Polish manufacturer PZL Mielec is to launch a marketing offensive aimed at capturing a large part of the short take-off and landing (STOL) commuter aircraft market with its M28 Skytruck, as the de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter approaches the end of its useful life.

The company held a series of demonstration flights last week in Paris, aimed primarily at French overseas departments and territories, many of which are looking to replace their fleets of Twin Otters operating inter-island services.

The M28, a Westernised version of the Antonov An-28 utility aircraft with two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A turboprops, received US Federal Aviation Administration certification earlier this year and is set to receive a restricted type certificate from the French airworthiness body DGAC for operations in overseas territories early next year.

Air Guyane of French Guiana placed the first civilian order for the Skytruck in October, with the first of four 19-seat quick-change commuter versions due in early 2005. The South American operator has options for four additional Skytrucks, which could be taken by its Guadeloupe-based subsidiary Air Antilles Express and several other airlines based in French island colonies. These include Air Moorea, Air Tahiti, Aircalin and an as-yet unnamed start-up carrier in the Wallis and Fortuna Islands, which have expressed "serious interest", says Andre Hiebeler, executive vice-president for France with Naples, Florida-based M28 distributor SkyTruck.

"In the coming five years, we will easily place 15 aircraft and every aircraft you sell in the overseas territories gets replaced after five years under their tax depreciation laws and those aircraft will find their way to other fleets," says Hiebeler.

Lance Maclean, SkyTruck president, says advantageous French tax depreciation laws make the former colonies an immediate target for the $3.8 million aircraft, but he believes all Twin Otter operators will eventually be faced with the problem of airframe life limitations.


Source: Flight International