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Australian Air Show: Airvan readied for Indian production

Gippsland looks to meet growing global demand with partial assembly deal as it prepares for turbocharged GA8

Australian utility aircraft manufacturer Gippsland Aeronautics is to sign a partial assembly deal with an Indian facility as it prepares to certificate a turbocharged variant of its GA8 Airvan.

The manufacturer is also close to signing an agreement with Rolls-Royce to re-engine the GA8 with a turbine engine, which will pave the way for an all-new 10-seat stretch version dubbed the GA10.

© Justin Wastnage /Flight International   
Gippsland has significant interest in the GA8 from India and Latin America

Gippsland expects to sign the deal for local installation of the GA8's 300shp (225kW) Lycoming IO-540 engine into completed airframes by the end of March. The move will come as the Airvan is scheduled to achieve Indian certification during April.

The partial assembly plan is in response to strong demand from India, which could push production rates past the 50 aircraft a year maximum at its facilities.

Currently the company produces 25 GA8s a year, with this to rise to 30 next year, but the challenge of recruiting engineering personnel to its plant in a rural area of Victoria has forced it to look overseas.

"We have letters of intent from several large customers in India subject to certification that could end up accounting for one quarter of our output," says Gippsland chairman Gary Wight.

Gippsland is also starting certification of a turbocharged version of the GA8 in response to demand from Latin American operators for better hot and high performance. A turbocharged version has been undergoing tests for nine months and Gippsland had hoped to get approval from Lycoming to rate the TIO-540 at 340hp, but has been frustrated by delays relating to recent crankshaft issues.

"We are optimistic we will get approval within the next few weeks, but if not we will press ahead with engine certification at 300hp," says Gippsland manager for global sales Marguerite Morgan. Despite the lower power rating, Morgan says the aircraft will still maintain its maximum power, at higher altitude.

Certification of the A$668,000 ($527,000) turbocharged GA8 may be achieved as early as the third quarter of this year. The company then plans to work on a turboprop version of the GA8, re-engined with a derated R-R B17F powerplant and the 10-seat GA10.