CHRISTINA MACKENZIE / PARIS
Geci International is planning to launch development of its Skylander light utility aircraft by the end of the third quarter and has selected Tarbes in the south west of France as the location for the aircraft's 14,000m2 (150,000ft2)assembly hangar.
The Skylander twin-engined turboprop is the brainchild of Geci, a transport engineering company which has invested €7 million ($7.8 million) in the project since its launch in 1988. The company says it has received two letters of intent covering 80 aircraft, of which 50 are options.
Geci says in the next 20 years the replacement market for new light cargo/utility aircraft could be worth up to $16 billion, representing around 3,850 aircraft, with 40% of the demand coming from the Asia-Pacific region.
Paris-based Geci's "conservative" business plan calls for sales of 600 aircraft over 15 years, says chief executive Serge Bitboul.
Geci plans to outsource parts manufacturing to European subcontractors, and is eyeing a possible venture with Tarbes-based neighbour EADS Socata, with which Bitboul says there is "much industrial synergy".
Skydesign, the subsidiary created by Geci in 1991 to manage the project, is expected to be operational in the next few weeks. Bitboul says a team of 40 engineers has been hired.
First flight of the Pratt & Whitney PT6A-65B-powered unpressurised, all-metal, short take-off and landing Skylander is scheduled within two years, leading to certification in mid-2006.