Daher-Socata Eyes Grob SPn Light Jet

The manufacturer of one of the most popular turboprop singles in the world is looking to go even higher, faster and farther.

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Daher-Socata has announced it will enter a joint development program with Allied Aviation Technologies, the company that ultimately acquired the assets of Grob's SPn light jet program. In development since 2002, the all-composite jet had shown promise, but Grob's timing turned out to be unfortunate and its financial backing melted away in 2009. Allied owns three prototype flight-test aircraft and all intellectual property rights to the program, having taken them over from Grob Aerospace in 2009. The name Daher-Socata, itself, tells a story. A multifaceted industrial conglomerate, Daher completed the acquisition of Socata from EADS in January 2009, and officials from both sides of the merger expressed a desire to expand the product line upward. Socata is famous as the manufacturer of the TBM series of single-engine turboprops, starting with the TBM 700, certified in 1990 and currently represented by the upgraded and updated TBM 850. So the announcement that Daher-Socata has launched a program to continue development of the European-originated SPn makes good sense. It would be a leg up into the jet set for an already successful and well-respected member of the general aviation manufacturing family. The SPn is an all-composite twinjet design powered by Williams FJ44-3A engines rated at 2,800 pounds' thrust each. It was intended for certification for one pilot, with room for as many as eight passengers (including the right front seat occupant). Performance projections included maximum speed of Mach .70 and greater than 2,000 nautical miles' range with six passengers. In November 2006, the program experienced tragedy when the first prototype crashed on a demonstration flight, killing the test pilot, its sole occupant. The accident was subsequently attributed to control surface flutter. Before declaring the program bankrupt, Grob had taken orders for at least 60 examples of the SPn, each backed by a nonrefundable $100,000 deposit.