Monday, 18 February 2008

Dornier to make planes in Clark

By Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo
Special to BusinessMirror

DORNIER Technology Philippines, a company owned by Iren Dornier, chairman of Southeast Asian Airlines (Seair), will set up the first aircraft- manufacturing plant in the Philippines.

In an exclusive interview with BusinessMirror, Nikos Gitsis, cofounder of Seair and business partner of Dornier, said the aircraft-manufacturing business will be undertaken in joint venture with Dornier Technologie Aviation Services GmbH based in Gilching, Germany. “It is something no one else has done and is in line with our vision of aviation growth,” he added.

Initial investment for the venture is estimated at $20 million, half of which will be borne by Dornier. Gitsis said: “He’s looking for another partner [to invest the other half].”

The German firm, he explained, is “transferring its technology” to the Philippines to manufacture two- and six-seater amphibian sea planes, such as its flagship Dornier S-Ray 007, dubbed the “Stingray,” and the DO-009, respectively. The Stingray is based on the 1921 Libelle, one of the first successful “flying boats” originally designed by Dornier’s grandfather, Claude Dornier, the famous engineer and designer of military aircraft for Germany’s Luftwaffe in World War II. Dornier Aviation is also owned by Iren Dornier.

The manufacturing plant will initially be set up in a hangar at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) in Clark, Pampanga. “It’s much cheaper to make the planes here in the Philippines because of the [lower] labor costs,” Gitsis said, “but the most difficult part is to have the technology.” The planes are for sale outside the Philippines, he added.

Gitsis said Dornier Technology, currently headquartered at Hangar 7224 at the DMIA, already has some 20 Stingray orders from individual buyers in the international market. “We showed two planes [which were made in Germany] at the Airventure air show in Osh Kosh [Wisconsin] last July, and picked up orders from various buyers.”

He said a local team is currently undergoing technology training in Germany and will return in October. “When the plant transfers from Germany, we hope to roll out at least the half of the 20 orders within three to six months.”

According to the Stingray’s web site, it is a two-seater plane with a wing span of 29.5 feet, and measures 21.6 feet in length and 6.9 feet in height. It has a top speed of 200 kilometers per hour. The plane was designed by a team headed by Iren Dornier at his aircraft technology firm Dornier Technologie GmbH & Co. KG in Uhldingen-Mühlhofen, and the Steinbeis Transferzentrum (Steinbeis Transfer Center) in Stuttgart. “[The Stingray] has been modernized as an amphibian multipurpose aircraft to handle the land and the sea,” according to Dornier in the plane’s product brochure. “It is simple, functional, understated, beautiful—the aircraft for a passionate pilot to fly the soul,” he adds.

The aircraft is described as versatile and built to be transportable in a container or on a trailer, “where the wing can fold 90 degrees within seconds.”

According to reports in some German newspapers last year, the first prototype of the Stingray was developed at a cost of €2 million ($2.3 million or P119.04 million) with funding mostly from the Steinbeis Transferzentrum. The plane carries a sticker price between €100,000 and €150,000 ($145,000 and $218,745), or P5.95 million and P8.93 million, and is targeted mainly for the US market. The German firm hopes to sell about 40 to 50 planes a year.

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