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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedIndian Firm Purchases Airvan Maker GippsAero
By James Wynbrandt
Australian aircraft manufacturer GippsAero Pty Ltd. received an FAA type certificate for the Airvan GA8 TC-320, the turbocharged version of its GA8 utility aircraft, at AirVenture on Wednesday. Powered by a 320-hp Lycoming TIO-540-AH1A engine, the eight-seat aircraft has already earned Australian Civil Aviation Authority (CASA) and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification.

Fifteen of the aircraft are already in service, according to the company. Designed for operations on unimproved strips and remote locations, more than 150 GA8 aircraft have been sold since production began in 2000.

Freight haulers, missionary services, and adventure tourism companies are among the operators. Additional applications include search and rescue, air ambulance, patrol and surveillance, and passenger service.

GippsAero now has the financial wherewithal to expand its production capabilities and product line. Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. (M&M), an India-based conglomerate, completed its purchase of GippsAero just a few days ago.

"We've been a small company that's battled along in the worldwide aviation market," said George Morgan, GippsAero's director of technology, "Mahindra really put fuel in our tank. Now we're really getting up and running."

M&M Executive Director and CEO Arvind Mehra noted, "We have plans to significantly invest" in GippsAero." This was also Mehra's first visit to Oshkosh, calling it "Overwhelming."

M&M has made an initial investment of $20 million to ramp up GippsAero's production capabilities, and plans to expand the Airvan family of utility aircraft. Already in the development pipeline are the GA10, a 10-seat single-engine turboprop; and the GA18, a 16-passenger twin turboprop. All will bear the Airvan name, as the company believes that accurately portrays the aircraft's mission.

"I like a name that says what the product is," Morgan said, recounting how Australian aviation authorities initially refused to grant GippsAero use of the name, fearing confusion with Airbus. Morgan prevailed upon a senior executive at Airbus he knew, and secured a letter to Australian authorities from the airliner manufacturer criticizing the authorities for believing "anyone would confuse a bus with a lowly van." Permission for use of the Airvan name was granted.

A GA8 Airvan recently completed an around-the-world flight under the banner of Millions Against Malaria (www.millionsagainstmalaria.com) to raise money for research and treatment of the disease. M&M helped underwrite the flight, and pilot Tim Pryce, who flew the mission with fellow pilot Ken Evers, provided an account of the flight during the press conference.

"The aircraft was trouble-free around the globe," Pryce said.

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