GECI International is aiming for the first delivery of its Skylander twin turboprop aircraft in April 2011 after securing government funding in Portugal, where the aircraft will be assembled, last month.

The French manufacturer had planned certification and first delivery of the aircraft in the first quarter of 2010, but is now "a little more cautious" on the timescale, chief executive Serge Bitboul says, adding that certification is now expected in "late 2010".

But GECI has more than doubled the number of letters of intent and expressions of interest over the last six months, to 275 "from all over the world - Asia-Pacific, Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean", according to Bitboul. The Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-65B-powered aircraft is designed to be able to operate from rough terrain and can be used to transport passengers or cargo.

The company is still in discussions with an unidentified potential partner in China over the possibility of setting up a "complementary final assembly line" there, Bitboul says. But "that is not my priority".

Instead, the manufacturer is focusing on construction of a final assembly facility at Evora, in Portugal's Alentejo, which is due to begin in January 2008 after the Portuguese government promised its backing in funding and marketing the programme, which is set to play a key role in the development of an aerospace centre of excellence in the region.

The manufacturer has also recently strengthened its management team, as the Skylander programme moves into a new phase, naming Didier Nègre as director of operations - engineering services and Jean-Baptiste Oudar as financial director.

Source: Flight International