Spurred by ongoing clashes with the CAA, in 2015, The Airplane Factory (TAF) and Belgian aerospace engineering company, Sonaca, teamed up to develop a certified version of the Sling 2, called the Sonanca 200. The first two test aircraft have now been built, with production of aircraft for the public to begin in June this year.
Based in Gosselies, Belgium, Sonaca supplies parts to major companies such as Airbus, Bombardier, Dassault and Embraer, and employs approximately 2,400 people worldwide. The Airplane Factory and Sonaca formed a joint venture, called Sonaca Aircraft, to develop and sell the Sonaca 200. Parts of the certified Sling 2 will be produced in South Africa, but the plane will be assembled in Gosselies.
Test Aircraft 1 will be dedicated to ground tests: “We have tested the strength of the seats, seat belts (harnesses), the engine cradle and front leg by simulating rough or crosswind landings,” said Vincent Jaumotte, Flight Test Engineer for Sonaca Aircraft. At time of writing the aircraft was at IABG, a centre based in Germany to conduct the wing stress tests. The second plane (Test Aircraft 2) will be used for the flight tests which are scheduled to begin in April.
According to Sonaca, the Sling 2 has undergone various modifications to become the Sonaca 200. While the shape of the aircraft, the wing profile and the choice of materials have been maintained, 80% of the initial structure has been redesigned to meet both market and EASA requirements. “We have significantly altered the structural resistance in order to obtain a 750 kg maximum takeoff mass, and a 4.4 G load factor, which is a 25% increase compared to the initial aircraft,” said Jaumotte.
The main spars of the wing, the connection to the fuselage and the central spar have been redesigned, and some aluminium alloys have been modified to address aerodynamic loads, material fatigue and corrosion. The canopy arches, landing gear, vertical and horizontal empennage (including its connection to the fuselage), propeller, braking system, instrumentation and the fuel system have all undergone changes.
“By integrating all these changes, Sonaca Aircraft wishes to offer flight schools and flying clubs a modern certified aircraft which is suitable for professional and intensive use,” said Pierre Van Wetter, Sonaca Aircraft Pilot and Chief Commercial Officer.