Julian Moxon/DIJON

AVIONS PIERRE ROBIN is working on a new high-performance four-seat light aircraft which will, it says, "...complete the range of aircraft we offer, and meet the demand for a new type in this category".

A prototype now under construction at the company's factory near Dijon is about half finished, and is likely to be flown early in 1996, although the company declines to say exactly when. "Our priority is to deliver aircraft currently on order and to secure new orders," says international sales manager Didier Bougarel.

In common with other European light-aircraft builders, Robin is faced with the twin challenges from the revival of US general-aviation manufacturers, which have the advantage of a weak dollar, and over-capacity in the market for secondhand aircraft.

The company's traditional customer base has been in Europe, with Robin claiming 90% of the market for light aircraft in France in 1994. Sales of the four-place wooden DR400 also remain relatively strong in traditional markets such as Germany, Switzerland and the UK. Robin is now concentrating its sales efforts on the non-European and Asian institutional markets, and says that it hopes to tie up "at least" two large orders for its 120kW (160hp) R2160 aerobatic trainer by the end of the year.

Sales for 1995 have so far remained at a similar level to those of 1994, with orders for 41 DR400s and a further 20 (metallic) R3000s, HR200s and R2000s. "We delivered 33 aircraft up to June," says Bougarel, "which is better than any other European light-aircraft manufacturer."

Robin is best known for its high-performance wooden aircraft, but the new aircraft will be made from metal, while retaining the traditional Robin virtues of good performance, with easy handling and low operating costs.

The company has fitted its X-4 demonstrator aircraft with several different aerofoils, including NASA's natural-laminar-flow aerofoil, and says that the tests are almost finished, with "very satisfying" results.

The new aircraft will be equipped with retractable landing gear and a constant-speed propeller, and will, says Robin, be "technically advanced, and wisely priced".

Source: Flight International