|By Mike Collins
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.
“[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.
The Airvan is offered in two versions – The 300 horsepower normally aspirated GA8 and the turbocharged GA8-TC 320. The Airvan is an Australian designed and manufactured utility aircraft specifically engineered to meet the latest international airworthiness and safety standards as well as the demands of remote area operations from unimproved strips. No other aircraft in its class can match the load carrying capacity or its flight handling characteristics. The following are some of the features of the Airvan that make it such a capable, reliable and versatile workhorse.
Designed for Remote Area Operation
Developed to handle the gruelling conditions of the Australian landscape, the Airvan is ideal for operators in remote areas. The Airvan’s high lift wing, rugged all spring-steel undercarriage (no oleos to go flat), high flotation tyres and excellent propeller ground clearance equip the Airvan to operate happily from short semi prepared primitive airstrips.
Low Operating Costs
The Airvan has been specifically designed to realize low maintenance expenses and was designed to be maintained with only basic maintenance support facilities. Careful attention to design detail, the elimination of maintenance intensive features and the provision of easy maintenance access has resulted in an extremely reliable aircraft with a high despatch rate and excellent economy of operation.
The Airvan has more than twice the cabin volume of comparable aircraft. The cabin, which has two crew and six passenger seats, has a flat floor and a storage area in the rear fuselage for the carriage of light but bulky items or for several of the passenger seats if not required. Quick release seat/cargo net/workstation mounting points allow for rapid changes of cabin configuration to meet the requirements of each particular mission. The easy operating cabin sliding door, which is located aft of the wing, allows clear access to the cabin with the flaps up or down. The sliding door is certified for in-flight opening for roles such as parachuting, skydiving, supply dropping, observation, a variety of photographic applications including air to air, air to ground, cinematography and many other types of operations to suit military and law enforcement tasks.
Crew and passenger comfort features include at least one individual air outlet to each passenger from the fan boosted overhead ducting. The crew seats are each equipped with multiple air outlets with increased airflow capacity. The heating system is entirely adequate for Australian operations yet is able to meet the requirements of sub arctic conditions such as are encountered in Canada and Alaska. A factory installed air-conditioner system is available.
In standard configuration the Airvan cabin accommodates seven forward-facing adult sized passengers, two more than other similar aircraft, and up to a 32 cu. ft of baggage space. Passengers find the Airvan has features that ensure passenger comfort, safety and enjoyment of the flight. These include the ease of boarding through the double width passenger entry door and the wide body cabin with a centre aisle, the large panoramic window for each passenger. Passenger boarding and disembarking is quick and simple resulting in significantly reduced turn-around times.
Operators find that the Airvan is a versatile and reliable freight carrier capable of carrying an optimum useful load of close to 800 kg depending on equipment fit. The large cabin door allows for easy loading of freight into the cabin, which is twice the size of competing aircraft. Further the cabin has a large flat floor and unique seat and cargo restraint systems that facilitate rapid changes from passenger to freight configurations as well as facilitating mixed passenger and freight operations. The main landing gear is located well aft, which means that the floor angle remains level during loading and unloading with no tendency to tip onto its tail. A tail stand is not required for normal loading/unloading. The cabin floor height matches that of a tray type pick-up truck to allow easy for loading/unloading of freight. The double width cabin door allows the easy loading of large or irregular shaped items and, as the cabin door is located aft of the wing, forklift loading of heavy items is enabled. An optional 18 cu. ft belly pod, which incurs no performance penalty, is useful for carrying flammable products and other dangerous goods that are not suitable for carriage in the passenger cabin.
Airvan easily configures to support the tactical operational needs of ground-based law enforcement agencies.
Imaging & Surveillance and Patrolling
The Airvan is perfectly suited as a standoff, all-weather surveillance, reconnaissance, and patrol aircraft law enforcement missions. Certified installations of High Resolution Imaging systems are in daily use on Airvan aircraft.
The Airvan can accommodate fuselage or pod-based equipment used in high-resolution mapping, surveying and geological exploration.
Search and Rescue
Exceptional visibility from all seats, ease of operation at reduced flight speeds and long loiter endurance makes the Airvan an excellent vehicle for search and rescue missions.
The Airvan cabin can accommodate up to three patients in addition to life support equipment and medical personnel. Stretchers can be quickly loaded and unloaded through the large rear cargo door.
Parachuting and Skydiving
The Airvan is highly sought after as a parachute jump ship due to the above features. An optional parachuting kit is available to optimise the Airvan for this role. The recently certified Turbocharged GA8-TC 320 provides high rates of climb and low sortie times coupled with low operating costs.