Sky Aircraft has cut first metal for its SK-105 Skylander twin turboprop after making major changes to the design of the light utility aircraft.

The France-based GECI Aviation subsidiary - which is publicly revealing the Skylander's new configuration at ILA in the form of a model on its stand - has meanwhile signed a memorandum of understanding with the UAE defence force to supply 10 cargo versions of the aircraft.

"At the last Paris air show, the most important feedback we collected was to increase the economic speed, improve take-off and landing performance and - for potential customers in Africa - better range with maximum passengers," says GECI International vice-president marketing and sales Alfonso Ruggiero.

"If we keep the same engine, the only solution was to reduce drag," he adds. "We already had some trade-offs in the pot, and we decided to apply them."

This resulted in the deletion of the strut between the landing gear sponson and the wing, a reduction in the number of main landing gear wheels from four to two, and an extended, more aerodynamically efficient nose and cockpit. Also introduced were changes to the profile of the leading edge of the wing and double-slotted trailing edge flaps.

Market interest in the revamped Skylander is building, says Ruggiero. "Last week I was in Abu Dhabi for discussions with the Emirates air force. There was interest at a very high level for 10 aircraft." An MoU was signed with the UAE earlier this year, he adds.

According to Ruggiero, the Skylander has also been selected by Aircalin and an order awaits French government approval.

The Lorraine region of France is providing "repayable advances" worth €9 million ($10.7 million) for the SK-105 and could eventually take a stake in GECI Aviation, although "for the moment it's not a subject of discussion", says Ruggiero.

Powered by two 1,100shp (820kW) Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-65B turboprops driving five-blade Hartzell propellers, the high-wing, unpressurised Skylander is designed to carry up to 19 passengers or 2.7t of freight and operate from short, rough air strips.

The industrial ramp-up calls for four prototypes to be constructed to enable ground and flight-testing to begin in 2011. First flight is scheduled for the second half of next year and first delivery in late 2012.

Source: Flight Daily News