On 20 September 2019, Sonaca Aircraft unveiled its new facilities which are located at the aerodrome of Namur (ICAO code: EBNM) in Belgium. The infrastructure includes a 2,000 m² assembly hall for the Sonaca 200, offices, as well as a showroom. The site has space for a second building of the same size.
The aerodrome’s two parallel runways favour movements and allow for testing and take-offs all year long.
Production of the Sonaca 200 has taken off
The Sonaca 200, the only aeroplane manufactured in Belgium, is a new two-seater single-engine aircraft for the training of pilots and for recreational flights. Before, the last aircraft designed and assembled in Belgium was the Tipsy Nipper manufactured by Fairey, the ancestor of Sonaca in Charleroi. The production of this small single-engine also designed for training and leisure ended in 1958.
The start of the activity on the Namur site has marked a decisive turning point in Sonaca 200 production and deliveries. “Thanks to this new infrastructure, we can simultaneously assemble 8 aircraft and produce around 60 aircraft per year or even up to 80 aircraft per year in the event of peak periods,” said Harold Van der Straten, Sonaca Aircraft CEO.
The current production is 20 aircraft per year on one assembly line with four positions. A second assembly line can be activated as soon as needed. The company expects to reach the breakeven point in 2 or 3 years with a production of 10 aircraft per annum.
The parts are sourced from five different countries: avionics from Garmin and Honeywell (USA), brakes and composite propeller from France, fuselage, wings and other metallic parts from Sonaca’s plant in Romania, the 115 hp 4-cylinder turbocharged engine from Rotax (Austria) and some composite elements from JDC in Liège (Belgium).
The assembly time for one aircraft is constantly decreasing with the aim to bring it to 300 hours in the near future.
With a just-in-time delivery schedule, all parts for the next 40 aircraft have already been ordered from the various suppliers.
Regarding the sales of the aircraft, they now account for more than 60 aircraft, of which 10 have been delivered so far, mainly in Belgium. “The current order book has secured the production for the next 12 months,” said Pierre Van Wetter, Sonaca Aircraft Chief Commercial Officer and also a pilot.
Resolutely focused on international expansion, Sonaca Aircraft has earned the trust of clients in Europe and beyond. “Most of our clients are located abroad (Germany, Estonia, France, Great Britain, Switzerland, Turkey, …). They are mainly flight schools and flying clubs looking for capable and reliable two-seaters to complete or even replace a fleet of ageing aircraft,” added Pierre Van Wetter.
New developments in progress
Sonaca Aircraft has always made it a point of honour to meet market requirements. In this same logic, the manufacturer has developed renting and leasing solutions in order to provide a service rather than a product. “From the outset, clients have expressed an interest in these kinds of solutions. They avoid schools and flying clubs from having to finance the purchase of the aircraft and handling the resale. Leasing also allows clients to adapt the capacity on demand and thereby face certain peaks of activity without having to invest in new aircraft,” explained Harold van der Straten.
The manufacturer is also planning to develop an IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) version and an “Upset Prevention and Recovery Training” (UPRT) utility version.
Some facts about Sonaca Aircraft
 The two parallel runways: 24L/06R in asphalt with a length of 690 metres, and slightly shorter 24R/06L on grass (unusable during three winter months when it is soaked with water). A fully loaded Sonaca 200 aeroplane (290 kg load) needs 450 metres to take off.
Namur (Belgium), Saturday, September 21, 2019