Airvan gets turbocharged, turbine version coming

July 29, 2010

GippsAero received the FAA type certificate for the Airvan GA8 TC-320, a turbocharged version of its eight-seat utility aircraft, at AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis., July 27. The airplane, powered by a Lycoming TIO-540-AH1A turning an 80-inch Hartzell three-blade scimitar prop, is proving popular with the Mission Aviation Fellowship in Paupa New Guinea and other operators faced with hot and high conditions.

“The market was pushing, pushing, pushing for turbocharging,” said George Morgan, who cofounded Gippsland Aeronautics in 1984 and is now technology director for Mahindra Aerospace, an Indian-based company that bought GippsAero in 2009.

“[Mahindra] recently decided to diversify itself into aviation,” said Arvind Mehra, its executive director and CEO. Mahindra Aerospace also provides aeronautical engineering and aero-structure manufacturing services.

“Mahindra coming on board changes things for us very much for the better,” Morgan said. “This world market has been very difficult but we’re up and running now.”

The company said it plans to offer two new Airvan models. The single-engine GA10 will be powered by a Rolls-Royce turboprop.

“The aircraft has a longer fuselage, a bigger cabin door, and easier pallet loading—it will be a true bush airplane.” Morgan said the fuselage is built, and the program will receive a staff push after Oshkosh. “We aim to have it in the air in eight, nine, maybe 10 months.” Production will take place in Australia, he added.

The company also plans to build an 18-seat twin turboprop with short-takeoff-and-landing capabilities. It will be based on the Australian-built Nomad, which will have its certification basis raised to the FAA’s current commuter standard.

“That program will begin very, very soon,” Morgan said, “It will be a couple of years to market—it’s a much larger program.” The GA18 twin also will use Rolls-Royce engines.

“There is huge market pressure” for the turboprops, he noted. “The fuel situation is a driver of demand.”

Funding is in place to keep the projects moving. “Mahindra is investing $20 million in these two programs,” Mehra said.

Both new planes also will be called Airvans, Morgan commented. “I’ve always liked to use descriptive names.” The Australian government originally would not register the Airvan name “because it was too close to Airbus. I said, ‘What if I got a letter from Airbus that said this was OK?’” Morgan did, and was able to use his chosen name.