Turbine Mallard Back In Play

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Frakes Aviation, which acquired the Mallard amphibian from Grumman and modified it with turbine engines, is in search of a new buyer who will take the airplanes back into production. "We're looking for someone to take on the entire project," Sam Jantzen, of Mallard Aircraft, who is working with Frakes, told AVweb this week. That would include not just the type certificate but the inventory of parts and several partially built aircraft now owned by Frakes and based in Texas. Jantzen said he's been traveling in Asia, Europe and the Middle East this year to research the market needs for the aircraft, and he's found "tremendous interest" from potential buyers of the finished product, as well as serious interest from manufacturers who may want to take on the project.

The Mallard is now certified for a high-density passenger capacity of 17, Jantzen said, considerably more than the 8 to 10 seats it carried traditionally. Passenger transport "is where most of the interest is now," he said, especially in Asia where coastal cities could benefit from commuter air service or air taxis with direct access to the waterfront. Other potential markets include resort operators and corporate transport, he said. The original Mallards were built between 1946 and 1952, and Frakes converted eight of the airplanes to turbine power between 1970 and 1984. Jantzen said he's hopeful the project will move forward soon. "We could have an airplane off the line in 2016," he said.