Jakarta. Indonesian aviation company Regio Aviasi Industri has signed up Italian-based Leonardo's Aerostructures Division and aeronautical manufacturer LAER to help complete the development of its R80 turboprop airplane over the next four years in an effort to tap into growing demand for short-haul flights across the archipelago.
Under a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed on Thursday (22/02), Leonardo and LAER will help RAI in the transfer of technology to build the aircraft.
Both the European companies will also invest in the Indonesian manufacturer to help fund the R80's development.
"Besides Leonard and LAER, who plan to invest in the project, 60 other companies expressed their interest to also invest in our R80 project," Regio Aviasi Industri president director Agung Nugroho told reporters, without disclosing any prospective investors' names.
RAI plans to build about 400 units of the R80 turboprop aircraft over a span of 20 years. The company completed a preliminary design and feasibility test of the aircraft -- which has an 80-90 seat capacity -- in 2016.
The company will soon enter the second phase of development on the R80, which involves detail designing and prototype manufacturing, and which is scheduled to be completed by 2019.
This year, RAI hopes to build at least six prototypes, four of which will be tested for a maiden flight from 2020 to 2022, while the remaining units will be tested for aircraft structural integrity.
Between 2019-2021, RAI will construct and develop a manufacturing facility for its R80 turboprop project at the Kertajati International Airport in West Java.
Once the aircraft successfully passes its first maiden flight, the company will still need to secure a certificate from aviation regulators issued by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) by 2025.
Agung said the cost of one R80 aircraft is estimated at $25 million. RAI also needs an additional $1.6 billion to continue developing the R80, which the company expects to secure from bankers and investors.
Local celebrities and ordinary citizens have raised Rp 8.57 billion ($600,000) for the R80 over the past year through crowdfunding platform kitabisa.com, in a move that has raised awareness and support for the project among Indonesians.
So far, RAI has received 155 orders for the R80 from local carriers.
Agung said NAM Air — a subsidiary of local carrier Sriwijaya Air — has ordered 100 units of the R80, while Pontianak-based airline KalStar has ordered 25 units, Jakarta-based Trigana Air has ordered 20 units and Aviastar has ordered 10 units.
RAI's plans to cater to the burgeoning demand from local airlines, as the country's aviation industry has grown by 11 percent per year, according to Agus Santoso, the Ministry of Transportation's civil aviation director said earlier this month.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) also projected that the number of air travelers will jump to 355 million by 2036, from 235 million of air travelers in 2016.
RAI is affiliated with B.J. Habibie, who serves as a chairman of the company. His son, Ilham Habibie, was appointed as a commissioner.
The company aims to challenge the dominance that Italian-French builder ATR and Brazil's Bombardier have on the global turboprop market.
In the next stage of development, RAI wants to expand into regional markets, such as Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.