Helio Aircraft aims to put the Courier utility aircraft back into production by 2003 once it secures an additional $12 million in funding to upgrade the aircraft. The Prescott, Arizona-based company, which bought the rights to the six-seat, very short take-off and landing utility aircraft from the original Helio Aircraft Corporation in 1992, is in talks with Romanian aircraft manufacturers on producing the Courier in Eastern Europe.

John Gillenwater, Helio chief executive, says it has secured $20 million of funding needed to bring the basic H-295c Courier and its sister, the 10-seat single-engine H-550b Stallion utility turboprop, to market and is close to finalising a further $12 million from venture capitalists and investment banks to fund a six- to eight-month upgrade programme. This will include new avionics and instrument panels. The original 2,000km (1,080nm) range will not be altered in the redesign phase, he says.

The aircraft was used extensively in the Vietnam war, operating under the US Air Force designation U-10, due to its minimum control speed of 25kt (45km/h) and ability to take off and land on airstrips shorter that 80m (265ft). Today's market for the aircraft is primarily remote location operations.

Gillenwater says design modifications made during the last nine years include trailing link landing gear that will buckle and reshape if buffeted by uneven terrain.

Helio is in talks with Aerostar and Romaero to produce the Courier in Romania, says Gillenwater, adding the professionalism of Romania's aviation authorities makes it a particularly attractive manufacturing site.

The company favours a Russian-built 270kW (360hp) Vedeneyev M-14PA powerplant for the H-295c due to weight and cost advantages over the original 250kW (340hp) Lycoming TIO-540 powerplant, but the Russian engine has yet to gain US and European certification.

Source: Flight International