Navajo Nation Partners With Utilicraft Aerospace

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The Navajo Nation will partner with Utilicraft Aerospace Industries to produce the FF-1080-300 twin-engine freight aircraft, Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. announced on Sunday. The arrangement will establish three aircraft sub-assembly plants on Navajo Nation lands that will create hundreds of jobs. The Navajo Nation has agreed to invest $34 million in the project to become a 25-percent equity partner in Utilicraft. "I feel very good, very confident about this," Shirley said. "This is an awesome opportunity and industry to bring to the Navajo Nation." The FF-1080, which has been in development for 13 years, is an all-aluminum, twin-engine, high-wing, fixed-landing-gear, non-pressurized, single-pilot-capable turboprop aircraft with short takeoff and landing capability, specifically designed as a utility air freight transport system. Utilicraft Aerospace says Global Air Group of Australia has agreed to buy 100 FF-1080 Freight Feeder aircraft for $1.2 billion. The company says it also has an agreement with WSI Hong Kong for 300 of the airplanes. Utilicraft plans to establish its final assembly facility at the Double Eagle II Airport in Albuquerque, N.M. "We're looking at about 1,000 jobs in the state of New Mexico to build the airplane and to do final assembly in Albuquerque at a production rate of 96 a year," said Utilicraft Aerospace CEO John J. Dupont. "This represents jobs, economic development and a great business opportunity for the Navajo Nation."

The FF-1080 is designed to carry standard industry air containers on short-to-medium range routes, with a patented integrated air cargo information system and patented power-management system. The company is aiming at a niche to cost-effectively feed containerized air cargo to the major hubs of the scheduled passenger carriers and the overnight express airlines. The airplane can transport 10 revenue tons over 1,000 miles from airfields with 3,000 feet of runway, the company says. FAA certification is expected by 2007.