July 9, 2021, ©. Leeham News: Now that we have done the basic market research we should scope the program. To do this we need to understand what aircraft we will develop and to what certification rules.
Our market research tells us to develop a 19 seat aircraft that can operate as a passenger and/or cargo aircraft outside the US and as cargo aircraft in the US. This enables us to certify it to FAA Part 23 and the equivalent rules of other National Aviation Authorities where we want to sell the aircraft.
Let’s assume our market research has convinced us there is a large enough market for a 19 seat “Green” passenger/cargo aircraft with its predominant markets in Asia, Africa, and South America. It shall replace the many CASA C-212, EMB 110 Bandeirante, and Beech 1900s in these markets. It would compete with the new Cessna SkyCourier (Figure 1) and the Do-228 (figure 2), but also the Viking Twin Otter for certain types of operation.
We estimate we can over 20 years sell 400 aircraft to this market segment if we can get the specification and economics right. We have checked similar projects and understood this is a several hundred million dollar investment before we start to earn money on the aircraft we produce.
To approach investors we need an overall specification of the aircraft with its unique selling points but also a business plan on how we and the investors can regain invested money and get a return on investments.
For this, we need to scope the project in terms of the time taken for different phases and what these phases mean in terms of consumed resources (which also drives our money consumption for each phase).
We need an overall project schedule, with the many tasks of an aircraft project listed and we need to do the first estimate on the resource consumption of each task. Figure 3 shows the result. It’s our first overall Program Plan with the typical activities listed under each phase (click to see the details).
As you see on the top we have a timeline spanning six years before the aircraft is certified and we can deliver our first aircraft.
The Program Plan lists the activities we need to perform under each Program Phase. The overall phases are Pre-Launch, Post-Launch, and Post Certification.
In this Corner and the next, we analyze the Pre-Launch Phase. The following phases we discuss in subsequent Corners.
The first part of the Pre-Launch Phase is our Concept Development period. There we develop the first versions of the aircraft concept which gives input to the first Program and Business Plans.
Input to the specification and plans are continued Market Research, including operator meetings for this aircraft type, and work on the concept of our aircraft. We use modeling and CFD tools to design the aircraft, complemented with first wind tunnel tests.
This gives us an initial specification of the aircraft and how we plan to develop it and produce it. The specification list capabilities, dimensions, overall weights, and needed propulsion system.
Our first performance estimates are firmed up, such as Field performance, Climb, Crusie, and Descent speeds followed by Payload-Range curves, and aircraft economics.
Once we know the overall concept of the aircraft, we start the discussions with suppliers to present the project to them and see if they are interested in participating in the program.
As we continue the refinement of our aircraft it’s time to contact the Certification authorities and prepare for the Certification application.
The result of this phase is a detailed aircraft specification and a worked-through business plan that we can present to potential customers and investors.
After a decision to continue to a formal launch we enter the Launch Preparation phase.
Now we detail the aircraft concept so we can start the process of supplier selection. For this, we need to freeze the overall design and what type of system we shall employ. We now have detailed specifications for the systems with data like power and fuel consumption needs for the engines, capacities for fuel/energy systems, hydraulic and air system specifications, and the avionics we plan to equip the aircraft with.
About six months prior to the formal Program Launch we get the Authority to Offer (ATO) from our supervisory board/Investors.
If we are a new aircraft developer we need to select the tool landscape we shall use. We need a CAD/CAM system with its Product Data Management (PDM) system, the tools to design the electrical system including wiring (EWIS). We also need further down a production planning system. This system shall have Purchase and Quality management capabilities.
The Pre-Launch Phase finishes with a Launch Decision, which puts us into the Post-Launch phase.
The launch decision is important. The project then commits to develop and produce the aircraft. Customer contracts will be firmed up and there are major liabilities for the program towards customers but also suppliers.
In the next Corner, we discuss the Pre-Launch Phase further.