US consultancy InterFlight Global (IFG) is hoping to launch production of the AeroElvira Optica observation aircraft next year, after appointing two undisclosed US airframers to quote for a contract to set up a production line for the two-seat aircraft at their facilities, and build an initial batch of up to 100 units.
IFG’s purchase of the 40-year-old Optica programme from AeroElvira is now at an advanced stage, with the latter agreeing in March on an acquisition price for the assets, following preliminary evaluations.
The UK company is now awaiting a formal letter of intent (LOI) to acquire the assets, which IFG says it will issue in October, once the unnamed airframers have concluded their assessments and a selection has been made.
“The Optica’s assets are all in good shape,” says IFG chief executive Oscar Garcia. These include the tooling, drawings, production and type certificates, plus jigs, demonstrator aircraft, intellectual property, unsold inventory and parts. “Around 85% of what is needed to restart production is there,” he says. “We are now looking for a company to build the aircraft to US and European certification standards."
“We will start with a low production rate, and expect to reach profitability at between 50 and 100 units,” says Garcia. “We will then move series production in-house, using the facility that the chosen airframer has created for us.”
The first batch of Opticas will stick as closely as possible to the current US and European type certificates, he adds. “The only feature that would need to be updated immediately is the instrument panel, and that is a straightforward task.”
Miami, Florida-based IFG hopes to complete the sale at the end of the year. “Our plan is to start shipping the assets to the USA in early 2018; start building the first Optica by the third quarter, and begin deliveries by early 2019,” says Garcia.
Following extensive research, IFG is confident there is a "significant" global market for the Optica as a surveillance and information-gathering platform. The company envisages a family of Optica variants within five years, including diesel-fuelled and hybrid versions. “The design lends itself to derivatives, including a scaled-up version with a larger wing,” Garcia says.
John Edgley, the owner and designer of the Optica and chairman of AeroElvira, says he is confident the companies are moving towards an agreement that will see the type back in production after 27 years. “With an avionics update, the aircraft is as relevant in the 21st century as it was in the 20th century, when I designed it to be an aerial observation platform,” he says.