For several years officials at Sealand Aviation have been working toward developing a North American market for the Polish-built Wilga Aircraft. A monkey wrench was thrown into the works last month, says Sealand Aviation President Bill Alder, when the factory, EADS/PZL, and parent company CASA, decided to cancel production of the PZL 104MA Wilga 2000.
The company declined to comment on the issue, but industry leaders speculate that the decision was reached after considering financial problems plaguing EADS and Airbus.
“We’re not getting very much information from the factory. It is very political,” said Alder. “The new orders have stopped, of course. We have returned one customer’s deposit because he didn’t want to have the last aircraft to roll off the line. For the customers who already have Wilgas, EADS PZL has a 10-year commitment to support those aircraft.”
The Wilga has been described by some as an aesthetically challenged aircraft that bears a striking resemblance to an insect and performs as the ultimate backcountry airplane. Around the world the planes are used for pipeline patrol, glider towing, surveillance work and as transportation in remote locations where unimproved airstrips are the norm.
“There is a market for the aircraft,” says Alder. “We have been working for three years to get the airplanes into the North American market and just two weeks before they pulled the plug we had orders for four aircraft. There is a lot of interest from law enforcement, such as the border patrol, in this aircraft. And we have done modifications for everything from tundra tires to floats.”
Alder noted that there have been discussions about opening a Wilga factory in British Columbia where Sealand Aviation is based, but added it is too early to go into detail.
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