Reims Aviation is concentrating on developing improvements for its F406 to meet requests it is getting "from all over the world" for surveillance aircraft. It has dropped plans to develop a pressurised version of the multi-mission aircraft or to design a stretched twin turboprop.
"Terrorism has generated a huge demand for surveillance aircraft," says Reims Aviation chief executive, Bernard Grouchko. He adds: "We are improving the on-board electronics, the stability of the camera and so on, which are all directly linked with the job of surveillance."
Reims Aviation is also developing a modification kit based on vortex- generation technologies which will allow the F406 to reduce its landing distance by 500ft. One of the first clients for this kit is private carrier Air Saint-Pierre, which operates routes between the Saint-Pierre and Miquelon archipelago and the North American continent. Earlier this year it took delivery of an F406 equipped with a TCAS II traffic collision avoidance system .
Reims is also planning to decrease the weight of the aircraft through the use of composite materials.
Production of the F406 has been stepped up from four aircraft a year to five or six. "We have also cut our delivery time down from just over a year to nine months," Grouchko says. The company is now working on the third F406 Polmar for French customs, which flew 610h on its two F406s in 2003. Polmar 3 "is ahead of schedule", Grouchko says, and should be delivered in September to the Lann-Bihou‚ base. In 2005, state budget permitting, Polmar 2 should be retrofitted with the same mission system as that of Polmar 3.
Meanwhile, the MkII version of the F406 "is in its final version on the drawing board". It will be powered by two 635shp (475kW) Pratt & Whitney PT6A-135 turboprops. The first MkII was to have been sold to Japanese carrier Daihyaku Shoji, but "they have been in trouble and cancelled", Grouchko says.
CHRISTINA MACKENZIE / PARIS
Source: Flight International