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Spectrum to build S-40 business jet in Mexico

US aircraft developer Spectrum Aeronautical is hoping to secure funding by the end of June to launch production of its Freedom S-40 business jet, and has selected Mexicali in Baja, California – 2km south of the US/Mexican border – as the manufacturing and flight test centre for the midsize type.

San Diego-based Spectrum says Mexicali was chosen due to the area's population of highly skilled workers, and for its proximity to the “huge aerospace industrial infrastructure of southern California”. The Mexican government is also offering an attractive incentive package to encourage aerospace investment in the area.

“Mexico is really keen to develop its aerospace industry and the S-40 will be the first aircraft to be completely manufactured in the country,” says Spectrum chief finance officer David Tenney.

Investment of around $300 million is being sought. “This will fund the aircraft through development, certification and into service,” Tenney says. Mexican bank Bancomext is providing the “debt portion” of the project, he adds, while the remainder will be funded through US and Mexican equity investors. “We are very pleased with the terms we have been offered and hope to have all the money in place by the end of June,” he adds.

The S-40 design is frozen and Spectrum will start building tooling for the aircraft in the coming months. “We plan to break ground on the manufacturing facility by the end of the year, so any tooling we have built up to that point will be transferred to Mexicali,” says Tenney.

The aircraft is designed to seat up to nine passengers in a 1.8m (5.9ft) stand-up cabin. Powered by GE Honda HF120 turbofan engines, the S-40 is projected to have a maximum cruise speed of 440kt (814km/h), a range of 2,250nm (4,170km) and maximum cruising altitude of 45,000ft. It will be certificated under US and European regulations, says Tenney.

The S-40 is the first of three carbonfibre business jets privately-owned Spectrum plans to bring to market over the next few years. These also include an as-yet unnamed larger cabin design and the company's Independence S-33 very-light jet. The latter programme was halted in 2006, after the fatal crash of the only flying prototype.

“We have never given up on the programme,” Tenney says. “It has always been Spectrum’s intention to bring a new generation of low-cost business jets to market, but we have been unable to find the right partner until now.”

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