Ross Aircraft (RAC) plans to start developing its first twin-engined amphibian aircraft in early 1998 after appointing UK investment bank Austin Friars to provide a financing package for the certification programme.

Chief executive Kenn Heeley says that the UK company needs about $9 million to take a full-scale prototype through to certification and go into early production with the amphibian, which is based on the Pilatus Britten-Norman (PBN) Islander.

Preliminary design work had already been done on the ten-seat Textron Lycoming TIO-540-powered seaplane, using a one-fifth-scale model in proof-of- concept trials in December 1995.

The next stage was to secure a financing package to take the project further and Heeley expects that to be in place by early 1998. "We will acquire a second-hand Islander to begin pre-certification work," he says.

RAC will modify the fuselage by attaching a hull glove, raising the engines above the wing, fitting a larger dorsal fin, removing the wheels and adding wing floats.

UK Civil Aviation Authority approval is expected by the end of 1998, with US Federal Aviation Administration certifcation following shortly after. Production is scheduled for 1999 at RAC's factory in Shannon, Ireland. The company plans to build five amphibians in the first year, then increasing production to 16 units a year.

To date, RAC has received one order from New Zealand-based Sounds Air and 30 letters of interest. The conversion, which is supported by PBN, is priced at $850,000 and will be "almost half the price of current secondhand twin-amphibian seaplanes", says Heeley.

Source: Flight International