Andrzej Jeziorski/MUNICH

Aircraft production at Grob Aerospace's Mindelheim plant in Germany has ground to a halt through lack of orders, forcing the company to reduce its workforce to just over 40.

Grob says that up to 80 engineers have been transferred to its successful machine tool manufacturing operation, but can be recalled as necessary. Grob confirms that "-there is no production at the moment". The machine tool operation employs 1,800 in Mindelheim, and a total of 800 more in Brazil and the USA.

Grob Aerospace itself is being entirely subsidised by the machine tool business, although there is no indication yet that company owner Burkhart Grob has any intention of backing out of his composites aerospace business.

Aviation activities have been undertaken at Grob since 1971, since when more than 3,500 aircraft have been produced. The current family of production aircraft include the G109 light aircraft, the G115 military and commercial trainer. Development of the GF200 business aircraft and the Strato 2C high altitude research aircraft has stalled.

The best chance of getting back into large scale production lies with the best and final offer to the UK Ministry of Defence in May of a proposal to use the G115 as a Royal Air Force lead-in trainer to replace the Scottish Aviation Bulldog. The competition is a straight fight with the locally built Slingsby Firefly.

Although it is known that the RAF prefers the G115 technically over Slingsby's original proposal, the contract is also a matter of survival for cash-strapped Slingsby, so the UK Government could be swayed in favour of a domestic manufacturer. Grob says it is in serious discussions with other air forces about the G115, and remains optimistic on further orders. At the same time, the company is carrying out feasibility studies on future projects, but declines to release details.

Grob had also been hoping to sell a licence for production of the GF200 tourer to a group of Mexican investors, although the long-running talks have failed to bear fruit so far.

The company has also failed to find an outside investor to allow it to continue the Strato 2C high altitude research aircraft programme, originally started for the German research and technology ministry, which finally withdrew its support on cost grounds.

Source: Flight International