Vulcanair has made major progress in development of diesel-cycle engine derivates of its utility piston-twin aircraft, with the recent first flight of the 230hp (170kW) SMA SR305-powered P68C Jet from Capodichino airport in Naples.

The first flight of the P68C Jet utility aircraft lasted 60min, says Vulcanair. The company will not start accepting orders until definite lead times for aircraft deliveries can be met. It has brought both the P68C Jet and P68 Observer Jet version to the show.


Vulcanair director Remo De Feo is however confident of beginning sales of the P68 diesel option this year.

He says: "We expect certification to take just 40h because the aircraft is a variant of the in-service P68C and the SMA engine is already certificated." De Feo adds that the time between overhauls of the diesel-powered P68 is about 3,000h, compared with 2,000h for non-diesel versions. In addition, he looks forward to seeing a cargo version certification as well.

The aircraft will be aimed at markets where aviation gasoline is scarce, which is much of the world except the USA. In North America, the aircraft will be marketed as a feeder airliner, emphasising the high reliability and low operating cost of the diesel engines.

Getting new aircraft to market is the main priority for the company, which purchased the assets of bankrupt Italian aircraft manufacturer Partenavia in 1998. "The challenge is to sell more aircraft," says De Feo. Vulcanair will not sell its new aircraft until they are approved, however, as it regards taking orders before certification as high risk.

Boosted by an Italian police order for 18 P68 Observer versions, the company is seeking sales to the Italian coastguard and border patrol, for which it has pushed its manufacturing capacity up to 20 aircraft a year. Vulcanair can make rapid changes in production capacity, while keeping its workforce small and stable, through its use of subcontractors, De Feo says. The Naples facility is essentially an assembly operation.

While two-thirds of Vulcanair's revenues are from aircraft sales, the remainder comes from its maintenance, repair and overhaul operations.


Source: Flight Daily News