Daher Socata's quest to produce a family of business aircraft has taken a step closer following its decision to evaluate the dormant SPn business aircraft with a view to acquiring the light twinjet programme from its owner Allied Aviation Technologies should it tick all its boxes.
"We have signed an exclusive agreement to carry out an evaluation of a 100% composite twin-engine business aircraft programme, based on the SPn platform," says Daher Socata. "Within the framework of current projects, Daher Socata will be evaluating, over a period of several months, the performance and technical characteristics of a twin-engine prototype." The evaluation will take place at Socata's facility in Tarbes, south-west France.
Socata already manufactures the TBM 850 high-performance single-engine turboprop and the TBGT series of piston singles to order, but has made no secret of its desire to expand its aircraft portfolio including a 10-seat business jet. The seven seat SPn - formerly developed by German airframer Grob Aerospace - was to be the first in a family of business jets and a stretched version of the aircraft was planned once the SPn had been certificated. The programme was halted in 2008 when the company's major investor pulled out of the venture and Grob was declared insolvent later that year. H3 Aerospace relaunched the old Grob Aerospace training aircraft business under the name Grob Aircraft and the largest creditor retained the assets and brand rights to the SPn.
"The SPn continues to be well placed in the business jet market," says Niall Olver, director of AAT, which was set up specifically to find buyers for the light business jet programme.
"The downturn has actually bought some time for the programme which was very popular with 100 firm orders secured before development was stopped."
The programme was about two years away from achieving full certification, continues Olver, who is also chief executive of business aviation services company ExecuJet. Two aircraft were in flight testing "and we were at the point of freezing the design. Very few changes were needed to meet the certification requirements."