Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Italian aircraft developed in cooperation with Cape Air makes debut

Cape Air board member Stan Bernstein, second from left, and senior vice president Jim Goddard, right, pose with Tecnam personnel in front of the newly developed Tecnam P2012 Traveller. 

A schematic drawing shows the dimensions and seating configuration aboard the P2012 Traveller. 

HYANNIS — The likely future of Cape Air has moved from the drawing board to the tarmac.

The Italian aircraft manufacturer, Tecnam, rolled out the first Tecnam P2012 Traveller from its experimental assembly line on March 31.

The company said that's the day test pilot Lorenzo De Stefano engaged the plane’s two Lycoming prop engines and taxied onto a ramp adjacent to the company's facility in Capua, Italy.

In addition to Tecnam Managing Director Paolo Pascale and Stefano, Cape Air board member Stan Bernstein and Jim Goddard, Cape Air’s senior vice president for fleet planning, were on board for the rollout.

“This is their first prototype,” Goddard said Friday. “Once it gets its (European) flight permit in about two months we’ll get to know more about its flight characteristics.”

The P2012 Traveller is an 11-seat, twin-engine prop plane that Cape Air is eyeing as a long-term replacement for its current fleet of Cessna 402s. Cape Air has been working closely with Tecnam for five years to develop the new aircraft, which is expected to take its first test flight in June, Goddard said.

Designed to carry nine passengers with one seat for the captain and another for an optional co-pilot, the new plane has more cabin room, allowing for more comfortable seating and more under-seat storage, Goddard said.

And, just like the 402, it can be configured to carry freight.

In addition to Tecnam and Cape Air, Lycoming Engines in Pennsylvania and Garmin Avionics in Kansas are partnering in the development of the P2012 Traveller.

The goal is to satisfy the growing demand of short-haul transportation operators worldwide, Pascale said in a statement following the prototype's unveiling.

Cape Air is one of the largest regional airlines in the United States, operating scheduled flights throughout New England, New York, the Caribbean, the Midwest Florida, the Bahamas and Micronesia and carrying more than 686,000 passengers a year.

The company’s fleet of 84 Cessna 402s has been completely rebuilt over the years, but no new planes have been manufactured since the mid-1980s.

“We’ve basically replaced them with new components and are confident in the structural integrity of the 402s,” Goddard said. “But we know we have to integrate new fleets for the future.”

Goddard said he met with Tecnam and Lycoming teams for two years starting in 2010, working out plans for a new twin-engine, short-haul craft.

The prototype’s high wing gives passengers a clear look at the ground below and its engines are electronically controlled, allowing for optimized fuel flow based on the phase of flight — taxi, take off, cruise and landing — and enhanced passenger comfort and safety. The RPMs adjust automatically to reduce noise and vibration, and the engines themselves store downloadable information that can help maintenance crews with troubleshooting, Goddard said.

Operating and maintaining the P2012 Traveller will require Cape Air, with input from Tecnam and Lycoming, to develop a whole new training program for pilots, maintenance crews and even baggage handlers, Goddard said.

While Cape Air has no formal purchase agreement in place with Tecnam, Goddard said, “We hope there will be one in the future.”

If the company follows through with the purchase of the new aircraft, it likely would do so incrementally, possibly over 10 years, once all final regulatory approvals were secured, he said.

“The schedule plan Tecnam has in place is for full regulatory certification in November 2018,” Goddard said in a follow-up email. “If a purchase agreement is reached between Cape Air and Tecnam, deliveries could be planned to begin approximately 30 days after the regulatory approval.”

Original article can be found here: http://www.capecodtimes.com

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