The Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) is modifying the design of its Firefly four-seat kitplane in an attempt to boost interest in the aircraft.

KARI first flew the Firefly nearly two years ago, but its South Korean partner, Shin Young Heavy Industries, has not yet been able to forge an agreement with Velocity Aircraft of the USA to build kits (Flight International, 13-19 May). Shin Young is still talking to Velocity, which hosted Firefly flight tests and supplies the aircraft's fuselage, but is also considering alternative partners and building the kits on its own.

KARI principal researcher Seokmin Ahn says that the new Firefly will feature a retractable landing gear, a slightly longer fuselage and a foamless glassfibre machined wing. The original Firefly - there are now prototypes both at Velocity Aircraft and KARI - has a fixed landing gear. The original Firefly glassfibre wing includes foam and is made using a hand mould.

The new Firefly should fly in early 2005 and eventually be available for sale in 2006.

Shin Young, which signed a deal last December with government-funded KARI to build the Firefly, would like to sign a US partner because the USA is considered the biggest potential market. The partner could build the kits, if it is cheaper to manufacture them in the USA than in South Korea.

Source: Flight International