VulcanAir has begun revamping the former Partenavia aircraft line, which it acquired last year, in an effort to drive up sales and stamp its identity on the twin-engined models.
"This is a natural evolution of the product. Partenavia had done nothing with the aircraft for some time and then the company fell into bankruptcy. It is time to move forward," says VulcanAir chief executive Carlo De Feo.
The key initiatives from the Casoria, Naples-based company are, firstly, to build a derivative of its AP68TP-600 Viator utility aircraft, which it will eventually replace. The VA300 will be 20cm wider and 1m shorter than its stablemate and will be the launch aircraft for the Zoche Aero diesel engine, under development in Germany. The Viator will provide the testbed for the engine until the VA300 is ready for flight testing in May next year. Certification is scheduled for 2002. "As the aircraft is a derivative of the Viator, certification should be a formality. We are just waiting for the powerplant to be approved," says De Feo.
VulcanAir's second project is to build a single-engined version of the Siai Marchetti SF-600A Canguro utility aircraft, which it bought from Finmeccanica in 1997. The aircraft, the VA600W, will begin flight testing next May, powered by a 575kW (770hp) Walter M601F piston engine, although the company plans to offer a more powerful, 670kW, variant at some stage.
"Although the body will remain the same, the wing will be a derivative of the Viator's, the nose will be redesigned to accommodate the engine and it will have new landing gear," adds De Feo. Certification is due in the third quarter of 2001.
The Italian manufacturer has also designed a new interior for the P68C and P68 Observer piston twins, and will upgrade all of its aircraft line with Bendix King Silver Crown avionics. "Unlike our predecessor, we are standardising and not customising aircraft production, so we can produce more aircraft," says De Feo.
VulcanAir is confident that the new projects, and the enhancements to its line, will stimulate interest in its aircraft. In anticipation, it is shifting its maintenance base to a new 4,000m² (43,000ft²) hangar, freeing its other hangar for production and assembly.