Slovenia-based Pipistrel has signed a $550 million deal with Sino GA Group Co. of China to build its Alpha Electro electric trainer and hybrid-powered Pantera high-performance aircraft in China. And while that’s significant in itself, it’s Pipistrel’s plans for the money it will earn in the project that is bound to raise eyebrows. “Pipistrel will use a part of the mentioned amount also for the development of a new, very innovative zero emission 19-seat aircraft, powered by hybrid electric technology and hydrogen low temperature PEM fuel cells, planned for public transport between the cities in China and all over the world,” Pipistrel CEO Ivo Boscarol said in a news release.
In a statement ahead of the International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Boscarol said the seven-year deal involves construction of an airport and factories capable of building 500 aircraft a year. The project will include technology transfer and the granting of exclusive rights to Sino GA to build the aircraft in China. Pipistrel will get things started by building 50 each of the aircraft for Sino GA to sell while the factories are being built. At the same time it will train production staff at its facilities in Slovenia and supervise the Chinese production to ensure quality standards are maintained. The value to Pipistrel is about $385 million and it will draw its investment money for the commuter plane from there. AVweb’s Paul Bertorelli flew the electric airplane in Slovenia in 2014 and prepared the video below.