A UK engineering company is resurrecting the Ae270 single-engine turboprop, almost a decade after the programme was axed by its joint developers, Aero Vodochody of the Czech Republic and Taiwan’s Aerospace Industrial Development (AIDC).

Manchester airport-based start-up Aircraft Integrated Solutions says it is “working on a manufacturing strategy” for the Czech-designed aircraft after its parent, Lebanese investment house COPS, acquired the intellectual property and rights to the programme, as well as European and US type certificates, for an undisclosed sum.

Aero Vodochody – backed by its Taiwanese partner – built several of the Pratt & Whitney PT6A-powered aircraft as part of the Ibis Aerospace joint venture. However, a change of strategy at the then-indebted company saw new owner Penta abandon its only civil programme in 2007 to focus on aerostructures and military trainers.

Although the programme has been dormant for nine years, one example – included as part of the asset purchase – has been flown regularly as a company shuttle since then, from the firm’s Vodochody base near Prague.

Alan Provda, AIS managing director, says the company is “not able to disclose our strategy yet”, but although Aero Vodochody remains an “industrial partner”, the Czech company will not be involved in the assembly of the aircraft. AIS has a small team of specialists working on the programme, which received European Aviation Safety Agency and US Federal Aviation Administration certification in 2005 and 2006, respectively. He says the company is “in discussion with various suppliers and industrial partners”.

Single-engine turboprops – dominated by the Pilatus PC-12 – have been one the few buoyant segments in business and general aviation in the past few years, bolstered by the recent entry of Textron with the Cessna Denali. The Daher TBM 930 also competes at the high-speed end of the market.

The Ae270’s versatile design means it can function as an air taxi, air ambulance, 10-seat commuter shuttle or, thanks to its large cargo door, a utility aircraft, says Provda. The aircraft has a cruise speed of 260kt (480km/h) and range of just under 540nm (1,000km).

This is the first aviation investment for COPS, which has interests in construction and real estate. Chief executive Simon Naoum says the acquisition expands COPS’ portfolio into “the vital global niche aviation segment”.

He adds: “Our aim is to take the Ae270 to its highest potential and produce these aircraft that are designed to fly executives one day and cargo the next, from modern airports to remote unimproved runways.”

Source: Flight International