American Utilicraft (AUC), which has been trying to launch development of the FF-1080 feeder freighter since 1990, says a private Hong Kong-based company is in negotiations to become the exclusive Far East distributor for the aircraft. WSI Hong Kong has signed a letter of intent (LoI) for 300 of the twin-turboprop aircraft.

John Dupont, president of Lawrenceville, Georgia-based AUC, declines to provide details of the agreement with WSI until a deal is signed. The company announced a similar LoI with North Atlantic Industries in August 2001, only to see the deal fall through when the Dutch leasing company could not arrange financing.

The FF-1080 programme has been moribund since September 2001, when the company displayed a full-scale mock-up at the US National Business Aviation Association show. "We were ready to start building the prototype when 11 September hit," says Dupont. "We have held the programme at that stage, and kept supplier relationships and shareholder support intact."

But despite Dupont's assertion that Aerostructures, which was to supply the FF-1080's airframe, "is standing by on the engineering", parent company Vought Aircraft Industries says the US firm is no longer associated with the programme. Securing the WSI deal, which includes an initial production lot of 36 aircraft for delivery beginning in 2006, would allow AUC to arrange financing for the programme and begin construction of the pre-production prototype, Dupont says. Few details are available on WSI Hong Kong, which describes itself as a part Florida-based telecommunications and construction firm.

Source: Flight International