerospace is finalising its sales strategy for the G180 SPn utility jet as the aircraft undergoes test flights.

The company, based near Mindelheim, Bavaria, launched the eight-seat SPn at the Paris air show in June and performed its first flight the same month. It appointed Swiss business aviation services firm Execujet Aviation as distributor and sales agent and initially focused on sales in Europe, southern Africa and Australasia, where Execujet has bases.

However, the two companies are working on a joint sales strategy for North America because Execujet has operations only in Monterrey, Mexico and has no plans to enter the USA with full-scale maintenance, aircraft management and fixed-base operations as it has elsewhere, says Niall Olver, chief executive. Instead, the company is looking at either appointing a distributor with a network to sell the €5.8 million ($7.1 million) twinjet or employing a sales force and appointing independent service centres on the continent, which Olver estimates will account for 30% of the aircraft’s potential 400 sales over 10 years.

“We’ll decide on North America before the end of the year, with a direct sales force being the preffered approach,” says Olver. The company will establish an HQ in an East Coast city rather than use Grob’s facility in Blufton, Ohio.

Grob declines to confirm how many sales it has so far, but Olver says the initial production rate of 15 aircraft in 2007 “has already been accounted for”. Production in 2008 will ramp up to 25, with 40 a year from 2009, says Hans Doll, sales and marketing director.

The aircraft has undergone 23h of flight testing, reaching 25,000ft (7,625m) and 230kt (425km/h). It will start certification tests in the second quarter of next year and is due to gain certification in the first quarter of 2007 in Europe, followed by second-quarter US approval.

The aircraft will be certificated in the European Aviation Safety Agency CS23 commuter category allowing private operation with a single pilot.

, with a maximum take-off weight of 6,300kg (13,890lb),

The company hopes the Williams FJ44-3A-powered aircraft’s short field performance, large cargo door and quick change option will convince operators of utility turboprops to upgrade to a jet.

Grob has studied a stretch version of the aircraft and is promoting it as an emergency medical service configuration.


Source: Flight International