Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995), Friday 14 October 1988, page 2

Flying mango: competition for the military helicopter

RICHMOND: An Australian small-aircraft builder unveiled yesterday plans to enter the military

market with a novel variation of its unique agricultural plane.

Transavia Pty Ltd, part of the Transfield Engineering Group, believes its little PL 12 — marketed since 1968 as the Airtruk or Skyfarmer — could be a cheap alternative to the helicopter for the armed services of poorer countries.

Since the first was unveiled in 1968, 120 of the PL 12s have been produced at the Transavia factory at Seven Hills in Sydney's west, in

eluding about 90 for export. It had been dubbed the Flying Mango because of its squat body on a twintailed frame.

The general manager of Transavia, Mr David Simons, said buyers had been scarce in recent years because of a depressed market worldwide for specialist crop-dusting aircraft.

The company launched its quest for a new market with a mock-up version fitted out for military medical evacuation with two stretchers, and space for two attendants as well as resuscitation equipment

crammed into the tiny body. Mr Simons said it was also suitable for reconnaissance, forward control and low-level machinegun support.

He said it could land fully-laden in less than 100m, and, at less than $250,000, was only a fraction of the cost of a helicopter.

"We believe this aircraft will perform 80 per cent of the functions of a helicopter for about 20 per cent of the outlay," Mr Simons said.

He said they already had Asian buyers interested in 10 of the aircraft, although he would not identify the country.