Affiliate's ambitious plans for region could boost Czech manufacturer, which filed for bankruptcy in October

Letecke Zavody's Asian partner has leased two L-410s to carriers in Australia and Indonesia and plans to buy another 10 L-410/420s from the bankrupt Czech manufacturer in a drive to push sales of the 19-seat turboprop throughout South-East Asia.

Singapore-based JSD has been responsible for sales of the former Let aircraft in Asia since early 2002 and last month signed up its first customers. Managing director Kumar Balasingam says undisclosed Australian and Indonesian carriers have signed a memorandum of understanding to lease one L-410 from May and June next year.

The deals are a big boost for Letecke Zavody, which has only manufactured five aircraft this year and filed for bankruptcy in October.

JSD plans to set up a parts depot in Singapore after its first aircraft are in service. JSD secured type certification for the L-410 from Indonesia and Australia earlier this year. Only the quieter and more expensive L-420 has US Federal Aviation Administration certification.

In Asia, the L-410 was earlier certificated in Bangladesh, India and the Philippines, but currently the aircraft is only operated by two Asian carriers - Asian Spirit and Seair, both of the Philippines. LZ is hoping to sign part-supplier agreements next year with both of these carriers, which now purchase L-410 parts from outside vendors.

Balasingam says he is also in talks with Bangladesh's Air Parabat, which formerly operated two L-410s and is interested in again operating the type after the Asian service centre is established. He says Air Seychelles and Malaysia Airlines are also studying replacing their de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otters with L-410s, but decisions are not expected soon.

JSD is prepared to certificate the L-410 in Malaysia, the Seychelles and Sri Lanka if it can find a customer and is aiming for New Zealand approval next year.

JSD last month agreed to buy 10 L-410s and two L-420s from the Letecke Zavody factory in a deal valued at up to $36 million. Balasingam says JSD has agreed to buy the first L-410 for about $3 million, while prices on the other 11 are being negotiated. Deliveries will be over the next few years.

JSD, which has served since 1989 as a leasing agent for Boeing 737s, Bombardier Dash 8s, ATR 42/72s and other types, partnered Letecke Zavody in early 2002 and says the manufacturer's bankruptcy should not affect sales activities in Asia.

Source: Flight International