Denel showed at AAD a fuselage mock-up of its 24-seat Small African Regional Aircraft (SARA) it hopes can be a catalyst for the revival of the country's neglected aerospace engineering and design capabilities.
While the full-size model is basic, Denel believes it can secure funding to develop a preliminary design, and deliver a more sophisticated mock-up by the next show in 2018.
"In order for us to de-risk, we need to develop gradually, with each stage we complete building confidence in the project for a launch customer to come forward," says Victor Xaba, deputy chief executive of Denel Aerostructures.
Xaba describes SARA as "not a Denel programme, but a South African national programme" because it has the backing of a series of government departments and agencies who believe it can create high-value jobs and develop the country's industrial base.
He cites a study which predicted that the aircraft could secure a 9% market share in the small-regional aircraft segment, worth up to 1,500 units globally. Funding for the programme, he says, has been proposed as coming 45% from the government, 15% from Denel and 35% from private investors.
Xaba says Denel is "engaging with engine and systems suppliers".