Spectrum Aeronautical has added a 7,900m2 (85,000ft2) hangar to its Utah facilities. Named for the test pilots who died when the prototype Spectrum-33 crashed last summer, the Maben-Forrest building will eventually become the company’s certification and development centre.
Austin Blue, vice-president, says: “This is a really positive move for us. We are growing so quickly. People were sitting in hallways and sharing desks.” There is a further 29Ha (72 acres) of land at the Utah site, so there is still plenty of room for expansion. Blue is tight-lipped on the precise production output, but concedes that there is likely to be room for a throughput of 12 aircraft in the hangar over the first year, and it would be “reasonable” to assume a production run of 12 in year one. The company then plans to create a production line in a larger building. Four flight test aircraft – virtually production standard – are in build now and the company now employs around 150 people.
Although last year’s accident set its aircraft programmes back, Blue says the manufacturer is on target to certify the €2.7 million ($3.65 million) Independence by the end of 2009, with entry into service shortly afterwards. The mid-size GE Honda HF120-powered Freedom S-40 is on track for certification and service entry the following year.
Blue says Spectrum has booked orders for both jets from US and international customers, but declines to mention numbers, saying that Spectrum is not interested in building an orderbook for an orderbook’s sake. Deposits are escrow deposits (refundable should certification/performance targets not be met) but Blue says: “Our customers are serious buyers, who have seen the potential of the aircraft.”
Europe has been a “livelier” market than the manufacturer initially expected, with strong interest in the aircraft’s extremely low fuel consumption and “greener” characteristics. With a cruise speed of 435kt (800km/h) the Freedom can fly at FL450 for 4,000km (2,200nm). Blue says: “Our aircraft burn a half of what our competitors’ aircraft burn, which has been very well received in the marketplace. This dramatically improves efficiencies, not only in terms of fuel burn, but also eliminating the need to stop and refuel on some sectors.” The team at Spectrum’s Luxembourg headquarters is now building relationships and looking at a number of tie-ups and potential locations for development in the region.
Spectrum will not build another prototype Independence, so will not be flight testing its next aircraft until around the middle of 2008 when it completes a new airframe featuring a conventional elevator rather than the all-flying stabilator on the original prototype. Blue says: “We decided to do the hard work up front, before production. We want to create an aircraft close to the one we will produce and fully documented pre-certification. It is not difficult to build something that will fly, but we want to build something that will meet safety requirements and fly efficiently.” In the meantime, the manufacturer is also working on partnerships with maintenance organisations and building up its customer support offering.
*Kite flying in Geneva may not be uppermost in EBACE delegates’ minds, but how about this from Spectrum Europe’s chief executive Stefano Sturlese?
Speaking at the Spectrum booth (140 Hall 6) Sturlese said: “Imagine five or six of the top airlines in Europe buying business jets and flying them – in airline livery – for first class passengers, point-to-point. We have been talking to them for 12 to 18 months and their secret projects – we have signed non-disclosure agreements with them – suggest that they are very interested in this type of fleet expansion. Indeed, they are pushing us on certification as they say that they could start tomorrow, rather than in 2009-10 when our Spectrum aircraft will enter service.”