OEMs see many roles in Asia-Pacific for utility aircraft

Manufacturers of current production utility aircraft see many different market opportunities for their aircraft in the Asia-Pacific region, performing a wide variety of civil, government and military missions.

However, while most modern utility aircraft designs retain unpressurized cabins, each OEM’s view of the opportunities to sell their aircraft in different mission roles is unique and depends on operational, design and structural characteristics. vehicle specific.

For example, Textron Aviation views the Asia-Pacific market for the new Cessna 408 SkyCourier as “very favorable for cargo and passenger variants” in commercial aviation operations “across the region,” said Juan Escalante, vice president. from Textron Aviation to SkyCourier. Sales. “[While] the SkyCourier will be a great special mission platform for operators in the region, the civilian market still dominates for fixed-wings. The cargo version of the SkyCourier has room for three LD3 shipping containers and a payload capacity of 6,000 pounds, while the passenger version has 19 seats, so… there will be plenty of possibilities for use in this region. It will also be able to support national and regional connectivity initiatives for remote or underserved populations. »

Textron believes that the SkyCourier, which must be certified under FAR Part 23 commuter category rules, will make a compelling case for commercial operators in the Asia-Pacific market, as it serves “a new market segment offering a [6,000 pound/19 passenger] payload previously only available with part 25 [transport category-certified] planes,” Escalante said.

“It will open up new sectors for regional airlines and cargo/logistics operators,” he said. “The average utility twin-engine turboprop on the market today is 30 years old, indicating that the market is ripe for a modern replacement, and the SkyCourier is a one-stop solution” for high-use customers.

All Twin Otter variants, especially the 300 and the new 400, have enjoyed strong sales success throughout Asia-Pacific.

Meanwhile, Viking Air sees particularly strong sales opportunities in Asia-Pacific for its 19-seat Twin Otter 400 – the current and improved version of the venerable but irreplaceable Twin Otter family – as an amphibious aircraft, according to Peter Walker. , global head of Viking Air. commercial director of special missions.

“As major airports come under increased pressure with aircraft movements due to insufficient slot allocations and more efficient seaports in booming coastal cities become available due to relatively low infrastructure costs, the adaptability and amphibious capability of the Twin Otter positions it to benefit from the exponential market growth in the Asia-Pacific region,” Walker said.

In parts of the world where land is scarce, seaports are increasingly serving as access points to land tracks, Walker said. “A prime example is in the Maldives, where the tourism industry depends on amphibious Twin Otters to provide transport to outer islands.” (Maldives-based carriers operate a total of nearly 70 seaplane-configured Twin Otters.) “The tourism market in Asia is no exception, and the potential for amphibious operations is untapped and presents a lucrative opportunity for OEMs and other industry players.

All Twin Otter variants, especially the 300 and the new 400, have enjoyed strong sales success throughout the region and continue to do so. The type serves in a wide variety of civilian and government/military roles in Asia-Pacific and has become particularly popular in large island nations such as Indonesia and the Philippines.

Walker believes the model’s appeal stems largely from what he called “the DHC-6 Twin Otter’s unparalleled inherent STOL capabilities in civilian utility and multi-role configurations for short-runway remote access” . Asia-Pacific operators also favor the Twin Otter because of what Walker said is its unmatched airframe life expectancy.

Meanwhile Britten-Norman, which offers the BN2 Islander – as venerable and irreplaceable as the Twin Otter – in various configurations, offering up to nine passenger seats or 1.6 tonnes of cargo capacity, sees the sales potential of the plane in Asia-Pacific in an unconventional context. market niche.

Today, Britten-Norman is focusing its sales efforts for the Islander – available in two fuselage lengths as the piston-engined BN2B-20 or turboprop BN2T-4S – more on civilian markets than military, according to a spokesperson for Britten-Norman. .

As part of its civilian sales efforts, Britten-Norman sees particularly strong opportunities – in a very specific role – for an alternative propulsion, hydrogen fuel cell version of the Islander, which the company is developing with Cranfield Aerospace. Systems.

According to the BN spokesperson, the company has received “a flood of requests” from luxury resorts in the Asia-Pacific region for the upcoming eco-friendly Islander version that will carry up to eight passengers at a time between hotel complexes and airports. The Brando Resort in French Polynesia already operates a piston-powered Islander in this role, as well as a Twin Otter.

Considerable markets in Asia-Pacific also exist for the SkyCourier, Twin Otter, Islander and other utility aircraft, such as the Indonesian Aerospace N-219 and Aircraft Industries L 410 NG, in special missions. For example, the Guardian version of the Twin Otter performs maritime patrol and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions in countries such as Vietnam and Thailand.

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